Armchair Booking: AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura
How do you build a feud as huge as AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura? Like this.
At the time of writing, Summerslam season is drawing to its close with both AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in two marquee matches for the Smackdown brand. Styles facing against Kevin Owens for the United States title and Nakamura taking on Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. Even though these are both huge, anticipated draws for the blue brand, neither are really the match fans truly want to see on a pay-per-view of this magnitude. Ever since the two were first leaked as WWE’s newest signees at the beginning of 2016, following on from their epic clash at Wrestle Kingdom 10, fans have been eagerly awaiting their first singles contest in the big leagues.
To the booking team’s credit, they have been uncharacteristically patient with pulling the trigger on this guaranteed money-maker. Occasionally teasing a programme between the two during dark segments and of course in this year’s Money in the Bank ladder match, it’s only a matter of time before the two are eventually thrusted into competition against one another. But this is definitely not something that should be given away on free television, nor on a Smackdown exclusive pay-per-view. This is a Wrestlemania-worthy feud.
So here’s how I’d be booking The Phenomenal One vs The King of Strong Style over the coming months.
I may look pretty stupid after making this comment, depending on the results of the two title matches, but let’s say that Nakamura walks away with the championship and Styles retains the US title. Over the course of September, they each bring their respective feuds to a conclusion, leaving Owens and Mahal to essentially switch roles and begin opposite feuds with Styles/Nakamura going towards the end of the year. This provides many opportunities for Smackdown main events to feature both Styles and Nakamura as tag team partners, building the camaraderie that we know exists between the two from their time in Japan as well as part of the Smackdown Live roster.
But as with all good friendships, friction begins to develop between the two as we journey closer to the Royal Rumble in January. Shane McMahon announces that Nakamura shall be defending his championship against the winner of a Fatal 5 Way match, featuring: AJ, Owens, Mahal, Zayn and Cena (Someone say that hasn’t got MOTY potential written on it). Of course, at this point, Styles would claim the victory and create that big-fight feel heading into the Rumble. Styles and Nakamura is finally destined to happen on a WWE pay-per-view.
At this point, I can imagine WWE would be billing this more as a Champion/Champion match, hopefully bringing a little more prestige to the US title in the meantime, showing it as a means of entering the main event scene rather than just meandering in the mid-card scene. Little to no real tension is shown between the two over the weeks leading up to the ppv, classic babyface/babyface booking here. Perhaps on the go-home show, they’d have a tense contract-signing or stare-down hammering home that these two know they’re two of the best wrestlers on the planet and are ready to go all the way to prove that on Sunday night.
Royal Rumble comes about and Styles/Nakamura is likely to be more over than the Rumble itself. Needless to say, they have a cracking match, a match which I’d like to say could break WWE tradition and go for an hour – reaching the time limit draw.
Nakamura retains the title by technicality. Styles is left knowing that he took Nakamura to his absolute limit.
The following Smackdown, the two show respect for one another saying that they created a match that the world is going to remember for years. Outshining the entire WWE roster that competed in a 30 man match. But AJ knows that he could have beaten Shinsuke if he had an extra 5 minutes.
Shane McMahon being the typical by-the-book GM says that AJ must earn his rematch, whilst also defending his United States Championship. For the sake of other bookings that we’ll find out about soon, AJ drops the title to Kevin Owens once again. The inevitable rematch happens at the February PPV, whilst Shinsuke defends his title against Baron Corbin, placating the need for an underdog champion feud.
Styles starts to become obsessed with the fact that he could have been WWE Champion once again, all he needs is one more shot at the champ. He doesn’t need the US title anymore to prove that he’s the rightful number one contender. He is Smackdown Live. Following Nakamura’s victory over Corbin, Styles attacks Nakamura from behind with the title, viciously beating him and hitting two Styles Clashes to bring the ppv to a close.
Styles, now effectively the biggest heel on the roster, demands that he gets his rematch against Nakamura at Wrestlemania. A massive brawl ensues between the two, which requires the entire Smackdown locker room to rush out and pull them apart. Shane panics and books the match for Mania. Although they must not touch one another prior to Mania, if they do, then the match is forfeit.
They’re both built over the coming weeks to be the strongest two competitors on the entire roster, routinely being put in matches which make them look incredible heading into Mania. Perhaps Nakamura can continue his mini-feud with Corbin, while Styles can take on Zayn so they both have someone to bring out their strengths before the big marquee match.
Next stop: Wrestlemania 34. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship – who’s your winner? Comment below.