5 things you need to know about Shinsuke Nakamura
With his arrival on SmackDown LIVE, The Artist Known as Shinsuke Nakamura instantaneously changed the face of Team Blue.
Nakamura coming to WWE seemed like a pipe dream for hardcore fans since he was already a bona-fide star in his home country of Japan, but that dream became reality in April 2016 when The King of Strong Style debuted in NXT and immediately set the WWE Universe on fire. Since then, Nakamura has only bolstered his incredible reputation, leaving his fans clamoring for him to make the jump to the main roster. He granted their wish two days after WrestleMania 33 with his SmackDown LIVE arrival.
But The Artist is still keeping the WWE Universe on edge as they await to see what he’s truly capable of inside the ring on Team Blue. For those who may not be familiar with the decorated striker, we’ve put together a primer on Nakamura, giving you a little background on one of the biggest signings in WWE history ahead of his SmackDown LIVE in-ring debut against Dolph Ziggler at WWE Backlash.
He has competed against AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar
Nakamura has earned a reputation as one of the best in the world by facing the toughest competition the world has to offer. In addition to battling Japan’s top stars, The King of Strong Style has thrived against men who would become WWE Superstars. Nakamura ventured to the United States in 2014 and clashed with Kevin Owens, a man with a reputation for hitting just as hard as The Artist. And just weeks before signing with WWE in early 2016, Nakamura stepped into the ring at the Tokyo Dome to square off against another newcomer to WWE at the time, AJ Styles, in a bout that had the wrestling world buzzing.
However, Nakamura’s most impressive feat may have come just four years into his career. On Jan. 4, 2006, at the Tokyo Dome, he challenged Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Championship. Though he fell to The Beast like many others, Nakamura pulled off a rare accomplishment: He earned Lesnar’s respect, as well as an invite to train with him at his home gym.
He counts Freddie Mercury as an inspiration
Upon watching Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time, it’s not uncommon to be taken aback by his effortless rock-star charisma or his sinuous movement. Indeed, the SmackDown LIVE Superstar is as flamboyant as he is vicious, famous for making elaborate entrances in outlandish outfits. Yet, it might just stun you to find out his flair for theatrics was inspired, in large part, by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Freddie Mercury.
As strange of a choice as that might sound for a rough-and-tumble Superstar like Nakamura, he regularly cites the late, great front man of Queen as one of his chief influences. The Japanese ace has even been featured on the cover of a magazine sporting a mustache and wearing a white leotard reminiscent of Mercury.
He appeared in the Japanese music video for “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
Shinsuke Nakamura’s off-kilter charisma made him stand out from the often ultra-serious world of Japanese wrestling. It also caught the eye of Pharrell Williams, who enlisted The King of Strong Style to do his thing in the Japanese music video for his hit single “Happy.”
Clad in his trademark red ring jacket with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship strapped around his waist, Nakamura strutted his stuff against a white background, unleashing a set of dance moves slightly influenced by Michael Jackson but infused with Nakamura’s inimitable swagger. In just a few seconds of screen time, Nakamura made it clear how he earned another nickname from his fans: “Swagsuke.”
He trained and lived with Daniel Bryan
Long before Daniel Bryan galvanized the “Yes!” Movement or Shinsuke Nakamura was anointed The King of Strong Style, the two legends-in-the-making were just a pair of humble, hungry grapplers honing their craft together in Santa Monica, Calif., in the early 2000s. They trained side by side at the Inoki Dojo, a facility created by WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki and affiliated with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Bryan and Nakamura were even roommates for a short time, according to an interview Bryan gave during the WrestleMania 31 media tour. Though it remains to be seen how Bryan’s position as SmackDown LIVE General Manager will affect their relationship going forward, one can only assume any disputes over dirty dishes in Santa Monica were settled by knee strikes.
He is an extremely decorated competitor
Though Shinsuke Nakamura may be considered a rookie when it comes to time served on WWE’s main roster, he’s been wrestling for nearly 15 years. In that time, he’s become one of the most decorated competitors on the planet.
In The Artist’s home country of Japan, The IWGP Heavyweight Championship is considered one of sports-entertainment’s most prestigious lineages outside of WWE, with past titleholders including the likes of Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, Big Van Vader and WWE Hall of Famers Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami.
Prior to signing with NXT, Nakamura won the esteemed championship on three occasions, but what might be even more remarkable is the fact he first captured it at age 23, making him the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history. That title win occurred in December 2003, when Nakamura was just a few months shy of his 24th birthday. Interestingly, Randy Orton became the youngest WWE World Heavyweight Champion in history just a few months later at age 24. Now that both are on SmackDown LIVE, could the men behind these historic feats lock up for the WWE Championship?
Nakamura did not waste any time adding to his illustrious resume after arriving in NXT. He captured the NXT Championship just four months after debuting and became only the second competitor to hold the title twice. On top of that, he was voted the 2016 Male Competitor of the Year and Overall Competitor of the Year by the NXT Universe in the NXT Year-End Awards.
Though time will tell how Nakamura’s career on SmackDown LIVE will play out, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that it won’t be long before Nakamura strikes his way toward another championship.