Shinsuke Nakamura, on paper, has had a good WWE run thus far, winning both the Intercontinental Title and two US Championships, the SmackDown’s Tag Team titles, and the Royal Rumble since his 2017 main roster debut. In reality, Nakamura has been the subject of some really bad booking, intertwined with fleeting pushes.
First feuding with Dolph Ziggler to deliver an alright match at Backlash 2017, he then went onto the Money In The Bank ladder match to lose, sparking a feud with winner Baron Corbin during the match, where he went onto pick up forgettable wins at Battleground and on SmackDown Live to end the feud. Then he beat John Cena to make a massive statement of intent and set a date with Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam for the WWE title, which he lost, then he beat Randy Orton to earn another chance at Hell In A Cell, where he lost again.
He qualified for the men’s team at Survivor Series and was the first eliminated in the match by Braun Strowman and fans started to develop a sour taste for the booking of the New Japan megastar, who had torn it up with AJ Styles at the Tokyo Dome just a year before atWrestle Kingdom 10. After months more of drifting around the mid-card, he finally got his big moment at Royal Rumble last eliminating Roman Reigns to win the namesake match and set up the WrestleMania dream match with Styles for the WWE title.
He lost in a disappointing match at Mania, before turning heel with a low blow, a move which become the central nature of his heel persona, and would draw twice with Styles at the Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash events before losing to Styles at Money In The Bank. Nakamura then went on a run with the US title, where he was booked to lose in any match the belt wasn’t on the line, before eventually losing to Rusev 156 days later. He regained the belt just a month later, only to lose it two days later to R-Truth.
He has since won the IC title, settled with Sami Zayn and Cesaro to form the Artist Collective, lost the belt, won the SmackDown Tag titles with Cesaro, lost them, and now he continues to tag team with Cesaro. Their time as a tag team, however, has run its course, and fans can’t help but feel the tag team was a marriage of convenience for two stars destined for more.
Nakamura desperately needs a run as the singles competitor he is, comparing the careers of Nakamura and AJ Styles for example you see the contrasts in the results for two stars of a similar calibre, Styles has won it all and continues his run at the top battling against top opposition whilst Nakamura is currently stuck in a tag team with no definite plan heading into the biggest time of the year for wrestling.
WWE should be looking to push Nakamura and a potential feud with former comrade Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental and a significant match slot would be the best way to kick start a renaissance for Nakamura heading into WrestleMania.