On December 21, 2019, Jushin Thunder Liger wrestled his final match in Korakuen Hall. He teamed with Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi against Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI and Rocky Romero. Now you would think that Liger should win his last match in Korakuen. He had 472 matches in that building, with several generations of wrestling fans seeing him perform in that building over his 35-year career. He’s going against a loss post in YOSHI-HASHI and a comparably lower-ranked junior in Rocky Romero. You give Liger the win, he gives a nice farewell speech to the crowd, and he gets the snow that falls at the last show of the year. Right?
After a flurry of offense, Liger ate a Rainmaker and got pinned by Okada. Why pin Liger there? Why couldn’t he get that big moment over Rocky or YOSHI-HASHI? The answer is clear. Because it didn’t need to be about Liger. He’ll get his shine on January 6 with his retirement ceremony. There are two Wrestle Kingdom title matches to build up to, so give that time to the stars who can use it.
The easy thing for Liger to do would be to allow everyone to shower him with praise and give the fans all of these special moments. But Liger understands that it doesn’t need to be about him. He’s been wrestling for 35 years. He’s had enough moments to give websites like this content for months (check out our Liger Beat series, by the way). He doesn’t need another one when there are two marquee matches to build for Wrestle Kingdom. That level of humility and selflessness is exactly why people want to give him those moments to begin with. You’re great Liger, let us tell you so!
It has been this way with Liger for years. In 2017, he announced he would participate in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament for the last time. Fans were clamoring for Liger to make one more run to the final, and maybe even win the whole thing. Instead, he finished dead last with two points, earning those points in a critically panned match against Taichi.
Hulk Hogan had his first retirement match in the main event of WrestleMania 8 in 1992. Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair’s retirement matches were major selling points of other WrestleManias. No one would have batted an eyelash if one of the nights of Wrestle Kingdom was centered around one of the most influential and inspiring wrestling figures of all time. Instead, he’s curtain-jerking both shows in tag matches, albeit historically significant ones. In an industry where some legends are all too willing to take one more final bow, Liger being willing to pass up these moments makes him even more worthy of the praise he so graciously denies.
That is why New Year Dash on January 6 will be so special for those aforementioned generations of wrestling fans. Liger can’t downplay this one. He can’t handwave this chance or pass it on to someone he feels more deserving. All he can do is stand in the ring and give the fans what they have wanted for years: a chance to say thank you.