|Shinsuke Nakamura after defeating Sami Zayn in his NXT debut.|
Nakamura's career in wrestling dates back to 2002, when he first signed on with New Japan Pro Wrestling. His quick and hard-hitting style quickly earned him the nickname "Super Rookie." At the age of 23, he became the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history, but vacated the title soon after because of an injury. In 2004, he and Hiroshi Tanahashi won the IWGP Tag Team Championship, holding the belts through 2005.
In 2006, Nakamura faced Brock Lesnar (yes, the Beast Incarnate himself) for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but lost. Also in 2006, he left New Japan to improve his craft, traveling around the world and building both muscle mass and his moveset. He returned to New Japan in late 2006, giving it a very welcome boost after Lesnar left. Throughout the late 2000s, he proved to be an invaluable member of New Japan's roster, facing the likes of Kurt Angle and Hiroshi Tanahashi in classic matches.
In the 2010s, Nakamura turned heel, forming a stable called "Chaos" and pursuing the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, wrestling a stunning 5-star match against AJ Styles in January 2016. Shortly after, WWE came calling.
|Nakamura poses with Triple H while visiting WWE Headquarters.|
Nakamura's debut match against NXT veteran Sami Zayn was nothing short of magical. Nakamura had the crowd eating out of his palms from the moment his entrance music began to play.
So what makes him so captivating to all of us? The answer is longer than you might think.
The first, and most obvious answer, is his massive wealth of charisma. Nakamura has a unique energy akin to static; it cannot be contained or hidden. A single cell phone video promo brings crowds to their feet. A mere smirk elicits thunderous cheers. Nakamura has a talent WWE dreams of finding: the ability to entertain without even trying. "Swagsuke," as NXT commentator Corey Graves called him, has a unique rockstar aura that could eventually grow to rival even Brock Lesnar's.
Nakamura also brings with him a unique style. Unlike many of NXT's top stars, he's not a high-flyer (though he can execute some stellar moonsaults). Instead, Nakamura relies on a hard-hitting, swift offense full of rapid-fire strikes and kicks. His "strong style" of wrestling, common in Japan (where it's known as Puroresu) and the independents, is very stiff and incorporates elements of MMA.
His current finisher, Kinshasa, is fairly unique in WWE. It is a simple running knee kick to the head, but delivered with such speed and aggression that you easily believe it could knock the life out of the likes of AJ Styles and Sami Zayn.
WWE has yet to truly expose this style of wrestling to its largely Western audience. Most of its international talent has utilized the lucha libre style or classic American style. Hideo Itami's style, before his injury, was more high-flying and less strike-heavy. Nakamura's mix of knee strikes and devastating submission holds is bound to excite the NXT and, in the future, WWE crowds.
So what might the future hold for the King of Strong Style?
|Nakamura locks Sami Zayn into an armbar at NXT Takeover: Dallas.|
Nakamura will surely flourish in NXT. He's an investment for the brand, being paid main roster-level money. And after the mass exodus from NXT to the main roster, his star power will be a valuable draw for house shows and Takeover specials. NXT has already proven to know how to maximize Japanese talent (see Asuka or Hideo Itami) and Nakamura is already a step ahead, knowing English. Whether or not he ever holds the NXT Championship depends heavily on how soon WWE calls him up to the main roster. If Finn Balor is called up over the summer, Nakamura's chances of winning the title increase greatly.
His future in WWE proper is a little more murky. In the past, WWE hasn't always properly utilized its Asian athletes. However, times have changed, and I highly doubt Creative would be stupid enough to try and dub him over or put him in a Karate Kid gimmick. I can see him being granted the AJ Styles treatment and being booked like the star he is. If WWE is smart, they'll give him matches against Styles himself and the likes of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens.
All in all, Shinsuke Nakamura looks to have a bright future in WWE. His in-ring ability and natural charisma will, without a doubt, ensure that the 36-year-old Superstar will make a mark on the company and rise to superstardom in no time.