When rumors of Shinsuke Nakamura leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling for WWE swirled in January, the excitement of seeing one of the profession’s most unique performers make that jump soared.
After making his debut at NXT Takeover: Dallas against Sami Zayn, just two nights before WrestleMania 32, Nakamura has enjoyed similar success from his days in NJPW. Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II, capturing the NXT World Heavyweight championship.
Now, Nakamura reigns supreme as NXT’s champion, and as he told Scott Fishman of Channel Guide Magazine, he’s more than happy with his decision to leave NJPW.
— Scott Fishman (@smFISHMAN) September 13, 2016
“I did everything in New Japan,” said the former four-time IWGP Heavyweight, five-time IWGP Intercontinental, and one-time IWGP Tag Team champion. “I wanted to find something new. So I signed with WWE.”
However, as seen with prior Japanese superstars in WWE, talent did not always equate to main event status. Kenzo Suzuki, Tajiri, Ultimo Dragon, and Yoshi Tatsu were just a few Japanese stars who found themselves in WWE — with limited success — but never in a primetime spot.
The landscape in the WWE has changed with NXT, the company’s developmental system that not only produces young talent, it gives established worldwide talents, like Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and Bobby Roode, a stage to introduce themselves to a larger audience.
For Nakamura, every day at the WWE’s Performance Center, working with the established veterans and young talent is a learning experience.
“I’m in NXT now,” he said. “Almost every day I am at the WWE Performance Center. I have gotten a chance to talk with Terry Taylor. His opinion has been very interesting for me. He knows there is a psychology and certain things American fans like. I really enjoy studying from him…Most NXT guys are young guys. They keep me young working with them. They challenge me in a different way. I can teach them and also can study. I learn from them.”
Nakamura captured the NXT title from Joe in a hard-hitting, intense match. With Nakamura’s background in mixed martial arts and Joe’s physical style — which incorporates MMA-style moves — their match was a dream bout for many.
— Wrestling Observer (@WONF4W) September 15, 2016
Through his first six months in NXT, Nakamura is happy with the progress he has made and the opportunity to face Joe.
“I know Samoa Joe coming up maybe at 22,” Nakamura said. “I know his technique. He has good technique. He has this rare technique that is strong with not only wrestling, but MMA fighting. I also know similar techniques, so it’s nice to face him in NXT. He is a big challenge.”
In an interview prior to NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II, Joe also spoke to Fishman and explained the dynamic between himself and Nakamura fighting each other.
“I think Nakamura’s talent speaks for itself. I think it’s a match that I’ve very much been looking forward to. Very much like Finn, I have a ton of history with Nakamura. I’ve seen him develop from being a New Japan green boy to being the superstar that he is today. And at no point during that development have we gotten in the ring and locked horns one-on-one. So it’s something I’m very much looking forward to and I think the fans in Brooklyn will not be disappointed.”
As he continues with the responsibility of being NXT champion, Nakamura will be a key name to watch as the NXT brand has helped launched the careers of several superstars onto the main roster.
[Featured Photo via WWE]