Antonio Inoki is a legend of it, but Shinsuke Nakamura is the king of STRONG STYLE!
Will W. Erins
Strong Style (adj.): the reliance on treating pro-wrestling as a legitimate athletic contest (to a certain extent), with a focus on hard strikes and kicks but also emphasizing submission wrestling.
Shinsuke Nakamura has since caused a stir in the WWE with his personality and remarkable skills that have been witnessed throughout the world. His true shine in the WWE is during his NXT tenure in 2016. However, before we talk about his WWE career (so far) let’s take a look at his stellar career in Japan where he encountered multiple highly recognized wrestlers.
NJPW (New Japan Pro-Wrestling)
Nakamura would debut for NJPW in 2002, where he quickly became an instant star gaining the attention of the fans and officials as a bright prospect. Nakamura would earn the nickname “Super Rookie” for this astounding climb to stardom. The one thing about Nakamura that gave him this newly found stardom is his excellent combination of strength, speed, and technical ability. Along with the appraisal from the NJPW officials he and two other rookies (Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata) would become known as “new Three Musketeers”. The next year in December 2003, Nakamura won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship becoming the youngest champion at the age of 23 in the company’s history which is interesting given Randy Orton was the youngest WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the age of 24, when he won the title at SummerSlam 2004.
Another aspect about Shinsuke Nakamura is his stint in mixed martial arts where he’s been semi-successful at it. There’s no reason to believe that Nakamura could’ve been successful in MMA given the impress style he has and the various kicks he implements in his in-ring matches. Nakamura would also have several MMA-style matches against Daniel Gracie, the man who handed him his only loss in MMA. Nakamura’s hard-hitting style would serve him well as he matured as a wrestler, which would eventually culminate in Nakamura crowning himself “The King of Strong Style”. Fast-forward three years and Nakamura would have accomplished a multitude of endeavors in NJPW from championships to memorable rivalries from all over the world. In 2006, Nakamura would step away from NJPW a month after challenging and losing to former UFC champion and current Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Toukon Shidou Chapter 1.
Fun Facts: Championships and Accomplishments
3x IWGP Heavyweight Championship
IWGP Third Belt Championship
5x IWGP Intercontinental Championship
IWGP Tag Team Championship
IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship
NWF Heavyweight Championship
10,000,000 Yen Tag Tournament w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan
G1 Climax (2011)
G1 Tag League (2006) w/ Masahiro Chono
National District Tournament (2006) w/ Koji Kanemoto
New Japan Cup (2014)
Teisen Hall Cup Six Man Tag Team Tournament (2003) – with Hiro Saito and Tatsutoshi Goto
Yuko Six Man Tag Team Tournament (2004) – with Blue Wolf and Katsuhiko Nakajima
Heavyweight Tag MVP Award (2005) with Hiroshi Tanahashi
New Wave Award (2003)
Tag Team Best Bout (2004) with Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Katsuyori Shibata and Masahiro Chono on October 24
It’s should surprise nobody that Shinsuke Nakamura would also have faced off against several before joining the WWE in 2016. During his travels in the United States he would compete in Ring of Honor, Nakamura battled Canadian-wrestler Kevin Owens. Another WWE wrestler that’s locked up with the King of Strong Style for the first time was Kurt Angle, who Nakamura actually defeated in 2008. Last year, before it was rumored that both wrestlers would join the WWE after years of missed opportunities Nakamura rekindled his feud with AJ Styles, after having their first one-on-one match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January. Another match that could’ve been promising if the timing of Nakamura joining WWE or ROH during his tenure would be against Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson). That match could’ve been an easily 5-star rated ’bout between “The American Dragon”.
If you’ve followed his illustrious career, you will realize that Shinsuke Nakamura is the literally the greatest IWGP Intercontinental Champion of all time. Why? Here’s why! Similar to WWE’s Intercontinental Championship, is given to someone who isn’t in the main event picture or to someone who has the potential to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Although Nakamura didn’t hold the championship first (created in 2011) he did win it a staggering 5 times with a cumulative title reign of over 900 days. Six other wrestlers have held the title a single time while others have won the title twice with reigns a third of his current record.
In 2016, after his contract expired for NJPW, the rumors swirled about Nakamura finally heading to the WWE. After all the rumors were settled Nakamura would make his debut on April 2016, defeating Sami Zayn which is arguably the greatest debut match of all time for the story it told. After the war between him and Zayn, it was clear that Nakamura was being primed for an NXT Championship run in the near future. A few months later, Nakamura would face Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn II for the NXT Championship where he won his first-ever NXT/WWE champion. Nakamura held onto the title for three months, losing it to Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto in November 2016. However, Nakamura won it back the following month at a live event, only to lose the title to Bobby Roode in January.
WrestleMania (2017) is the night of surprises and there were some surprises from both RAW and SmackDown Live! Shinsuke Nakamura would be one of those surprises during The Miz and Maryse continuing to mock John Cena and Brie Bella but the two didn’t start a feud as the focus seemed to get Dolph Ziggler to face Shinsuke Nakamura at Backlash. Since his arrival on the main roster, Nakamura has earned the opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship, competing in the SDLive! Money in the Bank ladder match only to lose at both. However, it seems that WWE has finally appreciated the megastar that Shinsuke Nakamura is after he defeated the two most prominent figures in the WWE, John Cena, and Randy Orton.
The legacy of Shinsuke Nakamura has gone through a prosperous development where his “Super Rookie” status transformed him into a sought out talent to the “King of Strong Style” that we know and love today. The only question to ask is, will Shinsuke Nakamura finally capture the crowning jewel that is the WWE Championship?