SummerSlam Was a Fun Enough Ride, but Nakamura Is Stalling Out

Shinsuke, where has the romance gone?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

the fact that we have to accept a dismal show like this year’s SummerSlam as “fun enough” is absolutely tragic. the 4-way match was probably, in terms of spots and actual wrestling, the best show of a sub-par card. but everything to do with that match that wasn’t the wrestling was beyond travesty.

getting down to fundamental issues with how WWE runs their company, the fact that Lesnar is still allowed to wrestle after that shitfit he threw on Orton a while back is upsetting in and of itself. compiled with the fact that the company keeps giving him belts like theyre nothing (which makes the belts actually mean nothing, as they currently do) and they have to do an entire fake stretcher bit just so he can rest up in the middle of a 20-minute match with 3 other guys who are all actually capable of being in the ring for more than 3 suplexes at a time. i don’t even like Roman Reigns on a good day, but he’s still a more capable wrestler to carry a plot line than Lesnar will ever be.

the Nakamura fight was incredibly disappointing but i don’t know how you can be tapped in to how WWE operates, and has operated for the last few years solid, and think that Nakamura is the one phoning it in. how can they possibly push Mahal as a convincing champion when they don’t even have the confidence in his ability to let him win clean? having a champion hold his belt through a series of mediocre matches against men of great charisma and ability like Nakamura and Orton and not letting him win clean just makes Mahal look like a weakling coward who doesn’t have the guts to turn heel, and it makes challengers look stupid for continually losing to the same shit. i’m sure it’s somehow profitable for them but it fucking sucks to watch happen, over and over again.

Nak seems less like he’s stalling out and more like he’s not very good at carrying dudes. like put him in there against someone great like Balor or Sami and you’ll get a fantastic match, but put him in there against someone shit like Mahal or Ziggler and he’s not going to do a good job of bringing them up to his level, the way some guys can. WWE just has more crap dudes in the big leagues than NJPW.

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i don’t think Mahal is anywhere near Ziggler-levels of lameness and like, nakamura shouldn’t have to be elevating dudes to his level. as you pointed out, there’s plenty of guys who are that good in the WWE, they’re just being squandered in borderline-blackface demon gimmick paint and Bray Wyatt feuds in 2017. the fact that WWE manages to make matches between Wyatt and Balor actually boring is a testament to how bad they are at handling talent. the Rotunda boys have always been good and always will be good, they’re just in Bad Writing Prison forever for some reason

yeah true it is a false equivalence to compare anyone to Ziggler because no-one is as bad as fucking Ziggler is. they should fire him and give his midcard jobber position to someone worthwhile like my dude Tyler Breeze

Nakamura signing with the WWE got me into wrestling. I’d been intrigued (mostly because of Austin and Dan at Giant Bomb) but couldn’t get into it, and then I saw his matches and fell in love with his style. I actually said out loud "I don’t know if I’m going to get into wrestling, but if I do it’ll be because of Nakamura."
Then the news that he was coming to NXT was enough that I had to start watching that, which led to a whirlwind year-and-a-half (coinciding with post-graduation unemployment so I had enough free time to binge) culminating recently in the G1 Climax.

So I should have cared about his Summerslam match. And I didn’t. Not even before he lost.

But I think it’s more complicated than just Nakamura phoning it in. To me, comparing SummerSlam and the just-finished G1 Climax, the difference in WWE and NJPW’s styles is that (main roster) WWE matches are about “what’s going to happen?” and New Japan matches are about “how is this going to play out?”

With the former, the WWE “house style” smooths over a lot of the match details, but at least in theory the outcome will be unpredictable and tense enough to keep you watching. At it’s best, you get all those “Wrestlemania moments,” but you also get lots of matches that go like any other match and then just sort of end without a lot of logic leading up to that, either in a DQ or an interference or just the one the writers want to win winning.

With New Japan, at least in big singles matches like the G1, the draw felt a lot more to me about the clash of styles. Personally, I wasn’t very invested in who specifically won the tournament, but I was still happy watching the same 20 people wrestle each other 91 times because every match was presented slightly differently. No matter what wrestler you pick, they’re going to approach a match with Suzuki differently than one with Okada, or Ishii, or Ibushi, or certainly Yano, and it’s always interesting to see how they’ll adapt, even if the outcome is relatively predictable.

I don’t think you can say the same about the WWE. A match like Finn vs. Bray doesn’t inherently fill me with excitement because I don’t think it’s going to be that different from any other Finn match, or any other Bray Wyatt match. And eerie viscous acidic liquids can only go so far.

What’s been great about Samoa Joe is that he’s been unpredictable lately. His moves aren’t inherently spectacular, but every time he shows up in the ring I believe he has a chance. So he fits in perfectly because that’s exactly the kind of excitement WWE is going for.

But with Nakamura, his greatest strength is clearly his style - from his look to just the way that he moves. But that style is so good that it’s also set in stone to a certain extent. Even in Japan I would notice the same few spots in each match, but it still worked because it would go a little differently with AJ than it would with Ibushi, etc. Take away that variation, what are you left with? A great song, a hype pose, that thing where he rests his head on his opponent’s stomach and swings his arms, “good vibrations,” that bit where he misses with the first kick and follows through with the second, a Kinshasa. That’s still cool, but it doesn’t keep being exciting, and it doesn’t make me think anything can happen. We love it when he does those things, but that also makes it pretty inherently predictable. (my favorite main roster Nakamura moment, come to think of it, was when Baron Corbin cut off his entrance and upset expectations, which fed in to his re-entry into the match and the stand-off with AJ)

I guess it makes sense Nakamura’s getting stale. What impact can Jinder Mahal’s in-ring style possibly have on Shinsuke’s to keep things interesting? And how do you make “and then the Singh Brothers interfere and Mahal wins” flow naturally from the in-ring storytelling?

I dunno. I wish I was still as into it.

Nak was kind of the Randy Orton of New Japan in many ways, especially because of his penchant for being lazy outside of big shows. He’s actually very capable of elevating lesser wrestlers (see Bad Luck Fale or Kazushi Sakuraba), but I think he gets complacent, and he lets his dissatisfaction with his booking affect his performances.

I like the comparison with Samoa Joe, but on the other hand, Joe has been booked very well since his main roster debut.

@dordreff What I don’t get is that Nakamura’s bungled so many chances to put on memorable matches with the top-tier, like Balor, Joe, Owens, and Cena.

The Nakamura we willingly created as we traded YouTube clips, tapes, and streams may never have existed.

This is it right here. The legend of Nakamura in the US came from seeing a really good match against Kevin Steen at a joint ROH/NJPW show, and matches against Kota Ibushi and AJ Styles. Nakamura can turn it up to 11 when he wants to, but he rarely does it unless it is on a huge stage against someone that works well with him; a WWE example of that being Sami Zayn in his first match.

I love Shinsuke Nakamura, and he is one of my favorite wrestlers of the last decade, but the Shinsuke that just coasts through matches and goes through the motions is the most common aspect of his career.

His match with Balor was great, and he managed at least one great match with Joe too. They just kinda get forgotten for coming between his much better Sami match and the later Joe matches which he very clearly didn’t give a shit about.