#1 Jay White
Breathing with the Switchblade (Part 1)
January 4, 2019, was the biggest day in the five-year career of Jay White.
As he walked down the aisle and looked over at the 38000 people that were crammed into the Tokyo Dome the youngster from Auckland, New Zealand must have marvelled at the fact that he had come from wrestling in front of bored parents and over-excited children in the famed British holiday camps to semi-headlining the biggest show of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s calendar. White’s story starts with a journey around the world and a business card given to him by a man he’d only heard about the week before.
White was born in 1992 in a small beach town in Auckland. New Zealand is one of the sporting capitals of the world and it was inevitable that White would play some sort of sports growing up. Rugby played a big role in his childhood as it does with a lot of young New Zealanders. Being a sporting nation means that professional wrestling is quite low on the entertainment scales and White kept his passion quiet for a lot of his young life. In 2012, White decided to travel half the world to the United Kingdom but never told his family of his true intentions.
After one week of staying in a backpacker’s hostel, White traveled to the Varsity Pro Wrestling training school to be trained by UK Kid, a graduate of the Shawn Michaels Academy (alongside alumni like Daniel Bryan, Brian Kendrick and Paul London). After one month’s worth of training White was deemed ready for his first match.
Honing his skills for a year with VPW and Brian Dixon’s All-Star Wrestling (on said holiday camps) UK Kid informed White that he had the opportunity to book Prince Devitt on some upcoming shows. White had never heard of the future Finn Balor and was instructed to research as much as he could about one the world’s best wrestlers.
Devitt wrestled on three shows for VPW including teaming with White and was so impressed by the young New Zealander that before leaving the last event the founder of the Bullet Club handed the future Switchblade his business card and offered his help in getting him a spot in Japan. White was then contacted by his fellow Kiwi Bad Luck Fale and offered a spot in the world-famous New Japan Dojo. Jay snapped up the chance and prepared to again travel half the world, but this time to the home of Puroresu.
This journey began in January 2015 and the lifestyle in the Dojo is such an interesting subject that it would require its own article and potentially a book to just cover the basics. White’s Young Lion’s class was different, due to the invention of New Japan World these graduates were going to have the most focus any Young Lion’s class would ever have before and what a class it was. Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu had already been in the Dojo for nearly three years when White arrived and in May they were joined by David Finlay Jr. The training was hard, the adjustment to the different culture was even harder.
To judge the improvements of a Young Lion it is better to study their one on one matchups with established stars as opposed to their matches with fellow Young Lions. This is due to the fact that they sleep, eat, train and live with each other and their matches can be very repetitive. White’s first match in New Japan was against Alex Shelley. Jay showed a lot of fire (maybe a little too much) but it was clear that Shelley was holding the New Zealander up in the match quality department. White showed the raw ability that Prince Devitt saw, but he was still extremely green.
The second match that shows the growth of White was his matchup with Ryusuke Taguchi at Wrestling World eight months later. The first impressions are that Jay has bulked up in the upper body area, but living 24/7 in a Dojo will do that to you. White’s energy was less than in his match with Shelley, this is down to the elimination of the indie habits he displayed when he first joined New Japan. As we have seen with both NJPW and WWE it is standard to eliminate this from a worker’s act within the early stages. Taguchi is a completely different worker to Shelley and White was forced to do a lot more selling. But where he was bumping stiffly against Shelley you could already see that White’s time in the Dojo was already paying off.
The final match of his Young Lion era that I watched was from Lions Gate Project 2 against Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji in April 2016.
The fact that White was picked to face Marufuji proved just how highly New Japan’s officials thought of him as the NOAH man is considered a main eventer within the NJPW landscape. It was clear that White had developed even further than his match with Taguchi. His strikes and bumping were excellent and his presence was that of an established star. The performance with Marufuji was the best of the three outings covered and you could see that his time as a Young Lion was quickly wrapping up.
In June of 2016 White would say goodbye to the black trunks and head off on excursion. He was to be based in Ring of Honor but also had matches in RevPro, PCW, Smash, PWG and Wrestlecircus. Some of his highlight matches on excursion were his matchup against Will Ospreay at War of the World 2017 Night Three and his Tag Match against Ospreay and Volador Jr at Supercard of Honor XI (teaming with Dragon Lee). But White’s time in ROH was uneventful and very similar to Takaaki Watanabe the wrestler that would eventually go on to become EVIL, White was never committed to anything solid. But this was okay for White because just like Watanabe the New Japan office had a huge plan for him when they called him back and in November 2017 Jay White received that call
Next week in Part Two we will cover the debut and rise of the Switchblade and discuss the potential Main Event future Jay White has in the world’s second-biggest promotion.