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Jushin "Thunder" Liger

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Liger won't be my number one, but I could see him anywhere from number two to any other spot in the top ten. His rep is that of a great high flyer, and while Liger was a great flyer, that has nothing to do with why he was great. Liger was so demonstrative. I always thought it was cool when you felt like you could see a smirk or anger just by looking at his face even though the expression never changed at all because of the mask. He was also a fantastic ace. Guys like Otani and Kanemoto just weren't the same against anyone else for the most part, not to mention El Samurai and Norio Honaga. The only thing keeping him out of the top spot for me is that he wrestled within a pretty narrow experience - juniors matches against a core group of guys. We saw so many sides to him just within that division, and he does have occasional highlights outside of it like the WCW matches with Pillman or the Budokan Hall main event with Hashimoto. But he's not quite as "tested", for lack of a better word, as the other top tier guys. It's hard to think of any real flaws outside of that.

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Liger suffers from being a guy who I got bored of a long time ago. I think I'll check out that Kanemoto match you uploaded and see if I can rekindle the spark. There's also his career as Yamada to consider. He was pretty good for a young guy.

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Yeah, Liger is one of those rare guys who was an excellent young worker, a sublime peak worker and then a very good old worker. And he was a bit different in each of those capacities. It's cool that he genuinely got to work as an ace, even though he wrestled lower on the card. He might have lost a little too readily at times in his desire to create rivals. But he was so gifted and carried himself so well that he never lost any luster from the defeats. Liger-Ohtani might be the best juniors rivalry ever, and Liger-Sano was nearly as good. Had a huge bag of impressive offense, could build a whole match around selling, somehow managed to emote through his mask. I suppose he also deserves some points for getting over in the U.S. He's a top 10 contender and definite top 20 for me.

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As far as expectation vs my perception goes, Liger is a really disappointing wrestler for me. All of the "great" stuff I've seen has been very underwhelming. He's someone I just don't get the praise for from what I've seen. I haven't seen any of his 80s work or a whole lot of his work in general, but some of his highly touted matches from the early 90s have been very pedantic. His match with KUSHIDA from this year's BOSJ was awesome though and I think his match against Pillman from Superbrawl 92 has aged well for the most part. I like that match a lot more than his Honaga & El Samurai matches from that year.

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Watch as much of the Liger vs. Kikuchi series of tags as you can on this one. A few in 2002 and 2003 are incredible for the atmosphere alone. Liger brings something to these that I don't think any other junior in Japan could have.

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Expanding a little on why I don't find Liger that appealing: The Honaga & El Samurai matches consist of two guys just trading moves. They just go back and forth like its an exhibition.

 

That's a weird criticism of the Honaga series, which was a total styles clash and wrestled that way. Honaga brought more basic offense than most top juniors but acted like a classic American heel. And Liger's aggression ramped up as he got more and more pissed at Honaga's antics. Those weren't spotfests at all.

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The Honaga matches are also the farthest thing from "back and forth." The matches revolve around Liger brutally tearing Honaga apart and Norio trying to keep his head above water, before fluking and/or cheating his way to victory. They were basically extended squashes with swerve finishes. The acclaimed Liger/Sammy match is also full of Aggressive Liger against a sneaky heel opponent.

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OOPS. I've only seen the 2/08/92 Honaga match and I was getting that mixed up with the Sano match from 1/31/90. That was the match that I thought was just back and forth. I still don't think that the Honaga match I've seen or the Sano match I've seen or the El Samurai matches I've seen were that impressive. None of them were bad, they were good, but nothing special.

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One of the best aces ever. Knew how to work against a wide variety of opponents, and even though it would become the Lyger Show at times, it was still very appealing because he brought the best out of whoever he faced and they stepped up to his level. Kanemoto, Sammy, Ohtani, Pillman, and countless others have a lot to owe to Lyger. I've lessened on his matches over the years, but I don't see how he falls outside of my Top 25.

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All that said, I wasn't kidding that I wasn't going to start heavily looking at anything til the new year. My dance card is pretty full up with how I've stretched myself, and that's before all this 50s stuff dropped. But I'll start looking at 96 with Liger, absolutely, thanks.

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Another feather in his cap is having a good match against Marufuji - when he was at his fucking worst - in 2010 at NEW DIMENSION.

 

 

re: the Sano 90' match. Don't remember that being "back and forth" at all. Doesn't Sano just beat the dog shit out of Liger for most of the match - blooding him and ripping his mask off - until he starts mounting a pretty great comeback? Maybe I gotta watch it again.

