Match of the Week (06/07-13/07 2018): Jay White vs. Juice Robinson, IWGP United States Championship (NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco)

Added by Miguel Camilleri

The New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo is undoubtedly the pro wrestling school with the highest success rate in all of wrestling. It has produced names such as Jushin Thunder Liger, Keiji Mutoh, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada, who all went on to become the biggest stars in NJPW’s history. Names who have become stars on an international level such as Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura also cut their teeth in the Dojo, plying their trade in NJPW before moving on to America.

Two of the more recent graduates from the NJPW Dojo are Juice Robinson and Jay White – both men having made their debut as Young Lions in 2015. One major difference between the two, however, is that while Jay White followed the usual Young Lion trail in going abroad on excursion in 2016, Juice Robinson strayed from that path, and remained in NJPW, gradually building himself up to the extent that he began receiving singles title shots in 2017. He also made his G1 Climax debut that year, picking up a major shock victory over eventual finalist Kenny Omega in the process.

Jay White eventually returned from excursion in November 2017 with his new Switchblade gimmick, making a big impact in the process by attacking the aforementioned Tanahashi and challenging him for his IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12 (NJPW’s biggest show of the year). Although the match was somewhat panned by critics, who claimed that White was not ready for the spot he was thrust into, White subsequently joined the Chaos faction with the aim of shaking things up in the stable (as well as NJPW as a whole), and went on to beat Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Championship later that month in Sapporo. Since then, he has become more and more comfortable in the gimmick, and has proved that he has the potential to become a top star in the promotion, all the while building up a feud with Juice Robinson, which was set to culminate at NJPW’s G1 Special show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

Jay White’s shit stirring nature has not endeared him with fans, however, and the San Francisco crowd was no exception, greeting him with a chorus of boos from his entrance alone. Juice, on the other hand, was handily cheered by the crowd, and had the 12th man support in attempting to win his first singles title (while also becoming the first American to win the United States Championship). Juice immediately responded to this as the bell rang, taking down White and landing a number of blows on his opponent. He then sprung himself into a perched-on-the-ropes White, sending him to the outside, following that up with a senton off the ring apron onto White. The guardrails, which would play a heavy role in this match, were used early on as Juice launched his opponent shoulder first into them on successive occasions.

Back in the ring, Juice continued his flurry by hitting White with a number of strikes. He played to the crowd a bit too much, however, and White took advantage of this by suplexing his opponent back to the outside. He himself then proceeded to absolutely launch Juice into the guardrails on multiple occasions, which buckled at the immense force with which they were hit. He proceeded to goad the crowd with Juice’s signature fist pump taunt, ending with a middle finger each time. The fans responded with loud boos and “you suck” chants. As proceedings continued back to the ring, White suplexed Juice into the turnbuckle for a 2 count. He then started to work Juice’s injured left hand, which was broken by White himself in the build up to this match. This despicable act warranted him “fuck you Switchblade” chants by the crowd, which White reacted to with middle fingers once again.

White continued to work the injured hand, but with Juice being willed on by the crowd, he managed to get back into the match, hitting his opponent with a headbutt. White, however, regained momentum by suplexing Juice once again, after which he synched in a grapevine facelock on his opponent, who just about managed to find the strength to reach the ropes and break the hold. White continued to assert himself on the match, tying Juice up in the ropes and hitting him with a series of brutal chops. Juice was not one to lay down and take it, however, swearing and spitting at his opponent, only to receive the hardest chop of them all, followed by an uppercut that sent him crashing to the mat. White then repeated the Juice taunt, but went one step further in mocking his opponent by hitting Juice with his own trademark jabs.

This was one step too far for Juice, and he proceeded to land White with a chop of his own. This led to both men trading a series of chops, to duelling “boo/yay” chants from the crowd. Although White quickly cut this off by dropping his opponent to the mat, he was met by a spinebuster from his opponent in return. Juice then hit a number of clotheslines on his opponent in the corner, but White managed to counter the last one by faceplanting his opponent, after which he hit Juice with a huge bridge suplex for the 2 count. White then quickly transitioned into a Fujiwara armlock, cranking Juice’s injured hand in the process, but Juice once again managed to barely get to the ropes.

