Make no mistake about it, Shinsuke Nakamura is a worldwide superstar.
But, to the WWE fan, he’s just the new guy on the block.
You, me and a slew of other people know about Nakamura’s history in Japan, and at the very least, know of Nakamura’s run through WWE’s developmental system in NXT. But of the three million people that watch WWE on any given week, that might still be a small percentage. NXT is a terrific show, but viewership, I’m guessing, pales in comparison to Rawand SmackDown.
Try to put a number on the WWE fan that has seen Nakamura’s work in Japan? You can’t. A good portion of WWE’s fanbase only watches WWE, and I know of plenty of Japanese wrestling fans who can’t bring themselves to watch WWE.
That’s why Dolph Ziggler is the perfect first opponent for Nakamura. He’s the best seller in the company, and will make Nakamura look like the superstar we all know he is. They’ve been working together for more than a month on house shows and as dark match main events at SmackDown tapings. From what I saw last night, attending the SmackDown taping in Manchester, the chemistry is there.
Ziggler also put together a good go-home sell to the match in a backstage segment, echoing some of what some WWE fans are almost definitely wondering. Ziggler said he put together a tape of all Nakamura’s WWE accomplishments, and then proceeded to air a blank tape, after a few seconds of his entrance were shown.
And Ziggler isn’t wrong, by the way.
Nakamura will light WWE on fire. It’s just a matter of time. But so far, that hasn’t happened. It’s not his fault, he just hasn’t been around long enough. Ziggler is tapping into what could be very true emotions. Why is everyone so excited about this guy, when Ziggler has been in the company for 10 years?
I see his point.
But he played it really well, especially as a heel. He’s doing the talking.
I also like the move from WWE to keep Nakamura off television last night. The build with him has been very old-school and slow. It’s going to make him the superstar that WWE wanted Roman Reigns to be.
It’s just a matter of time.
1. Jinder Mahal beat AJ Styles
The match came across better on television than it did live, from some colleagues I spoke with on Wednesday morning. In part, I think it’s because there was a commercial break in this match that the live crowd wasn’t aware of. So, there was a 4-5 minute stretch in the middle of the match where almost nothing happened. It really brought things down for the live crowd.
Mahal was definitely getting more of a reaction from the crowd on his mic work than during the match. It’s a good sign that the people seemed interested in booing him. Crickets are the worst thing a new heel act can hear in the building.
2. Breezango beat The Colons
Standard match for the title challengers heading into the Backlashpay-per-view on Sunday. It’s a guilty pleasure, but Breezango’s comedy is getting over with me. Tyler Breeze and Fandango seem to be having genuine fun with it, and it’s coming across on screen.
After the match, the Usos came out and ran down Breezango for trying to be funny. They’re still trying to find themselves on the mic. As babyfaces, they never had much time with a mic in their hands. Jinder Mahal is in a similar spot. They’ve been in the company for a while, but rarely have they had to speak. But, the Usos have a lot of charisma and a really cool style in their promos. They went with some comedy on this show, but spun it in a way (with some fast speaking) that didn’t allow the fans to laugh at the babyfaces. Instead, they came across as just bullies. It was good.
Bayley/Naomi/Charlotte vs. Natalya/Tamina/Carmella contract signing
I’m not sure what I really expected out of this segment, but there was too much going on that it made it feel like nothing was going on. James Ellsworth’s being included was rocky. It almost sounded like he missed a line at some point, or perhaps interjected a little too early.
WWE keeps hinting that Charlotte isn’t 100 percent on the babyface side. My guess is that she wins the match for her team at Backlashand then attacks Naomi. She told Naomi in the promo that she was still gunning for her crown.
The ended the segment by setting up a match between Naomi and Carmella, which all started because James Ellsworth said Naomi had no shot with him (seriously). Naomi was, for some reason, upset by this. So, Shane McMahon booked the match “up next!”
I hate that tactic so much. So what was planned that had to get postponed or canceled because Shane just booked a match on a whim? It’s little lapses in reality like this that bother me. At the very least, explain it. Have the announcers say, “Sami Zayn was scheduled to face Erick Rowan up next, but Shane booked this match. So, now we’re told that match will happen next week.” At least give us the impression that the head of the show has his stuff in order.
Carmella beat Naomi
Weird result, with the champion taking a pin for no apparent reason. She was slightly protected because of all the other things going on with both teams at ringside, but it was still a strange result.
Randy Orton beat Baron Corbin
Amid reports that they were going to push Corbin strongly in 2017, I figured that this was a match they would try to save for a pay-per-view down the road. But, instead we get it for free on SmackDown. Maybe WWE is worried about ratings a little bit? Two big matches on SmackDown (AJ vs. Mahal as well) and then two huge matches on Raw (Rollins vs. Wyatt and Reigns vs. Balor). They’re experimenting a little bit, and I think a big part of that has to do with a dip in viewership numbers.
The match itself was good, and one of the stronger Orton television matches in a while. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t bad.
Mahal and the Singh Brothers attacked Orton after the match, and Mahal closed the show posing with the WWE Title ahead of the big title match on Sunday.