Since his win at the Royal Rumble 2018, Shinsuke Nakamura has made the most of his opportunity on Smackdown Live. Even though he was on the losing end at WrestleMania against AJ Styles, the King of Strong Style switched gears with a shocking heel turn. His change of attitude caused for him and Styles to continue their feud into the summer, which overall hasn’t been that bad (numerous low blows aside).
Let’s talk about his character change first. The change of character serves as a way of having a psychological advantage over Styles. From his “no speak English” tag, to intently drag out the contract signing on this past Smackdown is a well-done notion for Nakamura to get the heat he needs going into Money in the Bank. This has all built up since WrestleMania, so it’s a long time coming to see him and Styles go to war to possibly settle their score once and for all.
Many fans are familiar with the fantastic match the two men had two years prior at WrestleKingdom 10. Comparing that match to their program in WWE gives way to both men adapting to the company’s way of doing things. It is telling that the best match between the two in their WWE careers was on Smackdown just weeks ago. Not that it’s bad at all, because it’s not in the slightest. Cast aside what the majority of opinion is out there, there is no denial that WWE made the right call to take this feud past WrestleMania into SummerSlam.
Now, I know that SummerSlam is two months away. Fans know that so much can happen in that span of time. First, Money in the Bank is coming just around the corner – this Sunday as a matter of fact. What happens at this event will determine where paths will go, especially when it comes to the WWE Championship picture. With that comes a plethora of questions. Questions such as, will there be a Raw winner, or a Smackdown winner at Money in the Bank? Will match placement be a factor if said winner plans to cash in immediately? And one other question, what is next for Styles and Nakamura after Money in the Bank?
Keep in mind, this feud has not been a clean sweep for either man. There has been no clear winner at the last PPV event, which bought time for both men to continue their feud. With the match on Smackdown, Nakamura was victorious which allowed him to choose the stipulation for their upcoming match. And with that being said, Nakamura very well could be the one holding Championship gold over the Phenomenal One. Here are some of my reasons why Nakamura should be the Last Man Standing this Sunday at Money in the Bank.
Nakamura is easily the top heel on Smackdown thanks to his actions at WrestleMania. Winning the Championship will prove that his change of heart is not a fluke. Becoming the bad guy serves the purpose that he is in fact a force to be reckoned with. He is not a pushover, and if his rings skills are anything to go by, he is just as dangerous as a heel versus being a face.
Fans already know how immensely talented Nakamura is in the ring. I personally think his ring psychology is easily overlooked – and that is something that has played an incredible role since WrestleMania. If anything else, the way he has toyed with those in and out of the ring comes full circle as Nakamura knows what he is doing to get under everyone’s skin. It’s almost like he can pick until the other person snaps. Just exactly like how he did Styles during the backstage contract signing on Smackdown.
Nakamura absolutely has the tools that makes him the most hated man on Smackdown. He doesn’t need the gold to solidify his talent, but it would just add to the incredible job he has been doing since WrestleMania.
Pointless Heel Turn
The purpose of Nakamura’s heel turn is to take another direction into winning the WWE Championship. His path to Championship gold on the main roster has been a little more challenging versus his quick rise to the Championship in NXT. A slow start on Smackdown quickly ascended once Nakamura won the Royal Rumble. With his WrestleMania loss, Nakamura made quite the WrestleMania moment the second he low blowed Styles post-match.
From there both men have battled each other with no clear winner in the PPV matches. If Nakamura loses, what was the point of the heel turn to begin with? There is many positives with the heel turn, which includes his mannerisms in efforts to piss off anyone from the fans to his opponents. It’s heel gold at best considering that at one point there was nothing that could keep fans from cheering on Nakamura as he chased WWE glory. So why not reward him with a Championship run? I would not be surprised if Nakamura somehow cheated his way to his first WWE Championship. Look at past stars such as Triple H, Edge and The Rock. Their wins as heel were defining moments in their legacies. Nakamura would fit that bill nicely.
With SummerSlam right around the corner, it would be fitting for Styles to invoke his rematch clause at the second biggest PPV of the year. Giving both of these men a proper end to their WWE program would be the right thing to do. It is the perfect chance to close a chapter and start a new one. While I say that, it’s easy to forget that a wrench can easily be thrown into that via the Money in the Bank briefcase.
There is a 50/50 chance that a Smackdown guy wins the briefcase, and if that happens, then that is a big factor hanging over the WWE Championship picture. There are little things in between that could pose a threat as Styles and Nakamura attempt to reign supreme on the blue brand. But if there is a Raw winner, then it will eliminate that threat going into SummerSlam.
There is a saying that when one door closes, another one opens. So where could either man go after their program is done? I wouldn’t mind seeing Styles feud with someone such as Cien Almas, though if for some reason Styles is still Champion, then Samoa Joe certainly comes to mind. Nakamura could easily go into a feud with Daniel Bryan, which screams money.
Greg DeMarco’s Three Stars Of The Night: WWE Raw (5/20/19)
Big night on Raw — who stood out?
WWE Raw returned stateside this week, and we got ourselves a new championship. Who stood out?
