His win over Finn Balor this past Tuesday night on WWE SmackDown Live should be an indicator of what is to come for Shinsuke Nakamura.
After an underwhelming tenure thus far on the WWE roster, Shinsuke Nakamura has found the perfect sparring partner in Finn Balor to reestablish himself as a top act in WWE.
Nakamura picked up a clean victory over the Intercontinental Champion this past week on SmackDown Live following weeks of being absence from WWE television.
He looked like a killer in this match. Balor was kicked in the head by “The King of Strong Style,” not “The Artist” on Tuesday night. This was a victory that has already reestablished Nakamura’s credibility as a legitimate WWE main event player.
His debut seemed like an event in the way he was embraced by the “Night After WrestleMania” crowd as there was a hint in the air that WWE was on its way to embrace the “new era” they had been flirting with. What would follow, however, was an underwhelming year for Nakamura in which he was presented as an “artist” without ever really being artistic. Sort of like how Seth Rollins is called an “architect.” What did he design?
With his erratic in-ring style in which he dissects the body of his opponent, it is feasible to see how WWE creative leaned towards calling him an artist in the vein of of this artist:
The madness of Nakamura was not capitalized upon during his first year WWE. This led to his heel turn at WrestleMania 34 when his kicked AJ Styles in his phenomenal gonads. WWE was again afforded the opportunity to cash in on the “artistry” of Shinsuke Nakamura, one which evokes the cerebral manipulation of the opponents body the way that Rembrandt (I’m assuming) operated a canvas. He could have been diabolical, and so much fun to watch.
Instead, Nakamura would lose what seemed to be an infinite number of matches to Styles, and then have forgettable feuds against Jeff Hardy and Rusev (including an even-more-forgettable stint as Rusev’s tag team partner). During this period, a period that hopefully ended this past Tuesday night, Nakamura was just another angry heel in a sea of them.
Shinsuke Nakamura, when used properly, is the last performer who should be just another face in the crowd.
WWE seems to have taken note of their creative missteps regarding Nakamura. His clean victory over Finn Balor on Tuesday night should be the beginning of a program that reintroduces “The Artist” as a true threat to any champion he wishes to pursue.
This program also comes with the perfect dance partner for him. After becoming familiar with each other in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Nakamura and Balor (then-Prince Devitt) were brought to NXT and served as the prime examples of what has made Triple H’s renaissance of the “black and gold brand” the best presentation under the WWE umbrella.
Finn Balor has had more success since debuting on the WWE main roster (despite Nakamura’s Royal Rumble win), but both men have been fighting to hold on to their place in the main event picture. Competition tends to breed greatness, and Nakamura might be in the best position possible to grab the brass ring that has alluded him alongside someone just as hungry.
His program with Finn Balor does not necessarily need to see him leave it as the Intercontinental Champion, but it does need to be used as a catalyst for the future that Nakamura can have – and give – to the WWE.