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Will, how do you rate him vs. Rey? I feel like I could fill up more space with good Misterio matches but could probably rattle off more than dozen Liger classics that are legit all time great matches. Not sure Rey got to that level quite as many times, even though he was unquestionably not put in a position to do so as much as Liger.

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I watched that long Kanemoto/Liger match from '98.

 

I really liked the opening Liger work where he kept dropping the knee, throwing vicious strikes and stretching Kanemoto with nasty looking submissions. Then there was a weak transition onto the Kanemoto offence and the rest of the match was boring. Why did it have to be so long? I don't have the stamina for these sort of matches anymore. Liger's selling was good and there were a few hot moments in the stretch run, but the finish was awful and the whole thing reminded me of why I stopped watching Liger matches.

 

There's nothing new to learn from watching a Liger bout. It's the same thing every time, which means my enjoyment of his bouts is entirely dependent on his opponent. The 1998 Liger/Ohtani bouts I would love to see in full. Kanemoto does a shooter gimmick with moonsaults and sentons. I really don't like that. Liger's not boring, but his bout sure can be.

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Will, how do you rate him vs. Rey? I feel like I could fill up more space with good Misterio matches but could probably rattle off more than dozen Liger classics that are legit all time great matches. Not sure Rey got to that level quite as many times, even though he was unquestionably not put in a position to do so as much as Liger.

 

Side by side really. I think Liger definitely had higher peaks but Rey was so good on a week to week basis that it just depends what you are looking for on that day. Both had down periods but both were so good for so long that it just depends if you were more in tune with American or Japanese wrestling.

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Honestly, I don't know where I stand on Liger at all. He has so many blatant strengths, most, if not all, of which have been mentioned already in this thread, but... just about every famous match I've watched back in the past x years (vs. Sano 1/90, vs. Samurai 4/92, vs. Ohtani 96 & 97, etc) has been disappointing at best (see my comments in the Yearbook threads). Most of the famed junior matches of that era do little for me now (Benoit/Eddy BOSJ 96 being a notable exception). Even the Hash match I recall not liking as much as others (I'd have to re-watch it to give more details why). So, yeah, I just don't know... I can't envision a list where he's not in the Top 50, yet...

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I just don't see Liger as a top 10 guy. He was in good matches over an incredibly long period of time, yes. Plenty of great matches. An incredible raw talent to start with enough ability that he was still a good athlete after some serious physical setbacks. Super charisma and presence.

 

And... his singles work got real real patchy after early '97. I wouldn't be surprised if I've seen every Liger singles match on tape at this point, or at least the overwhelming majority. There was late '90s "big moves and no coherent structure" Liger, 2000 "no-selling black suit" Liger, mid-2000s "lazy heel in the CTU stable" Liger. Several supremely forgettable but high-profile outside excursions such as 2007 in Dragon Gate and 2009 in NOAH.

 

I've flogged Liger vs Tenryu as a point of comparison for years now and I think it bears repeating. Tenryu has been markedly more consistent, is better in tags, has just as many (if not more) great singles matches that hold up, and is just as likely to give his A-game performance at a house show as a big event. Liger was definitely a 'big event' kind of guy; you aren't going to find much in the way of hidden gem Liger matches.

 

I see Liger as more on par with Taue. Yes, Taue was more likely to be the lesser man in his best matches, whereas Liger tended to be the better one. Yet if you stack up their best matches side-by-side, Taue's best are just so far ahead of Liger's as you start going down, and Taue adds plenty to all of them. Taue loses consistency as the '90s chug along, like Liger, and has flashes of brilliance in the 2000s, like Liger.

 

For all that said, it's incredibly hard not to have Liger in the top 20. I just think it's clear he isn't top 5, and the case for top 10 gets shaky when you start going through it name-by-name.

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Liger will make my list, it's just a question of where. He's the very definition of sustained longevity, and that has to count for something. Still, I often find myself taking Liger for granted, and I think that's due to how often he falls into the good but not great trap. Maybe not top 50, but definitely top 100.

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Good but not great is the last thing I'd say about Liger. His selling in the 8/10/89 Sano match was as good as any I've seen. His desperate, ripped-mask rally in their 1/31/90 blowoff packed incredible drama. His offensive salvo in the 4/30/92 match with Samurai was something to behold. He wrestled like a much bigger guy when he took on Hashimoto 2/24/94. His ace performance against Ohtani on 2/9/97 made for another of the greatest junior matches of all time. His dickish behavior set the tone for those incredibly heated NOAH vs. NJ matches from 2002.

 

So I can see being bored with his more by-the-numbers performances, of which there were many. But the highs were incredibly high.

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