Royal Rumble should be the beginning of Shinsuke Nakamura's WWE resurgence
Shinsuke Nakamura is a name that every professional wrestling fan is familiar with. He was a household name in his native country of Japan and, along with Hiroshi Tanahashi, was instrumental in the success of New Japan Pro Wrestling in early 2010s. A bonafide headliner, the man was a multiple time world champion in Japan and headlined various NJPW pay-per-views during his tenure with the organisation. Such was his popularity in Japan that the IWGP Intercontinental Title used to get top billing over the IWGP World Title when he was the one holding it. The man was so immensely popular that when WWE signed him to contract to wrestle for them in 2016, it was regarded as the biggest signing in professional wrestling at the time. The fans, who knew what he was capable of when he was in the ring, were excited about the prospect of Nakamura reaching the same popularity in WWE.
Nakamura arrived in WWE in style, with a win over Sami Zayn in what was arguably the best WWE match of 2016. His charisma, his talent, and the ability to get over with the fans was so high that within months of his debut, he won the NXT Championship and had a string of impressive title matches against the likes of Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode over the next 10 months. With the way he was growing in NXT, it was evident that it wouldn't be long before the King of Strong Style got the main roster call. His main roster debut, two days after Wrestlemania 33, got a thunderous reaction from the fans. Who knew it was all downwards from there for Nakamura?
His lacklustre feud with Dolph Ziggler should have ended with him squashing the Show off, but due to WWE's 50-50 booking, Nakamura had to take the pinfall loss after beating Ziggler on the pay-per-view. His subsequent feud with Baron Corbin was equally lacklustre. The death blow came when he became the number one contender for the WWE Title, then held by Jinder Mahal, who had made a surprising jump from the lower card to the top of the card. Nakamura's victory over John Cena to become the number one contender for Summerslam was the perfect way of presenting him as the right candidate to dethrone Jinder as the WWE Champion. Summerslam was the perfect place for the coronation of Nakamura as WWE Champion.
And what does WWE do? They have him defeated by Mahal right in the middle of the ring. If that wasn't enough, he was the victim of racist remarks by Jinder and was again pinned by Mahal at Hell in a Cell. And now, only 10 months after his glittering WWE main roster debut, Shinsuke Nakamura's legitimacy in WWE is at an all time low. From being the King of Strong Style to being WWE's Resident Rockstar, Nakamura's stock in WWE plummeted to such an extent that he was the first superstar eliminated in the huge traditional Survivor Series Match. WWE needs to find a way to make him relevant again, and with Royal Rumble just around the corner, WWE just might have the right way to do so.
One constant with Nakamura, even during these lacklustre feuds, was the positive reaction he received from the crowd. The crowd loves Nakamura; they cheer for him everytime he makes an appearance, and WWE needs to capitalize on this situation. The Royal Rumble match is supposed to make legends out of superstars and Nakamura needs this momentum the most. He is just too good of a Superstar to take pinfall losses in tag team matches or against other wrestlers. Royal Rumble should be the night when Nakamura begins his resurgence in WWE. A victory in the Rumble Match would not only bring him back into the limelight, but would be the perfect way of booking the dream match between him and WWE Champion AJ Styles at Wrestlemania. Royal Rumble has always been the place where forgotten wrestlers become relevant again, like Randy Orton in 2009, and this time out, it's Nakamura's turn to show how important he is to WWE. 2018 could very well be Shinsuke Nakamura's year in WWE, and it should start with an impressive performance at the Royal Rumble.