wrestling / Columns

Reasons For Shinsuke Nakamura’s Cold Debut

May 18, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Lambert

Shinsuke Nakamura makes his WWE in-ring debut this Sunday at Backlash against Dolph Ziggler. And I’m….not all that excited.

Since interrupting The Miz on the first SmackDown LIVE following WrestleMania with a grand violin entrance, Nakamura has yet to capture the imagination of fans the way he did when he first arrived in NXT. How could WWE screw up one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the history over the sport so quickly? Amazingly, it didn’t take a whole lot of effort.

The Superstar Shake-up 

Based on his debut, it seemed pretty obvious that Nakamura’s first feud would be against The Miz. That’s a perfect first feud for anyone because Miz is a guaranteed heat magnet. He’s one of the best in the business on the mic and he knows how to work to the strengths of his opponents. He would have played the annoying heel to perfection against Nakamura’s laid back coolness.

Instead, Miz went to Raw to feud with Dean Ambrose again and Nakamura became stuck with….

Dolph Ziggler

There was a time after the brand split where Ziggler did some good things. His feud with Dean Ambrose wasn’t bad, even if it felt a bit forced and lacking any momentum. His feud with Miz was outstanding, another testament to Miz’ ability to get the best out of his feuds and opponents. Since then, he’s been lukewarm at best. He’s now the “held back bitter veteran,” a role that makes sense, but a role that he can’t pull off with any believability.

Ziggler’s “Michael Jackson” promo from a few weeks ago was some of the worst “comedy” from a rumored stand-up comedian that I’ve ever seen. The fake interview that preceded the promo felt like a poor Miz impressed that bombed. His subsequent work and switch to “bitter veteran who gets no respect” has felt uninspired and forced. Ziggler can’t figure out if he’s supposed to be Miz or Chris Jericho, so he fails at being either.

Watching Ziggler these past few weeks trying to carry this feud would seem to validate WWE not trusting him with a big run throughout his career.

The Artist

I don’t even know what this means, but the announcers keep telling me that Nakamura is some kind of artist.

This is truly one of the worst qualities about WWE. The forced nicknames that are attached to wrestlers before they do anything of note. Why was Dolph Ziggler, the ‘Show Off,’ because he liked to oversell things? Why was Sting, the ‘Vigilante,’ because he appeared without warning? Everyone who is anyone in WWE has an assigned nickname. Some have multiple nicknames because sometimes it’s just not enough to be an ‘Architect’ or the ‘New Face of Fear.’ You need to be a ‘King Slayer’ and ‘Eater of Worlds’ as well.

Shinsuke Nakamura can’t just be the ‘King of Strong Style,’ he must also be an ‘Artist.’ He’s an artist, you see, because he went starving his entire career in Japan and WWE finally gave him his big break. He’s an artist because he kind half-asses the small shows, but put him in a stadium and he’ll deliver the performance of a lifetime. He’s an artist because he doesn’t just wrestle, he crafts full scenes with his work. At least, that’s why I assume he’s an artist. I’m really not sure of the reasoning.

Lack of Momentum

Having momentum is very important in sports. When everything is seemingly going your way, the whole team feels unstoppable. But if you’re not getting any breaks, everything else feels lessened. SmackDown LIVE doesn’t have a whole lot of momentum right now.

The problem starts at the top of the card with the world title. At WrestleMania, SmackDown’s world title match was a complete dud that not even maggots could save. It didn’t get any better at Payback when the world champion lost an absolutely dreadful House of Horrors match. Jinder Mahal is now the #1 contender for the title, which doesn’t make the belt feel all that important considering that Mahal has been an afterthought since he re-signed last year. When your top program has no heat, it has a trickle down effect.

SmackDown LIVE just doesn’t feel as important or fresh as it did earlier in the year. A boring world champion, the exit of The Miz, the layoff of John Cena, and the quick face turn of AJ Styles has turned SmackDown into a mundane show in need of a spark.

Shinsuke Nakamura

Nakamura was supposed to be that spark, but it just hasn’t connected quite yet. I get the feeling that WWE threw Nakamura out on TV and just figured he would be a big star because he’s Shinsuke Nakamura and he has more charisma than 98 percent of the roster. While it’s lazy thinking, I can’t exactly fault them for it. The problem lies in the factors mentioned above and the fact that they seemingly have no idea how to present Nakamura.

Maybe, in the end, this is all a Nakamura problem. He’s a charismatic Japanese worker who doesn’t fit the typical mold. His dancing and gyrating would typically make him a lower card comedy character. His strikes and wrestling style would typically make him a mid to upper card threat. But his descent would definitely make him an evil foreigner heel.

One can only hope that a strong in-ring performance on Sunday turns the tides for Nakamura. Because an uninspired and lackluster outing may send WWE back to the drawing board with Shinsuke.

Let’s be friends on twitter. I’m @jeremylambert88

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