After 14 years establishing himself as one of the top performers on the planet while under contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Shinsuke Nakamura burst onto the scene in NXT in the spring of 2016. Signing with WWE presented the possibility that Nakamura would engage in dream matches on the biggest stage sports entertainment has to offer, to a fan base that once thought them impossible.
Back in January, NJPW presented one of the most highly anticipated wrestling shows in recent memory in Wrestle Kingdom10. The card featured a classic between Nakamura and AJ Styles for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. And though the event did not match the previous year’s show, it was widely considered a huge success. However, reports began surfacing the very next day that Nakamura, Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson had all notified NJPW that they were signing with WWE.
— Cody Starbuck (@Cody_Starbuck) October 23, 2016
Styles would make an immediate impact in WWE by debuting in the Royal Rumble just three short weeks after Wrestle Kingdom 10. The arrivals of Gallows & Anderson was delayed somewhat, but they still made the jump straight to the main roster. But as noted, Nakamura reported to the NXT brand and defeated Sami Zayn in his first match under the WWE umbrella when the two squared off on WrestleMania weekend.
At first, fans accepted the idea of Nakamura going to NXT initially, understanding the WWE’s desire to acclimate him to the American style of pro wrestling. But as the months have gone by (going on eight now), it’s become increasingly puzzling why The King of Strong Style has not been promoted yet.
And according to the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Daily Wrestling News), that wait will continue. It appears that WWE officials have pinpointed Nakamura as the flagship superstar of the NXT brand and have no plans of bringing him up to the WWE main roster any time soon.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) October 19, 2016
This line of thinking follows their recent decisions to delay the promotions of the likes of Finn Balor and Bayley, despite the obvious notion that they were more than ready. Balor was the cream of the crop in NXT for his entire year and a half run, watching the likes of Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze, Apollo Crews, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dana Brooke, The Ascension, The Vaudevillains, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch get called up before him.
Triple H claimed there was a method to his madness then, maintaining it now. He doesn’t want his top stars getting called up and be forced with facing a depleted roster. NXT has been built into a legitimate, touring brand, and it needs star power just like WWE. Balor was the flag-bearer then, and Nakamura has since assumed the same role now. Bayley dealt with similar issues as the face of the women’s division.
On the bright side, this could mean that Samoa Joe could be getting the call to the main roster soon. His title reign came at the expense of Balor, opening the door for Finn to get promoted. Now that Nakamura is the champion, it enables the company to do the same with Joe. However, many have claimed that both are long overdue and point to Bobby Roode, Hideo Itami, and Austin Aries as worthy successors to their spots in NXT.
— Steve Orlando (@thesteveorlando) October 17, 2016
Speaking of Aries, and completely unrelated to today’s news, Nakamura caught The Greatest Man That Ever Lived with a kick to the face Wednesday night at an NXT live event. The match was stopped, and Aries needed assistance. Some speculated about a broken jaw, but at the very least, he’s sporting a major black eye.
It’s been rumored that Samoa Joe’s first program in WWE will be against Braun Strowman. Preliminary creative plans have called for Joe to be the first superstar to defeat Strowman, and if received well, could be the gateway to a potential feud with Brock Lesnar. This is all assuming Nakamura successfully defends the NXT Championship against Joe at NXT Takeover: Toronto.
As for Nakamura, main-stage rematches with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Brock Lesnar will seemingly have to be put on the back burner. For now, and the foreseeable future, he will carry the torch for NXT until Triple H deems another capable of bearing that burden.
[Featured Image by WWE]