Who is Jushin 'Thunder' Liger?
Jushin “Thunder” Liger is widely regarded as one of the most influential grapplers to ever step foot inside the squared circle. The inventor of the Shooting Star Press, Liger has blazed trails for four decades. Outside of special appearances in WCW, his legend has spread worldwide mainly through video tapes and DVDs.
That’s what makes Liger’s appearance at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn all the more special. The sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center and a worldwide audience watching live on WWE Network will get the chance to see a true legend in action against Tyler Breeze.
While Breeze is preparing to ruin Liger’s first-ever WWE match, WWE.com spoke with Legends and current Superstars who have shared the ring with the innovator to find out exactly what lies ahead for Prince Pretty this Saturday night.
“I’m from a generation that watched Jushin ’Thunder’ Liger on television in WCW. When I was first exposed to Japanese wrestling, the first two people that I looked for on tapes were Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger. Jushin Liger had these awesome matches, wrestling Owen Hart and Naoki Sano. He was an amazing, high-flying wrestler who was so innovative.
“But in 1996, he had a brain tumor and had to have brain surgery. It completely changed his style. Because of that, I look at him now and look up to him as somebody who’s very intelligent about this. There are very few junior heavyweights who have had that kind of longevity and can still go. Jushin Liger can still go out there and have a great match.
“The key to his longevity is his intelligence. He’s smart about wrestling. He was doing the Shooting Star Press and all these high-flying moves before anybody. He got the brain tumor, but he comes back. What does he beat a lot of people with? A palm strike to the face. It got to where he can transition to a style that’s safer on his body, but the crowd still loves it. He’s probably one of the smartest minds in wrestling.
“I would think it would be very intimidating [to wrestle Liger in front of a large crowd], but if I had any advice for Tyler Breeze, it would be this: Enjoy it. This is the only time, probably, that you’re going to wrestle Jushin Liger in this scenario. Very few people, going forward, are going to get to wrestle Liger in front of 13,000 people. It’s pretty awesome just knowing that, for a lot of these people in the crowd, it will be their first time seeing Liger live. They’re going to be going nuts. Enjoy the match, and try to step up to Jushin Liger’s level. This is a great showcase.”
“[Jushin Liger is] a huge innovator, more so than anything else. He’s one of the guys that brought that Japanese junior heavyweight style and popularized it in America. Culturally, he’s a huge icon in Japan. He’s a legend and someone that I’ve looked up to. The majority of people that I’ve spoken to in wrestling look up to him. He’s awesome.
“The shocking thing is, he’s not that different today. It feels like he hasn’t lost a step. That’s a testament to his work ethic and how he has kept himself in shape all these years. It’s quite surprising, to say the least.
“Tyler Breeze should expect defeat. There’s no way he’s beating Jushin Liger, no matter how old he is.”
“I had the opportunity to wrestle around the world before coming to WWE, and had the extreme privilege to compete against Jushin ’Thunder’ Liger and work alongside him. A lot of times, ‘innovator’ and ‘groundbreaker’ are thrown around loosely, but when you look at the history of wrestling and some of the amazing innovations in the sport, if you trace the roots back, you’ll find that Liger was at the heart of them. The Shooting Star Press, the amazing, fast-paced junior heavyweight style that influenced a lot of companies later on, that’s all down to him and the impact that he had. It’s a tremendous honor to have him here in NXT.
“Honestly, he’s kind of an enigma when it comes to [longevity]. Four decades wrestling, and he has not lost a step. There has never been a lull in his ability or level of competition. He must have the fountain of youth. Nobody has ever seen under that mask. He finds new and crazy ways to reinvigorate or reinvent himself. He always stays at the top of the rankings wherever he competes.
“Jushin ’Thunder’ Liger is equal parts legend, icon and hero. He has consistently been one of the greatest at what we do. His level of competition has never let up. He has the insane ability to show up anywhere and everywhere, and compete at the highest level, pushing people to their limit. Any time you get the chance, pleasure or honor to see him do his thing in the ring, it’s always something special.”
“One thing that makes [Liger] special is the longevity of his career. He’s a real legend in our business who brings something very unique to the table. He’s got a character that he’s kept for all these years, the masked identity, which he’s worked hard for and been very successful at.
“I had the opportunity to wrestle Liger in singles, tag team matches and six-man tags. It was a thrill every time. It was fun competing against a guy who was a real pro at what he did. He never took a day off and brought his A-game. Guys like that, I had a great time in the ring with, going hold-for-hold with. He’s a legend in our business. Anyone who has come up in the business knows him and his reputation. It’s great to see a guy like that still around, who can show these young guys what it takes to maintain that longevity in the business.
“Liger’s not a stranger to wrestling in front of sold-out crowds, having competed in the Tokyo Dome in front of 60 or 70 thousand people, and many other arenas around the world. Tyler has to know he’s going in there with a veteran and should take it head on. Liger wouldn’t want less than Tyler’s best."
“Liger has been around for such a long time that people forget how much of a pioneer he is. He was the first to do so many moves that are commonplace today, whether it’s something simple like a Fisherman Buster or complicated like the Shooting Star Press. I had never seen it done before him.
“I think the legend of Liger supersedes him. He still works hard and performs, but I had never seen anything like him before. The mask with the horns and weird eyes, the body suit, he has made that into an art form. I wrestled once as Super Liger, his rival, wearing the exact same costume, and couldn’t move in it. I don’t know how he does it. It’s like wearing full scuba gear and a mask with no eyes.
“If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ve heard the legend of Superstar Billy Graham or ’Macho Man’ Randy Savage. If you’re a fan of Japanese wrestling, you know the name Jushin ’Thunder’ Liger. Even if you’ve never seen a match, you know the picture, the imagery. He’s like The Rolling Stones of Japanese wrestling. He has been doing this for so long at a high level, with one of the coolest looks of all time.
“It’s a pretty big honor that in the middle of this sold-out NXT show, there’s an appearance from Jushin ’Thunder’ Liger, which to me is unbelievable. I want to go just to see him. There’s probably a lot of people that feel the same way, because they’ve never had the chance to see him before.”