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Can AJ Styles, Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura Get WWE Back On Track? by Hank McAllen

It’s Christmas time, and I am hoping that Santa will be good to all of us wrestling fans and place some special gifts under the tree for us this week. Besides WWE 2K16, and a New Day shirt on my list, I hope that Mr. McMahon would like to see a set of new wrestlers placed under the WWE tree. I am talking about A.J. Styles, Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura, who will all be seeing their current contracts expire over the next couple of months.

Rumors have been hot and heavy over the past several weeks as speculation is growing as to where these three mega talented wrestling stars will end up once the ink on the existing deals dry up and it comes time to renegotiate with their current companies. All three bring a wealth of experience and top notch in ring skills that would only help the WWE as they continue to struggle and try to reinvent themselves during one of the lowest points the company has seen since the Monday night wars. All would command hefty salaries, which shouldn’t be a problem. There are though, obstacles that WWE would face in trying to get the three to sign with the company that go beyond the almighty dollar.

Let’s start with A.J. Styles. He recently suffered a very serious back injury that put him on the shelf for a while for the first time in a long time. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as we’ve heard AJ say on numerous occasions that he wants his next deal to be about “doing what is best for his family”. Length of time and total dollars may now both be reduced since he’s also 38 years old which makes the injury he suffered a tad more worrisome if you are planning to sign him for big money. Now again, it’s his first major injury, but does this mean he will be more prone to being on the shelf as he quickly approaches 40? I can only imagine that Vince may be a bit gun shy in possibly signing the phenomenal one especially given the recent string of injuries Daniel Bryan suffered that have appeared to have ended his in ring career with WWE. It should also be noted that even though Styles is hurt, he still had a very good match with Jay Lethal at ROH’s PPV last Friday.

As far as Shinsuke Nakamura is concerned, this legendary wrestler from the land of the rising sun has seen his popularity reach its highest point in the United States over the past 12 months. His battles with the likes of Styles, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada are stuff that legends are made of. He has been a multiple time holder of both the IWGP World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships. One of his good friends in the business is Daniel Bryan, who has gone on record more than once in saying that he’d love to see WWE sign Nakamura as he’d love the opportunity to wrestle him. Another great thing that would help Nakamura in the United States is that he speaks English. Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were his idols growing up, and you can see their influence on him in the flamboyant way he behaves. However, the King of Strong Style” will be 36 with a lot of mileage in rough matches already behind him. Plus he’s married and has his roots deeply entrenched in Japan. Will he want to leave that behind for a big pay day from WWE? Possibly, but maybe WWE can swing a Brock like deal with him that, with limited dates, would allow him to still have enough time to be at home.

Lethal

Then there is Jay Lethal. What an amazing talent, who is only 30 years old, and has been wrestling since he was 16. From the first time I saw Lethal on TNA back in the mid 2000’s you could tell he was a major talent in the ring and if he would work on his promos he could be a star. Jay, a real student of the game, hasn’t disappointed. He is excellent on the microphone, can cut a great promo and his personality is such that he can pull off being a babyface or a heel and do so with the same positive end result. Sounds like a perfect fit, right? Well, maybe not so. Jay has seen what has happened to many of his cohorts who have gone to WWE only to spend a relatively long time in NXT before they get called up to the main roster. He’s also seen how some of them have been stuck in mid card status, trying to “connect” (Cesaro) with the WWE universe. Does Jay want to go that same route too? Also, he is the ROH Heavyweight Champion. The company needs to keep him. I would like to think that Sinclair Broadcasting will find the means to keep Jay. But, maybe Jay will look beyond any perceived negatives about WWE and want to leave the small pond behind and shoot for the brass ring in Stamford.

I am hoping Vince McMahon will do whatever it takes to bring these three superstars into the fold of team WWE. I am also hoping he lets his son-in-law Triple H handle how they are booked in the company, and that doesn’t necessarily mean sending them to NXT. Due to the ages of Styles and Nakamura I really believe you could do something special with the trio and here is how I would book them.

After the three are signed, I would wait before bringing them on TV until after Wrestlemania. As it stands WWE should already have their card for WM in place and adding these three into the mix would only confuse a writing team that doesn’t need much to throw them off track. I want their arrival to be special, and I want it to be presented in a way that would help keep ratings up post Mania.

The biggest RAW of the year is the Monday after Wrestlemania. We have seen this trend in current years and we could see it again in 2016. I am hoping that Roman Reigns defends his title successfully at Mania and is cutting a promo at the end of the next night’s RAW to thank the fans who have finally accepted him. As he is speaking I would have Kevin Owens’ music hit and have him start a promo about how he’s glad that Reigns is still the champ and that change is good and that now things are really going to change in the WWE and he’s brought three of his friends to help make sure that things REALLY DO change!

I would then have the three all walk out and hug Owens. KO would then give the microphone to the mouthpiece of the unit Jay Lethal who would talk about all the speculation being over. Lethal would then go on to say that he and his friends didn’t come to WWE to go to NXT and train a bunch of newbies in the business of wrestling. They aren’t going to be the stunt men these wannabe’s cut their teeth on. They don’t need to learn how to cut a promo or need to learn how to wrestle because they’ve done just fine so far in their careers and they don’t need some guy whose career was never as good as theirs telling them “how it’s done in our business”. They’ve seen what has happened to their buddies like Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe. They’ve seen their careers stall and they are not here to see their careers end in some makeshift gym in Florida. No! They are here to dominate the WWE. And oh, before anybody thinks we’re some faction, forget it. We are not. It’s every man for himself up here, but we will be watching each other’s back from time to time.

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I would then have Styles take the mic. He starts to cut a promo on Dean Ambrose, Roman’s friend. He would start inferring that Dean is only riding Roman’s coattails and that if it wasn’t for Seth Rollins neither he nor Reigns would be worth anything in WWE. Then Nakamura begins to speak asking if Brock Lesnar remembers him, referring to their feud in New Japan back in 2006 when Brock successfully defended his title against Nakamura. The King of Strong Style then asks Brock why he ran away from Japan before Nakamura got a rematch against him, and that he has unfinished business with the Beast only this time he will be the victor.

Finally, Lethal grabs the microphone back and issues a challenge to the man who is in the ring. Lethal tells Reigns he understands that the only reason Roman’s in the WWE is because he’s the Rock’s cousin and if he wasn’t he’d be flipping burgers somewhere. He tells Reigns that while Roman was playing with tackling dummies in high school and college, he was dominating the squared circle around the world. Once Lethal is finished, enter Kevin Owens again, only this time he is starting to walk to the ring with the threesome behind him. Owens says to Reigns, “see I told you Roman, change is good, and it’s time for you to feel what change is like.” The four rush the ring, beat the champ to a pulp. Leaving him in the ring with blood trickling from his mouth while the screen cuts to black.

That’s how I would book them, and whether it’s all three or just one of these mega stars coming to WWE, I’d love to see it happen. I believe that if you take the approach I described above, or something similar, you will help keep fan interest that usually wains after Wrestlemania. Think of the matches any of these guys could have against some of the top flight guys on the roster. WWE needs a shot in the arm and these three can definitely do it.

What are your thoughts on Nakamura, Styles and Lethal possibly coming to WWE? How would you utilize them, and do you think they could help turn things around?

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