At the turn of the year, if you had been told that Shinsuke Nakamura would debut with WWE directly after WrestleMania and remain undefeated until earning his first WWE Championship shot at SummerSlam, you would have nodded your head in agreement. Sounded like a reasonable scenario. If you had then been told that the champion standing across the ring from him clutching that belt would be Jinder Mahal you would more likely have thrown back your head in laughter and discounted any future opinions of the person making the claim. But SummerSlam is five days away and that is indeed the scenario we find ourselves in and it feels bittersweet.
On one hand, most people are delighted to see Nakamura in a title match. On the other, the feeling lingers that this is neither going to be the showcase that Nakamura deserves, nor is it going to end well for the man from Japan.
Shall we address the elephant in the room first? OK, let’s ask a question. When was the last time Ol’ Nakkers had a truly outstanding match in WWE? Sure, his match with Cena recently on Smackdown was very good but by Nakamura’s high standards, it didn’t blow us away. In truth you have to go all the way back to April last year and his NXT debut against Sami Zayn to find a truly excellent match that speaks for his previous reputation. So what’s the problem? Is it age catching up on him? Have WWE put the shackles on him? Is is simply a matter of motivation and seeing a WWE run as not requiring the standard of work that he previously needed to stand out. If it’s the latter we can’t blame the guy. He’s paid his dues and deserves to reap the rewards. It is a shame, though, for fans that want to see Nakamura go out. So the question is, which Nakamura will turn up and what will he be able to get out of Jinder Mahal?
Speaking of the champ, what are your thoughts on his title reign so far? It clearly hasn’t been great. To his credit, Jinder has improved in various aspects of his game since he got the belt. His promos have improved, as has his in ring presence and work. The problem is, he was starting from such a low base. Never before has someone so lacking in so many areas been given the biggest belt (At least The Great Khali had his size going for him, for instance.). By most accepted metrics it’s been a failure. Attendances and viewers are down and Smackdown’s main event scene has been the hood ornament on the Smackdown car that has been veering markedly off the tracks since a stellar run following the brand split. It’s for this business reason that it’s likely that Jinder will be severely hindered if he thinks he is leaving Brooklyn with the big prize.
So that leaves Nakamura as the man to carry the blue brand going forward as his standard bearer doesn’t it? Unfortunately, I’m not so sure. There is the looming spectre of Baron Corbin and his Money In The Bank Briefcase to take in to account. It certainly feels like the timing is right for him to cash in and if history tells us anything, he’s likely to be successful. If we work on that assumption (And we do) then the question becomes, how does this match end? Harder to answer. What I really don’t want to see is Nakamura’s first title reign being cut short after a few minutes because of a post match cash in. It’s been done, it’s cheap and more than anything it just feels so frustrating. it also robs us off an extremely satisfying first title reign for a fan favourite. A wrestler can only win that title for the first time once and for that to be sacrificed to the MITB gods is not something I want to see. I would rather Nakamura is cheated out of his win by Jinder, only to have Corbin cash in on The Maharajah. But surely that would be cheered, which is not a great start to a heel title reign.
With that in mind, my reluctant prediction is that Shinsuke Nakamura does indeed win his first title on Sunday night but for the moment to have it’s balls completely cut off by a Baron Corbin cash in. Predicted Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
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