5-Star Match Reviews: Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger vs. The Great Sasuke – NJPW Summer Struggle 1994

jushin thunder liger

The 1990s was a golden decade when it came to great matches. To this day, many of the best matches ever took place during the 1990s.

What’s more, matches from the 1990s tend to stand out more and stand the test of time better than more recent matches. And today we look back at yet another case of 1990s greatness to see if it holds up almost thirty years later.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

Liger is New Japan’s cruiserweight ace. Sasuke is Michinoku Pro’s cruiserweight ace. Sasuke beat Liger four months earlier in the Super J Cup tournament (which Liger created). Liger wanted revenge and this match would be his opportunity.

The match

This match originally took place on July 8th 1994.

Sasuke dropkicks Liger during ring intros and then hits a strike barrage that sends Liger to the floor. The bell rings and Liger dives over the ropes and onto Liger on the floor below. The crowd chants for Sasuke as Liger returns to the ring, at which point Sasuke drops a knee on Liger’s head and then sends him into a corner and lands a spinning wheel kick. Then he locks in a Fujiwara armbar but Liger reaches the ropes with his foot. Sasuke follows with a snapmare into a cross armbreaker but Liger clasps his fingers to prevent full application of that hold. But Sasuke eventually manages to break Liger’s grasp and locks in the armbar but Liger’s quick to squirm around and get another ropebreak. Frustrated, Sasuke pulls him back, covers for a one-count, and reapplies the same armbar and Liger tries the same block as before. But once again Sasuke breaks through. Liger tries rolling out but Sasuke traps him in place. Liger resists so Sasuke floats over into another Fujiwara armbar/armlock/kimura. Liger continues resisting so Sasuke tries the standard cross armmbar again, but this time Liger kicks Sasuke’s head.

Sasuke stomps on Liger’s arm and locks in yet another cross armbreaker and then switches to an over-the-shoulder armbar. Liger fights out with a (bad-arm) palm strike that stuns Sasuke but also makes Liger fall back because it causes him so much pain. Liger hits a kick and another palm strike, followed by a shoulderblock. Sasuke leapfrogs over him and lands a hiptoss. Then Sasuke goes for a Frankensteiner but Liger counters with a powerbomb. Great counter.

Liger chops Sasuke into a corner but Sasuke reverses a corner whip and a Tiger Mask corner taunt. Sasuke ducks a clothesline and hits a big spinkick for a two-count and goes back to the cross armbreaker. But once again, Liger’s aware of Sasuke’s strategy and makes Sasuke struggle to lock in that hold. Still in control, Sasuke wrings Liger’s arm and hits several over-the-shoulder armbreakers. Then Sasuke decides to go for a single leg crab, but then he sees Liger go limp and decides to go back to the armbreaker instead. But once more, Liger resists long enough to get a ropebreak.

Sasuke lands a head-butt and spikes Liger with a Tombstone but then misses a senton bomb. Liger takes advantage with a shoulderblock and charges but Sasuke hits first with a handspring back elbow. Liger falls to ringside and Sasuke jumps onto the apron. Then he kicks Liger and lands a perfect quebrada. Liger hits the barricade and Sasuke literally falls onto some fans sitting close by.

Sasuke enters the ring first and gets a big running start but Liger shoulder checks his gut. Liger smashes Sasuke into a turnbuckle and hits a top-rope crossbody press and a rolling koppu kick. This time Sasuke bails to ringside and Liger lands a senton from the apron to the floor. Liger gets to the apron but Sasuke pulls him down. Sasuke kicks Liger’s chest and sends him into another part of the ringside barricade. Then Sasuke ascends a turnbuckle and lands a diving splash to the floor.

Both return to the ring and Sasuke lands another picture-perfect quebrada for a two-count. Then Sasuke hits a missile dropkick but Liger kicks out again. Thunder Fire Powerbomb! Liger kicks out again. Sasuke slams Liger and goes for a twisting top-rope dive. Liger moves out of the way and charges for a shotei palm thrust. Sasuke ducks and jumps onto Liger’s shoulders. Liger throws him off and hits a huge German suplex. The crowd’s going absolutlely nuts. One, two, Sasuke kicks out. Tombstone by Liger, followed by a diving head-butt. Sasuke kicks out again. Super Frankensteiner by Liger for another two-count. Sasuke kicks out and reverses the pin onto Liger. One, two, Liger kicks out. Liger sends Sasuke into the ropes and then lands a Fisherman Buster. One…two…and Sasuke survives again. Liger lands a rib breaker and dives for a splash. But Sasuke gets his knees up and cradles Liger for a very close two-count. Sasuke goes to the top rope for a dive. Liger cuts him off and hits an Avalanche Brainbuster. One, two…and three!

Winner after 15:15: Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger

The match can be viewed here. It will open in a new browser.


For a fifteen-minute match that was outstanding. It wasn’t too frenetic; it wasn’t too slow or plodding; it was just right. Liger and Sasuke had amazing chemistry together. They put on a competitive and compelling match here. Nothing was flawed, out of place, or unnecessary. The match started off hot and stayed tense from bell to bell. This match had something for everyone: technical mat wrestling, high-flying dives, power moves, tension, a wild crowd, and perfect pacing. This is the kind of match any big company should showcase today to attract new viewers and keep existing ones.

Sasuke started the match with a cheap-shot and tried to take out Liger’s right arm. He went for submission holds frequently and effectively. In doing so, he basically shut down Liger’s ability to hit his trademark shotei palm thrust without doing major damage to himself. Without that trademark move, Liger became easier for Sasuke to predict…for the most part. Because even though Liger was down an arm, he was still clever enough to find counters of his own, which he did when he powerbombed Sasuke to block a Frankensteiner. But that didn’t stop Sasuke; it merely slowed him down.

Sasuke maintained control until his big dive to the floor. After that, the match reached its fever pitch with both guys trading bombs and near-falls. Sasuke didn’t go back to the arm for whatever reason and decided to just hit more big moves hoping something would be impactful enough to keep Liger down. But Liger soldiered on, which led to a fun back-and-forth segment and an explosive finish.

But most importantly, this match was balanced. It takes a certain level of talent and experience to know when to slow down or how much to put into a single match. Many cruiserweight matches that’ve taken place more recently have become too bland and repetitive because they all copy from one another. The same spots and concepts are copied and repeated time and again on a weekly basis and many of today’s (alleged) top cruiserweight wrestlers throw everything into one match instead of leaving something out for next time. This match wasn’t like that; Liger and Sasuke wrestled four months earlier and that match was different from this one (in terms of content, not overall quality). By keeping certain things out, the wrestlers don’t run the risk of tiring the audience out with the same mechanical wrestling. Liger and Sasuke knew that, which is why the action here might comes across as limited compared to some of their contemporaries. And yet, Liger and Sasuke showed exactly what is meant with ‘less is more’ with how they wrestled in this match.

Final Rating: ****3/4

Even though it was short, this match was fantastic. These two wrestlers crammed the exact amount of action into the time they were given without going overboard or underdelivering. They managed to provide something for every sort of wrestling fan while still putting on a compelling and exciting match. It would’ve even better had Sasuke gone back to Liger’s arm towards the end to really complete the story he started earlier. But that doesn’t really take away from the fact that this match was awesome.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.