30 Years of Liger in 30 Days: 2004

We continue our countdown to Jyushin Thunder Liger’s retirement.

<– 30 Years of Liger in 30 Days: 2003      30 Years of Liger in 30 Days: 2005–>

Wrestle Kingdom 14 night 1: January 4 tickets! 

Wrestle Kingdom 14 night 2: January 5 tickets!

From several IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship wins to his J-Crown winning moment in 1997, Jyushin Thunder Liger was strongly associated with championship gold inside the Tokyo Dome, but his 2004 would begin with his last championship match in the building he made his debut in. Representing NJPW, he would take on Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Takashi Sugiura for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. 

Sugiura would later be a dominant heavyweight in NOAH, and in 2004 was very much a power junior. The strong amateur wrestler would toss Liger all over the ring, thwarting much of the legend’s offense; including catching a Liger Shotei to land a huge Olympic style slam. Liger would need to bring big time offense against big time opposition, and would do so with a mammoth Ligerbomb on the stage to Sugiura, en route to victory and GHC gold. 

Post match Liger would declare that he would take the GHC title with him and defend it wherever he went, all to show how New Japan Pro-Wrestling was still the dominant force in the professional wrestling world. Liger would have itchy feet indeed, as he would invade multiple promotions over the course of the year, and in the process align himself with partners who had their own designs on domination. 

After a tag bout in Osaka Pro in the summer, Liger officially aligned with Jado, Gedo and Katsushi Takemura, forming the Control Terrorism Unit, CTU. On the surface, CTU had much in common with the dark outfits of Team2000 and nWo Japan, and indeed the group would align with Masahiro Chono’s New Japan Black to form the Black Hole Army. Yet CTU would become the breeding ground for future stars in NJPW, including Hirooki Goto, Milano Collection AT and Prince Devitt, and they had a fierce devotion to their vision of NJPW. 

When Riki Choshu returned to New Japan after a bitter separation two years prior, that vision seemed threatened, leading to vicious assaults on the legendary figure, and to CTU following Choshu across organizations to make Liger’s point that ‘you can’t come and go as you please’. While CTU delivered a divisive vision, their loyalty and solidarity was undeniable.

Watch Takashi Sugiura vs Jyushin Thunder Liger here!