The statement from Jyushin “Thunder” Liger:
“Thank you, everyone, for taking time for me from your busy lives, during these uncertain times. For those who are watching live on the internet broadcast, my name is Jyushin “Thunder” Liger. Jyushin “Thunder” Liger will be retiring next January at the Tokyo Dome. That’s all.”
■ Question and answer session
Q: Many people have been surprised and uneasy about your surprise announcement. Was the decision to retire made at the match yesterday, or had you considered it previously?
Liger: It was at that match that I realized I was not developing any further. At that match I realized that no matter how much I was using the skills I had cultivated, there was just no growth left inside me.
I felt it this in that match against the young and dynamic Taiji Ishimori. It’s a subtle feeling that would be hard for anyone to understand unless they have been in a similar fight themselves. I intend to retire no matter how much stick I get from others. It’s also about quitting while I’m ahead. I thought to myself, what sort of reputation to I want as a wrestler. When I quit, do I want people to be saying, “what, are you still around?” Better to have them say “why quit, when you still have it in you?” I’m still a wrestler, and so I made the decision to retire.
Q: In your role as Liger, when did the word “retirement” first occur to you?
Liger: I had of course been training for the recent match I played, but whereas when I was younger, I entered the ring with the attitude, “I’m going to crush my opponent”, on this occasion when I got into that ring I was thinking, “I’m aching all over. I can’t afford to get tired.”
A wrestler has to be strong, as Kotetsu Yamamoto, Inoki-san and Fujiwara-san always told me. “A wrester has to be strong.” I believe that myself. But now that a crack in my armor has appeared, I thought to myself, it won’t be long now.
Q: How exactly did you approach the company about this?
It wasn’t exactly an approach. Each year, the New Japan Pro-Wrestling wrestlers renew their contract, and at that time we can tell them what we are feeling. So when the time came this year, I had a number of discussions with the company. When I knew inside myself what I wanted to do, they arranged a press conference for me.
Q: You made your debut at the Tokyo Dome. Do you have any special feelings for that venue?
Liger: Not really. It was the company that told me it would be at the Tokyo Dome. But when they did, I thought, that’s great! A fitting venue for my swan song. Up to now only Inoki-san has done this.
Q: But Riki Choshu also retired at the Tokyo dome…
Liger: Oh, of course. So I’m the third… But he returned. I won’t be returning. Like Inoki-san. It’s a genuine retirement. I made my debut at Tokyo dome in 1988, the first year of the Heisei era. I am retiring at the Tokyo Dome [Implied (or why use the Heisei calendar): During the last year of the era].
Q: Does it feel good?
Liger: Does it feel good? I feel I have no alternative.
But it is no exaggeration to say that I owe a great deal of thanks to New Japan Pro-Wrestling for giving me the opportunity to shine in the ring. There were a lot of tears at the internal meeting announcing my retirement. At the meeting today I told them that while I had not yet reached the limit of my physical endurance, it was only a matter of time, less than a year away. I am mentally prepared to leave in about 10 months.
So, after 10 months, what then? For the last 30 years, the whole country has been cheering Liger on. I’m not really having a ‘retirement tour’, but I hope that if everyone can watch my final match, then I will still feel your support and your cheers.
Q: You have certainly satisfied the longings of your fans. Is there anything you have not been able to do up to now, that you can do for juniors?
Liger: Anything? I don’t think so. New Japan Pro-Wrestling have let me do anything I like. Even with fans continuing to support me, I guess there is no such thing as a truly satisfying professional career. No, nothing left for me to do. When Tenryu-san retired, there were those who quit when they had had enough, clear in their mind that pro-wrestling is still great.
I used to say ‘would it be so unrealistic for me to make a come back?’. I certainly thought that at the time. But, at the moment I still feel good. I would rather quit with this feeling than when my body is totally knackered, stiff and aching. After always striving, I’m sitting here today feeling quite chilled out. So, no, however much people may ask, I have nothing left to achieve.
Q: What do you want to do now in what remains of your life as a wrestler?
Liger: I want to travel all around Japan. There are fans who are saying, “I’ve watched Liger since I was a child”, or, “it was watching Liger that turned me into a pro-wrestling fan”, or, “I’ve just started watching pro-wrestling and I have become a Liger fan”. I want to introduce myself to all these fans.
It’s not like a humble greeting. After watching a match, whether the contestants win or lose, they bow their heads and walk around the ring. This is what I like to see.
Q: You seem to also have lots of fans in the USA and Mexico…
Liger: From tomorrow New Japan Pro-Wrestling will start the NEW JAPAN CUP but I will be heading overseas. Perhaps I will go to Ireland and tour around Dublin for a week. The New Japan Cup is great, but I have decided to travel overseas. Other promotions in Japan have also decided this. For example, what about all the fans congregating in places other than where our promotion is. I also want these people to be able to see Liger.
