It is not at all a stretch to suggest that Shinsuke Nakamura is currently the best overall performer working underneath the World Wrestling Entertainment umbrella today. Nakamura debuted in the WWE at the NXT Takeover: Dallas show that occurred days before WrestleMania 32, and he and Sami Zayn put on the best match of that weekend and arguably the best WWE match of all of 2016. Nakamura’s popularity among WWE audiences has only grown since that time. The charismatic worker known as “Swagsuke” and "The King of Strong Style” has since earned victories over the likes of Finn Balor and Samoa Joe, and Nakamura won the NXT Championship at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II show that occurred in August 2016. Nakamura should be on the main WWE roster, but it seems he will be the face of NXT for at least some time.
Nakamura made his name working overseas long before he became a weekly fixture on WWE Network programming and WWE events. You may not know, however, that Nakamura competed in legitimate sports before he became an international superstar in the professional wrestling industry. From what we have seen from Nakamura participating in a different sport, Nakamura possibly could have considered a career outside of pro wresting. Those of us who love the industry and the WWE are, of course, thrilled that Nakamura followed a path that has brought him to North America and to the biggest wrestling company in the world. We just now want to see Nakamura working on either the Raw or SmackDown brand.
15 Real Name
As diehard WWE fans know, performers are often renamed before appearing on WWE programming. That was the case with Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and numerous other examples. As with CM Punk and Bobby Roode, however, Shinsuke Nakamura is allowed to work in the WWE underneath his well-known name. That is best for all involved and it is hopefully a sign to come as it pertains to future talents signed by the WWE. While seeing Prince Devitt wrestle under the name Finn Balor is no longer any real shock for wrestling fans, it would nevertheless be difficult to imagine Nakamura working under any other name. Nakamura could play his current character with any given name, but we are pleased he was not at all repackaged. Other than working somewhat of a lighter style, Nakamura in the WWE is the Nakamura of old in many ways. No wonder he is so popular in the WWE.
14 Real Strong Style
Nakamura has the nickname “King of Strong Style” due to the fact that it appears as if he is legitimately injuring opponents with his strikes during matches. There is at least one good reason why Nakamura’s kicks look so good to wrestling audiences. Nakamura has a real background in mixed martial arts. Nakamura did not merely roll around on some mats or take some classes. He fought in matches that counted toward his professional record. Nakamura lost his debut match to Daniel Gracie and he holds a pro record of 3-1 with one no contest. Those of you who prefer the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the WWE should not hold your breaths hoping Nakamura will follow CM Punk over to the UFC. Nakamura has not fought in over a decade. You have to admit, though, that Nakamura would make for one of the best personalities in the UFC had he gone that route.
13 Early Nickname
Some working in Japan noticed early on in his wrestling career that Shinsuke Nakamura was no ordinary talent. Nakamura earned the nickname “Super Rookie” because of his combination of athleticism and technical skill inside of the wrestling ring. It also did not hurt that Nakamura was a real fighter during his early days working in New Japan Pro Wrestling. While Nakamura seemed to possess all of the goods to be a wrestling superstar as far back as 2002, he did not really find his best form until later in the decade. In fact, those who are only familiar with the current version of the Nakamura character may be surprised upon watching some of his matches from a decade ago. Nakamura was always a good wrestler, but it takes more than just physical gifts or wrestling skills to become a star in any promotion. Nakamura eventually learned that en route to becoming the performer he is in 2016.
12 Early Character
As previously mentioned, Nakamura was talented throughout his first several years in the wrestling industry. His early gimmick, however, was nothing like what you see from him on NXT shows. Nakamura was looked at as a talented young prospect who was able to hang with opponents because of his talents and his mixed martial arts background back in the early 2000s. He even won championships well before hitting his physical and wrestling prime. There was, however, always something missing from the gimmick, almost as if everybody watching knew that there was a superstar character buried deep inside of Nakamura. Nakamura eventually evolved into a wrestler who is a weird combination of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Brock Lesnar. Nakamura is the most entertaining character in the wrestling business, but fans also believe that he could kick their heads off if they were to enter the ring to face him.
