We continue our countdown to Jyushin Thunder Liger’s retirement.
After walking out on the promotion while still its IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Jyushin Thunder Liger made his NJPW return on January 4 2000, but not as we knew him. After complaining that the level of competition was not enough in the junior heavyweight division, Liger returned in a new, all black suit, and with a new, all aggressive attitude.
Charging right into Koji Kanemoto at the bell, Liger was vicious and unrelenting, with crunching blows delivered to his challenger before a vertical drop brainbuster sealed the deal in just three minutes 46 seconds.
After another sub five minute victory over Minoru Tanaka the next month, Liger would dedicate himself to lighting a fire under the junior heavyweight division. This would lead to the Challenge the Super Heavy series in spring at the Tokyo Dome, where junior heavyweights would challenge heavyweight peers in a series of singles matches. Liger would lose to IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kensuke Sasaki on the night, but more than acquitted himself; enough to make history.
That summer, the tenth G1 Climax saw a unique four block setup, and the first junior heavyweights to ever enter the summer’s greatest tournament. Liger and Tatsuhito Takaiwa would enter, and while the experience was a humbling one for Liger, he did become the first junior heavyweight to score a G1 victory in his birthplace of Hiroshima against Tatsutoshi Goto.