Last week, Jay White, the New Zealand export, challenged the newly-crowned Kota Ibushi for the IWGP championship at night two of the Wrestle Kingdom event, the biggest show on the New Japan calendar. After a very solid match, White was defeated and cut a promo to claim he was going to “quit” the promotion. This further fueled rumblings that WWE could make an effort to sign the talented grappler, but conflicting reports leave that speculation up in the air.
So, will Jay White ink a WWE deal, and more specifically, would it be a wise move for him at this stage of his career?
Known as “The Switchblade,” White more or less learned from scratch under the NJPW system, starting his career in England in 2013, but made the transition to young lion status with the Japanese group less than a year and a half later. His journey is a rather remarkable one and speaks volumes to the high level of training provided in the dojo, as in just a few years time, he went from a preliminary wrestler to one of the best young talents in the industry, as well as one of the main stars among a stellar roster. He spent a few years on excursion, a Japanese wrestling tradition that sends talented prospects to learn other styles in different countries, working with Ring Of Honor in the United States. It must be mentioned the track record that this process has because many of Japan’s biggest stars learned valuable skills when they were sent to other organizations before they returned to the home promotion much more polished. It also might be an indication of a potential flaw within the WWE developmental system, which focuses on one specific sports entertainment philosophy.
In late 2017, White returned to New Japan under the previously mentioned Switchblade persona, an indication that he would become a more featured wrestler under the NJPW banner, and in some ways, that particular push was similar to what Kenny Omega received when he debuted for the organization as “The Cleaner.” While White doesn’t have the resume of Omega, another similarity between the two is that White also excelled with the opportunities he was given upon his return, including the eventual reveal as the new leader of the Bullet Club. Granted, the faction doesn’t have the status now that it did a few years ago before various members were signed elsewhere, but it gave White the platform to continue to evolve as a heel, an aspect that puts him among the best workers of today.
Quite simply, Jay White can go in the ring and he can still work as a heel that can get legitimate heat, which is a tough scenario to balance, but it shows how well-rounded of a performer he is and his potential to continue to polish his skill set.
But, what we’re talking about here has more to do with the impact of a Jay White arrival or exit, not necessarily the bell-to-bell action.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that when AEW was in the planning stages, management approached White about a potential contract, but White told them he had just signed a seven-year deal with New Japan. If that’s actually the case, White would have nearly five more years left on his deal, making the entire discussion of a potential jump to WWE moot. I would be surprised if the Japanese league inked him to a seven-year deal, simply because it’s rare that foreign wrestlers are signed to such a long term contract, but perhaps the mass exodus that eventually formed All Elite prompted Japanese management to look for extended contracts to maintain the depth of the promotion.
Just for the discussion, if White was even eligible to sign a WWE deal, it’s still not automatic that he would put pen to paper, especially considering how some NJPW alumni were used by the sports entertainment empire. The argument could be made that the WWE has the best roster in its history in terms of in-ring talent, but at the very same time, the counter argument could be made that its near an all-time low as far as legitimate star power. The WWE brand, mostly based on its success in the past, is what sells today to an audience that continues to be eroded by the presentation of the product. It’s a harsh reality, but the current roster doesn’t have anyone outside of maybe Roman Reigns that truly moves the numbers. That’s not a jab against the roster, but rather the structure of the promotion.
Does Jay White want to tread in those waters and risk getting lost in the shuffle?
Nakamura was one of the biggest signings from New Japan when he arrived in WWE and looked to be on his way to being the first Japanese WWE champion. (Antonio Inoki actually had a short reign as WWF champion during one of Bob Backlund’s tours of Japan, but the one-week reign isn’t officially recognized) Nakamura has the charisma that translates beyond any perceived language barrier and the skills to be a main event star. When Nakamura won the Rumble in 2018, I was very surprised because I didn’t expect WWE brass to take a chance on a potential champion that spoke limited English. As silly as that might sound as a reason not to maximize Nakamura’s potential for the organization, it’s not surprising because the basis of the WWE business model is to market to the lowest common denominator. That’s not necessarily a negative, depending on the context of a specific situation since the company targets the general public, not specifically diehard pro wrestling fans. That being said, the office missed the boat on him, and his skills would’ve translated. Instead, they didn’t use the WM match against AJ Styles to solidify him as a main event talent and elevate him to the next level in WWE. He lost the match on the biggest stage possible to make him a bigger star in America and was booked to turn heel at the peak of the momentum he had as a baby face. Finn Balor is another NJPW export that has been booked with mixed results by WWE. I know the injury derailed his initial WWE Universal title win, but he’s obviously a top-tier talent and was jobbing to Baron Corbin on the mid-card before he returned to NXT to rejuvenate his career. Plus, let’s not forget the lengthy list of NXT talents that were mishandled, misused, or completely fumbled upon their arrival on the main roster.
At 28, White is still in the formative years in his career and probably has much more to accomplish in terms of the “art” of the sport. For example, both Finn and Nakamura already had several years where their in-ring work cemented their status as tremendous workers. After the legacy of those in-ring presentations were accomplished, it was time to cash-in and make the most money possible under the WWE umbrella. Keep in mind, the ability to make as much money as possible before retirement must be a priority at some point in an accomplished performer’s career. Right now, Jay White still has much to offer in terms of in-ring work that could build him an accomplished legacy before he hangs up the boots so I would say it’s very doubtful he signs a WWE deal at this point in his career.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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