“Switchblade” Jay White returned to New Japan Pro Wrestling from his Ring of Honor excursion at Power Struggle 2017. Since his return, White has been elevated as a top star in the promotion. The highlight of his push thus far was his surprising win over Kazuchika Okada at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom. I was completely stunned when Okada failed to kick out after only receiving one Blade Runner. The upset win over the Rainmaker had New Japan fans debating whether or not White should have won and if he deserves to be in a main event position. Many die-hard New Japan fans believe that he is overrated and doesn’t deserve the push he’s received.

Jay White Vs Okada

Now White is set to be challenging for the IWGP Championship at the New Beginning in Osaka. There is a very good chance that Jay could be leaving Osaka with the IWGP title. The thought of that possibility has left me asking myself several questions. Has Gedo lost his magic touch? Is White as the new top gaijin the right move. Is “Switchblade” overrated? After much pondering of these questions, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jay White is NOT overrated.

Let’s start with the thing that White is criticized the most about, his in-ring performance. Jay’s first match back from excursion was at Wrestle Kingdom 12 against Hiroshi Tanahashi. The match was very underwhelming and did not deliver. White’s performance that night left a very bad taste in the mouth of New Japan fans, including myself.

Jay White vs Tanahashi at WK 12

Jay had a lot of things working against him that night. Before becoming Switchblade, White was a high flying babyface. He tore the house down with Will Ospreay during the 2017 ROH War of the World Tour. By becoming Switchblade he was forced to change the way he performed. You could tell simply by just looking at him that he was not one hundred percent comfortable working the Switchblade gimmick. If the high-flying babyface was facing Tanahashi I’m sure we would have gotten a better match. Because this match happened at the biggest show of the year as one of the top matches it is hyper-analyzed. Most people judge Jay mainly off of this one performance.

With my coverage of New Japan on Keepin’ It Strong Style, I’ve been able to closely follow the development of White. The more he wrestled as Switchblade his confidence grew and he became more comfortable wrestling a more methodical style. In my opinion, White has had several great matches in 2018 that never get talked about. Mainly because a majority of the westerners who watch New Japan only hop in for the really big shows.

In 2018, he competed in great matches against Kenny Omega, Hangman Page, Juice Robinson, and Michael Elgin. He redeemed his Wrestle Kingdom 12 performance by having an excellent match with Tanahashi at King of Pro Wrestling 2018. His G1 Climax performance is something that hurts my argument about his in-ring performance. However, White’s G1 performance was not constructed for him to have great matches. The sole purpose of White’s G1 run was to get him over as one of the biggest heels in the company. Which explains why his matches were littered with shenanigans. If Gedo wanted White to have a G1 full of great matches he would have been booked in the B Block with all the heavy hitters.

Jay White vs Juice Robinson

The real test for Jay White’s in-ring performance was the aftermentioned match against Okada at Wrestle Kindom 13. Personally, I believe White looked great in the match and was able to hang with Okada. I believe a lot of fans have been underrating this match because it wasn’t the thirty-minute epic Okada match they were accustomed of getting. If the match had gone fifteen more minutes I believe Okada and White would have come closer to a five-star match.

At the end of the day, Jay White is not having bad matches. Is he having five star plus matches? No. However, White is only twenty-six years old and continues to improve with every performance. If White continues to improve at the level he has been he has the potential to be one of the best in-ring workers in the roster.

The next thing I want to shed some light on is White’s promos and character work. As I’ve mentioned earlier most fans’ complaints of Jay are about his wrestling. I rarely hear anyone discussing his mic work and character nuances. It’s hard to see this if you’re not following the product closely. Every time White is put in front of a mic it’s great. Whether it’s a post-match promo, backstage interview, or at a press conference White demonstrates his silver tongue. His mic work has helped elevate him as the top heel in the promotion. Every time White speaks I’m drawn in and find myself listening intently to every word coming out of his mouth. Jay does a great job of getting himself over and making you want to see him get his ass kicked.

The development of the Switchblade character in 2018 was similar to watching a teen going through puberty. At the end of 2017, White just came off as some weirdo who liked playing with knives and counting to five. Fast forward to today, White is one of the most calculating, manipulative, antagonizing and polarizing members of the New Japan roster. If you really want to see how the Switchblade character has grown, watch his entrance at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and then watch his entrance at Wrestle Kingdom 13. It feels like two completely different people. At Wrestle Kingdom 13, the confidence and charisma were oozing off of him.

To set the record straight, Jay White is not my favorite wrestler and not I’m trying to be a Jay White apologist. However, I do think White gets a bad rap. He’s a very good wrestler with a great character and great mic skills. I know there are several promotions who wish that they had someone with White’s skill set on their roster. Jay White is no Kenny Omega, but I think he is underrated and will continue to have a bright future in the main event scene of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

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