Shinsuke Nakamura: The Return of the King…of Strong Style


Shinsuke Nakamura has been with WWE since 2016, but the King of Strong Style finally returned at WrestleMania 34.

Of all the NXT call-ups over the course of the past few years, it can be argued that none was more anticipated than Shinsuke Nakamura. WWE has never had a legitimate main event star from Japan and this was the first time they had the possibility to put a major title on a Japanese star.

Well-regarded in the ring and even more well-liked as a personality, Nakamura’s signing provided the hardcore fan base with another star who satiated their wrestling needs.

When he the signing was announced, Nakamura fans rejoiced. He was fresh off of an absolutely electric match with AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016. To entice viewers even more, Nakamura debuted the day before Wrestlemania 32 at NXT Takeover: Dallas against Sami Zayn in a five star caliber match.

Everything pointed to him being primed as the next big deal in WWE. Nakamura went on to have stellar programs in NXT with Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, and Bobby Roode. Each fan knew that he couldn’t stay off of the main roster for much longer as he won over the more hardcore NXT fan base week after week with a tremendous entrance and quality matches.

Making the Jump to the Main Roster

Riding a high wave of intense momentum, Nakamura debuted on SmackDown after WrestleMania 33. His first program was forgettable against Dolph Ziggler. This was followed up with a Money in the Bank storyline centered around bad blood with Baron Corbin. Again, forgettable. “The Artist,” as he was branded, then began a disappointing feud with Jinder Mahal who was enjoying an equally disappointing WWE Title run.

It seemed as though Nakamura was toiling away in the fall by not breaking through. Luckily, fans still gleefully sang along with his entrance theme, still one of the best in recent memory. There was not much hope that WWE knew what to do with him. “The Artist” gimmick was strange. His matches were below his talent level.

Trying to Recreate his Masterpiece

Then something remarkable happened as he won the 2018 Royal Rumble, thus guaranteeing him a spot in a championship match at WrestleMania 34. He declared AJ Styles his opponent immediately, and fans were being sold on this “dream match” that could only be better than their first encounter two years ago.

The lead-up was disappointing. Nakamura’s promos were odd at best and boring at their worst. His character lacked something that fans were all told he possessed. At least, fans could all look forward to their clash at WrestleMania.

When the match finally occurred, it was a forgettable bout likely bogged down by unrealistic expectations and a pacing that was baffling for two skilled in-ring technicians. People had lost faith in “the Artist” because he had been failing to deliver. The crowd reaction was lukewarm at best. Disappointment once again settled around Shinsuke Nakamura.

Nobody Saw it Coming

As a sign of respect, Nakamura got down on a knee and offered the title up to AJ. And then, boom! A low blow from Nakamura to AJ Styles followed by a disrespectful beatdown of the champion led to one of the most intriguing plot lines to emerge from WrestleMania.

Fans tuned in to Smackdown in the highest numbers in the last six months. Obviously this is to be expected, but with such an intriguing program it makes sense to see where this is going. Typically a weak talker, Nakamura went on to deliver easily the best segment of his main roster career.

This is the Nakamura every WWE fan was sold on when he debuted in NXT and on SmackDown. Nakamura followed this segment up with a vicious attack on Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles in which he hit AJ with another low blow and Daniel with a Kinshasa to the back of the head.

This is not “the Artist” anymore. This is the return of the “King of Strong Style.” Gone are the odd promos and formulaic babyface ring work. What we are witnessing is the rebirth of one of the best in-ring performers on the planet. This is the man who defeated AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in a classic performance.

Next: Ranking The Debuts And Returns From Raw

Time will tell if WWE handles this version of Nakamura with the promise of a charismatic performer with a vicious streak in the ring. Based on a very small sample size, it looks like this is what we are getting.