By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Jushin Liger vs CIMA
Super J Cup Final
Jushin Liger has a back catalogue of matches that would make most wrestlers envious. From the late 80s through his 90s heyday to the modern day legacy tours that still show him to be engaging as ever, Liger has endured as one of the greatest junior heavyweights, if not wrestlers, of all time. This back catalogue of good to great matches includes a number of contests where Jushin Liger would head to other promotions and act as the standard bearer for Junior Heavyweight wrestling. Akin to Ric Flair and any other touring NWA Champion, Liger spent time taking on the best of the best from other promotions, with just the opportunity to face Liger a feather in the cap for many a future star.
This was the third Super J Cup, a lesser known and revered event than the previous two. Though not wrestling as a heel yet, Liger made a conscious choice to leave the traditional red and white costume at home, instead wrestling all in black. As the first three rounds saw him eliminate home favourite Michinoku Pro wrestlers (Tiger Mask IV, Men’s Teioh, Gran Hamada), Liger almost became a de facto heel; the mirror from which the gutsy attempts of the local wrestlers could be amplified and highlighted to the audience in attendance.
In the final, Liger would meet a young CIMA, a wrestler who seemed destined to be a star. Wrestling out of Toryumon, a spiritual successor to the Michinoku Pro promotion, CIMA was a heel but would find himself largely supported by the fans in attendance who wanted to see the juggernaut that was Liger toppled and the underdog win. For someone so young and inexperienced compared to Liger, CIMA didn’t blink as they stared across the ring at each other during the introductions; the arrogance and invulnerability of youth.
For long periods of the match, this arrogance could have been misinterpreted as naivety on the part of the young upstart. Liger controlled the early portions of the contest with head scissors and armlocks, whilst cutting off any attempts by CIMA to take control. A modified surfboard with a mask grab for added leverage only served to piss off Liger, who retaliated with a surfboard into a dragon sleeper and a piledriver for the first two count. Liger looked like a monster compared to CIMA at times, emphasised by him almost running through his opponent on a shoulderblock
A headscissors takedown would send a charging Liger into the turnbuckle to finally put him under pressure. CIMA was beginning to fire up and nailed an impressive twisting plancha over the top rope to the outside, as well as a combination of chops, slaps and punches when both men returned to the ring. The adrenaline was pumping, so much so that CIMA was able to pop up after getting hit with the shotei before landing one of his own in a taunting homage to the great.
An iconoclasm and goriconoclasm should have been enough for CIMA to pick up the win, but time wasted going for a frog splash saw Liger lift his knees up to block the high risk move. Liger was seething behind the mask and pushed the referee out of the way as he attempted to beat some respect into CIMA in the corner. This led to a Liger Bomb, only for CIMA to somehow manage to kick out at one. A brainbuster followed, though this was only good enough for two.
CIMA had one last chance to take the victory, planting Liger with a legsweep reverse DDT and finally landing the frog splash. Alas, a two count followed, and Liger wasn’t going to make another mistake. CIMA tried his best to stand up after a shotei dropped him to the canvas, but he stepped up into a brainbuster. A second brainbuster was used for good measure; the three count was academic.
It could be argued that Liger was the obvious winner of the whole tournament, which perhaps is true. However, having him beat the stars of M-Pro and then take out CIMA in the manner he did sowed the seeds for many a fun Liger heel excursion over the next fifteen years.