Why Shinsuke Nakamura May Fail On WWE’s Main Roster

Many are expecting big things from Shinsuke Nakamura if he’s called to the main roster in 2017, but they might be disappointed.

2016 is going down for the count, and honestly, it couldn’t come fast enough.  As usual, the end of the year means it’s time to look forward to the next, and a popular prediction going around is that 2017 will be the year of current NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura. Even here on this site some are predicting big things for the King of Strong Style. Am I missing something? Because all I see is a guy who will wind up a little fish in a very big pond.

It’s not a knock against Nakamura who is an incredible in-ring performer with accolades longer than his violin entrance at NXT TakeOver. But since when has being a great wrestler ever been enough on the WWE’s main stage? It takes a lot more than that, and history is not in Nakamura’s favor. A quick experiment:  Name the last Japanese WWE World Champion.

Crickets. Yeah, there has never been one. It should’ve been Antonio Inoki who defeated Bob Backlund in the late ’70s, but WWE does not consider his brief title reign canon. There have been many Japanese superstars who have passed through WWE, but rarely have any of them been as big as in their home country. Most went back home fairly quickly. Remember former WWE tag team champion Kenzo Suzuki? I bet you don’t.  Sneeze and you might have missed him.

The problem isn’t Nakamura’s skill or his charisma; he had loads of both. It’s communication. The language barrier between Japanese superstars and American audiences is greater than any other nationality. Nakamura can string a few English words together, sure. During his whole three or four month feud with Samoa Joe he managed to say maybe five words total, in fact. That’s okay for the NXT crowd who don’t come looking for the constant storylines of WWE Raw or Smackdown Live. As we’ve seen many times before, what works in NXT doesn’t always translate in the big leagues. In fact, it doesn’t more often than not.

Nakamura doesn’t have the benefits of AJ Styles, who came to WWE with a similarly impeccable international resume. Styles, who has never been known for his mic work, was given the freedom to feel his way into a character that suited him. His heavily-produced promos were brief and to the point, until the time came that he was more comfortable, and that came when he was paired up with his buddies Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Nakamura doesn’t have that luxury. He will be touted as a world class star right off the bat, but won’t have the same latitude to connect with audiences. He’ll wow them with his stiff, powerful manuevers but won’t be able to make a sustained emotional connection.   To be fair, I see the same problems occurring for Hideo Itami if he’s ever healthy long enough to make the main roster.

This isn’t me hoping for Nakamura’s failure, I’m a fan. I want awesome matches from him in WWE for a long time. But at the level he’s currently at, I don’t see anything more than a disappointing upper-midcard run before an eventual return to Japan where he’s more comfortable and appreciated.

What do you think? Will Shinsuke Nakamura be a top WWE superstar? Or will NXT champion be his greatest achievement?

This article originally appeared on