Childhood & Early Life
Jushin Thunder Liger was born on November 30, 1964 in Hiroshima, Japan. Not much is known about his early life, education and family excepting that he began performing as an amateur wrestler since his high school days.
He took part in a national championship tournament in his senior year, however lost in the finals to Toshiaki Kawada.
Aspired to become a professional wrestler, he applied to NJPW’s dojo in the early 1980s following his graduation from high school. However after being rejected due to height requirements, he relocated to Mexico for training.
Striving to sustain himself in Mexico, he was spotted by visiting officials of NJPW. Seeing his struggle and dedication for the sport they asked him to return to Japan and take training in NJPW’s dojo, which he followed.
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While training in NJPW’s dojo, he made his debut on March 3, 1984, with his first opponent being Shunji Kosugi. He trained in several martial arts styles and this way picked up his Abisegeri kick also referred as Rolling Liger Kick.
He faced defeat in the hands of Kosugi during the final of the Young Lion Cup tournament in 1985.
Thereafter he lost to Black Tiger in the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in early 1986 and to Nobuhiko Takada in his first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match on July 19, 1986.
Meanwhile in March 1986 he won the Young Lion Cup and then endeavoured on a Europe tour. During that time he wrestled under stage name “Flying" Fuji Yamada in England’s pro-wrestling promotion ‘All Star Wrestling’.
His stint in ‘All Star Wrestling’ saw him beating "Rollerball" Mark Rocco twice in September 1986 and March 1987 to bag the World Heavy Middleweight Championship title, however lost it back to the latter each time. His next visit in All Star was in 1989 with tag team partner Flying Funaki. The last time he visited there was in 2014 with his masked identity, Jushin Liger.
His Shooting Star Press debut happened following his return to Japan in August 1987. The bout was against Masakatsu Funaki. His performance bettered with time all through 1987 and 1988. He was occasionally pitted at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship matches and also included in the first Top of the Super Juniors tournament, a yearly tournament held by NJPW.
Inspired by the famous anime superhero, Jushin Liger, NJPW readied him for a gimmick that included a full body costume and a mask of a demon. On April 24, 1989 he returned to NJPW in the "Jushin Liger" persona. His debut match in the character saw him beating Kuniaki Kobayashi.
Till present he has faced all the Black Tigers starting from Mark Rocco in 1989, Tatsuhito Takaiwa in 2009 and Tomohiro Ishii in 2011 among others.
With time he emerged as one of the top junior heavyweights of NJPW who between May 25, 1989 and December 6, 1999 earned the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship title for eleven times. Meanwhile in January 1990 he was re-christened as "Jushin Thunder Liger".
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In December 1991 he made his debut in the American professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW). There he began a feud with Brian Pillman over the WCW World Light Heavyweight Championship and clinched the title on December 25, 1991 in a match held at a house show in Atlanta, Georgia. He however lost the title to Pillman on February 29, 1992 at SuperBrawl II.
He originally conceived the pro- wrestling tournament Super J-Cup that features junior heavyweight wrestlers from across the globe. He won the tournament in 1995 and in August the following year he underwent a brain tumor surgery. His second win in the tournament came in 2000.
He won IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for six times with six different partners each time, namely The Great Sasuke, El Samurai, Minoru Tanaka, Koji Kanemoto, AKIRA and Tiger Mask. The one with Tiger Mask was held on June 16, 2012.
His other title wins in NJPW included winning the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship twice on January 4, 1997 and on November 8, 2014; the NWA World Welterweight Championship once on January 4, 1997; and the Best of the Super Juniors tournament thrice in 1992, 1994 and 2001 among several other accolades.
He along with other wrestlers like Black Tiger IV, Prince Devitt and Hirooki Goto remained leaders of the NJPW heel stable Control Terrorism Unit (CTU) from 2001 to 2007. As per his decision the CTU disbanded in August 2007 and thereafter he joined the Legend stable of Masahiro Chono which was later disbanded in February 2010.
Starting from 2007 he also wrestled on and off for NJPW's Mexican associates Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). He defeated Negro Casas on May 3, 2010 to become the CMLL World Middleweight Champion and on August 13 he beat CMLL World Trios Champion La Sombra to bag the 2010 Universal Champion title. He also won the CMLL World Tag Team Championship along with Hiroshi Tanahashi on July 5, 2013.
His only MMA bout against Minoru Suzuki as a replacement of injured Kensuke Sasaki held on November 30, 2002, saw him losing to Suzuki in the first round by rear naked choke.
An ace wrestler known for his signature moves like Abisegeri, Frankensteiner, and Fisherman buster, and finishing moves like Brainbuster, Liger Bomb and Liger Suplex, Liger has over the years performed in different other wrestling promotions including in Ring of Honor (ROH), Total Nonstop Action, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) among others.
Wrestling worldwide he has won several other titles and honours including the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship twice and JAPW Light Heavyweight Championship once.
He is also known by his nicknames “Flying", "Sekai no Shishigami", "Shooting Star" and "Symbol of Junior".