The Third Star for WWE Raw: Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman knows how to deliver, and he delivered big time during Raw. He made the show feel like a big deal, and it did. He made both champions feel important, but put Brock Lesnar over in the process. Lesnar is so much more comfortable with Paul Heyman around, and the job done to make this briefcase situation feel unique was really solidified by Paul Heyman. Plus, his line about Rollins sitting through 7 hours of WrestleMania waiting for his girlfriend to main event the show he’s always dreamed of main eventing was clutch.
Elisa looks great in her Chairshot gear.
You can, too!
Be like Elisa and get yours at:
The Second Star: The IIconics
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce really are national treasures. America, Australia, it doesn’t matter. They are the best, and they’ve crafted characters that don’t need to win or lose, they just need to perform their act. That’s what it takes in WWE, regardless of what we want it to be. Their promo during A Moment Of Bliss (full of people perfectly playing their characters, by the way), was outstanding. Hats off to both ladies for getting themselves to this place.
Honorable Mention: Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, Becky Lynch, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kofi Kingston, the entire 24/7 crew, The Usos, The Revival, Baron Corbin (yup), Bobby Lashley (I miss Lio), Drew McIntyre, and Shane McMahon
So many great performances tonight, and I am positive I’m leaving deserving folks out.
The First Star for WWE Raw: The Miz
The Miz is on fire right now, and it comes at a time where both world champions are babyfaces. He’s world champion caliber, and needs something to sink his teeth into if the issue with Shane truly is done. Drew McIntyre is a fine option, but I really want a top flight program for Miz. Maybe he’s the guy to elevate Drew? I’m not sure. I don’t feel like we turn Miz, but the best options for him (to me) are AJ Styles and Seth Rollins.
In hockey, a game’s “Three Stars Of The Night” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:
“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own Three Stars Of The Night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”
In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.
7 Best Candidates To Win New Japan Best Of The Super Juniors 26
Who is the front runner?
Abe takes a look at the New Japan Best of the Super Juniors tournament and who is on pace to pick up the overall win.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament kicked off just last week and plenty of quality wrestling has already taken place. For the first time ever, twenty total men make up the tournament field. That means a few more sleeper candidates could potentially sneak their way into the finals.
Best Chance of Winning The New Japan Best Of The Super Juniors
At the time of this being written, Takagi is still undefeated since making his debut in NJPW. That includes the matches he’s already competed in during this year’s tournament. I don’t believe they’ll pull the trigger on him going the whole tournament without a loss but it’s definitely something to monitor. He’s been an incredible addition to Los Ingobernables de Japan as well as to the company as a whole.
Takagi has already taken shots at current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Dragon Lee for overlooking the field and only thinking about impending return of Hiromu Takahashi. Dragon Lee and Shingo are the favorites in their block. Takagi’s reason for winning the block could be that Lee was too focused on the future.
After winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in Madison Square Garden, there is nobody in the tournament with more momentum. The current champion winning the tournament is very uncommon but there is already a story in place as I mentioned. If the current champion wins the entire BOSJ tournament, he will get to select who challenges him for the championship at Dominion. Hiromu Takahashi is the man he wont stop talking about. Almost a year ago, Dragon Lee was the guy that put his biggest rival on the shelf. Hiromu had to vacate the title as a result of the injury suffered in that match. If Takahashi is cleared to compete, there is no better person to accept the challenge.
Who Else Has A Chance?
He hasn’t won the tournament in three years and is competing with the heavyweights more and more. Among the current field, Ospreay almost certainly has the most high-profile matches under his belt. He’s the clear betting favorite to make it to the finals in his block. If there’s anything that’ll stop him, it’s that NJPW may already be trying to transition him into a heavyweight.
Ishimori made it to the finals of the BOSJ tournament last year but only finished as the runner-up. He was also the most recent IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Since his official rebranding as Bullet Club’s “Bone Soldier” last year, he’s maintained a spot near the top of the junior division. If they want to continue his recently-formed feud with Dragon Lee, the opportunity is right there.
The newest member of the NJPW roster is in a similar position to the one Taiji Ishimori was in last year. El Phantasmo was introduced as the newest member of the Bullet Club mere days before BOSJ. The aforementioned Ishimori did actually end up going all the finals and Phantasmo is off to a 3-0 start this year. The only man in the B Block that’s a real threat to his path there is Will Ospreay but that’s going to be a tough ask.
Most fans think of him as a comedy wrestler but if you’ve seen him in longer, more competitive matches, you know that he’s one of the most talented guys New Japan has. It’s rare to find someone that can balance entertainment with in-ring skill the way he does. Taguchi is a two-time Junior Heavyweight Champion, former BOSJ winner, leader of his own faction, and one of the veterans of the locker room. It sounds strange but I wouldn’t put my money on Ospreay or Phantasmo as long as Taguchi is hovering near the top of the standings. He’s my dark horse in this year’s tournament.
This definitely wont happen but he is worth mentioning. SHO isn’t going to win the tournament as long as he’s attached to YOH and Rocky Romero as a part of Roppongi 3K. However, with three matches in, SHO has already wrestled the two longest and best matches of the tournament. He’s only 1-2 so far but that could make things more interesting. Watching him storm back and go on a serious winning streak would be something amazing to see.