Friday, July 17, 2015

DRUDGE SIREN: Jushin "Thunder" Liger Is Wrestling at Takeover: Brooklyn

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
First, Sting appeared for WWE at Survivor Series last year, culminating in a match against Triple H at WrestleMania XXXI. Then, Samoa Joe first signed a true independent contractor deal with WWE before transitioning into a full-time deal with the company. Now, another legendary figure who had not appeared with WWE before now is coming to roost. Jushin "Thunder" Liger, arguably the most innovative and influential junior heavyweight of the last 25 years, will make his WWE debut for the NXT brand at Takeover: Brooklyn on August 22. The news on makes it all the more real, and additionally, reports say his opponent will be none other than Tyler Breeze.

This news has a lot to unpack, a LOT. Liger debuted in March 1984, a career that will have spanned 31 years and five months before making an appearance for WWE. His run makes Sting's holdout from Vince McMahon's multimedia conglomerate and wrestling company look smaller in comparison, although not by much. However, he has technically held a WWE Championship; although it's not recognized by WWE right now, he held the then-WWF Light Heavyweight Championship as part of the J-Crown, an eight-belt-strong title made famous by Ultimo Dragon as part of his allure in World Championship Wrestling (how ironic).

Liger is 50 years old right now, but as proven by his recent runs in Ring of Honor as part of the Global Wars/War of the Worlds tours of the last few years, he's still got something left in the tank. Even if he's not the same Liger who competed in Super J Cups, he's a savvy veteran who can still work entertaining matches. It's not like his opponent is any slouch either.

Breeze over the last couple of years has rounded into a top hand for the NXT brand. While indie stars have come in and whirled past him in card position, the former Mike Dalton has held serve with them in the ring. His matches against Sami Zayn and Finn Bálor have been highlights on their respective cards. While the temptation would have put Liger in a rematch against Samoa Joe or against another one of the "indie darlings," Breeze is perhaps the perfect opponent for him. He's busted his ass as the longest-tenured guy in developmental to not have gotten a shot on the main roster, and it's not a match that any other promotion could book.

Last but certainly not least, if this is a peek into the future of a Triple H-run WWE, then the future looks bright because it will be different. If Liger is in play for a Takeover special one-off (and right now, the indication is that this will be a one-off), then what's keeping working agreements with other big companies abroad for similar one-offs? Might the Daniel Bryan/Shinsuke Nakamura dream match happen should the former recover from his concussion issues? I might be getting way ahead of myself here. Also, the fact that it's NXT and not WWE might shed light into the kind of freedom Trips has at the next level down when he doesn't have to answer to shareholders. Still, it shows intestinal fortitude and boldness, characteristics that Vince McMahon hasn't shown in years.

And the winners out of all of this are wrestling fans. This Takeover card was in trouble of being shallow thanks to injuries and looming call-ups, and Liger gives it the shot in the arm that makes it look, on paper, to be as strong as some of the prior specials. Triple H is raising the stakes not only for indies in the area, but also against the main roster, at least critically. It's a great time to be a wrestling fan.