54-year-old Jushin Thunder Liger, perhaps the single most influential junior heavyweight wrestler of all time, has announced that his historic 35-year career in professional wrestling will come to an end in 2020.
Liger made the announcement during a press conference on Thursday afternoon, live from Tokyo, and officially stated that he will retire next January at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s annual Tokyo Dome event. He will be just the third wrestler ever to retire in the nation’s most famous arena, following in the footsteps of Antonio Inoki and Riki Choshu.
Throughout his legendary career Liger remained consistently loyal to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and holds the record for number of reigns as IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion (11), as well as combined defenses (31) and combined days (2,245) outranking second place by more than three full years.
He also won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament on three occasions (1992, 1994 and 2001), tying the record with Koji Kanemoto) and through the company’s partnerships with other worldwide promotions, has held titles in CMLL, Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Noah and World Championship Wrestling.
Liger’s in-ring style has been hugely influential on multiple generations of junior heavyweight (or Cruiserweight) wrestlers, and many of the moves he personally had a hand in innovating — including the Shooting Star Press, the Romero Special (or Surfboard Stretch), the running Liger Bomb and the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker — have become commonplace in today’s wrestling landscape.
While Liger will wrap his career up in the Tokyo Dome next January, he still has plenty of time left in 2019 and has announced that he will be traveling all over Japan, and all over the world to say goodbye to his legions of fans. He has also stated his desire to work at the upcoming G1 Supercard event at Madison Square Garden, which would be another extraordinary feather in his legacy’s cap, and his desire to work one more match with Hiromu Takahashi, should he return from injury in time to do so.
Thanks to Chris Charlton for the translations.