In February of 2016, WWE announced the signing of New Japan Superstar, Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura was long rumoured to be leaving Japan’s top promotion for the world’s most recognisable wrestling brand, and when it was confirmed, the wrestling world went wild.
Not long removed from a legendary battle with AJ Styles at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 10, fans salivated at the potential match-ups for Nakamura in NXT and beyond. Matches against the likes of Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler and more had dream potential, but it was Samoa Joe who would prove to be Nakamura’s first great rival.
Nakamura and Finn Balor delivered a memorable match at Full Sail University, before the latter departed for the main roster, leaving Shinsuke Nakamura as the most logical challenger for Samoa Joe’s NXT Championship, a title he won from the aforementioned Balor.
Nakamura would defeat Joe on his first opportunity, at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II. This is in stark contrast to Joe’s path to the title, which saw him suffer multiple losses at the hands of Balor, before finally winning the title at a house show in Lowell, Massachusetts (USA).
The rematch between Joe and Nakamura was obvious, yet it was well built over the three-month span between SummerSlam and Survivor Series. Joe was the perfect antagonist for both Nakamura and NXT General Manager William Regal, elevating his game outside the ring to match what he presents inside of it.
However, most assumed Joe would fall in defeat to Nakamura, losing the feud and potentially heading to the WWE main roster.
Most assumed wrong.
The result of the main event at NXT Takeover: Toronto shocked the Internet wrestling community with Samoa Joe becoming the first ever two-time NXT Champion—ironically on the same night that the first ever two-time champions in NXT history of any kind, The Revival, lost their titles to DIY.
Looking forward, it’s easy to speculate as to what’s on the horizon for both men. There’s a rumoured NXT Takeover event for the tour of Australia and New Zealand, which may very well be off thanks to ESPN’s report, that there will be, one Takeover event around every WWE “major” pay-per-view event.
It is not known if this will include the Royal Rumble, as that report indicates this will begin with WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida (USA). At the current time, there is an advertised “NXT Live” event at The Aztec Theater in San Antonio for the Thursday before the Royal Rumble, but this could easily change to a Takeover event.
So while we could very well see the third match in the series between Joe and Nakamura (not counting non-televised house shows) in either San Antonio or Australia (or even at Full Sail University), that needs to be the end for Shinsuke Nakamura in NXT.
The Royal Rumble match itself, at the 72,000-seat Alamodome, serves as the ideal night for the Japanese star’s debut on the main roster.
Imagine the roar of the crowd, when the first entrant is about to be announced, and the lights go out to reveal Shinsuke Nakamura to everyone in the arena.
While matches against Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and others are enticing, the main roster is where Shinsuke Nakamura belongs. There’s great potential for him on either brand and a WrestleMania showcase match, similar to AJ Styles’ first showing on “wrestling’s grandest stage” is the perfect way to jumpstart his career after NXT.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s run in NXT has been memorable, but it’s time. It’s time for the already legendary competitor to add to his legacy, on the stage that the WWE can provide—and it should start at the Royal Rumble.
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