Welcome to the first edition of Ringside Rewind! I’m Wesley Messer and I’ll be your host for this brand new column, filtering the aspects of wrestling nostalgia that impacted my childhood as well as parts that continue to influence me to this day. As a kid, I followed every wrestling federation. Back in the late 80’s into the early to mid 90’s the weekends were my holy grail of wrestling. There was WCW/NWA in the morning, WWF in the afternoon, and then on Saturday evenings more WCW/NWA . On Sundays it was the same ritual. The “Wesley Wrestling Mania” ran wild in my childhood in the mix of comics, video games, cartoons and so on.
In particular, one aspect of my childhood that relates to all my general interests colliding at once is a wrestler from the early 90’s named Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. With an outfit like no other I had seen before (I had yet to experience the spandex-clad Power Rangers) he appeared in all his glory one day on my TV screen. I was electrified. I was bouncing off walls excited anytime I saw a Jushin match. I kid you not, if I wasn’t already hyped for something during the show, seeing Jushin had me on the edge of my seat! His move set was unlike any I’ve ever seen before, even outside of the outfit. The way he presented himself, and the way he moved, was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was just exciting to watch.
Make note, when I was a kid I had no access to internet so here I was getting a turbo charged look into the Japanese wrestling scene in one fell swoop. I knew nothing of Liger outside of he was from this – in my kid mind – mystical federation known as New Japan Pro Wrestling; the networks showed the occasional clip or two but not much else. All I knew at the time was that he would be a wrestler that I could truly appreciate knowing little to nothing about him (outside of a very cool looking outfit and some amazing abilities).
Jushin Liger’s real name is Keiichi Yamada. He wrestled in New Japan, then went on to All Star Wrestling in England as “Flying” Fuji Yamada, then back to New Japan when he invented the Shooting Star Press, then took an excursion to Stampede Wrestling in Canada training under Stu Hart in the Hart Family Dungeon. Eventually, he made his permanent return to New Japan in which he got a new gimmick based off the anime Jushin Liger created by manga artist Go Nagai. He fell into the same vein as the success New Japan had with Tiger Mask. Liger has gone on longer than even the actual anime did, which goes to show the longevity of the character as well as just being a lot of fun to see.
He’s actually still going strong in his native Japan even after brain tumor surgery back in 1996, and made appearances in WCW up until 1999. Liger still makes the occasional appearance in the states with his most recent televised run in TNA back in 2005-06. Most recently he made an appearance in Jersey All Pro Wrestling back in May 2011. I still try my best to keep up to date with him and I have to say I’m glad he’s still running strong. Believe me, whenever he is on my screen my inner child comes out to play.