Shinsuke Nakamura shocked the world when he turned on WWE champion AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34. The King of Strong Style bowed out of respect to AJ after their match, only to deliver a low-blow to The Phenomenal One as the crowd gasped in disbelief.
Nakamura struck again on the following episode of SmackDown live, leaving Styles flat on his back. As fans try to understand Nakamura’s motives, it’s obvious that there are more questions than answers. It’s also obvious that Nakamura can become the hottest heel in Vince McMahon’s company.
Who saw this coming? From the moment that Shinsuke debuted on the main roster, he’s been a wildly popular Superstar. Fans all over the world accepted him and loved him unconditionally. He didn’t need to win every match and he didn’t need to be perfect. All he had to do was show up and it was more than enough.
Just his presence alone did wonders for WWE. He was different, he was unique and he was eccentric. No one looked like Nakamura, no one sounded like him and no one worked like him. He was a one-of-a-kind talent and the WWE faithful knew it.
Nakamura was regarded as one of the best in the world long before he stepped into a WWE ring. New Japan fans witnessed his rise to prominence and they recognized his ability to master his environment. Nakamura chewed the scenery every time he was on camera and it was indeed impossible to ignore him. His supporters knew that if he ever went to WWE, he would flourish. There was just no way around it.
Nakamura is just so good. He understands what the business is, just as he understands his place in it. He never held anything back and that was why he had success in Japan. But when he arrived in WWE, his work was stifled from the start.
He still looked the part but something was missing. In WWE’s efforts to rebuild him as a Superstar, Nakamura seemed to lose a step. He was a bit too animated at times and perhaps even a bit too theatrical. The same traits that facilitated his explosion in New Japan were the very ones that sent him over the edge of believability in WWE.
Fans loved watching him but they didn’t understand who he was. There was no real connection and it seemed as though Nakamura would just continue to shimmy his way through a company that insisted on cramping his style. Nakamura was no longer The King of Strong Style and that was the real problem. But now the king is back on the throne.
This is the Nakamura that WWE needed. He could not come in as a heel because he would not be taken seriously. He was just too entertaining and fans would ultimately turn him babyface eventually. But now that he’s wearing the black hat, Nakamura can be as nasty as he wants to be and fans will hate him for it.
His odd behavior was fun before. But now it’s disturbing. His swagger was alluring but now it’s revolting. Nakamura managed to take the same character and twist it ever so slightly, to the point that now he’s hated. All he had to do was lay hands on AJ Styles.
Fans respected Nakamura for his accomplishments outside of WWE, but they loved Styles for his. AJ was the standard bearer for a company that didn’t deserve his level of talent. He could have left TNA any time he wanted and surely made more money elsewhere. But he continued to be the big fish in a small pond. He stayed and was determined to make it work.
When he jumped to New Japan, he proved to the world just how good he was. It’s not as though he suddenly became phenomenal in Japan; he was phenomenal in the states as well. But he used New Japan as a showcase for everything he had learned about the wrestling business. New Japan was a WWE audition for Styles whether anyone knew it or not.
Fans instantly gravitated to Styles when he came to WWE and they’re still with him now. That’s why the massive WrestleMania crowd booed Shinsuke after the attack. That’s why the SmackDown Live crowd did the same thing after the second attack. A Nakamura heel turn would likely not have worked against anyone else but AJ Styles. Now Nakamura has the whole world at his feet.
Shinsuke has the opportunity to shine like he never has before. His heel persona is extremely vicious in the ring and that’s what WWE needs him to do right now. Fans must believe that he has the potential to get in the ring with any Superstar and end that man’s career. He was cold-blooded in New Japan. He must be ice in WWE.
Nakamura cannot possess any redeeming qualities if he is to get over as a heel. Fans must hate him from the moment the opening bell rings and they must hate him even more by the time the last bell rings. He can be exactly the kind of antagonist that WWE needs right now but he must do it his way.
So the next time Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hits, fans need to boo. He must saunter down to the ring with the bizarre machismo that once made him popular and fans must curse him for it. Nakamura will stare daggers every time he looks at the crowd and they will believe he’s capable of anything in the ring. This is the villain that can take WWE by storm and he’s just getting warm.
The Good, Bad and Ugly SmackDown Live (2/19/19)
Bobby gives us the Good, Bad and Ugly of SmackDown following Elimination Chamber!
Bobby gives us the Good, Bad and Ugly of SmackDown following Elimination Chamber!
Raw was okay. That’s it. NXT did their usual stellar job but the show had some major flaws. It’s nothing major and overall Raw was Good and more than got the job done. The whole roster both NXT and WWE Raw and SmackDown have been going full steam and ready for this WrestleMania which speaking personally feels very special this year for some reason.
Here comes the money! Shane took to business hyping the NXT call ups, when Miz interrupted and apologized to his partner. Shane O Mac and Miz can work the hell out of a crowd and bring a ton of emotions every single time! Sometimes things get crazy and not everything clicks especially when high risk is involved which messes these guys up every single match. They still continue to show up every show and put in work. We haven’t seen their best stuff yet. The Usos when they get loose out go wild and leave it all out there. All legit vets that can work and will be present in the some fashion at WrestleMania. It went a little bit slow and long but it was from the heart which WWE fans respect. Uso’s joined and taunted McMiz to a rematch in a mocking fashion. Fastlane Rematch for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. Good by a heartbeat, the match Fastlane hopefully will be better than the last one.
