Pro wrestling can be really, really weird. Case in point: in 1989, New Japan Pro Wrestling approached Keiichi Yamada to become a real-life version of the very popular anime character, Jushin Liger. Along with equally iconic Tiger Mask, Liger is one of the longest-running characters in all of wrestling, except unlike Tiger Mask, Liger has only ever been portrayed by one man in the last thirty years.
As talented and seemingly lovely as Yamada is and has been over the past three decades, being dressed as an anime character come to life for that amount of time is definitely going to drive you to do some strange things. Prepare to smile, here are 10 Weird and Wonderful Jushin Thunder Liger Moments.
Policing New Japan Events
Prior to this year’s G1 Climax, New Japan released a video starring Officer Liger, your helpful guide to etiquette at an NJPW event. In the video, Liger, dressed in full police uniform, charmingly delivers a fun guard to staying safe and considerate of others during a live New Japan show. Rules and authority have never been so wonderfully ridiculous.
At PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament in 2016, one of the most legendary junior heavyweight wrestlers of all time was involved throughout the weekend. On the final night, Liger was involved in a 10-man tag match, where for whatever reason, he got into the ring, stood across from Tommaso Ciampa, stuck his rear end out at him, and demanding he stick his thumb in…well…you can hear Liger say it for yourself.
Then, everyone else in the match, including Aleister Black, Sami Callahan, Pete Dunne, Matt Riddle, and more, all decided that they needed to get a piece of themselves involved in the action. What follows is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever witnessed inside a wrestling ring, and is something that has to be seen to be believed.
The fact Jushin Thunder Liger actually had an NXT TakeOver match with Tyler Breeze is definitely weird and wonderful. Every now and then it just pops into my head and I think, “Oh yeah, that actually happened, didn’t it?” Anyway, here’s Jushin taking some no doubt fire selfies because he’s definitely not an uggo.
In June 2018, Jushin was invited to throw the first pitch out at a Hanshin Tigers vs. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball game. Dressed in full costume, Liger threw the ball directly at one of the game’s mascot, causing the character to become aggressive with Liger. Another mascot stepped in, checked both men’s outfits for foreign objects, and a fight began. One surfboard and Shotei later, and Jushin was declared the winner.
If this is what every baseball game is like in Japan, I can see exactly why it is so popular over there.
A Regal Excursion
As discussed during his appearance on the Tuesday Night Jaw podcast, William Regal was once roommates with the man who would become to be known as Jushin Thunder Liger. At this point, the Liger character didn’t exist, and the man behind the mask was still out on excursion learning his craft.
During his time travelling around Europe, Regal and Liger wrestled in the Shetland Islands in 1987, where they stayed in a small bed and breakfast. Regal recalls waking up one morning, standing at the window along with Liger, and seeing around 500 Shetland Ponies walking around outside of their bedroom window, causing the pair to laugh together.
Although sadly this moment was not captured on film, the image of Liger and Regal laughing together surrounded by hundreds of tiny horses is enough alone to make me grin from ear to ear.
JTL in MMA
In 2002, after nearly a decade of competing in Pancrase, a promotion he had a hand in founding, Minoru Suzuki decided to step away from competing full-time in MMA due to multiple concussions, and needed one last historic fight to retire on. Originally, Suzuki had selected Kensuke Sasaki as his final foe, a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, yet Sasaki was unfortunately injured before the fight. So, who was going to step up and fill those big shoes for such an important bout? Well, an anime character with no MMA experience to his name of course!
Yes, Jushin Thunder Liger and Minoru Suzuki once had an MMA fight against each other – Liger had never competed before (but did have experience as an amateur wrestler), yet he was still crazy enough to step in there with the Murder Grandpa himself. Wearing a variation on his iconic wrestling mask, Liger unsurprisingly lost in quick succession to the much more experienced Suzuki. Liger never did step into an MMA ring again after this, but after a fight with Minoru Suzuki, that’s enough to put anybody off for life.
Recruiting the Boys
If you leave anything flamboyant and sparkling unattended, Jushin will try to claim it as his own. During a match with the equally strange Dalton Castle, Jushin took advantage of his downed opponent, and decided to try and recruit Castle’s boys for himself, striking a fabulous pose alongside the two young rookies. Dalton was not best pleased at his boys’ betrayal, yet every fan watching that night was filled with delight.
Here’s a photo of an extremely popular anime character come to life in a full suit and mask playing a nice relaxing game of bowling. Enjoy.
Waking Up Before the Count of 3
A Japanese game show once had Jushin Liger sneak into his fellow wrestlers’ bedrooms, and try to get a three count on them without waking them up. As wonderfully strange as this is, it is still nowhere near the weirdest thing I’ve seen on a Japanese game show.
At Minoru Suzuki’s 40th birthday show in 2008, Jushin Liger teamed with Takaku Fuke to face Kikutaro (go and watch one of his matches immediately, he is fantastic) and the deadly Mecha Mummy. What Liger was not expecting though was that his opponents both turned up dressed as the iconic character. In fact, Mecha Mummy even had a special variation of his signature gigantic hand so he could deliver the biggest Shotei Palm Strike in history. Luckily for us, Liger managed to survive and pick up the victory, allowing him to treat us to more weirdness for many years to come.
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