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Wrestling / Jushin Thunder Liger

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Keiichi Yamada (born November 30, 1964 in Hiroshima, Japan) is a former Professional Wrestler best known as Jushin "Thunder" Liger. He debuted in 1984 and, along with his work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, also competed for Stampede Wrestling and for All-Star Wrestling in England. He first wrestled under his own name before changing to Flying Fuji Yamada. He started the Liger gimmick in 1989. Over his career, he has also competed for All Japan Pro Wrestling, Fighting Opera HUSTLE, CHIKARA, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Dragon Gate, WCW, Dramatic Dream Team, TNA, CMLL, Ring of Honor and many other promotions. Among his many in-ring achievements, he is an 11x New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, a 6x New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, a 1x Octuple J-Crown Champion, and was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1999.

Liger worked his retirement match on January 5, 2020 on the second night of NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 14 in the Tokyo Dome, and had his official retirement ceremony the following night at NJPW's New Year Dash!!note  He was also inducted as part of the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2020, in spite of working only one match for the company.

"Jushin Troper Liger":

  • Always Someone Better: In The '90s, he could not just get a win over his Arch-Enemy The Great Sasuke.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Kishin Liger adopted The Great Muta's tactics in an effort to beat him and get his revenge for Muta's cheating ways. Didn't work though.
  • Big Damn Heroes: He and Hiroshi Tanahashi at War Of The Worlds after Adam Cole used the ROH title belt to attack IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada and Michael Elgin, who had, naturally, already beaten the hell out of each other.
  • Book Ends: Liger began his career at the first ever Tokyo Dome wrestling show, which was also the first Tokyo Dome wrestling show of the Heisei era. He would end his career almost 31 years the first Tokyo Dome wrestling show of the Reiwa era.
  • Canon Discontinuity: As far as New Japan Pro Wrestling is concerned, Jushin Liger was the Junior Heavyweight champion during his entire WCW run.
    • New Japan also likes to pretend that the four years he wrestled unmasked and (usually) under his real name never happened.
  • Captain Ersatz: Fire Pro Wrestling tends to go with his "thunder" gimmick, just slightly tweaked.
  • Costume Porn: He sometimes wore a Badass Cape to the ring.
  • Cool Mask: Though it looks like it would hamper his sight, it doesn't seem to stop him from doing anything.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Sabu attended the Pro Wrestling Syndicate Super Card because of John Morrison and Jushin Liger. The sight of him lead to chants of "Triple Threat!"
  • Cross Through: Made a one-night appearance at the first NXT Takeover: Brooklyn event, defeating Tyler Breeze. This marked the first time Liger has wrestled in a WWE ring.
  • Dark Is Evil: As a heel, he wears an all black version of his outfit.
  • Determinator: Before he became a wrestler, he was initially rejected by New Japan because he didn't meet height requirements (another version says he never really applied because he knew he would be rejected by this reason), although he was still a teenager and was not likely done growing. He would start his training in Mexico instead, as there are not such requirements in Mexican promotions, and when NJPW officials Gran Hamada and Kotetsu Yamamoto made a visit and saw him literally starving while studying there, they allowed him to train at the New Japan Dojo. The rest is history.
  • Face: In early WCW, Liger actually started out as the heel when feuding with Brian Pillman, but he was such a natural face that the fans started cheering for him. He was a heel as the leader of CTU though.
  • Facial Markings: As Kishin Liger, after the Great Muta ripped his mask.
  • Finishing Move: Liger Bomb, Shooting Star Press, Brainbuster.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel:
    • Briefly demoted to this in WCW in late 1995, to fit Starrcade 1995's "World Cup of Wrestling" theme of WCW vs. NJPW matches. Liger, like all the NJPW guys, was stapled to sneering Yellow Peril manager Sonny Onoo for the build, and when taping the Disney shows, WCW outright asked their audiences not to cheer him no matter how many awesome things he did.
    • Liger was also an evil foreigner with Okumura, Naito and Yujiro as La Ola Amarilla in CMLL.
  • Forgot Flanders Could Do That: Liger is so known for his cruiserweight and lucha libre ventures that everybody in the U.S. was surprised when he volunteered to replace Kensuke Sasaki in his Mixed Martial Arts match against Minoru Suzuki; they had forgotten that Yamada was a high level freestyle wrestler and one of the last New Japan wrestlers who trained under Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Granted, it didn't matter very much given how the match turned out.
  • For Science!: He and a New Japan referee did an experiment to see if pro wrestlers would kick out while sleeping. The answer is yes, except for Tomoaki Honma, who couldn't so much as get a shoulder up while awake. Presumably he was the control group.
