Whether it be through movies, television, pro wrestling or whatever your preferred medium of scripted entertainment may be, we’ve all been conditioned to believe that the feel-good story and the happy ending is always the right way to go.
It’s natural for us to feel that we’ve been wronged when we get something else, when there is no happy ending and when not everything leads to something greater. Reality sucks and no one wants to be reminded of it. No one wants to be reminded that they have to wake up every morning, go to work and lead an average life, everyone wants that Cinderella story, and they want that Cinderella story for the people they’ve invested in, such as a character in a movie, a television show, or in pro wrestling.
This is a column about NJPW’s junior legend Jushin Thunder Liger who presently has only two points in the ongoing Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Liger, who has participated in most BOSJ than any other wrestler, announced before this year’s tournament that this would be his last. This has led many to question why Liger—a legendary figure in NJPW—wouldn’t go out of the tournament he helped create with a few more points.
Sure, Liger could have won Best of the Super Juniors and yes he could have faced IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi at Dominion, but he simply did not need to.
Liger did not need to win the tournament, nor did he need to win his block, nor did he need to be in contention to win his block.
Liger is a 52-year-old man who’s at the end of his road and simply cannot hang with his younger, stronger, faster and hungrier counterparts. He was outsmarted and outwitted by TAKA Michinoku, he was outperformed by the future ace of the division in Takahashi, he fell to the invading villain in Marty Scurll, he was too slow to keep up with the 22-year-old Dragon Lee, the 24-year-old Will Ospreay and the 28-year-old Ricochet. These are all men who are capable of doing things even Liger was incapable of doing in his prime. He beat Taichi and knocked him out of contention but it was too late. All of these men were able to hold their own as the tournament progressed, Liger being the only one who could not.
Liger had his time to shine. He shined for nearly three decades. He won three of the tournaments, more than anyone else in history with the exception of Koji Kanemoto. For all intents and purposes, this is his tournament. Who knows if we would even have it had he not come along, and who knows what this company would even look like had he not come along. His time is up though, now it’s Will Ospreay’s time, KUSHIDA’s time, Hiromu’s time.
Liger was yesterday’s junior, and these guys are today’s.
As far as output goes, Liger busted his ass every night and did everything he could to deliver. Between the high-energy match with TAKA where he was a complete grump, the emotional matches with Hiromu and Taichi, the light-hearted house show match with Scurll full of shtick, and the Ospreay, Lee and Ricochet matches where he did everything he could to keep up despite being a step slower, he was without question one of the highlights from bell-to-bell.
Like Tenzan in the last year’s G1 Climax tournament, however, he was too old to pull it out one more time when given that last chance. It’s not poor booking, it’s not Gedo screwing the fans, it’s reality.
We’re all going to get old, we’re all going to lose our touch and not be able to do what we once could, and in a society where we’ve all been conditioned to think that’s the wrong story to tell, it’s nice to see someone with the guts to tell it, as tough as it may have been to deal with.