In a previous Liger Beat review, I looked at the birth of Kishin Liger, the madman alter ego of the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger. With Kishin Liger making another brief appearance a couple of months ago in New Japan, it seemed fitting to take a trip back to 2012, when Kishin Liger once again made his presence felt.
Before I dive into it, it may appear that I am obsessed with Kishin Liger with how much I focus on him, and that may be true. I love the theatrics of wrestling but I also love when wrestlers have an aspect of their character that they only use on special occasions. Whether it be a big move (such as the Burning Hammer) or a special gimmick (such as “The Demon” Finn Balor), wrestlers that keep something popular in their back pocket for long stretches of time to only bring out when the moment calls for it is an aspect of wrestling I really enjoy. Because the temptation must be great, wrestlers know fans love it but they keep it tucked away just to make it more special and memorable when it does appear. So, since I love Liger, and I love rarely-used aspects of a wrestler’s character, naturally I am going to be enthralled by Kishin Liger.
Jumping back to 2012, Suzuki-gun then consisted of Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, and TAKA Michinoku and they were a thorn in the side of New Japan. Liger and Suzuki-gun had minimal interaction that year prior to June but things came to a head when the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships were vacated in May when the champions Davey Richards and Rocky Romero were forced to give up the titles. They were scheduled to defend the titles against Liger and Tiger Mask but the match was scrapped due to an injury to Davey Richards, leading to the belts being up for grabs.
On June 10, Liger and Tiger Mask faced off in a six wrestler tag (with Makabe) against Suzuki-gun, which ended with Liger getting his mask ripped off by Taichi before he was pinned by him. This lead to New Japan booking a match to crown new Jr. tag team champions – Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask vs. Taichi and TAKA Michinoku. So now we have a pissed off Liger thanks to Taichi’s actions, plus he was looking to win his first New Japan title in four years. A perfect storm that led to the return of Kishin Liger for the first time since 2006.
The last time we saw Kishin Liger, he started the match under that name and appearance, but for the tag match in 2012 he came down to the ring masked as one would expect. Except he wasn’t really his normal self as he was dressed in all white with a different mask than usual, so the transformation had already partially begun. Liger immediately chased Taichi around the ring, still enraged by the incidence on June 10, but Tiger Mask started the match as the legal wrestler and Liger got on the apron as the action began. Liger was tagged in, but Taichi also quickly got in the ring and he immediately started un-tying the mask of Liger.
To help set up the climax, Liger played the Face in Peril for the bulk of the match, as Taichi and TAKA slowly wore him down. I wouldn’t say their offense was interesting, but it was constant anyway as Suzuki-gun took turns beating Liger into the mat. He eventually got away to make the hot tag to Tiger Mask, but it wasn’t long until Suzuki-gun regained control of the match and they went after Liger again. While Tiger Mask was hurt, TAKA and Taichi went outside the ring with Liger and smacked him with a chair. To further get the crowd against them (as if it was necessary), they also randomly attacked young lion Takaaki Watanabe (better known today as EVIL) as well just for fun. Back in the ring, Taichi rips at Liger’s mask some more and even tears off a part of it before basking in the boos from the crowd. The crowd knew something was up though, and they were right, as when Taichi turned back to Liger he got the spray of red mist to his face. Kishin Liger had returned.
As one can safely assume, things went downhill for Suzuki-gun very shortly after this happened. Kishin Liger went nuts, spraying TAKA with mist before bringing a table into the ring. Liger propped the table up in the corner and throws Taichi into it, he gets his spike but Taichi moves to avoid being stabbed in the face. Unlike in the Muta match however, Liger stays in control and powerbombs Taichi through the table, TAKA wonders in (he is actually the legal man), and Liger bops him on the head with a piece of table. Tiger Mask returns (also the legal man), he hits the Tiger Suplex Hold on TAKA and we have new champions – Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger!
Post-match, Kishin Liger keeps acting crazy as Tiger Mask tries his best to calm him down so the real Liger can return. He presents him with his traditional mask, Liger thinks about it for a second before taking off his torn white mask (without exposing the rest of his face) and putting on his regular mask. The crowd cheers as order is restored, and everyone goes home happy as the best Jr. Heavyweight in wrestling history leaves the ring a New Japan Champion once again.
Liger and Tiger Mask lost the belts a month later, and Liger would never hold another New Japan title. One could make the argument that New Japan really ‘hotshot’ this angle, as the match was booked less than a week prior to it happening and Liger really didn’t have animosity towards Suzuki-gun to this level. But Liger didn’t win New Japan gold very often once he hit 40, and he wasn’t going to win another one without adding something special to make it a memorable moment. The crowd ate it up so I consider it a rousing success, and once again Kishin Liger disappeared, not to be seen again for another seven years.