Thankfully, Vince McMahon resisted the opportunity to get cute…and is giving wrestling fans at least one match they really want at Wrestlemania 34…a legitimate dream match…AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship.
After last year’s classic New Japan Pro Wrestling series of Kenny Omega-Kazuchika Okada matches got such widespread notice, and were viewed by many on AXS TV…WWE made the comment semi-privately “we want an ‘Okada-Omega’ match”. Well, WWE may now have it….as long as they don’t get in the way of Styles and Namakura.
For those who don’t know the history of this match, AJ Styles-Shinsuke Nakamura took place at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 two years ago, a match that established Nakamura and Styles as two of the most coveted wrestlers for WWE . A few weeks later, they both signed with WWE. Most wrestling fans know of Styles’ history with TNA/Impact, even if WWE won’t acknowledge it.
I know there are a small but vocal number of people who don’t get Shinsuke Nakamura. To them, I tell them to go watch his NXT matches on WWE Network. Watch his April 1, 2016, debut at NXT Takeover: Dallas against Sami Zayn. Watch his 3 match series with Samoa Joe starting at NXT Takeover Toronto in August 2016, through their match in Osaka, Japan late in 2016. Watch Nakamura as he was meant to be seen. None of the “artist known as” BS. None of the Jinder Mahal lame racist crap. None of the forced comedy act by announcers.
Better yet, watch Nakamura’s matches in New Japan. See if you can find some New Japan Pro Wrestling that aired on AXS TV while Mauro Ranallo was announcing. If THOSE matches and calls don’t excite you, you’re beyond help. Nakamura’s history includes 3 times as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 5 times as IWGP Intercontinental Champion, one co-IWGP Tag Team Championship with Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the winner of the 2011 G1 Climax, 2006 G1 Tag League, and 2014 New Japan Cup tournaments. The list of matches to choose from there is long. Pick one and sit back.
Styles and Nakamura are well known enough that their merchandise shot to the top of WWE Shop sales after signing, so despite the best efforts of the WWE disinformation/omission machine to obscure their past…fans know these two. The slow build to put Styles-Nakamuta together for Wrestlemania is a acknowledgement of how over the two are (even if WWE wouldn’t ever admit it in public).
It also looks like WWE may be acknowledging that fans are going to crap on Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar, and remove it as the main event match. It’s been rumored that one of the reasons we’re going to wind up, likely tonight, as being told John Cena will face Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
Here’s what I don’t care for about that:
First, Undertaker got a great send-off at last year’s Wrestlemania. After Roman Reigns defeated Undertaker, ‘Taker took off his gloves, slipped off his jacket, and laid it in the ring; to the point when the ring was being taken down after the show, there are shots of WWE staff leaving them in the ring as a worked and/or real sign of respect. Post-match, Taker kissed his wife at ringside and slowly walked up the ramp….and presumably faded to black in what should have been a great final scene for his character.
How in hell do you top that for a sendoff?
Then there’s the John Cena melodrama of not having “a path to Wrestlemania”. Anyone over the age of 2, even those who may still believe even… know damned well Cena will be on Wrestlemania one way or the other, even if WWE had to engineer a in-ring “wedding” to Nikki Bella for Total Bellas fake drama instead of a match. So all that, and the inevitable segment tonight… I could easily do without.
I know that these two, one way or the other, will pull out something worthy of the event…even if Cena has to do it all by himself. He wouldn’t have it any other way. I wonder if Undertaker, as much as his head and heart want to do the same…still has a body that can do as much.
Until next time….