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CHICAGO — The Artist Known as Shinsuke Nakamura completed the first stroke of his masterpiece at WWE Backlash, denying a defiant Dolph Ziggler in the Japanese icon’s much-hyped in-ring debut as a member of the SmackDown LIVE roster.
Ever since he bowed on Team Blue two nights after WrestleMania, Nakamura has found himself in the crosshairs of The Showoff, who claimed The King of Strong Style was an overhyped unknown, and little more than a pretender to the throne Ziggler had been holding down for the entirety of his WWE career. Ziggler’s trash-talk reached its pinnacle during the Backlash Kickoff, when he promised to “put on a clinic” against Nakamura as his way of telling “told you so” to all the “fanboys” who came to Chicago in support of the two-time NXT Champion, and preemptively pitied anyone who had to follow him.
Ziggler did, indeed, put on the clinic he promised, employing tricks of both the professional and amateur trade to keep his opponent at bay. The Showoff subjected Nakamura to collegiate-style single-leg takedowns and cradles, as well as the high-style, high-velocity elbow drops that have come to define his sports-entertainment career. Nakamura refused to stay down, however; kicking out of both the Zig Zag and a particularly gnarly superkick to the back of the head, he responded to each of Ziggler’s taunts with something between bemusement and pride, though he never seemed like he wasn’t enjoying the competition on some level.
That, of course, changed when some combination of frustration and arrogance led Ziggler to disrespect Nakamura even further and, at that point, The King of Strong Style stopped having fun and put on a clinic of his own. Nakamura draped Ziggler over the ropes, nailed him with a knee to the side of the head, then followed with an exploder suplex and a final Kinshasa knee that brought the curtain down on The Showoff.
While it’s Shinsuke Nakamura who gets to say “told you so” at the end of WWE Backlash, Ziggler should take some consolation that he was right about one thing: After tonight, it’s hard not to pity whoever has to follow him and face Shinsuke Nakamura next.