Not Yet Limitless: The Night NO LIMIT was Made
Jushin Thunder Liger and AKIRA of LEGEND had just defeated Minoru Tanaka and Prince Devitt for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in a thrilling bout. The junior legends celebrated their accomplishment, but while the camera focused on AKIRA there was a roar from the crowd. LEGEND’s next challengers approached, but it wasn’t your usual suspects. A young wrestler struggling to breakout on his own, and his junior that had made waves in the previous Best of The Super Juniors were here to call their shot.
YUJIRO and Tetsuya Naito made their first ever challenge for the IWGP Jr tag straps, and YUJIRO’s first title challenge since the dissolution of Samurai Gym. Gutsy move as they were not just stepping to junior legends, but one of the men they were challenging was the symbol of junior excellence. How would they handle the challenge?
April 13, 2008: The Arrival of NO LIMIT
April 13, 2008 was a packed Korakuen Hall show for NJPW, with a main event pitting Koji Kanemoto against Masato Tanaka for ZERO1’s World Championship. Just below that New Japan Pro Wrestling was in for a treat, as they were about to be introduced to NO LIMIT. The first image you see is a bunch of fan signs for NO LIMIT made with the signature orange color of YUJIRO, and the red of Tetsuya Naito. The fans were ready to cheer on this young tag team, but how would they react to the fanfare? The crowd is hot for the young duo right when they come through that curtain. However, the two remained focused, heading into the ring. Their brand new gear was on display with both of their jackets reading what would become their slogan, “Over The Top” – something that showed both men didn’t just want to be at the top of New Japan, but they wanted to go well beyond that. When LEGEND hit the ring, it was incredible how the energy in the building reached another level. Fans were excited for this, and the split reactions for both teams proved so.
The bell rings, and the stance of the fans is quickly determined with the loud chants of “Nai-to!” AKIRA doesn’t seem impressed with this, as he takes Naito down to the mat. Both men undergo the feeling out process, Naito getting the upper hand momentarily before Liger interferes to swing the momentum in LEGEND’s direction. LEGEND realizes that the fans want this young duo to succeed, so they start to formulate a masterclass in how to get a tag team over in one bout. After Liger and AKIRA wear down Naito, some lazy offense from AKIRA allows Naito the opening to send AKIRA into the NO LIMIT corner – getting the senior member of the team in, and gaining the upper hand against the veterans.
YUJIRO showcases his power with standing spinebuster to AKIRA, as he then charges off the ropes and fakes an attack. Running over to the apron, and nailing Liger off the apron to create the opportunity for a NO LIMIT double team. They take down AKIRA connecting with their running leg drop/flipping senton combination for only a 2-count. YUJIRO uses his power to wear down AKIRA, before getting Naito back into the mix. Naito reads YUJIRO’s offense from the apron like a true partner, noticing all of YUJIRO’s offense had targeted AKIRA’s back. So he delivers a bodyslam followed by a single leg crab with a knee digging into the back of AKIRA.
YUJIRO gets back in to square off with AKIRA, before he is compromised by a dropkick. LEGEND goes back on the offensive, as they don’t just beat down on YUJIRO they knock Naito off the apron. Liger works over YUJIRO’s knee a bit in hopes of making it hard for him to hit his big offensive moves that rely on his power, and the strength in his legs. AKIRA gets back in, and he’s whipped off into the corner by YUJIRO who comes charging at him. AKIRA gets a boot up, and attempts to deliver a shoulder tackle. However, it fails as YUJIRO stays strong and doesn’t fall down to the canvas as AKIRA expected. Liger senses the danger proceeding to rush into the ring to assist AKIRA, as they go for a double shoulder tackle on YUJIRO. YUJIRO doesn’t budge, and follows it up with a double lariats taking the champion team down. Naito gets the tag, and comes in like a house of fire taking it to the champions. AKIRA and Naito have a really competitive back and forth that really adds some more intensity into the match. With neither man able to get the best of one another. Liger and YUJIRO get the tags, and they’ve been building to something the entirety of this match.
Liger takes advantage almost immediately, and looks for what seems to be the Liger Bomb. YUJIRO gets out of it proceeding to swing for a lariat, Liger ducks looking for a German Suplex, but YUJIRO fights out to finally take him down with the pumphandle powerslam! Only gets a 2-count, but he deadlifts Liger out of the pin from a sidewalk slam position. YUJIRO proceeds to just power Liger up like a small child and turn it into a running powerslam! So impactful that the only thing that saved Liger was AKIRA breaking up the cover. Naito disposes of AKIRA, before they hit their poetry in motion front dropkick from Naito followed by a big lariat from YUJIRO. They still only manage a 2-count, and one slight hesitation from YUJIRO leads to a spike brainbuster from Liger! Liger follows that up with a folding Liger bomb for a 2-count. Liger goes high for the frog splash, and is met with the double knees from YUJIRO.
YUJIRO slams Liger by the far corner, and climbs up top for his signature moonsault press…KNEES UP FROM LIGER. Liger makes the tag to AKIRA who comes in with a missile dropkick that sends YUJIRO back into his corner, allowing Naito to tag in. LEGEND double teams Naito leading to AKIRA hitting his finisher, the Musasabi Press! Just as the ref is about to count the final beat of the mat, YUJIRO dives in to break the cover leading to one of the best moments of the match. YUJIRO who just broke up the pin is laying on top of AKIRA pounding away at him with rights and lefts trying to save the match, but Liger disposes of him. Naito fights back with a small package attempt, followed by AKIRA stopping his momentum and locking in the Old Boy. However, with the crowd chanting his name Naito makes it to the rope!
It’s pure chaos from there with all men pouring into the ring, but it’s the young team that isolates AKIRA. After being denied it earlier they are finally able to plant AKIRA with the Limitless Evolution! However, AKIRA powers out right before the ref could make a 3-count. Naito hits the future Stardust Press, but Liger comes in to stop it!
After a miscommunication from NO LIMIT, and a nearfall from AKIRA. LEGEND retain the belts after Naito has no choice but to submit to the Old Boy. After the bell, YUJIRO shakes the hand of the champion team and encourages his junior to do the same. Naito does, but they are clearly crushed after coming so close to taking the belts.
I absolutely love this match. It clocks in at about 4 1/2 stars for me because the atmosphere was magnificent – the LEGEND team sensed they weren’t the favorites early on and dedicated this match to making this young tag team. New Japan clearly saw something special, because after this NO LIMIT received their own trial series called “NO LIMIT Generation Smash.” I can’t say what the NJPW landscape was like back in 2008, but they had a wealth of young talent and the fans wanted them to succeed. This was actually NO LIMIT’s second match together, but I attribute this being their true birth. It was their big coming out party, and if it was against anyone other than LEGEND their careers would look a lot different.
If you enjoyed this, and would like to see more. I would like to review the NO LIMIT Generation Smash, and the Prince Prince Championship matches to go along with this series. So if you can find any of those please do reach out.