MAY 17, 2014



In 2004, Jushin Thunder Liger made his Ring of Honor debut during the Weekend of Thunder festivities. That weekend was built around Liger wrestling the very best talents that Ring of Honor had to offer.

Liger squared off with Bryan Danielson on night one, and then teamed with Samoa Joe to battle the aforementioned American Dragon and Low Ki the following evening. Liger made a brief stop back to ROH in 2010, when he fell in defeat to Austin Aries, but this match, and this double-shot between Ring of Honor and New Japan, signaled a new relationship between two prospering companies.

In 2014, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling took the next step in their relationship promoting a series of joint shows. The first Ring of Honor-New Japan joint show took place a week prior in Toronto. The show was more about showing off what the two companies had to offer, rather than mixed-promotion dream matches. The higher profile of the two shows took place on May 17 at the Hammerstein Ballroom and featured exactly what the Toronto show was missing. Jay Lethal vs. KUSHIDA, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Steen, and the second-ever match between the Young Bucks and reDRagon were great matches on-paper that delivered in-person. Those three matches alone were worth the price of admission.

Something about Liger’s match felt strange, however.

It didn’t look outright bad like the Michael Bennett vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi match, which looked bad, was bad, and is still, to this day one, of the only bad Hiroshi Tanahashi matches I’ve ever seen, but this match was different.

By 2014, New Japan had established a new generation of superstars that the American audience may not have fallen in love with yet, but names like Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata, Tanahashi and Nakamura had slowly started elevating past niche, hardcore buzz levels.

The announcement of Liger challenging for Adam Cole’s ROH World title brought with it a lot of controversy. Wrestling pundits questioned why Liger would be getting such a high-profile match. Up to this point in 2014, Liger had actually been booked stronger in Pro Wrestling NOAH than he had been in New Japan. He was a legend that seemed content with working opening eight-mans. Liger had last wrestled in a title match six months prior when he and Tiger Mask IV dropped the junior tag straps in NOAH, so it’s fair for anyone familiar with his booking patterns to think that he was an odd choice for this match.

Then, Jushin Thunder Liger walked down the aisle of the Hammerstein Ballroom.

There was no denying that Liger was the right choice for this match. The New York crowd erupted as Liger out-wrestled Cole in the early goings. Liger diving off the apron and crashing down onto the chest of Adam Cole is a beautiful thing to watch. As commentator Steve Corino pointed out, when the Liger gimmick debuted, Adam Cole’s mother was pregnant with the future three-time ROH Champion on the way. Liger has transcended generations of champions.

This match holds very few accolades. Liger getting the biggest pop of the night was the real highlight here. The match was good, but there were better matches on this show. This wasn’t even the best match Liger has had in ROH. Adam Cole’s reign certainly peaked higher. But five years after the fact, this match sticks with me as a match that made me smile and think, “wrestling is really cool”, which is in large part due to the fact that Jushin Thunder Liger is very cool.

Liger played his greatest hits on this night. He nailed Cole with a palm strike, followed by a frog splash, and then a crushing Brainbuster, but that wasn’t enough. Cole was younger, fitter, and tougher. He outsmarted Liger and eventually made the legend tap with a Figure-Four Leglock.

Liger was showered with “Thank you, Liger” chants after the match and they were well deserved. This match firmly cemented in my mind that Jushin Thunder Liger is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, who should be treasured and touted by anyone with a clue.

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