Superstar Spotlight: Switchblade and the Chaos of NJPW Faction Wars
In this new feature, Superstar Spotlight, I will place the proverbial spotlight on emerging wrestling stars from around the world. I will examine their current position on the global scale of wrestling and how and why it is that they will go on to define the sport that well all know and love.
Today's superstar as you guess it is the young New Japan returnee Jay 'Switchblade' White.
Around the turn of the new decade, New Japan Pro Wrestling was gaining steam for changes in management as well as talent rising in the main event. During that period, Gedo established himself as booker and changed NJPW for the better, that today it is the perfect alternative to WWE on a global scale.
The start of this period was dominated by emerging factions among NJPW and drawing the battle lines between its biggest superstars. CHAOS was the first to form under Shinsuke Nakamura, as a loosely affiliated but loyal group adamant on reviving the hard hitting strong style of wrestling.
Soon enough the likes of Suzuki-Gun (formerly Kojima-Gun), Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables de Japon followed. Since then NJPW has had a full on faction war brewing and playing under the surface of main event contests down to the standard six-man team matches.
Everything is about the building of bruising factions. Among this is the fact that each faction has quickly lapped up any young budding stars joining New Japan or created them from Finn Balor to Tetsuya Naito and from Kazuchika Okada to Kenny Omega.
The sophisticated development system of NJPW allows the said young lions to learn the ropes at home with rigorous training, readying them for the harsh world ahead. After this they get the opportunity to refine themselves around the world, to return home as conquering stars.
Thus we come to Switchblade. Like many of New Japan's young lions, Switchblade AKA Jay White began his run in the company as a standard jobber to the stars. He did all the hard work to be featured on the cards, just to be soundly beaten.
Eventually graduating, Switchblade turned to America to hone his skills and bring them back to New Japan. The moment NJPW announced Switchblade's return, everyone was in a frenzy. More so because NJPW decided that the graduate deserved the chance to face off against Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestlekingdom, in the third biggest match of the event.
It seemed unprecedented, though White had excelled in North American shores he just didn't fit nor create the aura believable to have such a high profile match on return. Many cynics including myself believe that Switchblade is a contingency plan, to create a huge home grown Gaijin (Foreign) superstar should Kenny Omega decide to leave for the WWE.
Those fears were confirmed once the match between Tanahashi and White went underway, an injured Tanahashi went onto wrestle his most lethargic match on the big stage and Switchblade couldn't add anything to it. Dead Japanese crowds are a wonder to behold, since their lively crowds are just as stoic, silent and respectful. The debut began with a whimper.
That was until the new day dawned for NJPW at the New Years Dash. Switchblade took advantage of the fragile egos of Bullet Club members Kenny Omega and Cody, being the catalyst for its fracture that was just at boiling point.
His rejection of Bullet Club, especially Omega's efforts to recruit him opened questions about the latters leadership abilities. Now the fragments of Bullet Club are desperately trying to assert that all is fine, when it's clearly not.
This is pretty much the doing of Switchblade, who promptly announced his agenda to destroy the Club. A cunning player, White knew that taking the Club out alone would be a daunting task and so he did what any young hungry lion does; he joined a faction, one filled with chaos.
As part of CHAOS, Jay White has released that undeniable mean streak that made him a star to behold in his time at Ring of Honor. From there he has sown the same seeds of doubt and mistrust among CHAOS members, but with far more subtlety than Cody coul muster.
(PS: Cody is desperately trying to turn Club members away from Omega with too obvious tactics on their youtube show Being The Elite)
His decision to confront Kazuchika Okada the moment he was signed to CHAOS was a shocking one. He maintained from the beginning that he is in CHAOS for his own gain and the moment he feels prepared for the main event, he'll take Okada's title as well.
It's a bold claim from Switchblade, enhanced by Okada's growing arrogance regarding his invincibility at the top of the food chain. Okada has been blinded by his own brilliance to the point, that he called out his own faction member and Juniors champion Will Ospreay for a match next.
Meanwhile, Switchblade continues to court chaos in CHAOS, by coming out to his own entrance against the solidarity of the faction. Jay got into the ear of the young Roppongi 3K, asserting that they are being held down while also failing to turn Ishii and irritating him in the process.
He also just won the NJPW United States Championship from Kenny Omega, signaling his rise among the elite (no pun intended) of NJPW. This win happened much to the shock of the world, but no more so than Kazuchika Okada himself.
In just a month, Switchblade has turned around opinion about himself and become a dangerous piece that is slowly breaking apart the factions of NJPW. Maybe my prediction of him taking over and taking down Suzuki Gun might just come true after all, despite how loyal they are to their leader.
It'll be exciting to see if Jay manages to lead each faction down into small wars from within or explode them into fractured gang wars, that further divides the battle lines of New Japan.
In many ways Switchblade is the perfect Japanese Anime villain to unite the heroes of New Japan to take him out and once they begin the chase, Switchblade will be a made man and a star ready to launch New Japan into the stratosphere. It'll be a perfect way to end the chapter on New Japan's growing faction wars.
Once that happens there's no telling where the Kiwi native can go, the seeds are sown and he's a superstar in the making. Time will tell where NJPW take this, but don't expect Gedo to rush anything; this is a man with a long game plan.
One thing I'd like to suggest, if not Tetsuya Naito or Kenny Omega; it should definitely be Switchblade that ends Okada's historic title reign with a sweet Blade Runner.
Next on Superstar Spotlight: A Monster roars into the universe, takes it by storm and then reveals untold depth that makes everyone even more of a fan!