Happy Monday TJR Faithful, and welcome back to another brand spanking new edition of A Matter Of Character! Last week I revisited Seth Rollins’ character, breaking down what about “The Architect” works as a television character and what doesn’t.It was a fun piece to write and we are all hoping that Seth and the WWE can put it all together because we badly want to love the hell out of that guy.
This week I’ll be looking at somebody I’ve never analyzed before. This man is my favorite wrestler on the planet. From the very first time I saw him enter an arena, I was smitten. This man is a Master of Pageantry, the Aficionado of Artistry, an Enigma Emitting Knees to the Brain, and most notably The King of Strong Style, Shinsuke Nakamura!
This week I’m chomping at the bit to go over why Shinsuke Nakamura’s character is so engaging despite the fact that he says very little. I will analyze his look, his fighting style, his personality, and what I think makes the character tick. At the end, I’ll go over what I’d do for the next year with Shinsuke Nakamura, and how I’d guarantee he’ll be a success following his transition to the main roster. I can’t wait any longer, Let’s Do This ladies and gentlemen!
Shinsuke Nakamura is a special talent in the world of professional wrestling. I still remember my first exposure to Nakamura. On sight, I was sold, because he carries himself like the greatest show on earth. From the way that he dresses to his mannerisms, there is simply nobody like Shinsuke Nakamura, which is, of course, one of the most important things about building a memorable character. In the WWE, Shinsuke has no peers when it comes to his aesthetic style. He stands out the moment you see him, which is his hook.
Going back to that first time that I saw Nakamura perform, as enamored as I was with the aesthetic choices he made and his clear showmanship, I may have been even more blown away by how those aesthetics ran in contrast to his fighting style. The viciousness of his strikes, the proficiency of his kicks, and the relentless attacks he rained down on his opponents during his match was incredible, not only because Strong Style is a brutal and entertaining wrestling discipline, but because it runs counter to everything you’d expect from the guy as he flamboyantly saunters to the ring. When it comes to the physical component of a wrestling character (aesthetics, style, and physical performance), Nakamura has it all.
When it comes to pinning down Nakamura’s personality, it all comes down to showmanship. His character is pretty meta in this era of WWE in fact. The WWE is blurring the lines between real life and narrative more and more these days. It seems that the feuds that people respond to are ones with hints of reality. It’s been a major factor in why The Miz’s equity as a character has skyrocketed since the brand split. He brings a little taste of reality into the fantasy land that is the WWE.
Nakamura’s personality is essentially the opposite. He doesn’t really rely on elements of real life to sell his rivalries or himself as a character worth getting behind. He carries himself as though he knows it’s a show. Everything he does, from the way he walks, talks, wrestles, and poses, is all showmanship. In a world where everybody is trying to be too cool, or brash, or “real”, Nakamura’s personality shines through in his desire for everything he does to be a show.
If we were to get into the mind of the character, it makes sense too. The pageantry of Shinsuke Nakamura is part of what makes him such a great fighter. He psyches you out you with over the top showmanship and surprises his opponents when the bell rings. He keeps you on your toes not just with his fighting strategy, but the way that he acts prior to and during his bouts. His showmanship is a very sound strategy.
WORDS AND ACTIONS
Shinsuke Nakamura mastery of the English language is certainly not at the level of some of the great talkers in WWE’s history or present. His promos are usually short and sweet, and interviews with him often come across a little disjointed because English is his second language. However, what he lacks in speaking ability, he certainly makes up for in physical charisma. His mastery of physicality is the key to Nakamura’s success.
To say that Nakamura’s actions are unorthodox is an understatement. The way he walks, the way he moves in the ring, the way that he taunts his opponents and the way he gets ready to strike the ending blow in his matches are all incredibly unique. He’s like the Drunken Master Wong Fei-hung meets Michael Jackson. Unpredictable, unorthodox but proficient and a master showman.
His actions are always, and I mean always about adding to the show. From his entrance to his confrontations with his opponents to the matches he is in, he is always looking to enhance the show he’s putting on. As a character he is cognizant of the stage he stands on. Yes, he’s competitive, and that desire for competition is what drives him, but he is also acutely aware, to a degree that many Superstars in the WWE aren’t, that he is also a performer, on an enormous stage. The character is one that completely understands the environment he competes in and aims to express himself in every aspect of it. He’s an athlete, a competitor, and he recognizes that he is also an entertainer on a grand stage, and he performs in every sense of the word.
Now like most WWE Superstars, a big part of what motivates Shinsuke Nakamura is competition. He relishes the thrill of doing battle with an opponent. He is a true warrior in that regard, and it is one of the reasons why he’s so well respected as a competitor. That being said, there is more that motivates Shinsuke Nakamura.