Q: I know you will no longer be participating, but during your overseas tour, are you planning to attend the Madison Square tournament on the 6th of April?
Liger: I really want to go. I’m going to be retiring next year so bring me along! It was at Madison Square Gardens that Tatsuji Fujinami took the WWWF Junior Heavyweight championship from Carlos José Estrada. It was watching this fantastic spectacle and I decided to become a pro-wrestler myself. So, I hope to stand in the ring, in Madison Square Garden, for the first time in my life.
And I heard that they will tear it down? No? Or they’ll renovate? No, no, no… You guys don’t know. That’s what I heard. So, I want to see the MSG I remember, if I can make it, this time. I hope they will use me. I want to be there.
Q: Do you think about life after retirement?
Liger: This is the sort of matter I have been talking about with the company. I will continue to keep the company in the loop, but I will know when the decision is finalized. But, remember, I am still a wrestler for the next 10 months. Ask me again in 10 months time.
Q: When thinking about your retirement, are there any opponents you want to fight, or want to join?
Liger: None. This may seem different from what I usually say, but I would like to enjoy professional wrestling, and not bother about the belt championship. Before I got my title, I used to think, I need to aim for the top, which is working for New Japan Pro-Wrestling. I never thought that getting to the top meant the belt. When fans asked “why do you climb into that ring?” I like to say honestly, because I enjoy pro-wrestling.
Therefore I would like to enjoy myself with all my opponents, not one particular person. On the other hand, if someone says “But, if there’s somebody who wants to face me, since I’m retiring, then I want to hear from them. If nobody wants to, I will be very sad though. Could you find some opponents for me?
Q: Do you feel, as Liger, that there is anything in you journey with New Japan Pro-Wrestling in particular, or pro-wrestling in general you feel especially satisfied about?
Liger: Just the feeling that I enjoyed my experiences, whether it was the SUPER J-CUP, or anything else. I’ve had a good time. Nothing more. Many of the techniques I developed are still being used in the world of pro-wrestling, but I wouldn’t presume to call any technique “mine”. If you have it, use it. I would like to see pro-wrestling continue to get bigger. But I have had enough. I will have had enough wrestling after 10 months. I have nothing else specially to say.
Q: Which match made the biggest impression on you?
Liger: It would have to be the one with Sano-san. He had a strong presence, and I would not be exaggerating to say that without him, there would be no Jyushin “Thunder” Liger. As an opponent, nobody surpasses Naoki Sano. When I first entered the New Japan Pro-wrestling company, it was a golden age. I was fortunate to have Fujiwara-san as a coach, and Inoki-san to teach me various mental tricks. Mr Kotetsu Yamamoto taught me the rules of the ring, Maeda-san and Takeda-san taught me how to enjoy my life as a pro-wrestler.
Because of Sato-san, it was truly a great period. There were so many people there who helped me. But in the ring, Naoki Sano was The Man. I was lucky to have such an opponent. At that time, they were mostly strong-style guys, including the foreigners. Just as it is now.
Q: Today, Hiromu Takahashi contacted me, asking me to pass along a message to you. “I’m not fighting at the moment, but I want to fight Liger again”. How do you feel on hearing this?
Liger: What’s the point of not saying this to me directly?
Q: Maybe he is feeling frustrated that he cannot fight now…
Liger: Maybe it means “Please let my injuries be cured faster”. That’s something wrestlers in the ring often think about. If Hiromu is saying that he wants to fight me again when he returns, then of course I want to do it in a singles match. But that’s already something that wrestlers and fans would both like. I bet they are all hoping Hiromu will get back in the ring as soon as possible. That’s where this is coming from.
Q: I’ll pass that on.
Liger: (※ pointing to the camera）Watch! Are you watching?
Q: I heard you were going to live in the dojo.
Liger: That’s right.
Q: You have a room there, but after you retire, won’t you have to leave your dojo?
Liger: I don’t know about that.
Q: Is there a chance you could keep it?
Liger: Of course! I love the dojo.
Q: Could you continue to stay there as Jyushin “Thunder” Liger?
Liger: I can’t talk about that. Everyone, please think about what this means. I don’t think I should say anything about this yet, people will get mad at me.
Q: So we’ll leave it at that.
Liger: That’s best. I don’t want anyone to get angry about my retirement.
Q: I would like to have a commemorative Liger photo shoot.
Liger: Huh? With all the journalists?（※Laughter throughout the studio）
Q: No, by yourself.
Liger: Just by myself then（※Facing the camera, bowing his head）Thank you very much.