For the past five years or so, whenever the topic of Best Wrestler in the World came up, Shinsuke Nakamura would be on the top of that list for a lot of people. I always disregarded that, because I didn’t watch Japanese wrestling. I’m sure he was great, but was he really better then guys I was familiar with like Daniel Bryan or CM Punk or even John Cena? It didn’t seem likely.
And then I started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling, starting with WrestleKingdom 9. And when the much-heralded Nakamura came out in the semi-main event, I… hated him. I thought he was too goofy, too flamboyant. I didn’t get it at all, and just wrote it off as a weird Japanese thing. His wrestling mannerisms annoyed me, his entrance annoyed me, his hair really annoyed me.
Slowly though, he started to grow on me. I didn’t even realize it at first, but within a few months it dawned on me that I no longer hated Nakamura. By the time the G1 Climax concluded, I realized I was a fan. I went back and watched his match at WK9, and it was like watching it for the first time. I got it, in a way I didn’t get it before. When it was announced he was leaving New Japan and probably coming to WWE, my mind started racing with the potential.
So, what can we expect in the WWE for Shinsuke Nakamura?
First, we should all learn to say his name properly. If he keeps his name, it’s “Shins-kay”, not “Shin-sue-key” or anything else. Like AJ, Nakamura is supposed to be offered main roster money, so don’t expect a lot of repackaging or a new gimmick. Unlike AJ though, I do expect Nakamura to spend some time in NXT, even if it’s not televised. He has a much higher learning curve then AJ, and will need to adapt himself to the “WWE style” quickly.
That doesn’t mean he has to change himself to fit in though. In fact, sticking out is what Nakamura does best. There is a story floating around that Hideo Itami, formerly KENTA, was taken aside by HHH after some lackluster performances. HHH told him to be himself, that KENTA’s intensity is what made him interesting to the WWE in the first place. Nakamura has a unique charisma about him that I’m not sure can be tampered with. I’m not worried about him changing his in-ring style either. He’s already done it once before, when he became The King of Strong Style. If he can keep his character, and adapt his wrestling to fit a safer style that doesn’t involve kneeing people in the head over and over again, Nakamura should fit in the WWE just fine.
But how will he be used? Nakamura’s debut should be the most obvious out of all the people recently signed. The day after Wrestlemania is the smarkiest show of the year, and will be the best chance to get him in front of a crowd that knows who he is. There’s another wrestler that can help with his debut. Daniel Bryan has been advocating for a match with Nakamura for a year or so. If Bryan still isn’t cleared to wrestle by Mania, having him bring out Nakamura the day after would get a big pop. He can hang with him, for a while, maybe even team together if Bryan ever gets cleared. And like all good tag teams, the split between them could lead to a great match eventually.
Can Nakamura be WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Yes, though not as quickly as AJ Styles. Nakamura can easily fit in at the main event level, even with a few things going against him. Most notably, he is very Japanese. This isn’t a case of Roman Reigns being Samoan. Nakamura can’t really be separated from where he’s from, and while racial stereotypes aren’t as bad in NXT, this has yet to be proven to be the case on the main roster. Guys like Rusev come up, and are labeled “Evil Russians” even though he isn’t Russian.
There are a lot of great match-ups for Nakamura on the WWE roster. Pair him up with any main eventer and it’s a brand new, exciting match up. Cena, Lesnar, and Rollins all top the list of guys I want Nakamura to have a big match with. More then anyone else the WWE recently signed, Nakamura has the biggest upside. He could be WWE champ in less then a year, and be a huge star while being so. He also has the biggest potential to be a bust. Look at Sin Cara for an example of a huge international wrestler coming in and bombing out. I don’t think Nakamura will follow that safe path though.