We continue our countdown to Jyushin Thunder Liger’s retirement.
Liger’s 1992 started in triumphant form, as he defeated Norio Honaga on February 8 in Sapporo to hold both the WCW Light Heavyweight and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships simultaneously. Liger had ended 1991 by winning the WCW belt from Brian Pillman, with whom he shared mutual respect; in fact later in the year the two would tag together in a WCW tournament to crown the NWA World Tag Team Champions.
He was unsuccessful in that quest, but was victorious in another. Top of the Super Juniors 3 saw the tournament become an annual tradition (though one that would be renamed Best of the Super Juniors from 1994), and Liger entered for the second time, winning for the first.
A nine man field was entered in ToSJ ’92 , with six of the prior year’s seven entrants returning, and joined by Young Lion Koji Kanemoto, Eddie Guerrero and El Samurai. The masked Samurai, having entered the NJPW Dojo in 1986 as a contemporary of Takayuki (later Takashi) Iizuka, had gone on excursion to the UWA in Mexico through 1991, where he competed under the mask that represented the blending of Mexican and Japanese wrestling cultures.
El Samurai returned to NJPW with a lot of hype, and more than lived up to it in the tournament. Nearly sweeping the league, he only fell once to Norio Honaga. Honaga would tie for second with Liger, who suffered defeats to Samurai and Pegasus Kid during the league; under modern NJPW rules, his defeat of Honaga in league play would see him break a tie and advance to the finals, but in 1992, a playoff match between Honaga and Liger took place instead which Liger won.
In the Osaka Jo Hall final, Samuari, knowing that Liger was beatable, instantly went on the offense, and tied the prior year’s finalist in knots on the mat. Isolating Liger’s knee, it took a lot for his opponent to make a comeback, and when Liger did, Samurai was able to dropkick him out of midair on a plancha to the floor.
Much as had been the case against Sano and Honaga, Liger would gain big momentum swings with high impact moves, here a huge suplex to the floor, there a knee drop off the top, but Samurai would often thwart sustained momentum to seize back control. Toward the end of the match however, Liger was finally able to connect big impacts together. Two huge quebradas to the floor were followed by a top rope Frankensteiner, then a Tombstone and Shooting Star Press to secure the first Top of the Super Juniors tournament win of Liger’s career.
In Liger’s first retirement match on January 4, El Samurai will be in the legend’s corner, as he teams with tatsumi Fujinami, the Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask!