With his victory over Jay White on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 15, Kota Ibushi achieved his goal of becoming God. As amazing as the match was, this article isn’t going to be a play-by-play of the action itself (which, with the match being 50 minutes long, would take thousands and thousands of words). Instead, I want to look at the characters Jay White and Kota Ibushi, and how they both contrast and reflect each other.
There are three moments in the match that I think are extremely revealing about both Jay White’s and Kota Ibushi’s characters.
There’s a moment in many of Ibushi’s tougher matches where his eyes glaze over and his usual glow dims into something more threatening. He becomes effectively unstoppable. This state, what Chris Charlton calls “Murder Ibu” is summoned when opponents continuously disrespect the Golden Star. With Jay White being the way he is, it didn’t take long for Murder Ibu to make an appearance in their match.
Murder Ibu repeatedly dropped Jay with palm strikes and forearms. Despite this, Jay continued to get up and try to strike the Golden Star, only to be sent to the canvas again. Gedo advised Jay to stay down, yelling “don’t challenge him!” Jay, though, ignored his manager’s judgement and stood to Murder Ibu again. He was dropped, again, but this moment is still notable.
Jay must’ve known that challenging Ibushi while the Golden Star is in his murderous state wouldn’t go well, but insisted on it. He wanted to prove something: his strength, maybe, or his courage. The fact that he explicitly went against Gedo’s orders is interesting here, too. Gedo wants Jay to be cunning and smart, even when it means being a coward. In this instance, though, Jay didn’t want to be smart. It makes you wonder what Jay would do if he was always left to his own devices. Maybe he’d actually fight fair, who knows?
After being dropped out of the ring by Murder Ibu, Jay rolls back in and lays down in the center of the mat. He lifts his leg up for Kota to hook, and tells the champion to cover him. He says he doesn’t want to fight anymore. The English commentary team calls this move from Jay a “surrender,” but immediately speculates what trick he has up his sleeve.
If Jay was trying to use this surrender as a trap, no one will ever know; Kota didn’t accept Jay’s offer to cover him, and started to rain brutal strikes down on the Switchblade.
For Kota, this moment could mean two things. The first is that he absolutely does not trust Jay White or a word that the man says. This would be very understandable. The second possibility, though, is a bit more kind; it could be that Kota never wants to accept an easy victory; no matter how hard the fight may be, Kota wants the fight to be honest above all.
For Jay, there are also a few possibilities. First, that this was just another attempt to trick Kota into a roll-up or another kind of pin. A more interesting thing to think about, at least to me, is the possibility that Jay did have a momentary lapse in judgement where he really wanted to give up. This claim could be supported by the fact that Jay’s “surrender” comes right after he disobeyed Gedo’s advice to avoid Murder Ibu and got dropped on his face four times in a row.
Also, Jay’s post match comments show his Switchblade facade going up in flames. Maybe this brief moment where Jay (or should I say Jamie) just wants to give up is a precursor to that breakdown.
Ibushi Taps Out?
Jay’s favorite submission hold is his TTO, the “Tanahashi Tapped Out.” The Switchblade sought to make Ibushi submit by applying this hold. The first attempt, relatively early in the match, was unsuccessful. The second time the hold was applied was after Jay had taken severe beatings from the Golden Star, and was close to losing the match. The levels of desperation were much higher this time around.
As he secured Kota in the submission hold, he started screaming for Ibushi to tap, nearly in tears. Ibushi, though, managed to reach the ropes and force a break. A look of absolute heartbreak crossed Jay’s face as the ref started to count. This moment was yet another instance of Jamie’s cocky facade cracking and revealing the panicked, insecure man behind the Switchblade.
Personality wise, Jay and Ibushi stand in a very stark contrast to each other. Kota is blunt, almost to the point of aloofness. Oftentimes, his strength is that he doesn’t think at all. Jay, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different. Jay’s strength is his intelligence, applied in matches through his cunning. This cunning is rooted in passivity; Jay teases his opponent into acting aggressive and slipping up so he can capitalize on their mistake.
The two make perfect rivals, in and out of the ring. Hopefully we get to see them in a match together again soon, though Jay’s recent announcement that he’s quitting NJPW casts doubt on that possibility.
In my opinion, the best path forward for Jay is to leave the Bullet Club and turn face. He could ally himself with Kota; the Golden Star has forgiven Kenny Omega for his past betrayals, so it’s not too far of a stretch to think that Ibushi would forgive Jay, and maybe even grow to see him as a friend.
Another possibility, if Jay were to leave Bullet Club but stay in NJPW, would be for him to align himself with Los Ingobernables; though it might be a little awkward at first, I think this would be a nice subversion of Evil leaving Naito for Bullet Club.
Whatever the future holds for Kota Ibushi and Jay White, both separately and as rivals, is unclear. What’s certain, though, is that their match at Wrestle Kingdom 15 was, and is, an instant classic.
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