Andrade w/ Zelina Vega vs. Aleister Black
SD Live whipped out the big guns in this one! Holy talent! No need to build up this match, it is Good the way it is. As usual we had talent showcasing kicks, strikes and high risk. That is these guys comfort zone and it shows. The NXT crew has only made things better as they always do. Being used in the NXT personas has been a great way to keep them prominent and seemingly safe from being buried on the main roster. Andrade was a huge NXT Star himself at one time and him and Black are a perfect blend. Zelina Vega is a pleasant addition to Andrade every match as well and always finds a way to get involved effectively. However before she could get involved in this one, Aleister Black hits “Black Mass” for the win. Solid, clean match with two very talented Superstars.
“DIY” Ciampa and Gargano (NXT and NXT NA Champions) vs. The Bar Shamus and Cesaro
The promo of Cesaro talking trash and The Bar laughing and belittling DIY was entertaining and very effective. Good little hype promo. This is a solid contrast of teams. All four are extremely intense and physical. DIY has all the speed and the little bit of crazy that helps when you need it. The Bar is all precision, pain and power. Really stiff match here, a lot of punishment on both sides. It was fantastic though as NXT Talent continues to show up ready to rock out! The Bar had this match on ice but out Ciampa got the blind tag and an over the top “roll up” on the “Swiss Superman” for the upset victory. Awesome Match!
Non-Title Match- (SmackDown Women’s Champion) Asuka vs. Mandy Rose
Mandy Rose wanted to fulfill Asuka’s Challenge. Mandy Rose with her sidekick Sonya Deville came down and Mandy Rose faced the Champ. Out of the blue, Lacey Evans came out distracting everyone. Sonya Deville stood in her way and turned her around. Mandy Rose looked great in there and working with someone as Good as Asuka is a big thing for her. Asuka is amazing and is a strong person to have that title. Mandy Rose hit a vicious knee on the outside and later played an eye injury getting a cheap roll up for the win and pinned the SmackDown Women’s Champion in this non-title match.
Ricochet vs. Eric Young w/ Sanity)
Another very effective mix of talent here. Eric Young who isn’t seen enough being as Good as he is, facing the best of the best, Ricochet. This is a potential blockbuster. Honestly though considering who was working here, this was a pretty slow match at times. Looked sharp though but not the usual speed of these two. Finally after Eric Young had controlled the whole match, Ricochet started moving. Eric Young got busted open and Ricochet continued his assault. Ricochet took down the whole Sanity crew flying through the air. Ricochet maintained and hit his “630” Splash for the win! Okay match, and with Ricochet, far from being a Bad one.
Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan (C), Randy Orton and Samoa Joe
Bryan, Orton and Joe, make Sanity look like a Boy Scout troop. The heels isolated Jeff Hardy and took turns beating him down. Rapid tags and effective offense kept them in control until Kofi Kingston got the tag and came in hot. All hell broke loose, Kofi got slammed onto an announce table, with fighting all around. Once things got back in the ring, AJ Styles got the tag from a beaten Kofi and AJ killed it but took some punishment as well. Kofi came in again and shined! Kofi went on to hit a “trouble in paradise” and pin the Champ, Daniel Bryan for the impressive victory.
Shane O’ Mac then announced that Kofi Kingston will be getting a title shot at Fastlane against Daniel Bryan. Well-deserved and well done!
BAD and UGLY- No and No.
Nothing is perfect but SmackDown was Good. There were a few blah spots and times where it could have been better overall, but it was a solid show. It was entertaining and continued the party on the Road to WrestleMania.
NXT is the next one on the agenda and never soon enough. But we seemingly have had NXT action all week so far which has been a huge success. The audience wins all around with the addition of NXT talent to Raw and SmackDown. What will that mean for NXT now though? Well I would say it will only make everyone else there even hungrier to shine. Looking forward to seeing what’s next! Read the next Good, Bad and Ugly!
Cook: Don’t Hate Lafayette Because They Don’t Know #DIY
Steve Cook chimes in on the controversy surrounding the WWE Monday Night Raw crowd from Lafayette.
Anybody that knows me well knows that I’ve always been a huge baseball fan. It was the first sport I fell in love with as a kid and has been part of my life as far back as I can remember. I read pretty much anything I could about the history of it. I might be a Cincinnati Reds supporter, but I also have a good appreciation for most of baseball history.
That’s why I was excited when the New York Yankees came to town in 2011. The Yankees don’t come to Cincinnati very often. In fact, it was only the second series they’d played in Cincinnati since interleague play started in 1997. Whether you like the Yankees or not, it’s hard not to be impressed with their tradition of success. Their twenty-seven World Series championships are sixteen more than any other team has. Names like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle & countless others give the Yankees a tradition that’s unparalleled.
