As most wrestling fans, I tend to be stubborn on my opinions. If I don’t like a match, wrestler or promo the first time around, I probably won’t ever warm to it. Jay White is the exception to this rule. Having started watching NJPW in early 2017 where the workrate of Okada/Omega, Okada/Shibata and the G1 Climax drew me in and offered something much more interesting than WWE, it’s not surprising that when the Switchblade made his return from excursion and had some rather uninteresting matches against Tanahashi and Omega, I was pretty underwhelmed. Combining this with his rapid accent to the top with wins over Okada and eventually winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, White became one of my least favourite wrestlers in the world and it’s accurate to say that I was FURIOUS when he got to the G1 Final in 2019.
This stubborn opinion I had of Jay White made me unable to appreciate any of his matches. It wasn’t until last year that I truly began to appreciate him and have since re-watched his older matches and found so much entertainment out of them. One of the best examples of this is his incredible G1 29 match against Tomohiro Ishii.
For a little bit of backstory, this was both men’s second match in the 2019 G1 Climax tournament. Ishii came into this 1-0 whereas Jay is coming off the back of a loss to CHAOS member Hirooki Goto and now heads into another match against one of his old stablemates. Jay’s feud with CHAOS largely revolved around Okada so when Ishii finally got a chance to face the Switchblade, he was looking for revenge.
Most Jay White matches start out the same by rolling out of the ring to a loud chorus of boos and frustration of his opponent and this was no different. Ishii deciding to roll out and sucker Jay in by grabbing Gedo was a really nice way to diversify from other Jay matches and Ishii gets the upperhand once things get in the ring. Once things are back outside, one of my favourite moments of the match happens when Ishii launches a chair at Jay who moves out of the ring and as Ishii approaches, Jay slides the chair under the guardrail so Ishii can’t use it. It’s such a simple and essentially meaningless moment but the attention to detail was so effective and made me appreciate Jay’s style so much more than any other heel wrestler. He’s not a coward for the sake of being a coward, he’s a coward because it’s smarter than getting hit in the face.
A lot of this match is Jay working on top as a heel which is always entertaining but the best moments are when Ishii starts overwhelming Jay. One of the best moments of this is the classic trading of forearm strikes where eventually Jay drops to the floor out of shot of the camera which looks amazing. It looks as if Ishii knocked Jay out but it becomes evident that he was playing possum when as soon as Ishii goes for a lariat, Jay catches him in a flatliner. Another wonderful moment like this is when Ishii performs his trademark “walk into his opponents forearm strikes and knock the other guy out with one shot” but Jay ducks the forearm and hits a suplex only for Ishii to get right back up and finally hit the clean shot on Jay.
The ending stretch of this match is as good as any other NJPW match with great counters but maintaining the story of Jay being one step ahead until Ishii finds a counter to put him back in his place. Ishii’s attempt at a sliding lariat avoided simply by Jay laying back down until Ishii outdoes Jay by misdirecting on a lariat to finally hit Jay for a great nearfall. Finally, Jay counters a Brainbuster attempt into a Blade Runner attempt only for Ishii to counter into a modified Blade Runner of his own. Following up with a lariat and a Brainbuster, Ishii gets the 3 count and beats the Switchblade.
There are very few things in wrestling better than a heel getting their comeuppance and arguably, Jay White is the best at this. It’s not often he loses a singles match but when he does, it’s a big deal and the crowd lose their minds once the bell rings. Ishii is the perfect guy for this, the total opposite of Jay who takes every shot and fires back with his own, making a unique but beautiful blend of striking, counters and nearfalls that makes this one of my favourite pairings in NJPW. The story of Ishii having Jay’s number not only in singles but tag matches carried on for nearly 2 years until Jay finally got a singles win over Ishii earlier this year. I feel stupid that it took me so long to understand Jay White’s appeal but I’m so glad I did so I could enjoy masterpieces like this.