Friday nights have been on fire as of late thanks to the efforts of SmackDown Live. Not only has Roman Reigns produced one of the most intriguing heel characters of the era, but we’ve also seen the resurgence of some old favourites in the main event scene: Kevin Owens, Big E and most recently, ‘The King of Strong Style’ himself, Shinsuke Nakamura.
The former United States, Intercontinental and NXT Champion shocked the world by going the distance in the No. 1 Contender’s Gauntlet match, wracking up some huge wins over the likes of Rey Mysterio, King Corbin and Daniel Bryan. It seemed as if WWE were pulling the trigger on a renewed run in the championship picture, until the swerve involving SmackDown GM, Adam Pearce.
Where the typical authority figure trope may usually be seen as frustrating, I consider this a gift to all Nakamura fans who are now chomping at the bit for him to get his rightful shot at Reigns’ Universal title. Shinsuke has instantly been elevated from his minor role in the tag division to a status almost on par with his main roster debut. Fans are willing to give Nakamura one last chance to impress, with this career resurgence potentially being the final opportunity to capitalise on his popularity and eclectic style.
It’s very unlikely that if Nakamura does make it to a championship match at the upcoming Royal Rumble pay-per-view that he’d actually go on to win the belt from ‘The Tribal Chief’, and nor should he. As much as I love the fact that Shinsuke is returning to his deserved spot on the roster’s hierarchy, Reigns has been on fire as of late and should hold onto that title until at least WrestleMania. Rumours suggest that Daniel Bryan may be next in line for the Universal title, and that could extend to his first Rumble win at the end of the month, but I do hope those plans involve Nakamura in some degree going forward.
WWE shouldn’t allow this resurgence to slip through their fingers again; Nakamura is a huge, marketable star with enough of a fanbase to make him one of the biggest names in the wrestling industry. Much like Kofi Kingston in 2019, this could very well be the start of a new grassroots movement that could eventually bring Nakamura to championship glory.
The screwjob on SmackDown Live could easily lead in to a Nakamura underdog story, where the ‘King’ has to prove himself worthy of another shot at the big time against some of SmackDown’s fellow hard-hitters, culminating in a WrestleMania programme that promotes him as one of SmackDown’s breakout stars.
Now, Shinsuke isn’t exactly the best talker on the roster, but he can certainly win fans over with his unique character and natural charisma. Perhaps Nakamura could use this as a chance to put on some exciting, strong-style inspired matches that reminds the WWE Universe just how great he can be between the ropes, and once WrestleMania is wrapped up, he can be the first in line for a title match.
Nakamura would certainly benefit from a return of live crowds, who would easily build an aura around Shin as he battles his way back up the card. Referring back to the KofiMania movement, this was mostly fuelled by the undying passion of the New Day’s fanbase, Nakamura could very much be in the same boat with a very vocal following wanting to see him achieve everything he was originally destined for.
So long as ‘The Artist’ doesn’t find himself relegated back into the mid-card title picture, then this should be the start of something very special for Shinsuke Nakamura, and maybe even Cesaro by proxy of being his tag partner. Either way, this proves that there is still hope for some of WWE’s dying stars in 2021.
Would you like to see Shinsuke Nakamura ascend into the Universal title picture? Do you think WWE will run with his newfound popularity? Let us know in the comments below.
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