A while back, I wrote about my love of tape trading and the Apter Mags. In a nutshell, both were a part of my wrestling development. All those tapes and magazines were not about bragging rights, or to build a collection, or even to save and sell one day. It was all about the search for knowledge. I needed to know as much about professional wrestling as I could and the shows I loved to watch on television just weren’t cutting it.
I think it was towards the tail end of the 1980s that I first heard about Jushin Liger. Some people I tape traded with would ask if I wanted to see his matches, and I told myself I would eventually get around to seeing some of his stuff. In the early ’90s, Pro Wrestling Illustrated reminded me of the now-named Jushin Thunder Liger. The magazine covered the WCW/New Japan Supershow and devoted a lot of space to the junior heavyweight. Over the next few months, Liger would appear more often in the Apter mags. His exploits included DDTs and Frankensteiners off the top rope and some oddly named but cool sounding move he invented called the Shooting Star Press.
I was always a fan of more technical wrestlers: Ric Flair, Barry Windham, and Ted DiBiase were some of my favorites. I also had a soft spot for brawlers like “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. But with few exceptions like Randy Savage, I was not a big fan of high flying wrestlers. More often than not, they were all show and no substance. Jimmy Snuka is a great example.
I took the dive and requested some Liger matches after I remembered an awesome series of matches. The original Tiger Mask and the Dynamite Kid held classic bouts that would blow today’s spotfests out of the water. The two basically invented a style that did not exist as they wrestled each other. Whether it was Japan or New York, fans were amazed by what they were seeing.
I don’t remember the first Liger match I saw, but I can recall so many great moments. His battles with Brian Pillman are some of the best matches in WCW history. His match against The Great Muta is an amazing story. But the memories that stand out the most are his incredible matches at the Best of the Super Juniors. Most wrestlers are lucky to have one all time classic match; it seemed like every time Liger stepped into the ring for BOSJ, he was writing history. Matches against The Great Sasuke, Hayabusa, and El Samurai showed Liger’s incredible ability and range.
Liger’s legend was secured long ago. He has traveled the globe the past decade, wrestling dream matches around the world. From El Generico in PWG (whatever happened to that guy?) to a match in WWE, to a retirement show in Mexico, Liger has not stayed in one place long. His style has changed since undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, but he still has that star quality that separates the stars from the superstars.
Most importantly, Jushin Liger has been able to do things his own way. His started to make his name in an era when big musclemen where still the rage in the states. Even in his native Japan he was considered undersized. The superhero gimmick guaranteed he would be noticed, but nothing said Liger would be more than a midcard act. Instead, he went one to become one of the most influential wrestlers in the history of the sport. Liger may have retired this past weekend following his match at Wrestle Kingdom 14, but the memories he helped create will last a lifetime.
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