It wasn’t too long ago when “Switchblade” Jay White was regarded as a ‘foreigner’. In one context, White is a foreigner (gaijin) to the New Japan Pro Wrestling landscape, and in a different context a foreigner to the western mainstream. Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, a country which was once a thriving territory of the National Wrestling Alliance in the 20th century, became disconnected from the rest of the wrestling world when most of the NWA territories went out of business. This began to change when the Fale Dojo was established in 2016. But before the Dojo facility was situated in South Auckland, its teachings and influence constructed by founder Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale were instilled in several founding students in NZ and Japan, one of whom was Jay White. New Zealand is once again on wrestling’s global map due to the Dojo’s rapid and reputable presence. The idea of Jay White’s rise to dominance was considered foreign to many fans at first as they never encountered a charismatic leading man that wasn’t American, Canadian or British, especially one that would be the first New Zealander to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Jay White would also become the leader of pro wrestling’s most notorious group the Bullet Club, succeeding previous leaders Prince Devitt, AJ Styles and Kenny Omega. Nevertheless, Jay White the New Zealander has changed the narrative.
As a teenager growing up in Auckland’s Orewa, a very relaxed coastal suburb, Jay White played a variety of sporting activities and led an engaging social life.
“I attended Orewa College,” said White. “I mainly played cricket, tennis and rugby league.”
“My interests at that point was going to the gym and partying.”
White’s journey in becoming a pro wrestler began when he moved to England in pursuit of his goal. His move overseas did not come without challenges such as being away from his family for a lengthy amount of time and searching for a specific destination to train.
“I didn’t go back to New Zealand and see my family for three and a half years,” explained White. “When I first got to England, I had no idea where to start, I didn’t know anybody, and I had no help.”
“I was starting life from scratch in a new country. It was really challenging,” he added. “Especially when you’re just following a wild idea that is never guaranteed to work out.”
White would eventually find his way into training and started wrestling. Within months of competing, White’s talents were noticed by Prince Devitt/Finn Balor who wrestled frequently in the same promotion in between his time with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Knowing of White’s NZ heritage, Devitt brought him to Toks Fale’s attention. The two Kiwis would meet in London and from that meeting, Fale saw the passion of the young Jay White. This was enough for Fale to endorse White to join the New Japan Wrestling Dojo in Tokyo.
White’s introduction to the New Japan Dojo came with some other challenges, though these obstacles were more to do with adapting to a new culture as well as a strict and revered training system that he was not prepared for. White overcame these barriers by focusing ahead on the finish line.
“When I first got to the New Japan Dojo, the squats and training were an immediate challenge,” recalled White. “As well as the culture shock and language barrier, I also hadn’t done enough research into the young boy system and how NJPW operated.”
“So when I arrived, I had no idea what I was there for. I wasn’t sure if I was just going to be trained or doing matches, and whether I would get paid or not.”
“But it’s the same with any challenge,” he advised. “You just have to remember your ‘why’ and remind yourself of what you’re working towards.”
White did graduate from the NJPW Dojo where he became fully immersed in the culture by the conclusion of his training. White finally returned to New Zealand after his three and a half year absence. Joined by his NJPW peers in November 2016, White competed in the very first New Japan event in New Zealand called ‘On the Mat’. This celebration was held at West Auckland’s Trust Stadium, a venue which White knew very well.
“‘On the Mat’ was a big step for wrestling in New Zealand,” said White. “It was kind of crazy to think that all of the big names from New Japan were in New Zealand for a wrestling show.”
“For me personally the cool part was that I used to work as bar staff at concerts and events in that same building before I left NZ.”
The New Japan Dojo is held in high esteem for their training and cultural values which are embedded in the young lions very early on. White attributes the grounded presence of the NJPW talent in the public eye to the teachings at the NJPW Dojo.
“Respect is a big part of New Japan,” stated White.
“It’s ingrained in everyone that comes through here, and I think that’s why NJPW is held in such high regard.”
