Ring of Honor
Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, New York)
Ring of Honor World Championship
There is a sadness in watching once legendary wrestlers slowly lose the in-ring abilities that made them legendary in the first place to the point where they become mere shells of their former selves. Wrestlers like Ric Flair and Terry Funk come to mind, to name just a couple of the many possible examples. Every wrestler grows old but some go out more gracefully than others.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger appears to be one of the more fortunate ones in that regard.
The emblematic junior heavyweight will turn fifty years old before the end of 2014. His trademark ring work – a combination of technical precision and breathtaking high flying offense – has been the victim of age-related decline. He no longer moves as fast, wrestles as long, or leaves his feet as much. However, there is no sadness involved in watching Jushin Liger perform in 2014. If we are indeed watching the waning days of his storied career, Liger’s current performances are more akin to a victory lap than a desperate attempt to hold onto fading glory.
On a card filled top to bottom with young, extremely athletic, and in some cases very talented wrestlers, it can be argued that Liger outshined them all. That statement is not fueled by nostalgia or the awe of watching a legendary wrestler perform in person; at least I do not believe it is. Wrestling Adam Cole for perhaps his last shot at a “major” World Championship, Liger looked every bit of a polished and world class performer – age be damned.
The moves were there. There were no cannonballs off the apron or shooting star presses, but there was a cross body off of the ring apron, a tope rope hurricanrana, and a top rope splash. His technical prowess was on display in his ability to move from sequence to sequence and hold to hold with fluidity and meaning. Liger locked on a Romero Special and Dragon Sleeper at different points in the match. He moved well in the ring, landing his trademark koppo kicks and shotes. He sold for Cole’s offense in an effective way and put over Cole’s submission finisher – the figure four leg lock – in a way that particular move has not been put over in a longtime. Move for move and action for action, Liger was as good as anyone on the card that night.
Of course, what really separated Liger from the rest of the New Japan and Ring of Honor pack on that night was something that – for the most part – the other wrestlers could not control. Liger is a legend who came across like a legend and was received like a legend. He might be wrestling openers in Tokyo and submitting to figure four leg locks in New York, but wherever he goes he still has no aura of a legend. That is not only impressive, but it is nice to see from a form of entertainment where maintaining a superstar persona that late in one’s career is an extremely rare occurrence.
Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality & Individual Performance (Liger)