Will WWE Change Shinsuke Nakamura’s Strong Style?


The WWE is more conscious of head injuries than any time in its history. How will this affect Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE?

Now-former IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura reports this week to WWE’s Performance Center to begin his acclimation to the “WWE style” of sports entertainment. Those familiar with Nakamura know that he’s called the “King of Strong Style” for a reason — in a style known for legit, stiff strikes and submission holds, Nakamura excels at combining those elements with other scarily real-looking shots that make the audience wonder how the heck his opponent’s head is still attached (see: the bomaye knee, broken down expertly in this insanely informative essay by Vice’s Jack Slack).

The “WWE style” has its differences from traditional strong style, lucha libre, and other international grappling disciplines, although new talent is obviously allowed to incorporate what made them an attractive signing in the first place. Other recent Japanese signees–notably Hideo Itami and Asuka–have had little issue with working a WWE match after a brief acclimation period.

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However, we’re talking about the King here, people–and if you’re not familiar yet with what we’re dealing with, go find Nakamura’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 match against AJ Styles and cold check that ending sequence. Go ahead–I’ll wait.

OK, we good? Pop some aspirin if you need to, because those head shots give me a headache watching them.

The WWE, as most know, is under fire in the courtroom fending off negligence lawsuits relating to concussions suffered by former employees like Big Vito and Billy Jack Haynes. And perhaps most in the forefront of every fan’s mind is the in-ring absence of one Daniel Bryan, who continues to sit on the sidelines, aching to get in the ring to mix it up with WWE’s recent acquisitions. (Heck, D-Bry’s been lobbying for a dream match with Nakamura since last year.)

Now, WWE’s already sent some mixed signals in recent months when it comes to how much concern they really have about head injuries; they signed human maraca Tommy Dreamer, a man who’s admitted to suffering 13 to 16 concussions in his career while keeping Bryan on the shelf. But the question begs asking: will the lawsuit-twitchy WWE let Shinsuke Nakamura use the bomaye knee in their ring?

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OK, sure–the knee doesn’t actually connect flush with an opponent’s head, as Slack breaks down in that Vice article, but that’s also assuming Nakamura’s opponent knows where to put his head in order to take and sell that shot properly. We’re talking about a big ol’ roster full of guys that have never been in the ring with Nakamura, including some that aren’t exactly known for their 5-star safety rating (I don’t want to name names, but I’m curious to see if WWE lets Nakamura work with a certain large person whose name rhymes with “thighback”). It could only take one botch to kick open a heavyweight can of worms.

Then again, we’ve already seen that the ‘E is totally cool with AJ’s Styles Clash, even though that move is a documented and quite literal neckbreaker. Oh, and with AJ in the WWE locker room, the roster has at least one guy able to partner with Nakamura in order to show the rest of the boys how to take the bomaye and still be able to spell their last name post-match.

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But is it a risk the WWE is willing to take in 2016? Will we ever finally see the Nakamura-Bryan dream match fans are salivating for–with both men using every weapon in their arsenal? What do you think?