His final matches - losses, naturally - took place over the weekend at Wrestle Kingdom 14. At Monday’s New Year’s Dash!!, New Japan honored Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s remarkable career with a show-opening retirement ceremony.
It was an amazing send-off. After a video of his career highlights, the man of the hour entered. He was followed by most of the roster, and was given flowers by Hiroshi Tanahashi. Current company ace Kazuchika Okada and his CHAOS faction were out next. After some formal photos, The Rainmaker got a selfie with Liger.
There were more flowers from company executives. There were bouquets sent from all over the world, including from another Super-Junior great and his current promotion in Florida.
Then Liger’s wife and son joined him, receiving flowers of their own.
Tanahashi was crying.
We got a video message from none other than Antonio Inoki.
Then Liger was given the ring and a microphone. You didn’t need subtitles to experience the emotion, or even get the message. He thanked the fans and said NJPW would thrive without him. He put over the last man to pin him, current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champ Hiromu Takahashi.
Despite failing health, Liger’s mother was able to attend all this weekend’s shows. He thanked her, and his wife & son for their support while he was away over the last three-plus decades. He also warned them they were about to have to deal with his being home a lot more.
After the ten bell salute, the roster returned to the ring. They lifted Liger up and threw him in the air for three cheers.
Tanahashi led the crowd in singing his theme. Finally, Liger walked to the back, alone.