It has been confirmed that NJPW star Shinsuke Nakamura will be leaving the promotion by February. It was rumored that it would happen for about a week following the big Wrestle Kingdom 10 event. For those unaware, this is NJPW’s WrestleMania. Nakamura had a match against AJ Styles at this event for his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. This title was one that Nakamura has made since its invention by NJPW.
That was why it was saddening to hear that NJPW stripped Nakamura of his title rather than allowing him to lose it like normal. At NJPW’s New Year’s Dash, Kenny Omega pulled off a big turn where he kicked AJ Styles out of the group — literally. He also beat Nakamura in the ring. This was what many thought to be a set-up to allow Omega to take on Nakamura and have him lose in his final match with NJPW, as the two would fight for the title.
Sadly, when NJPW stripped Shinsuke Nakamura, this meant that Omega/Nakamura would not happen. The Wrestling Observer claims that NJPW did not strip Nakamura of his title due to any involvement from WWE. They made the decision on their own to remove the title from Nakamura, and it was not forced due to any of the things going on with Nakamura leaving for WWE next month.
So basically, if you’re a fan of NJPW, you see this as the company getting one over on Shinsuke Nakamura before he leaves the company. Why else would NJPW choose to take the title off of Nakamura? He has done nothing to deserve them removing the title. He has clearly not violated any rules, nor has he cheated in a match or something they could use storyline-wise. Nakamura isn’t even leaving right now and will be finishing out his remaining January dates. They simply chose to remove the title rather than have Nakamura lose it like normal.
Some say it was NJPW allowing Nakamura to leave out on a win than a loss. Clearly, he would need to drop the IWGP Intercontinental Title before leaving the company. If he worked his last match for the title, clearly he would have to lose on his way out. Maybe NJPW felt he should go out winning rather than losing. However, it is not as if Nakamura will never return to the company. It is not as if he is retiring from the ring.
All of this being said, the stripping of the title could be good and bad depending on how you look at it. Some see it as a kick to Nakamura’s face. Others see it as NJPW allowing you to get a tournament or big match that would make you wonder who the title would go home with rather than know going in that Kenny Omega would win the title because Shinsuke Nakamura is leaving for WWE.
It all makes sense in theory depending on how you look at it. Nakamura is obviously not going to be part of any title match on his way out of the company. He will finish up his dates with NJPW and most likely have an opportunity to face people he wants to face in his last few matches. It is said that Nakamura will be heading to Orlando, Florida, to go to the WWE Performance Center, where he will train to learn the WWE style of wrestling. This is said to be something WWE would like for him to do for a few weeks.
Unlike AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson, Nakamura is a strong style wrestler who does not know the American style well enough to compete in WWE. He could wrestle some who know the style, but not many. By going to the WWE style, which is not a stretch from the strong style, he would clearly know how to wrestle everyone on the roster that he would compete with in a safe manner.
WWE NXT will most likely be the place we see Nakamura first. However, word has it that he will be on the main roster very quickly. Whether that is before WrestleMania 32 or not is up in the air at this point.
[Image via NJPW]