Aura & Mystique on the road
Even in 2011 the Yankees had some all-time greats on their roster. Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer this year. Derek Jeter will follow him into the HOF in 2020. Alex Rodriguez…well, that vote’s going to be interesting. He’s got the numbers! Heck, Bartolo Colon was on that team, and his HOF vote will also be interesting if he ever retires.
I was lucky to get off of work and get a ticket to a Wednesday afternoon game. The stadium was packed & stacked, as fans in the area knew that the Yankees wouldn’t be back in Cincinnati for several years. Unfortunately for the fans & myself, Jeter was on the disabled list so he wouldn’t be playing. Nobody’s fault, these things happen. We would have expected A-Rod to play, but a rainout the night before resulted in Wednesday being a previously unscheduled doubleheader, and Yankee manager Joe Giradi opted to give Rodriguez the day game off.
Lineup card subject to change
Playing third base for the Yankees instead was the immortal Ramiro Pena. He played 23 games in 2011 and went 4 for 40 for a batting average of .100. He had one home run, four RI & scored five runs. If you’re one of those advanced stats guys, he had a WAR of -0.8 for the season. In all fairness, this & 2012 were his least productive seasons in MLB. He managed to play 50 games in 2013 & 81 games in 2014 for the Atlanta Braves & wrapped up his MLB career in 2016 with the San Francisco Giants. From what Wikipedia tells me, he’s currently playing in the Mexican League.
Jeter’s replacement ended up accomplishing a bit more. Eduardo Nunez played 127 games for last season’s World Champion Boston Red Sox. He was also an All-Star in 2016, though I think that was due to the fact that every team has to have an All-Star & the Minnesota Twins didn’t have a ton of candidates. We also got to see Rivera close out the game, so it’s not like we missed out on everybody of historical importance. And yes, Jorge Posada was there playing first base and hit a home run. Any Yankee fan reading this will yell at me if I don’t mention Posada.
Core 4, baby
At this point you’re probably wondering why in the the world I’ve spent all this time writing about a random June 2011 Yankees/Reds game. In the big picture, that game wasn’t too terribly important. A ton of baseball games aren’t. The game came to my mind early Tuesday morning while I was catching up on Twitter’s reaction to Monday’s Raw episode.
Mostly, people were mad at the crowd. This week’s Raw was notable for being the main roster debut of four NXT Superstars. (NXT wrestlers are called Superstars too, right?) Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa all wrestled on Monday night’s show in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Triple H did the big introduction at the beginning of the show, we got videos with Michael Cole yelling buzzwords, and the four men got to take part in matches. Which is more than some of the last crop of NXT call-ups can say. Ricochet got to do some flips. Black got to beat up Elias. Gargano & Ciampa got to randomly re-form their tag team.
It was fine, if a wee bit random. I would have expected NXT fans to be happy that some of their favorites were on Raw-wait, no, I wouldn’t have expected that at all because NXT fans want their favorites to stay in Full Sail forever. WWE will mis-use them on the main roster, you see. So I was a little surprised that wasn’t the main thing that Internet wrestling fans were complaining about.
No, it was the crowd.
The Raw crowd didn’t make enough noise for these debuting talents. They should have been out of their seats for Ricochet & Black like they were Austin & Rock in 1998. And of course the fans should have gone crazy for DIY vs. The Revival because it’s great tag team wrestling.
Listen, I’m with you guys as far as the talent of these guys goes. I’m hip to the NXT jazz. I’ve been watching & reviewing lately, If I was in that crowd, I would have been cheering & rooting all of those guys on. The thing is…I’m not in the majority of wrestling fans. Far from it. I’m a wrestling nerd that consumes way too many hours of my day with watching wrestling & writing my opinions about it. From what I can tell, a lot of the people I saw whining & moaning about that crowd do the same thing that I do. We’re obsessed with wrestling & analyze everything way too much because that’s what we enjoy doing.
Not everybody does that.
Sometimes we lose touch with the fact that not everybody is like us. There are plenty of wrestling fans that don’t spend every day obsessing over the gossip or watching every single show they can get access to. I know WWE fans that don’t get WWE Network. There are even WWE Network subscribers that don’t watch NXT. I’m not going to get all hot & bothered & mad at people that don’t watch NXT for not going crazy over NXT call-ups. I might wonder why Baron Corbin gets a louder reaction than any of them, and I might think that reflects poorly on their taste, but at the same time, I realize that it’s because Baron Corbin’s been on TV long enough to establish a persona.
To the casual wrestling fan, Ricochet & Aleister Black are like random guys filling in for Derek Jeter & Alex Rodriguez. Hopefully their careers turn out a little bit better, but just like I wasn’t excited to see Ramiro Pena back in 2011 at Great American Ballpark, Lafayette wasn’t excited to see Aleister Black. You can’t fault paying wrestling fans for not watching all the shows, unless you’re just looking to lord your knowledge over everybody else.
Most of those fans at Raw didn’t have any idea what a Johnny Gargolye or a Tomato Chomper was. Hopefully they’ll get the chance to find out, and hopefully they’ll appreciate them as much as we do. Until then, give Lafayette a break. Don’t get mad at them because they paid to see WWE Superstars & got NXT ones instead.