As Juice rolled to the outside, White followed, and drove him spine-first into the ringpost. The biggest talking point of the match came up right after, as White launched Juice with a Tiger suplex into the guardrails right in front of the commentary table where Jim Ross and Josh Barnett were sat. The guardrail buckled backwards, sending the table flying into both commentators, breaking JR’s rib in the process. Both men were incensed, with Barnett remarking that White “done fucked up now”. He then proceeded to climb over the guardrail, and chase White around the ring, until he had time to cool off and sit back down. The fans once again ensued with “fuck you Switchblade” and “asshole” chants directed at White. This was an incredible moment (whether worked or not) that added even more heat to the already sizzling nature of the match.

As the actual match came back into focus, White placed Juice’s hand on a chair, brought out another chair, and swung wildly. Juice just about managed to move his hand out of the way, however, stinging White’s hands in the process. Juice attempted to follow up by cracking White’s skull with one of the chairs, but White himself moved out of the way, causing Juice’s injured hand more damage as he struck the ringpost. White capitalised by hitting a suplex to his opponent on the outside. He tried to follow up with another suplex, but Juice managed to land on his feet, and subsequently hit a brutal spinebuster to his opponent on the ring apron. As both men got up on the apron, White got back into the driver’s seat, once more faceplanting his opponent. He once again tried to suplex Juice off the apron onto the floor, but Juice held on just enough, and proceeded to hit his opponent with a side Russian leg sweep from the apron to the floor. Both men were spent, but just about managed to beat the count of 20 to get back inside the ring.

Juice got himself the momentum first, launching himself into White with a cannonball in the corner. He then followed up by perching White on the top rope, and hitting him with a superplex for the 2 count. Feeling like he had victory in his sights, he set up for the Pulp Friction, but White managed to counter into a neckbreaker which he transitioned into an armbar. Juice managed to get to the ropes, but White refused to break the hold, instead landing a series of elbows to his opponent’s head. As the fans once again booed him heavily, he flipped the bird (again) at them in turn. White then set up for his own finisher, the Blade Runner, but Juice rolled out of it, and almost hit White with his cast (which would DQ him as per the specific rules of this match). As the ref apprehended him, White tried to hit an uppercut on Juice, who rolled up his opponent for a 2 count. He then went for another backslide, but White transitioned into a set-up for the Blade Runner, only for Juice to counter into Pulp Friction position. White managed to fight out of it, however, and shoved Juice in to the corner to block the referee’s vision, allowing White to channel former Chaos leader Shinsuke Nakamura and hit his opponent with a low blow.

White then rushed the corner, only for Juice to move out of the way, this time causing White to block the referee’s vision, allowing Juice to land a stiff shot with his cast to White’s temple, eliciting rousing cheers from the crowd. He then finally managed to land the Pulp Friction, but did not pin his opponent immediately, which would cost him as White managed to just about kick out at 2.999999. Nonetheless, Juice set up to hit another Pulp Friction, but White managed to counter, and struck his opponent’s injured hand once again, followed by a series of half-nelson suplexes. It looked like it was over as White set up for the Blade Runner, but Juice incredibly managed to roll up White and pick up the 3 count to a massive pop from the crowd. Juice was finally a singles champion!

This was an incredible match, in which both men came out much bigger stars than they were when they went in. Juice showed incredible babyface fire, and is a well-deserved champion, but White was the standout in this match to me. He is a rare breed in today’s day and age in that he manages to elicit genuine hatred from the crowds, without resorting to cheap heat or by actually being bad or overpushed. If he continues like this, he will definitely end up being the top heel in NJPW within the next two years, and gives him a ton of momentum ahead of an inevitable war with Kazuchika Okada for leadership of the Chaos stable. This was definitely the best match that both Juice and White have had so far, and well worth a watch, especially the Barnett/White spot.