The Evolution of Shinsuke Nakamura
In 2016, when NJPW superstar and veteran Shinsuke Nakamura decided to jump ship to the WWE, he made headlines. And for the correct reasons might I add. At the time he was one of Japanese wrestling’s top stars, and a legend in his own right. Having broken records in the business – he still holds the record for the youngest NJPW World Heavyweight Champion, it was time for him to give way to the younger stars and test his mettle in uncharted waters. But several critics were doubtful if Nakamura could replicate his success in the US. The Japanese strong style was a very different wrestling product when compared to the American regular fare, and it was debatable if it would strike a chord with the American audience. Having said that, on his debut in NXT against Sami Zayn, Nakamura proved his critics wrong and gave us a match of the year candidate, proving his doubters wrong.
But that was NXT, a different niche audience which prefers wrestling to entertainment. Making it to the main roster would prove to be his biggest challenge – and it did. WWE re-packaged the ‘King of Strong Style’ into the PG face character ‘The Artist known as Shinsuke Nakamura’. He still had his addictively hummable entrance theme, the quirky moves and the unique in-ring presence – however something was missing. The aggressive edge that made Nakamura ‘The King’ of strong style wrestling had been watered down, and no matter how unique his overall persona was, that last missing differentiator made all the difference.
Nakamura proved to be a fan favourite and become one of the main stays of the Smackdown Live! Main event scene. Yet, it wasn’t enough, as others such as AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Randy Orton continued to keep him reaching the heights of popularity that you’d expect him to reach. For two years Nakamura strived to reach that top position only to be ousted by the ever-outperforming AJ Styles, as the No.1 face. The WWE even gave him a Royal Rumble victory over company favourite Roman Reigns, albeit failing to provide him that extra inch to reach the top.
And then came WrestleMania 34. The E pulled off one of their biggest swerves in recent history by firstly making Nakamura lose clean to Styles and then, secondly and more importantly, turning him heel. And honestly, there has been no turning back from there. Nakamura has grown from strength to strength, delivering performances worth watching match after match; even giving some of the best promos in recent E history – and that from a guy who has struggled with English is more than commendable. Now armed with his returning aggression, a kick-ass remixed entrance theme, and a heelish attitude above par, bad guy Nakamura has slowly become the top heel of the blue brand. ‘The King of Strong Style’ faces ‘The Phenomenal One’ AJ Styles at the Money in the Bank PPV in a Last Man Standing match which is surely going to be a ripper – possibly outperforming all their previous matches (which I might add, have improved in quality over time). The King is here to stay with or without the crowd’s adulation and there is no better time to crown the next WWE champion and no better contender than Shinsuke Nakamura. The evolution of The King is finally complete.
In fact, more than an evolution this is a re-evolution of a star performer, a return to form for the King of Strong Style.
Let the kicks begin!