“Everyone from New Japan holds themselves to a higher professional standard,” he noted. “Which is always going to help get you further.”
NJPW has a schedule which differs from their counterpart the WWE. White detailed the contrast between the two schedules and pointed out the benefits in New Japan, some of which allows their wrestlers the freedom to do other projects during their breaks.
“The difference between the time off for us (NJPW) and the guys in WWE, is that they get regular days off every week. Whereas we have weeks in a row non-stop on tour, and then a chunk of time off, usually around 10 to 14 days,” White described.
“So it depends on each person’s individual situation in terms of what schedule is better.”
“The main benefit for New Japan is that we have more freedom to pursue other opportunities,” he shared. “Whether that be shows for other companies or something down another avenue.”
“Having chunks of time off can make that easier as opposed to a couple of days every week.”
In 2018, White was part of New Japan’s first event held in Australia, the ‘Fallout Down Under’ tour. White was surprised to be greeted to a massive reception as it made him feel like a much beloved local. He described that the event exceeded his expectations and it indicated the likelihood of New Japan returning to Australia for a second show.
“That really felt like a homecoming,” White recalled. “Being a New Zealander in Australia, I was shocked by the ovation I received there.”
“NJPW couldn’t have had a better first tour in Australia, and the fans there made sure to let us know that they wanted us back.”
“Based on that I think wrestling is just going to keep growing there,” said White.
2019 thus far has been a spectacular year for the “Switchblade”, becoming the first New Zealander to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title and headlining the ‘G1 Supercard’ in Madison Square Garden, New York. For White though, being the first Kiwi to achieve such tremendous accolades didn’t faze him at all as these were long term goals that he had in mind. Guided by his training, White was equipped with the maturity and the wrestling ability to recognise that he was the best and most deserving wrestler to carry out these major responsibilities for New Japan to broaden their global expansion.
“Honestly, it wasn’t anything overwhelming for me,” White expressed regarding his IWGP Championship win. “I believe that’s where I was heading since day one in New Japan, so to me it’s just how things were meant to be.”
“The thing I’ve come to learn by this point is that there is no stage too big for me.”
“Sure, MSG is an historic and famous arena, and I understand that it’s a big deal to be on the ‘G1 Supercard’ let alone headlining it,” he added. “But for me, it was just another match.”
“I know I belong in the spotlight, in the biggest matches, on the biggest shows, so that was just normal for me.”
As New Japan prepare for their second Australian tour ‘Southern Showdown’, White is hopeful that this event, if prominent as the previous show could establish Australia as part of NJPW’s formal schedule even on the level of holding one of their major shows.
“So long as ‘Southern Showdown’ is at least a repeat of last year’s tour, then it will be a success,” stated White.
“I’m sure it will cement our presence down under, and ensure that Australia becomes a regular destination for us.”
“Who knows, maybe they’ll eventually hold an official G1 card there in the future like they’re doing in Dallas.”
At still only 26 years old “Switchblade” Jay White has accomplished many accolades during his career, the highest of these achievements, of course, was when he became the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Jay White however is still extremely grateful to those that helped get him to where he is now, most notably Toks Fale who he credits with giving him the opportunity and helping him forge his path in the world of New Japan Pro Wrestling. White achieved his goals through his dedication, respect, sacrifice, integrity, hard work and fighting warrior spirit. It is fair to say that Jay White will be competing at the top of New Japan Pro Wrestling for the long term future ahead. In his closing comments, White, a Fale Dojo alumnus addresses the students of Fale Dojo with some words of encouragement and some sound advice.
“There’s one saying I always go by, ‘the decisions aren’t hard, only the work is’. Meaning that the answers and solutions are usually pretty obvious and simple,” advised White.
“It’s just the work that comes with them that can make them seem difficult.”
“Listen and do what Fale-San tells you, and you’ll be in the best position possible to get an opportunity,” said White, in closing.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if Fale hadn’t gotten me the opportunity, it’s as simple as that.”