11 Youngest Ever
Wrestling fans could compare the younger version of Shinsuke Nakamura to Randy Orton. Both Nakamura and Orton were viewed as tremendous young prospects capable of becoming huge stars and massive draws for wrestling companies. Both men needed extra seasoning before they found their best characters. Both men also made history. Orton became the youngest WWE Champion, while Nakamura became the youngest individual to ever win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Nakamura won that title when he was just 23 years old, and he still holds that record as of August 2016. Nakamura went on to make even more history after he won that title the first time. He is currently one of only a handful of wrestlers to ever carry the NXT Championship and he is following Samoa Joe and Finn Balor as the man responsible for carrying the banner of that brand. That’s solid company even if Nakamura is far too good to be on NXT shows.
10 Five Stars
Dave Meltzer is the godfather of the Wrestling Observer newsletter and arguably the top professional wrestling and mixed martial arts journalist in the business today. The Young Bucks did not name a move after their “Uncle Davie,” after all, just because they like the name. One of the top honors any wrestler can achieve is to have one of his matches given a rating of “five stars” from Meltzer. Nakamura has twice earned that achievement during his career. His match versus Kota Ibushi in January 2015 was five stars, as was his contest versus Hiroshi Tanahashi in August of that same year. Such ratings are subjective and thus not everybody agrees with what Meltzer has to say about every match. As an example, Meltzer did not give a five-star rating to the match involving Nakamura and Sami Zayn. More than a few fans, particularly those who watched that match live and in-person, disagree with Meltzer on that one.
9 Japanese Theme
Wrestling fans often lash out at those running the WWE when the company gets things wrong regarding certain acts and gimmicks. We should, thus, give the company credit when it does things properly. The WWE has hit home run after home run with Nakamura since he first debuted in the company, and that includes his theme. Nakamura’s epic NXT theme contains elements of the music that he used before wrestling in the WWE. As great as that music is, the cover composed by Kay Suzuki that can still be found on YouTube may be even better. The violin is the star of the show of that particular song, but don’t ignore how much the tune rocks out. It is a great pro wrestling theme and would be one of the best songs on WWE television today. Some fans may, however, believe that Nakamura’s current NXT theme is even better. Never change his theme, WWE. Don't overthink the matter here.
8 Nakamura Versus Beast
Shinsuke Nakamura versus Brock Lesnar seems like the type of dream match perfect for a massive show like a WrestleMania. It is also a match that already took place. Nakamura faced Lesnar a decade ago, before Nakamura found his “Swagsuke” personality and before Lesnar won the UFC Heavyweight Championship and became known as the baddest man in the WWE. Nakamura lost that match and it was reported that he actually trained with Lesnar after the fact. A match involving Nakamura and Lesnar in 2016 or in 2017 would be a different event entirely because the two are different wrestling characters who wrestle different styles. “The Beast” versus "The King of Strong Style” is a match that could headline literally any WrestleMania produced by the WWE before the end of the decade. We can only hope that we will see it occur in the WWE at some point down the road before either Lesnar or Nakamura move on from the company.
7 Daily Nakamura
Here is somewhat of a silly one for the fan who cannot get enough Shinsuke Nakamura in his life on a daily basis. The Twitter account DailyNakamura, also going under the name “Nakamura Inspiration,” offers different pictures of Nakamura every day. Some of those photos come from Nakamura’s official social media pages. Some are “fan art” pictures produced by fans. Some are pictures taken by fans at arenas. Over 400 pieces of media are currently available on the DailyNakamura Twitter page, and the hope is that whoever runs that account will keep it active so long as Nakamura is working in NXT. That account could be a lot of fun for fans once Nakamura is working on the WWE main roster, hopefully before 2016 comes to an end. Who among us could not use some extra swag and motivation given to us by Nakamura? Maybe Nakamura will one day even give a shout-out to the account.
