Less than two weeks ago, Shinsuke Nakamura won the Royal Rumble in what I would call a surprise (I know he was a rumored winner but I really didn’t think they could actually give him the win). After the match, Nakamura wasted no time in saying that he wanted to face Smackdown World Champion AJ Styles at “Wrestlemania XXXIV”. You don’t often get a match set up that soon, but the dream match was set.
The thing is, Nakamura earned the title shot back in January but wouldn’t receive it until April. That’s a lot of time to fill and today, we’re going to be looking at how to properly fill in that time. Today, we’re going to look at some of the ways that time can be filled. I won’t be doing a week by week look at the time in between, but rather the general way I’d put things together. There likely will be some fantasy booking involved but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to assume that the title match takes place one on one with Styles retaining the title at “Fastlane 2018” and with no one else being added to the match along the way.
First of all, and probably most importantly, Nakamura needs to get some big time wins. Other than the Royal Rumble, he only has one or two big wins on the main roster, none of which have come in recent time. This needs to be the time for Nakamura to start running through people on the way to facing Styles. There’s a group of talent on the “Smackdown Live” roster who could build him up, but you need to do it pretty soon.
Right now there are eight episodes of “Smackdown Live” and “Fastlane 2018”, giving us nine major “Smackdown Live” shows before the match with Styles. While Nakamura doesn’t need to win a major match on all of those, I’d put him at needing at least five of them. Thankfully there’s a long list of options available (assuming you don’t throw in a “Monday Night Raw” opponent) and you can build them up in increasing order. Here’s the order I’d put this in, or at least something close to it:
Randy Orton (“Fastlane 2018”)
Corbin is a straight big win, Mahal avenges the STUPID losses from 2017, Orton is the big fish win and Zayn/Owens have been the top heels on the show for a long time now. What worries me is the idea that they’ll just sit around and have Nakamura pose a lot and almost never beat anyone. Since he won the Rumble, he’s been in one tag match and that’s it. Nakamura needs to be taking people’s heads off with Kinshasa and beating the heck out of some people to show that he’s upping his game for “Wrestlemania” season. Just having him stand around saying he’ll win the title isn’t going to do him many favors.
At the same time, Styles has a few options. He’s been winning so many big matches as of late and is firmly established as the show’s ace. He’ll have another pay per view match to make him look even more dominant but the question is how should he treat Nakamura. I’d have him realize Nakamura is a threat (they have a history together, which you can acknowledge to varying degrees) and act accordingly, though he can wait until after “Fastlane 2018” to really get focused on him. If Nakamura is built properly, Styles can look at what he’s up against and realize he needs to crank things up.
That attitude from Styles brings up another big point: a heel turn from either of the two of them. Simply put, I really don’t think it’s needed. This match is already viewed as a dream match and there’s no need to artificially crank things up and take away the main point of the match: the two best names on the show fighting to see which one is better on the big stage. That’s not a personal issues and it wouldn’t make sense to force one into the match. Just let it build up naturally, as it should be doing.
The other problem is who would turn. We know that Styles is someone who can play a solid heel while still being the best in-ring performer around, but Nakamura might actually be just as good. His talking has never been his strong suit (though it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be) so just having him be more of a hard hitting villain that no one could beat would work well.
That being said, I don’t see the need for either of them to turn. First of all, it’s Wrestlemania. How many of the fans there are actually going to boo either of these guys, no matter what they do? The only reason to make a change at this point would be for the sake of making a change and that’s rarely a good thing. Let them do the story in the way that it should go and let the talented people handle things as they’re more than capable of doing.
Finally, and in a rare case least importantly, there’s the issue of the promos. Styles isn’t the best talker in the world (though he’s acceptable) and Nakamura’s promos are only going to get him so far. I’m not sure how these two are supposed to talk to each other in the form that WWE prefers, but in this case there’s the much more basic option of short statements while the action does the talking.
There’s only so much you can have these two say to each other and that’s going to be the right call for the two of them. They’re both better as in-ring performers than on the microphone, though Styles can get to a good promo if you give him the right time. All Styles needs to talk about is how the match is about being the best in the world. He’s proven it before so let him prove it again against someone who has given him trouble before.
Nakamura doesn’t have to say all that much either, but just saying that he wants to be the best in the world and needing to defeat Styles is really all he needs. There’s no secret to the fact that Nakamura isn’t a great talker so keep it to the point and let him say it seriously and to the point. His actions will do most of the talking.
Styles vs. Nakamura should be a heck of a match with the two of them leaving it all in the ring for a nearly half an hour long match. This is one of those things where the wrestling will do everything it needs to do and that’s not something you get to do very often. These two can pull it off though and if it’s done right, it can be a classic.
Remember to check out my website at kbwrestlingreviews.com, follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up the 2018 Updated Version of the History of the WWE Championship in e-book or paperback. Check out the information here:
And check out my Amazon author page with cheap wrestling books at: