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WWE Backlash 2017: Evaluating Shinsuke Nakamura's main event potential heading into the PPV

Tom Clark
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 10:47 IST
Shinsuke Nakamura has made a splash on SmackDown Live

Shinsuke Nakamura will face Dolph Ziggler at WWE Backlash on Sunday, May 21. It’s Nakamura’s ring debut since arriving on the main roster, and fans everywhere are surely anxious to see how this match will go at the blue branded exclusive event.

The question is how far will Nakamura go in WWE? It’s a query that’s been made from the day he first came to NXT, and before. Fans have always wondered how his Strong Style would mesh with the WWE style, and how much the company would be willing to invest in his success.

WWE is of course not in the business of signing talents to watch them fail. Despite any criticism to the contrary, Vince McMahon’s company wants to create stars, not fill the bench with workers that don’t have potential.

So when it comes to an international sensation like Nakamura, it’s obvious that WWE has high hopes for his future. Of course, much of Nakamura’s future directly depends on what the company has planned for him. Is he to be the next AJ Styles or the next Roman Reigns?

On one side is Styles, a man considered to be perhaps the best wrestler in the world today. He’s a veteran, he’s got incredible ability, and he’s an artist in every sense of the word. He is the blueprint for what a professional wrestler should be, and he will go down as one of the greatest to ever step through the ropes.

Also read: 5 Reasons Kevin Owens will retain the United States Championship against AJ Styles

AJ Styles reached the heights of success in WWE

But he’s not the top guy. That may be debatable to some, and with good reason. After all, he was WWE champion. He defeated John Cena. He’s headlined pay-per-views. He’s done everything that longtime fans hoped he would do after arriving in WWE.

It could even be said that he’s come farther than many believed he ever would. The initial response to anyone coming in from outside of the company has never really been positive in the eyes of the fans. It was believed that WWE would simply not do right by AJ, and resign him to the mid-card for his tenure with the company.


He’s not a WWE creation; McMahon had no hand in crafting his character or promoting him from the ground up. Whereas a talent like Kurt Angle was born in a WWE ring and deservedly took his place among the immortals in the Hall of Fame, Styles made his own way.

AJ was Phenomenal before anyone even knew who he was. He’s always been a naturally gifted performer, and he’s only improved with time. Fans recognised just how good he was in TNA, and when he jumped to New Japan, that respect followed him. He worked hard to earn that respect, and he made it happen without WWE.

However, instead of treating him like a second-class citizen, WWE opened the door for Styles and allowed him to be himself. The man that fans now see in WWE is the same man they saw before; only now he’s a little better, and a little wiser. He’s been a major asset to that company, and he will undoubtedly continue to be as time goes on.

This is what Nakamura could become; a trusted main event star that delivers every time his number is called. Nakamura is a natural, he’s a proven commodity, and he’s got the potential to get over on a very high level. Getting to the point that AJ has is a good thing; mainstream WWE fans love Styles, and they will love Nakamura.

The sky is the limit for Nakamura in WWE

Of course, Nakamura is not Roman Reigns. That comparison would likely incite a riot among Nakamura’s fans. Obviously, the two men are not the same in terms of ability in the ring. Reigns works a different style than Nakamura, and though they can both brawl, Shinsuke has finesse.

He also has charisma, which places him head and shoulders above other stars in the company. Nakamura exudes confidence, and he’s definitely one of a kind. But Reigns is the top guy. He had been working to earn that spot for the past couple of years, and WWE had been opening doors for him to attain that spot.

Retiring The Undertaker was the final step in Reigns’ maturation process, and now The Big Dog is exactly where the company wants him to be. He’s there despite tremendous resistance from fans who continue to boo him out of the building. In any other era, that sort of negative reaction would directly affect how Reigns is booked. But not today.

He’s at the very top of the industry now. But what are the chances WWE will support a Nakamura rise they way it supported Reigns? History suggests that if a guy catches fire and gets red hot, doors will open for him. That was true of Stone Cold Steve Austin, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.

None of the three was ever believed to be the next big thing, but each man made his own way and climbed the ladder to the top. Could the same happen for Nakamura?

Reaching the top five of WWE is no small feat. The hard work, talent, and dedication it takes is enormous. If Nakamura does indeed get there, and he surely will, then it will be due to his effort and the effort of WWE to get him over. But if he is to go higher, then he must get red hot at just the right time.

He needs great timing, he needs the right support, and more importantly, he needs the fans. If he has all of that, then there’s no limit as to just how far he can go.

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 at

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Published 18 May 2017, 08:52 IST
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