If you are anything like us, you have had more than your fill of the Pharrell song “Happy” that dominated a variety of radio platforms a couple of years ago. There is one reason for wrestling fans to go out of the way to watch a video for that song. Pharrell created a version of that song for Japanese audiences and none other than Shinsuke Nakamura is featured in the video. Have you ever been on a wrestling forum or a social media platform and seen a GIF of Nakamura showing off his dancing moves while wearing red leather pants, in what appears to be a “Thriller” jacket and a white championship belt? That GIF is probably taken from this music video, which you can see above. Seeing Nakamura dance during the “Happy” video helps put those GIFs into context, as now you know why the most charismatic wrestler in the world was dancing in an empty room on that particular day.
5 NXT Theme
Whether or not you believe the current NXT theme used by Shinsuke Nakamura is the best song in all of the WWE in 2016 is a matter of opinion. What is known for sure, however, is that WWE fans can choose from a wide variety of different editions of that song. There is the original theme, known as “The Rising Sun,” that is Nakamura’s official NXT theme. The WWE has also released an updated version of “The Rising Sun” that features Lee England Jr. The previously mentioned YouTube user Kay Suzuki produced a cover of “The Rising Sun” after Nakamura made his WWE debut at the NXT Takeover: Dallas show. YouTube user Javier Draven utilized an electric guitar for his cover of “The Rising Sun.” These are just some of the awesome versions of one of the most dynamic, memorable and beloved WWE themes in at least the past decade.
4 WWE in 2006?
Pro wrestling fans who post in Internet forums and on social media websites often complain when they feel a certain talent or team is being ignored by the WWE. There were reports all the way back in the spring of 2006 that the WWE had its eyes on Nakamura, so much so that it was speculated Nakamura could spend time working in the North American company before ultimately making a return to Japan. Sometimes, things work out as they should. The WWE very likely would have squandered Nakamura a decade ago, as that was before he became the charismatic character seen in NXT in 2016. Had that happened, the possibility exists that Nakamura may have never worked in the WWE this year or at any point in the future. That would be a waste of such a special talent and a huge negative for the company and for anybody who enjoys watching NXT or WWE programming.
3 Baseball Star?
You may have seen this one floating around on the Internet years ago. Nakamura was once asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game. As many people awarded with the honor do, Nakamura could have worn a baseball jersey out to the mound. He is Shinsuke Nakamura, no mere mortal and no boring man. Nakamura wore his championship belt around his waste, his red “Thriller” jacket open and no shirt out onto the diamond. He then delivered a perfect “eephus pitch” for a strike to the delight of those in the audience. He also threw out the first pitch for the Texas Rangers in 2012.
Maybe Nakamura could have made it as a professional pitcher. Imagine Nakamura serving as a reliever who dances from the outfield to the mound as “The Rising Sun” blasts over the venue’s speakers. Jerseys would fly off of shelves, and Nakamura would become a hit featured on SportsCenter and other highlight shows every Major League Baseball season.
2 Hall of Fame
The Wrestling Observer offers more than breaking news and insights. Dave Meltzer has also, with the help of other respected minds, put together the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. Unlike the WWE Hall of Fame that is mostly about publicity and about earning the WWE positive headlines every WrestleMania weekend, the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame is reserved for the truly great workers of the past and the present. Shinsuke Nakamura was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2015. He joined, among others, Brock Lesnar as a member of that year’s Hall of Fame class. Nakamura will forever go down as one of the few who entered the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame before his 40th birthday and while he was still an active worker. Just think: A pair of performers in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame could compete for the WWE Championship at a WrestleMania. What a time to be alive.
1 Finisher Renamed
Shinsuke Nakamura has remained his awesome self throughout the first six months of his WWE career. This includes Nakamura keeping his striking knee finisher. What was known as the “Bomaye” is now called the “Kinshasa.” The reason for the change, per WrestlingInc.com and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, is that a company in the United States already has the term Bomaye trademarked. Boxing fans will remember that “Ali Bomaye” was chanted by fans during the “Rumble in the Jungle” match that featured Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman. Kinshasa, meanwhile, is the name of the city where that fight occurred. Whatever the reason for the change, hearing Corey Graves mark-out and scream “KINSHASA” whenever Nakamura hits the knee is worth the price of the WWE Network. Everything about the Nakamura act is, to steal the phrase, five stars. That will hopefully continue past 2016 and up until Nakamura works in the main event of a WrestleMania.