  • Foreshadowing: He got his start in the NJPW Young Lion cup and was its eventual winner.
  • Good is Not Nice: Despite his superhero gimmick and being a natural babyface, Liger wasn't always the nicest of guys in his Japanese runs, often defined by his arrogance. To say nothing of Kishin Liger...
    • In 1999 and 2000, Liger felt that there was no competition within the junior heavyweight division, becoming more aggressive as a result of his aggravation. In 99, Liger announced he was leaving New Japan while still IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion to find competition elsewhere. He returned in 2000, destroying Koji Kanemoto in less than four minutes in the Tokyo Dome.
  • Handicapped Badass: He can't hear in one ear because of a surgery to get rid of a brain tumor.
  • I Know Karate: Is apparently trained in koppo (a martial art that allows kicks, grappling and more notably features hand strikes that doesn't use the fist). The art's own founder Masashi Horibe was in his corner when Liger wrestled Don Nakaya Nielsen in a different style fight in 1988.
  • Informed Ability: Many sources state that Yamada learned multiple martial arts, but it's untrue: his only fighting background was amateur wrestling while on high school (and he was pretty good in that, as he placed second in a national championship). He later learned koppo, though.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Specially during his prime. Has shades of Pintsized Powerhouse as well.
  • Made of Iron: Though he Jushin Liger lost the match, he popped back up after taking starship pain on a camera angle that made it look like John Morrison landed on his head! This was at the April 5th 2013 PWS Super Card 2, which meant he had already been in a match with Stevie Richards and well over a year later he was still going in Ring Of Honor and New Japan style pay per view matches.
  • Masked Luchador: Though in a twist, his Mexican debut (which would have made him the purest example of the trope from the start) was postponed by Japanese wrestlers who urged him to return to his native land and was only pursued in the first place because the Japanese dojos would not train him for being too short. He would thus not get his mask for awhile and would not start in Mexico for another 18 years.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Lyger bowling!
  • Old Master: To Cheeseburger in Ring Of Honor, whom the other wrestlers so nicknamed because of his less than impressive size (Charlie Haas saying he needed one), something Liger can relate to.
  • Power Stable:
    • Control Terrorism Unit (CTU)
    • Legend, led by Masahiro Chono
    • Dragon Bombers
    • (in CMLL): La Ola Amarilla
  • Red Baron: "Thunder"
  • Ring Oldies: He was 55 when he worked his final match.
  • The Rival: Claims his closest rivals were Naoki Sano and Chris Benoit.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Black Tiger was a gimmick created to challenge Tiger Mask, but while the Tiger Masks have feuded with three different Black Tigers at most, Jushin Liger has feuded with six official Black Tigers in succession... though he has also teamed up with some of them.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Or maybe just lamb. Regardless, Jushin Liger knew he wouldn't be able to beat Minoru Suzuki in a mixed martial arts bout, especially not post brain surgery, but willingly entered into one anyway so New Japan could save face with Pancrase. This was presumably also the reason why he opted to throw a wild Awesome, but Impractical kick and pay the price instead of fighting conservatively and possibly humiliating himself even more by failing at that.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Has worked as a booker.
  • Shout-Out: His whole persona is this to the anime Jushin Liger
  • Signature Move: Rolling Koppu Kick, Surfboard (Romero/ceiling hold), Shotei.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Lyger works too
    • The official romanization that New Japan uses for his name is Jyushin Thunder Liger.
  • Superhero: His whole gimmick, as it is based on an anime character. "Thunder" is actually the powered up form.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: His dark, unmasked (but facepainted) alter ego Kishin Liger is his, used only in the rarest of circumstances to the point he's only ever called on him 4 times in his career, and always against the most ruthless heels in the most heated feuds. The feuds... tend not to last long after that.
  • Tag Team: The Unbeatables, with Koji Kanemoto
  • Tournament Arc: Beat La Sombra in the 2010 CMLL Universal Championship after Shigeo Okumura interfered, establishing La Ola Amrilla's dominance.
  • Ur-Example: First to do the shooting star press, though his version had his legs wider spread and less tucked in than Billy Kidman's, who most wrestlers imitate when they do the move. Liger himself said he got the idea from Fist of the North Star.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With The Great Sasuke.
  • Worthy Opponent: Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe and Low Ki in Ring of Honor. He was going to consider Adam Cole as well, but Cole was too much of an ass. Averted with Austin Aries, who he was quick to pronounce "an asshole" upon their face to face meeting.