The Best International Star: Jushin "Thunder" Liger

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2009

When people think of Japanese wrestling, they think of names like Tigermask, Antonio Inoki, Ultimo Dragon, and Masahiro Chono, but one name stands above the rest: Jushin "Thunder" Liger.

Jushin, whose real name is Keiichi Yamada, began his career in wrestling in the early '80s training in Mexico and eventually debuted under New Japans promotion in 1984.

He later went to England to wrestle, but he eventually returned to Japan and began using the anime gimmick of Jushin Liger. His name changed to Fire Liger and then to its current incarnation of Jushin Thunder Liger.

Upon returning to NJPW, he garnered critical acclaim by capturing the Junior Heavyweight title 11 times.

In the early part of the '90s, Liger appeared in WCW, often feuding with Brian Pillman. The two would have what is considered by many as the greatest lightweight feud of all time. The two had such chemistry in the ring that it upped both of their games to new heights.

Liger captured the WCW World Light Heavyweight championship from Pillman, making him the second man to hold what essentially became the cruiserweight title. He returned to Japan when he lost the title back to Pillman four months later.

During this time, Liger decided that high-flying moves were not enough and he began to develop a more mat-based style of wrestling while still incorporating his high-risk offense, making him one of the most versatile wrestlers of his day.

Liger returned to Japan to win the Super J Cup tournament twice. Only four have ever been held. He faced off with a man who went by the name Wild Pegasus in some of the best matches in the promotion's history. Pegasus later unmasked and went by his real name, Chris Benoit.

Liger later went on to perform for upstart promotions Ring of Honor and TNA in the early part of the 2000s. He has been a staple in NJPW for years and has been a part of two major stables: CTU from 2001-2007 and the Legends stable, which is run by wrestling legend, Masahiro Chono.

In a strange turn of events, during a match with the Great Muta, Liger was unmasked by Muta. Liger remained face down in the ring so his face would not be seen. When Muta returned to try and hit him with a chair, Liger stood up, revealing a painted face similar to his mask. This new painted Gimmick was used on occasion after the incident.

Liger has been known world wide as one of the most exciting, versatile, and talented wrestlers in history. He has held countless titles and won numerous tournaments. He is one of few wrestlers who has appeared in WCW, TNA, and ROH without having been in the WWE.

While he did hold the WWF light heavyweight title, it was while the title was a part of UWA and not in the WWF. All these reasons add up to one conclusion, Jushin Thunder Liger is the best international star.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.