We continue our countdown to Jyushin Thunder Liger’s retirement.
<– 30 Years of Liger in 30 Days: 2000 30 Years of Liger in 30 Days: 2002–>
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In 2001, the black clad Jyushin Thunder Liger continued to show his dominance over the junior heavyweights while dallying with heavyweight competition. After an absence from the tournament in 2000 to focus on the G1 Climax, Liger returned to Best of the Super Juniors competition in 2001. He would win the tournament in Osaka with a perfect record through all six of his matches, becoming the first to achieve the feat, and to date, one of only two to do so.
Teaming with El Samurai, Liger would also enter the G1 Junior Tag League in 2001, and win that too, though heavyweight competition proved a taller task. His second G1 Climax campaign ended in a 1-3-1 record, while he and Osamu Nishimura would go 3-4 in the G1 Tag League; that said, Liger remains the only individual to have competed in major junior and heavyweight tournaments for both singles and tag competition in the same year.
As heavyweight competition seemed to take priority in the new millennium, Liger wasn’t the only junior heavyweight trying to prove himself against heavy competition. Liger’s year would start off teaming with Manabu Nakanishi against another junior and heavyweight combination of Keiji Muto and Shinjiro Otani.
Liger had shown aggression and delivered some damning comments to his fellow junior heavyweights in prior years, but his criticism came from a place of pride in his division and his promotion. Otani was in the midst of jumping ship from NJPW to Shinya Hashimoto’s freshly created ZERO1, leading to a battle of rebellious spirit and promotional pride.
Otani showed his own impressive power in the match, locking Liger in an Argentine Backbreaker designed to frustrate his bigger partner, and delivering a huge powerbomb to Nakanishi himself. Eventually a Cobra Clutch would give Otani the win, and send a clear message to Liger; as much as he had dominated the professional wrestling landscape, there was still much to overcome, and much to prove.
Watch Manabu Nakanishi and Jyushin Thunder Liger vs Shinjiro Otani & Keiji Muto here!