Puroresu Profiles

Jushin Thunder Liger Profile

A look at one of the greatest cruiserweights in the world…Jushin Liger.

Real Name: Keiichi Yamada (debut March 1984)
Height: 5’7″ (170cm)
Weight: 209lbs (95kg)
Debut: April 24th, 1989 (vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi)
Signature Moves: Shotei, Brainbuster, Liger Bomb, Koppou Kick, Romero Special, Fisherman Buster, Super Fisherman Buster, Super Brainbuster and inventor of the Shooting Star Press.

Title History:

  • 11x IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion

  • 4x IWGP Jr Heavy Tag Champion

  • 2x British Commonwealth Jr Champion

  • GHC Champion

  • NWA Jr Champion

  • UWA Jr Champion

  • WAR Jr Champion

  • WAR Jr Tag Champion

  • Osaka Pro Tag Champion

  • NWA Welterweight Champion

  • WWA Jr Champion

  • WCW Light Heavyweight Champion

  • WWF Light Heavyweight Champion

Tournament History:

  • Top/Best of the Super Junior Champion (92, 94 and 2001)

  • Super J Cup (95 and 2000)

  • IWGP Jr Heavyweight Contender League (1991)

  • Naeba Cup Tag Tournament (2001)

  • G1 Jr Tag League (2001)

    After wrestling for around 5 years under his real name the man now known as Jushin Liger re-packaged himself and arrived on the scene at the 1989 Tokyo Dome show quickly despatching Kuniaki Kobayashi a respected and top level junior of the time.

    Soon after he found his first big rival, Naoki Sano, the two having a celebrated series of matches over the IWGP Jr title and then found himself in charge of the book.

    He put in place an open door policy allowing juniors from NJPW to roam and also invited those from outside in, people like the Great Sasuke, Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko, Eddie ‘Black Tiger’ Guerrero, Chris ‘Wild Pegasus’ Benoit and many more.

    He wrestled in WCW and helped raise the importance of cruisers there with a great rivalry with ‘Flyin’ Brian Pillman which established a legacy built upon by the likes of Rey, Eddie, Jericho and Malenko during the companies glory years. He also took in WCW talent for the tours and Jericho and Chavo Guerrero Jr amongst others were tangling with Japan’s elite in the BOSJ tournament that Liger revived and ran annually.

    When the title picture in the junior division became a little too confusing then Liger decided to run a one night J-Crown tournament with 8 grapplers, each a champion, to decided the undisputed champion… It was a great success and established Sasuke, Ultimo, Ohanti and Liger himself as great wrestlers.

    He himself has held numerous titles around the globe and in most organisations in Japan, including a record 11 times as the holder of Japan’s most coveted junior title, the IWGP title. To put in perspective how great that is the nearest to him is Koji Kanemoto with 4….

    Since the year 2000 and his final championship run Liger has devoted his energy to other endeavours… He tried to break into the heavyweight division through the G1 2000 tournament, invaded Michinoku Pro’s J-Cup, fought a war with the NOAH Jr division since 2001 and has held the companies top junior gold and also fought in an ill advised shoot against MiSuzuki where he was choked out.

    Soon after he turned truly heel for the first time in NJPW and looked to be trying to build another junior war as epic as those between him, Koji, Ohanti and Tawaika and the Team 2000 war. He formed the Control Terrorism Unit with Takemura, Gedo, Jado and Minoru but then later turned on Takemura and allowed young junior supernova Goto into the unit.

    Liger took on the ‘regular’ army as well by joining forces with Chono’s ‘Black Japan’ team and would often collide with the home team of Kanemoto, Inoue and Tiger Mask as well as more and more heavyweights like Nagata and Tenzan.

    However after the return of Riki Choshu to the group as booker he ordered all factions to disperse and scatter, for people to form new alliances and grudges to re-shape the company. Liger however refused and CTU remains intact with the group playing heels but adored by the fans (well apart from Gedo and Jado) and still make life a pain for Koji and his regular army comrades, a role that Liger has had to play for many years now flipped and reversed.

    So at the moment Liger IS the junior division in Japan. An 11 time IWGP Jr Heavyweight champion, a 4 time IWGP Junior tag team champion, the creator and former holder of the J-Crown, a former GHC Junior heavy title holder as well as the godfather of all the Junior themed indies in Japan and beyond. He has made appearances in Ring Of Honour and TNA in the US, had helped Osaka Pro before it’s slide and helped build a generation of talent that can claim to be one of the best in Japan ever.

    Thanks to him the likes of Ohanti (former AWA World Champion and IWGP and WCW Junior champion), Koji Kanemoto (5 time IWGP and 3 time Junior Tag champion), The Great Sasuke, Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Hayabusa, TAKA Michinoku and many more all enjoyed exposure during the peak of Japanese wrestling that helped launch them to bigger and better things. 

    So after recovering from serious ankle injuries and a brain tumour in 1996 I think its fair to say nothing can really stop Liger. He has been a true pioneer and innovator for the scene and a legend no one may match for many, many years to come.

    Robert Heard