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Jushin Thunder Liger to retire at Tokyo Dome in January


Jushin Thunder Liger announced this morning that he will retire in January.

Making the announcement during a press conference Liger, 54, said that he hopes to wrestle all around the world until the next Tokyo Dome card in January, where he will retire. He will be out during the New Japan Cup tour as he will be in Ireland. He also hoped that he would be able to wrestle at the G1 Supercard event next month at Madison Square Garden.

Born Keiichi Yamada, he originally wanted to join New Japan’s dojo straight out of high school, but he failed to meet their height requirement at the time. He instead travelled to Mexico and trained there until he was asked back to train at the dojo, eventually having his debut match on March 3, 1984 against Shunji Kosugi.

After winning the Young Lion Cup in 1986, Yamada went on excursion and travelled across Europe and Canada, wrestling in England under the name Fuji Yamada. He also wrestled for a time in Stampede Wrestling, training in the famed “Dungeon” with the Hart family.

Returning to NJPW in 1987, he wrestled under his given name for a couple of more years before making his debut as Jushin Liger on April 24, 1989 at a Tokyo Dome event. In a unique move, his outfit, appearance and name would evolve over time in line with the anime his character was based on. By 1990, he “evolved” into Jushin Thunder Liger, the name he uses to this day.

Overseas, Liger made his debut for WCW in 1991 and feuded with Brian Pillman over the WCW Light Heavyweight title. He would appear sporadically for the company throughout the 90s, and later made appearances for Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and also made a one-time appearance for NXT in 2015, defeating Tyler Breeze.

In the early stages of his career Liger was a high flying innovator, creating the shooting star press as his finishing move. After a battle with brain cancer in 1996, he adopted a more technical style of wrestling.

Throughout his now nearly 40-year career, Liger has won the IWGP Jr. title 11 times, easily setting the record for most title reigns. He’s also won the Jr. tag team titles six times and won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament in 1994 and 2001. In addition to that, he held the J-Crown and won the Super J Cup in 1995 and 2000, along with countless other titles throughout the world. He entered the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1999.

In recent years, Liger has mostly been on undercards, usually teaming, sometimes feuding with Tiger Mask. His most recent appearance was on Tuesday morning’s New Japan 47th anniversary show, where he was unsuccessful in challenging Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Jr. title.