Inside Wrestle Kingdom 14: Jyushin Thunder Liger Retirement Match I
A Wrestling Legend Is Retiring
Inside Wrestle Kingdom 14 looks at the featured matches from both days of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) upcoming Wrestle Kingdom events on January 4th and January 5th. This article highlights the first of two retirement matches for Jyushin Thunder Liger and the relationship those participating in the match have with Liger.
The historic career of Jyushin Thunder Liger comes to a close at Wrestle Kingdom 14 on January 5th. With matches at both days of Wrestle Kingdom, many expect the crowd in attendance on both nights to be emotional for his final two wrestling matches.
The Jyushin Thunder Liger character debuted on April 24, 1989, at the Tokyo Dome against Masakatsu Funaki. While the man under the mask debuted just over five years before, after graduating from the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo. The match against Funaki is currently available for free on the NJPW World streaming service.
On January 4th, the eight-man tag match where Tiger Mask (4th and current incarnation), The Great Sasuke, Tatsumi Fujinami, Jyushin Thunder Liger, and second El Samurai team against Ryusuke Taguchi, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Shinjiro Ootani, Naoki Sano, and second Kuniaki Kobayashi blends together allies and rivals of Liger over the past three decades.
Tiger Mask IV
According to Cagematch, Tiger Mask has shared the ring with Jyushin Thunder Liger 830 times, including 11 singles matches as of the writing of this article. Liger has a 4-7 record against Tiger Mask, including going winless against his long-time ally in IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship matches (0-2). However, Liger does has an NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship match victory over him (1-1).
As teammates, the two won the vacant GHC (Championship sanctioning body in NOAH) Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in 2013 by winning the NTV G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag Leauge and went on to have four successful defenses. The two also won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship the year prior but were not able to have a successful title defense.
The Great Sasuke
The Great Sasuke, who was a favorite among English speaking tape traders before the digital age, has only shared the ring with Liger 28 times according to Cagematch. However, their 9 singles matches are highly regarded. Liger has a 4-5 record against Sasuke in singles competition, including 1-1 in IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship matches.
Sasuke defeated Liger in the 1994 Super J Cup semi-finals, Liger would get his revenge and defeat Sasuke for the J-Crown Title NJPW Battle Formation 1997. Sasuke defeated Liger in their only Best Of The Super Junior’s match in 2011.
Jyushin Thunder Liger shared the ring with the 5x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team, 1x NWA World Heavyweight Champion, 6x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame member Tatsumi Fujinami 50 times during their career before Wrestle Kingdom 14. Also, according to Liger and various NJPW World broadcasts seeing Fujinami on the cover of a wrestling magazine motivated Liger to pursue professional wrestling.
Liger did not manage to defeat Fujinami in either of their singles matches during their careers (0-2). Their final match taking place during Liger’s first of three G1 Climax appearances (2000, 2001, and 2006).
Throughout their careers, Jyushin Thunder Liger and Ryusuke Taguchi have competed in 307 matches together according to Cagematch. 9 of those matches have been singles matches with Liger having a 3-6 record against Taguchi. Ryusuke is a 6x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion and a 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa was the man who ended the 11th and last reign Liger had with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in July 2000, the same year he won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament a month earlier. Takaiwa was also a 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with teammate Shinjiro Otani and a 2x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion.
He and Liger shared the ring 256 times together as of the writing of this article according to Cagematch. 10 of those contests saw the two face off against one another with Liger going 7-3, and 1-1 in IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team matches.
Shinjiro Otani is a former holder of the J-Crown, 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x WCW Cruiserweight Champion (1st ever), and 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. He and Liger shared the ring 359 times prior to the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom 14.
The two competed in 17 singles matches throughout their careers. Liger was 3-0 in title matches, including 2-0 in IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship contests (also defeated Otani in a J-Crown title match). Liger was a dominant 14-3 overall against Otani.
Naoki Sano was the first rival of Jyushin Thunder Liger, their late 1980s and early 1990s matches being largely responsible for Liger beginning his international legacy. Throughout their careers, they shared the ring 118 times prior to their two matches together at Wrestle Kingdom 14.
Sano faced Liger in singles action many times before he dawned the mask (44 matches), however, the matches they had afterward are those which fans which turned into collector classics. Liger has a 1-3-1 record in singles action under those criteria with Liger’s sole victory being an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match (1-2-1 IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship record) against Sano.
Inside Wrestle Kingdom 14 Series: