When Jay White defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at New Beginning in Osaka, it was a historic accomplishment in multiple ways. White is now one of only four men to hold New Japan Pro Wrestling’s top title while under the age of thirty (along with Kazuchika Okada, Brock Lesnar, and Shinsuke Nakamura) this century and is the first New Zealander to ever win this championship. Come the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard show on April 6, he’ll also be the first wrestler to defend the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in Madison Square Garden, where he’ll face the winner of this year’s New Japan Cup.
At a press conference held by NJPW on February 12, White addressed his somewhat controversial win, his upcoming historic defense, and one of his possible challengers. On the upcoming MSG show, he said,
“I will forever be known as the first IWGP HW Champion to walk into Madison Square Garden and wrestle there… I’ll also be the first to walk into that building and defend my championship. I know the fact that I’m going to be the champion there, I’m going to main event Madison Square Garden, that pisses people off. The fact that I’m going to defend that belt there successfully, walk out of Madison Square Garden with this belt, people are going to be livid. You’re going to hate it, and that makes me love it so much more.”
White also talked about how he’ll help the company grow during his time as champion.
“I am money. I am the hottest asset in pro wrestling… include sports entertainment as well. Having me as the frontman, that is going to help this company grow. I know certain people may not agree with that, especially the fans, because hey, the fans know best, don’t they? The fans know best about what we do… so they think that me as the champion, that’s not going to work. No, no, no, you guys, I know best. So everybody else just shut up, sit back, do as you’re told, and let me take this company to new heights.”
When asked if there’s a particular wrestler he’d like to face at the Garden, White refused to answer. Instead, he stated, “I know that’s often a common thing that wrestlers do… There isn’t anyone that I’m interested in going after. I’m on the top of the mountain. I’m on top. I’m number one, so everyone is now coming for me. Everyone should want to have a match with me.”
However, though he stopped short of issuing an official challenge, White brought up the fact that IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito is petitioning to enter the New Japan Cup (despite the fact that it normally doesn’t include singles champions) with the aim of challenging for the Heavyweight Championship and becoming the first man to hold both the Heavyweight and IC titles at the same time.
“He needs to stay in his own lane. I haven’t cross paths with Naito yet. I have with every other, you know, big star in New Japan. Hey, if Naito wants to come for this, by all means… If you want to come and have a shot at this, hey, you prove yourself to me. You go into that New Japan Cup and you fight hard, buddy, and then I’ll see you at Madison Square Garden for this… I’ll make you a big star at Madison Square Garden, don’t you worry.”