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Jay White on New Japan in NYC, Good Brothers, Okada rivalry

by NYPost
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Jay White on New Japan in NYC, Good Brothers, Okada rivalry

Jay White’s journey from the young wrestler Finn Balor helped give a big break to becoming the leader of the iconic faction the now WWE star created isn’t something he reflects on much. But it’s hard for him not to admit how serendipitous it all is when he does look back. 

“That’s a cool thing,” White, now the one in charge of Bullet Club, said in a phone interview. “It’s not something I really kind of think about too much. When you step back and look at it like that, that is a really cool story.” 

White, 30, has become a flag bearer for New Japan Pro Wrestling over the past four years and is currently its IWGP World Heavyweight champion. The New Zealand native who goes by the moniker “Switchblade” worked his way up from being a “young lion” at the very bottom of New Japan’s training dojo – the opportunity Balor as Prince Devitt pushed company officials to help him land in 2014 after seeing White wrestling in the UK – to becoming one of the biggest names in pro wrestling. White continues to call this time the “Switchblade Era” because of all he’s accomplished at Bullet Club’s growing reach across the industry.

“It’s vindication for me that I was right about where I was gonna go with it all basically,” said White, who also has wrestled in All Elite Wrestling and Impact this year.

“Switchblade” Jay White

White will tag with fellow Bullet Club member Juice Robinson against Eddie Kingston of AEW and rival Kazuchika Okada in the main event of New Japan’s Rumble on 44th Street show at the Palladium Times Square on Friday (8 p.m., FITE, New Japan World). It is part of a big weekend for the promotion the five boroughs as it also will hold an added show at the venue on Thursday after the Rumble sold out quickly. It’s New Japan’s first big event in New York City since it sold out Madison Square Garden with Ring of Honor for G1 Supercard in 2019 and comes at a time when Japan’s premiere wrestling company is looking to further make inroads into the U.S. market. White said New Japan continuing to do shows in New York “vital” to that.

“The cities like New York and Chicago the fans are a big part of wrestling,” White said. “We’ve done Hammerstein Ballroom before, we had MSG and it’s always treated us well in New Japan. I think coming back here, it’s been too long since we’ve been back and hopefully we don’t leave it as long this time.”

Jay White

Kingston and White were supposed to be part of a six-man tag match at a New Japan show in Las Vegas in September, but the Yonkers native had to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19. With the promotion set to return to New York City, White issued a challenge to Kingston to have finally have a match together for the first time. Having it be in Kingston’s hometown only adds an extra layer to it.  

“That will be that much sweeter for me,” White said.

White’s experience working in front of a likely raucous New York crowd will be much different than what he’s used to in Japan. There the fans are only allowed to cheer at select shows done at half capacity because of the countries’ COVID-19 restrictions. At all other events, the only thing they are allowed to do is clap. It’s something White calls “an absolute mind-numbing joke.” As a way to make that point and “show them how ridiculous the whole thing is”, in July he did an entire post-match promo in front of fans using all claps, — in what he calls “Clap-anese.”

“Over here [in the U.S.] it’s professional wrestling,” White said. “Over there I don’t know what it is, but it’s not professional wrestling where the crowd has to be silent.”

It’s White’s promo creativity that has allowed him to evolve into one of the best talkers and heels in pro wrestling. That wasn’t always the case. When the current run he is on began with him betraying Okada and his Chaos faction to join Bullet Club in 2018, White was still a superb in-ring performer who still needed to fully prove himself on the mic. He said all the repetition he got, as New Japan has wrestlers speak to the media after every show, helped him grow more confident and find his comfort zone.

“Once you just get comfortable talking in front of the camera and in front of the people, you just let it flow naturally and it kind of just happens naturally,” White said. “I’m not trying to do a promo. I’m not trying to promote anything half the time. Half the time, I really am just talking.”

White is currently on a collision course with Okada and a match for the world title at Wrestle Kingdom 17 on Jan. 4 at the Tokyo Dome in the next chapter of their four-year-long story. White is currently 4-1 all-time against New Japan’s legendary star, including taking the world title from him at Dominion in June and then defending it in a fatal-four way match with Okada, Adam Cole and “Hangman” Adam Page at Forbidden Door later that month. A win at the company’s version of WrestleMania in January could put a definitive stamp on the Okada-White rivalry.    

“I think 4-1 has made all the statement you kind of need to make,” White said. “But obviously taking it to that point [5-1], maybe it would be finished. Maybe I would be within my right to be able to say no more match from him until I decide that it’s OK because at 5-1 I’m just embarrassing their boy. That’s not good for the company as well.” 

What is good for Bullet Club is its current and former members continue to spread across other wrestling promotions, with the latest being Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson’s return to WWE to re-form “The Club” with A.J. Styles. Anderson is still New Japan’s NEVER Openweight champion and White said “it doesn’t surprise me” that he ended up being double booked to defend that belt the same day WWE will put on Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia. White also made it a point to allude to their departure during the Wrestle Kingdom press conference on the same night as the Good Brothers’ WWE return on “Monday Night Raw.”   

Jay White

“They need to be acknowledged for the impact they’ve had on the industry,” White said. “I think people overlook that or don’t want to admit that or to give them their flowers for that. The companies that they’ve been in and what they’re doing now with Karl still being the NEVER Openweight champion yet being in WWE. I think that’s pretty unheard of. They’re always blazing trails and making history. They need to be acknowledged for that.”

When asked if wrestling in the U.S. full-time with a WWE or AEW is an important box for him to check at some point in his career, White said he doesn’t really have a list of things like that that he wants to accomplish and feels pretty happy with where he’s been and what he’s doing.

Still he admits there could be a time when he will wants something new and then “I’m sure I’ll look into that.” After the success of the Forbidden Door pay-per-view, White said he expects AEW to ask him to come back at some point, and said he will show up if there is something or someone that sparks his interest.

He will get another small taste of AEW when he stands across the ring from Kingston and Okada on Friday in the heart of New York City. The opportunity made too much sense not to make it happen here after he and Kingston’s original meeting didn’t work out.

“We knew we had New York booked for a show so then it worked out naturally,” White said. “Thing just kind of fell into place for it to work out that way.”   

Night Before Rumble on 44th Street (Oct. 27) and Rumble on 44th Street (Oct. 28) can both be purchased on the FITE App or be watched as part of signing up for the New Japan World streaming service.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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