Following the nasty exploder suplex on John Cena from Shinsuke Nakamura, many have suggested The King of Strong Style is a danger to work with. Allegedly, Vince McMahon is not happy with the Superstar and he's on thin ice, so we decided to take a look at the number one contender, and if he is in any danger of being labeled as unsafe.
Last week on SmackDown Live, we were treated to somewhat of a dream match. Shinsuke Nakamura versus John Cena with the winner getting an opportunity at Jinder Mahal's WWE Championship. In the build to the bout, the main question on everyone's lips was why is a match of that magnitude being given to us on SmackDown Live? However, coming out of it, most fans were talking about the nasty suplex Cena took which saw him dumped right on the back of his head. Nakamura visibly said sorry to Cena after the match, and the sixteen time World Champion was lucky he wasn't seriously hurt.
Now that the dust has settled, and it's clear no lasting damage was done to Big Match John, one topic that is doing the rounds is if Nakamura is a safe worker. He may be the King of Strong Style, but if his opponents are at risk, then maybe he needs to tone down that moniker slightly. It isn't the first time the former IWGP Champion has misjudged a move and hurt a fellow Superstar. Last year, Austin Aries was out of action after a misplaced kick from Nakamura broke A-Double's eye socket. Aries even tweeted about Nakamura's misplaced suplex last week saying to Cena "at least @ShinsukeN didn't break your eyehole," stating shortly after that he was being sarcastic.
So, what is strong style exactly? Basically, it's as close to real fighting as wrestling gets. While what happens in a WWE ring may be staged, for the most part, rest assured anyone who has taken one Nakamura's kick will attest to the fact that they feel pretty real. What's worrying some is that compared to his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Shinsuke seems to have been holding back a little since arriving in WWE. In his homeland, the strong style that he is known so well for was a lot more apparent, and whether he has been asked to reign it in by the company, or is doing so of his own accord we most certainly haven't seen the most aggressive version of WWE's Resident Rockstar on US shores.
Strong style is common place in Japanese wrestling, and to give you an example of how strong it can get take a look at the recent match between Katsuyori Shibata and Kazuchika Okada. The former delivered a sickening headbutt to the latter which left Shibata hospitalized after the move caused a blood vessel to burst. We all like pro wrestling to look and feel real, but even more, we want the men and women who entertain us each week to be okay. Strong style may be a branch of wrestling that brings an element of realism to a sport that is widely mocked by people outside of it for being pre-determined, but you have to draw a line somewhere. Maybe that's why Nakamura has tried to tone down on the evidently dangerous form of his craft since arriving in WWE.
Not only is Nakamura a very experienced pro wrestler, but he also has a background in Mixed Martial Arts, jumping between the two careers in the early 2000s. Whether that makes him more or less dangerous in a wrestling ring is up for debate. On the one hand, you would assume that being previously programmed to intentionally hurt people in a combat sport would make you more of a risk as a pro wrestler. On the other hand, some would argue it means Shinsuke can control when he hurts opponents and when he doesn't. Brock Lesnar is an example of a Superstar who has ventured into both worlds and has a couple of strikes to his name when he has blurred the lines between his MMA skills and his pro wrestling ability, namely when he first returned and busted open John Cena's lip.
Nakamura isn't the only WWE Superstar whose style has come into question recently. Seth Rollins wrestling style was criticized following injuries inflicted by him on John Cena, Sting, and Finn Balor. All of the men injured by Rollins said that he was not at fault and it was mainly fans questioning how safe The Architect was in the ring. However, Bret Hart also gave his two cents labeling Rollins as an unsafe worker. Clearly, WWE didn't share that sentiment as Rollins continues to compete with the company's most valuable assets on a weekly basis, and as it stands the same can be said for Nakamura.
Wrestling may be staged and predetermined, but there is a reason fans and Superstars alike hate when the business is referred to as 'fake'. Injuries and accidents are commonplace inside the squared circle no matter how safe you are, and Nakamura is currently being spotlighted simply because he has been the protagonist of two high profile botches in a short space of time. It's highly likely that either Aries or Cena would think twice about stepping foot in the ring once again with the King of Strong Style, and that really says all you need to know about how safe he is in the ring.