A big part of Shinsuke’s character is his awareness of his duties as a performer. He’s an artist in many ways, not only in the ring but in the design of the pageantry that surrounds his character. So when you boil it all down, Shinsuke Nakamura is a thrill seeker. He finds his thrills in the pageantry and brutality of wrestling. He appreciates the violence and the presentation, the strategy of battle and the staging of the spectacle. What motivates him is the mentality of both the warrior and the showman. He delights in the fight and is intoxicated by the pomp and circumstance of putting on a spectacular show.
Interpersonal conflict will always find the warrior, as he/she often seeks challenges and battles. The warrior exists to test his/her mettle against others. Shinsuke is a warrior and lives to test himself in battle. He will always be looking to take on a challenge, so setting him up in feuds and rivalries shouldn’t ever be difficult.
His intrapersonal conflict should revolve mostly around his showmanship. He is a man that loves to fight but also loves to put on a show. There will be times when his showmanship becomes a liability, where it serves as a distraction. His commitment to showmanship and artistry can also inspire resentment from others and serve to isolate him like it does to some actors, musicians, and artists. The fact is, there is no shortage of conflict for the Shinsuke Nakamura character.
As far as I’m concerned, Shinsuke Nakamura’s time on NXT should be winding down. His jump to the main roster should be imminent, and Smackdown is where he belongs (Raw gets Joe, Smackdown gets Nakamura). The question becomes, what is the best way to bring Shinsuke to Smackdown, and how do you book him once he arrives.
Now I know that currently, the rumor is that AJ Styles is set to face Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty big waste of AJ’s talents, and he would be much better utilized putting on a spectacle with Shinsuke Nakamura. But how do you debut Nakamura and set him up with AJ? Simple, you follow the blueprint that they did last year for Nakamura’s NXT debut against Sami Zayn.
AJ comes to the ring in a week or two and complains about the lack of his presence on the Wrestlemania card. He says he’s the biggest star in the WWE, that he carried the company in 2016, and he gets no respect for the biggest show of the year. That’s when Daniel Bryan (one of Shinsuke’s biggest fans) comes out and announces that he has an opponent for AJ Styles at Wrestlemania. “He’s faced you before AJ, and you guys tore the house down. I think it’s time you did it again on behalf of Smackdown Live at Wrestlemania! Your Wrestlemania opponent will be none other that Smackdown’s newest Superstar, and my favorite wrestler!” Daniel points to the Tron and a video package for Shinsuke Nakamura plays, and at the end, Shinsuke tells AJ he’ll see him at Wrestlemania.
In the build up for Wrestlemania, Shinsuke never appears on TV. You show video of him signing his Smackdown contract, of his training, and highlight packages of his greatest moments. You prime the audience for his first appearance to be at Wrestlemania. You present him as a big deal that will arrive on the grandest of all wrestling stages. In the build up you let AJ carry the load in the arena and on TV, insulting Nakamura, hyping himself up and saying that he’s going to take out Daniel Bryan’s man crush on day one.
Imagine Nakamura’s first appearance on the main roster being at Wrestlemania, with an elaborate and spectacular entrance, followed by a kick ass match with AJ, that he wins, marking his arrival. He’d be a massive star from the jump. Debuting at Wrestlemania with an extravagant entrance indicates that you’re a big deal, and anybody that has never seen him before will be intrigued from the jump. Once they see how good he is, and he and AJ tear the house down, he’ll be a made man.
From there I’d book the rest of his year fight for and defending the Intercontinental Championship. He’d have feuds with AJ, Ziggler, Ambrose, and The Miz, the latter three over the Intercontinental Championship. I’d never let Shinsuke have a World Title match over the course of 2017. I’d want to build up a stir over the fact that he’s not getting the opportunity to hold the top title, or even have matches for it.
It would all culminate with him walking into The Royal Rumble in 2018 as Intercontinental Champion, and winning the Royal Rumble to earn his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestlemania in New Orleans. I want to have a Royal Rumble winner that the crowd will be excited about, and one that is seizing the opportunity in the match, not just getting another opportunity on top of the countless others they’ve already received. It’s a novel idea, but I want to use the Royal Rumble to propel somebody forward.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! Are you as enamored by the enigma known as Shinsuke Nakamura as I am? What are his greatest strengths or flaws to you? Would you want to see AJ face Nakamura at Wrestlemania instead of Shane? How would you book Shinsuke’s arrival on the main roster?
Until next time folks, I’m Matthew J. Douglas saying have a great week!