With Halloween quickly approaching, when things that go bump in the night are manifesting this time of year. In the case of Jushin ‘Thunder' Liger, that has manifested in the form of an alter-ego that has and resurfaced in the most unique fashion. Recently, at a New Japan Pro Wrestling Destruction event, Kishin Liger was revealed to the audience.
This was the fourth time in Liger's 30-plus year career that he has unmasked to reveal the Kishin character. The first time was when he was pitted against the Great Muta, the second when facing ‘Bad Boy' Hido, and the third during a tag team match against Taichi and Taka Michinoku. Ironically when Kishin has used his mist in comparison to Muta (whom he used it against once before) it was black rather than green. On this most recent occasion, it happened after an altercation with the leader of the Suzuki-gun faction, Minoru Suzuki. Kishin's rare appearances have lent this Liger persona an element of mystery.
It has been noted that this character possesses qualities similar to the Great Muta, and the rare appearance of Liger sporting sinister face pain is also not unlike former NJPW Junior Heavyweight and Junior tag team champion Prince Devitt, who competes now in WWE as Finn Balor. Thus it is ironic that Kishin's most recent appearance was against Devitt's former tag team partner Suzuki. Devitt in WWE also comes out from time to time prepared to compete as his current alter-ego The Demon.
Kishin's rare appearances mean that the character isn't overexposed in the least, so when he shows up it makes for a bigger and more relevant moment. As Liger approaches the end of his career, the monumental moments left for him are those that are unexpected. His presentation of an alternate persona is not unlike that of the aforementioned Balor, or WWE's Bray Wyatt. The biggest difference and most telling is the frequency of the appearance of the Kishin character.
Prior to joining WWE, such as when he was in NJPW, Balor didn't use the Demon persona, but while competing in Japan and the United Kingdom he would paint his face and body in lavish styles reflective of different characters. This was among other things reflective of his artistic side.
Whether it is Liger, Balor or Wyatt, the sole purpose of presenting alternate personae is to always keep their audience guessing. Liger has always had his mask, and that mask has led fans to believe one thing that wasn't the case at all. For example, his trademark long hair that appeared to flow from his mask was in fact not his hair. This was revealed when he removed the mask to reveal a shaved head with very raw and unrefined makeup on him. The message that this look was one that Suzuki was not expecting, and there is a definite benefit to catching your opposition off guard.
Suzuki himself relies on fear and intimidation, which is felt by his opponents from the minute his name is announced, even before he steps into the ring. When someone of his nature, character, and history is shocked and frightened by what he is seeing then you know that it has made an impression. The story was that Suzuki was trying to remove Liger's mask, but as the old saying goes ‘Be careful what you wish for.' In the end, Liger himself removed the mask to reveal Kishin.
Because there have been so few appearances by this persona during a career that has spanned over 30 years, predicting its appearance was impossible. In fact, each appearance has been so rare that even casual fans of his work and likely never knew about the Kishin character. In comparison, the Fiend character is a regular part of Bray Wyatt's presentation in WWE. For Balor, the Demon character has come out for big pay per view matches, but never on an episode of Raw or Smackdown Live. Still, the Demon has made more appearances in a shorter amount of time that Kishin, and in the case of both Wyatt and Balor more doesn't necessarily mean better. Overexposing a character takes away from the viewer's appreciation of it.
Not only is he a master in the ring, but Liger also has a larger than life look to him stemming from his mask and ‘jaeger'- like attire. As far as his Kishin Liger character, it has been so rarely seen that even the most ardent fans likely forgot about him. Which leads us to the future of Kishin. This could very well be the last time fans will see that side of Liger. If history repeats itself, given how rare the character has appeared, then maybe he is gone forever. The only true way to confirm that is to see what transpires between now and January 4th, 2020, when Liger has his final match at Wrestle Kingdom, and see if he removes his mask one last time.
As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.