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Shinsuke Nakamura should stay on SmackDown Live after the WWE Superstar Shake-up

Tom Clark
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 10:23 IST
Shinsuke Nakamura has a great new home on SmackDown Live

Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut on SmackDown Live was not exactly unexpected, but it was a bit surprising to many fans. The biggest reason for that is due to Monday Night Raw’s placement as WWE’s flagship program. Raw has had 24 years’ worth of historic moments, shocking swerves, and monumental matches.

That backdrop was the one that a great talent like Nakamura deserved. But there were a couple of problems with that notion. Finn Balor returned on the Raw after WrestleMania, taking up valuable space as the program’s top babyface. Plus, Mondays belong to Roman Reigns. The truth is that Nakamura is on the right show right now.

SmackDown has arguably been the hotter of the two brands over the past several months. While Raw tends to get bogged down with the incessant power play from Stephanie McMahon, SmackDown Live usually feels a lot lighter.

Tuesday nights aren’t about getting the boss over; they’re about getting the talents over. Fans know this and respect it. While Raw will always be WWE’s top priority, there can be no denying that the blue brand has indeed taken great strides, since the last draft.

Now that Nakamura is in the fold, SmackDown Live could possibly keep growing far past its older brother.

A main event roster of Nakamura, AJ Styles, John Cena and Randy Orton is one that many likely believed was impossible at one time. WWE depended so much on its own homegrown stars, and any outside talents that came in usually conformed directly to the company’s status quo.

With rare exceptions like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, WWE typically shaped each talent into Superstars that fit the company’s mould.

Nakamura has stayed true to his character in WWE

But Triple H’s work with NXT has changed all of that, and many dream wrestlers are now on Vince McMahon’s payroll. This is where Nakamura comes in, as The King of Strong Style has found a home on what many feel is the WWE’s most exciting program.


However, WWE’s upcoming “Superstar Shake-up” on April 10 could change everything. The company is not referring to the event as a draft, so it’s unknown right now exactly what will happen. But it’s obvious that WWE likely intends on making some big moves between both brands.

Reigns will surely remain on Raw, as he and Brock Lesnar appear to be heading toward a feud for the WWE Universal Championship. Orton and Bray Wyatt have unfinished business when it comes to the WWE Championship, so they will surely continue to stay on SmackDown.

But the rest of the roster is in doubt. WWE could choose to go in different directions for any number of the other top Superstars, leaving both brands in chaos. Of course, that’s not to say that those moves should not happen.

Perhaps the biggest criticism surrounding WWE in the past has been its tendency for monotony. Week after week, the same Superstars work each other in the same storylines over and over again.

While this is to be expected to a certain extent, fans have always responded positively to new match-ups. That’s surely what will come after WWE shakes up the rosters.

Nakamura and AJ Styles had a historic match in New Japan

However, if there’s one talent that should keep his current address, it’s definitely Nakamura. He’s a great fit on SmackDown Live, and there’s potential for him to become the top star on Tuesday nights. But there are two caveats to Nakamura’s rise.

The first involves the way his character has been handled on NXT. Nakamura is one of the most charismatic talents to ever step into the ring, but his limited English prevents him from cutting long winded promos. That’s a good thing for many fans, as Nakamura doesn’t waste a lot of time. He’s all business, and that’s how he should be.

He was a mega star on NXT, just as he was in New Japan. Every time he was in the ring, it was a potential five-star match. He can get it done against anyone, and fans always get their money’s worth. Nakamura doesn’t have a bad match, and that’s been the case since he debuted on NXT.

The key to making him special is ensuring he continues on the path he’s travelled thus far. Nakamura is the babyface answer to Brock Lesnar; when he’s in the ring, it should be treated as an event. Using him week after week may not be the right move, which means he should be saved primarily for the big matches.

Of course, it doesn’t get any bigger than Nakamura versus AJ Styles.

It’s the second caveat to Nakamura’s ascension, because of all the possible matchups fans want to see him in, this is surely at the very top of the list. He and Styles had an instant classic at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January of 2016, and it remains arguably the best match of their careers.

If Styles continues on SmackDown Live, then he and Nakamura will surely clash sooner rather than later. If WWE is intent on saving that match for a big event like SummerSlam, then the two could find themselves on separate shows after April 10.

Despite how WWE chooses to book him now or in the future, Nakamura should stay on Tuesday nights. Raw may indeed belong to The Big Dog, but SmackDown Live could be conquered by The King of Strong Style.

Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Sportskeeda. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.

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Published 10 Apr 2017, 10:28 IST
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