Why AJ Styles Vs Shinsuke Nakamura Should Main Event Wrestlemania 34
Surely it just makes sense to have two of the most popular wrestlers around today duke it out?
After their instant classic at Wrestle Kingdom 10, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura joined the WWE, in a move that excited wrestling fans the world over. Styles’ debut year with the company was scintillating, winning the WWE Championship and beating John Cena on two separate occasions. He has continued to put on some of the best matches the company has seen in recent times, especially his master class at the Royal Rumble against the leader of the Cenation.
Contrastingly, Nakamura spent a year in NXT, captivating the fanatical supporters throughout his year-long run with the brand. His debut bout against Sami Zayn was among the best produced all year, and his feuds with Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode helped elevate all three competitors. His transition to the main roster has been smooth, if not as exciting as his NXT days.
They are close to, if not the most popular superstars in WWE today, which was perfectly shown throughout AJ Styles’ heel turn, where he was still cheered more than most babyfaces on the roster. The problem the WWE faces with both of these superstars is their popularity, making it very difficult to create a heel/babyface dynamic.
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WWE was heavily criticised in 2016 for its reliance on part-timers. Styles’ match at Wrestlemania 33 was against Smackdown Live commissioner Shane McMahon; Goldberg and Brock Lesnar fought over the Universal Championship, which the latter still holds despite rarely appearing on television. And the main event consisted of Roman Reigns versus The Undertaker in what could prove to be the Deadman’s last ever bout.
The prominence of the part-timers left the solid workers who fight upwards of four times a week like Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and many others pushed down the card. Both the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania were dominated by the hype of the returning stars.
If the WWE is to keep pace with the likes of New Japan Pro Wrestling and the ever-improving independent scene, then they need to move away from this way of thinking. Each of the last 3 Mania’s have seen a part-timer in the main event, so there is little reward for really putting the work in.
Styles and Nakamura are the two men to rely on to bring about this change, because they guarantee to put in stellar performances whenever they are called upon. The two have been teaming up as of late on Smackdown, but the excitement for the two eventually feuding is evident among the fanbase. The crowd reaction to their period of fighting during the Money in the Bank ladder match was electric, and it felt like a huge deal that the pair were face to face.
There are many different ways the WWE can build up to a battle between the Phenomenal One and the King of Strong Style. WWE have shown in recent times that the babyface versus heel dynamic doesn’t need to be set in stone for a feud to take place. Just look at Lesnar vs Joe and Reigns vs Strowman as prime examples. A battle of the two most popular stars is a viable route.
After Styles’ heel run in 2016, it seems unlikely he would be the one to be turned. There is huge potential for a Shinsuke Nakamura heel turn in WWE. His charismatic and engaging persona makes it difficult as he has such a connection with the fans, but the idea of an angry Japanese fighter running around as the King of Strong Style, bludgeoning everyone with those fierce knee strikes is truly mouth-watering. It’d be a brave move.
With the two on the same brand, it’d be simple to set them up in a feud, which should be over the WWE Championship. Jinder Mahal is not a long-term champion, he can’t be, with the calibre of superstar on the roster at the current time. Baron Corbin will also wear the strap within the next year after he won the Money in the Bank briefcase.
But let’s go off into fantasy land for just a moment, and say that coming out of the Royal Rumble, AJ Styles is the WWE Champion for the second time. That same night, Shinsuke Nakamura wins the Royal Rumble match, and the foundations are set.
The pair would provide perhaps the best one-on-one Wrestlemania main event since The Undertaker retired Shawn Michaels in 2010. And no matter what way the result goes, the fans will go home happy having just seen an instant classic.