In the world of pro wrestling, if there is a man who lives up to the title of legend, it is Jushin Thunder Liger.
Liger—who began wrestling in 1984—stands out as one of wrestling’s true stars that revolutionized the industry that he has dedicated most of his life to. Liger helped popularize the high-flying style of wrestling that you are familiar with today including innovating the now-famous Shooting Star Press.
For years, the name Jushin Thunder Liger has been synonymous with New Japan Pro Wrestling’s junior division, where he is an 11-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, and 6-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion.
In more recent years, Liger is seen more often working with the rookies (or young lions, as they are known as in Japan), teaching them the ways of the wrestling ring, while still occasionally having a great singles match here and there, including a very fun match with Tyler Breeze at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
At 52 years old, Liger announced that this year’s recently-concluded Best of the Super Juniors tournament would be his last. It’s a strange thought to think of a BOSJ tournament without Liger, but it is the reality that eventually hits all aging wrestlers. There comes a point in time where it is time to step aside and let others take the lead. The fan in me hoped that Liger would win the whole tournament in one last run, but unfortunately, he ended with only two points — dead last in his block and the worst overall point total of the tournament.
My initial wrestling fandom started like most people – with WWE. I became a fan sometime in 1993 or 1994. However, as I was channel surfing in 1995, I discovered another wrestling promotion: World Championship Wrestling (WCW). It was when I was watching WCW that I encountered a whole new world of wrestling that I didn’t know existed. I saw luchadores from Mexico, hard hitters from Japan, and technical wrestlers from the United Kingdom. My mind was blown. One of these wrestlers stood out to me very quickly.
The elaborate and bright costume, the fast-paced matches, and his innate charisma communicated straight through the TV screen into my living room. This was, of course, Jushin Thunder Liger.
When the internet exploded in the early 2000s, I quickly discovered the wider pro wrestling world that WCW gave me a glimpse into in the mid-90s. It was here, again, that I discovered more of Jushin Thunder Liger.
For the first time, I was able to see some of his matches in Japan, one with Ultimo Dragon being a match that sticks out in my memory. It wasn’t long after this that I became a fan of Ring of Honor, and I was thrilled when they brought Liger in for their Weekend of Thunder events in 2004.
However, the Liger in 2004 was no longer the revolutionary high flyer of the 90s, but a more mat based technical wrestler. This transformation was off-putting initially, but one that I quickly got over as he had an excellent match with Bryan Danielson.
Throughout the years since, I have watched many of Liger’s matches to my great delight.
Liger’s willingness to evolve his in-ring style over the years has contributed to him being able to stay at the top for so long, producing great matches, even into his 50s, as demonstrated by his match with Hiromu Takahashi in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors.
Liger, without a doubt, will go down as one of the greatest junior heavyweights in wrestling history. His influence and legacy is one that will stand the test of time, and regardless of when he eventually calls it quits, Liger will always be a wrestler that I cheer on and look forward to seeing.
Indeed, for many in the wrestling world, I say with much love and respect, thank you Jushin Thunder Liger for entertaining us for all these years. Your contributions opened my eyes to a whole new world of spectacular wrestling when I was just nine years old, and I will never forget it.
In my mind, you will always be one of the greatest of all time.