Jushin Thunder Liger has been wrestling since the 1980s, mostly with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but rose to prominence in the U.S. while working for WCW in the 90s. Over the last few years, he’s made NJPW his home base while wrestling pretty much anywhere he could, as everyone knew but didn’t want to acknowledge the legendary and influential junior heavyweight was winding down a one-of-a-kind career.
At a press conference today (Mar. 7) for the 2019 New Japan Cup, the 54 year old Liger forced us to acknowledge it. He announced he’ll be retiring at next January’s Tokyo Dome shows on Jan. 4 - 5.
You can watch an untranslated version of his press conference above. Here are some English notes from Chris Charlton, who you need to be following if you have any interest in New Japan specifically or puroresu in general...
Liger: “Thank you for joining me here. I will retire next year in January at the Tokyo Dome. Yesterday’s match [vs. Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at 47th Anniversary, which our Rev. Claire called “must-watch”] made me see I have nowhere else to grow. I can still do it, still get in there, but have no room for growth. I think if I do manage to get the belt and still retire in January that adds some value in itself. I still train, still have that attitude of taking out who is in front of me. Here and there hurts but I can still go. But whoever you are, Inoki, Fujiwara, whoever, you have to keep getting stronger I think, and that prompted this decision.
I did debut in the Tokyo Dome but that had nothing to do with my decision. I said I wanted to retire and the company said ‘ok, the Tokyo dome’. I was like ‘WHAT?’ Only Inoki has done that! [Reporter: and Choshu] Ah, ok, I’m third.
What shall I do with the next ten months? I was Liger for thirty years, all over the world. So while I don’t want to call this a retirement tour, I want to go all over Japan and the world and show myself to everyone one more time. There really isn’t anything I haven’t done. This company has let me do whatever I wanted. I might not be completely ‘full up’ on wrestling. But that’s the best time to stop. I have done everything I want to do but I’m not sick of it. I’m still mobile, I’m not a complete wreck.”
Much more will be written about the career and influence of Jushin Thunder Liger over the days and months to come, and prices of New Japan’s U.S. shows like G1 Supercard in New York City (about working the April 6 card, Charlton tweeted Liger said he absolutely want to work Madison Square Garden: “Come on! I’m retiring! Book me there!”) and the G1 Climax event in Dallas just went up.
For now we’ll just say thanks for the last thirty-something years, and here’s to one more.