Liger, Tenzan celebrate 40 years of Hiro Saito at Dradition!

Fujinami and Liger team in Tokyo Dome preview; Chono special referee and Choshu gets involved.

Friday October 25 saw the Dradition 2019 Raging Outlaw Tour in Tokyo hit Korakuen Hall, with the main event marking Hiro Saito’s incredible 40 year career. With a hint of things to come in Jyushin Thunder Liger’s forthcoming first of two retirement matches on January 4, it was Liger teaming with Wrestle Kingdom 14 partner Tatsumi Fujinami and Shiro Koshinaka against the combination of Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Keiji Muto, with Masahiro Chono the special guest referee.

While Fujinami and Liger have rarely found themselves in the same match during their careers, their opponents represented a reunion of classic factions in nWo Japan and Team 2000, and the bout started off with a throwback to the heyday of Great Bash Heel. Tenzan faced off with an old GBH running buddy in Koshinaka to get the match going. As Hiro Saito got in the ring with Liger, it seemed that the balance of the match was weighted against team Liger, especially with special referee Masahiro Chono’s history leading nWo Japan and T2000. Chono would reject claims of bias from Liger even as he encouraged Saito in the early going. 

When Tenzan and Fujinami were brought in, Mongolian chops would put the former nWo crew in control, and despite a flurry of tandem offense from Liger and Koshinaka, the first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion would fall victim to a Flashing Elbow from Muto that brought the fans to their feet. Muto would follow with an STF; when Liger tried to break up the hold, Chono acted in the interests of ‘rule enforcement’ and blocked the cut from taking place. 

By the time Liger did make it into the ring, he was hot indeed, and that came through opposite Saito. A baseball slide from Liger was followed by a Hip Attack off the apron from Koshinaka, and the two would pull away ringside mats to lead to a piledriver on the hardwood floor. 

That led to sustained offense on Saito, who managed to rally with his big trademark Senton, and a tag to Tenzan; while his chops, headbutts and a suplex were certainly effective, they didn’t quite warrant the 2.9 count from Chono, who was somewhat overenthusiastic with his timing. 

Muto would come in as the match entered its final moments, with a Dragon Screw, Figure four, and then a Shining Wizard. Yet Saito had taken some considerable punishment, and after a shotei from Liger and the Hip Attack of Koshinaka, Fujinami would hit a lariat and then a Dragon Sleeper, which Saito tapped out to. 

That wasn’t the end of the match however! Chono refused to acknowledge the tap, and the match continued. As things grew chaotic, Chono hit a Kenka Kick to a charging Liger, and tried to do the same to Fujinami, but the boot was caught and returned with a Dragon Screw! Muto then hit a Dragon Screw on Fujinami, and the Musketeers sandwiched Fujinami with Shining Wizards. A Saito Senton followed, and Chono counted the three to give a controversial 40th anniversary victory to Hiro Saito. 

Post match, an indignant Fujinami called out the shady officiating by Chono, but, given the occasion at hand, was willing to forgive just this once. He then called out a ‘special surprise’ which came in the form of Riki Choshu! ‘Power Hall’ echoed once more in Korakuen Hall for the recently retired Choshu, who congratulated Saito on his 40th anniversary and said ‘there’s still more to go for you. Keep training hard!’

After some needling from Tenzan, Saito also took the mic and thanked everyone for coming in the poor weather, before giving special thanks to Fujinami. Backstage, Liger also congratulated Saito, saying ‘I’m about to retire, so I’ll end it at 30 years! No 40th anniversary for me!’

Tenzan was also congratulatory to Saito. The youngest member of the match remarked that ‘I’m not even at 30 years, let alone 40, but with our history, there is no Tenzan without Saito. I hope he keeps going on past 40 to 50 yerars.’ 

Check out Dradition’s homepage here! (Japanese)