Since returning to WWE following a few months off to begin the year, Shinsuke Nakamura has been dipping his toes back into the WWE Universe. He’s worked a few televised matches, made fun of The Miz’s, get this, manhood, and was drafted onto RAW, where he can wrestle the likes of Gunther, Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins, and Cody Rhodes.
All in all, not too shabby; while none of these segments hold up when compared to retiring The Great Muta in Pro Wrestling Noah, they are fun ways for the seven-time WWE champion to get back into the swing of things and gear up for another strong run on the Red Brand. But in the opinion of Rocky Romero, the New Japan Pro Wrestling star who also serves as a creative liaison for the company with American brands like AEW, Impact, and even WWE, Nakamura should be used so much better. Why? Because “The King of Strong Style” is, in his opinion, just scratching the surface of his in-ring potential stateside following his incredible success in Japan.
“Nakamura is probably the most successful Japanese wrestler in North America, WWE specifically. Probably since Muta, even though Muta didn’t wrestle for WWE. Muta was super successful in WCW and NWA. I would say Nakamura’s probably the next [one or] probably even bigger in a way because the scale is bigger now. But they’ve barely scratched the surface of what they could do with him.”
While WWE fans certainly have an affinity for Nakamura, for his in-ring efforts and his unique sense of humor, they really haven’t seen the extent of what he can do in the ring when fully unleashed. An 11-time IWGP Champion who is still held in the highest regard among the company’s top stars, with Kazuchika Okada suggesting that he would love to take part in a wrestling World Cup with Nakamura representing Japan as one of its top stars.
Rocky Romero believes NJPW could benefit from “fed-up” WWE stars.
Elsewhere in his interview with Comedy Store Wrestling, Romero discussed where New Japan Pro Wrestling sits as a company, as they were hit particularly hard by the pandemic due to their inability to operate as a touring live events business.
“New Japan is in a weird spot because the pandemic hurt them because they’re a live event business more than anything,” Romero said. “There’s live events, and then there’s when you’re a TV company. So WWE, AEW, they focus on TV rights and they’re TV companies. New Japan has old-school TV rights. They’re kind of grandfathered in, they’re on one of the biggest channels in Japan. But more than anything, they’re a touring company, right, so they make their money mostly from touring.
“So [the] pandemic happened, touring went out the window. But it was important for the company to take care of their own, so nobody ever got fired, nobody got released. They made sure that everybody was taken care of, and everybody made it and survived. So now they’re just kind of starting to get back on their feet.”
Fortunately, with the dark days of the pandemic effectively over, NJPW is now back to firing on all cylinders, with big-time matches and surprise bookings like Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson, and Mercedes Moné all coming in the 2023 calendar year. Because of this newfound excitement surrounding the brand, Romero believes NJPW has a chance to really do something special and provide a haven for WWE performers who are “fed-up” with the way Mr. McMahon runs things.
“I think Mercedes was a big investment, obviously, and going forward with that and going to see and test the waters, where they were in the [United] States and where they were worldwide when you take a big talent on like that, so I feel like now, we’re starting to feel comfortable again,” Romero said. “So I feel like now, yeah, long story is basically, yeah, if, because Vince [McMahon] is back, and there [are] people who are unhappy in WWE, there very well could be a possibility of somebody coming over and being fed up with it and just walking away, and New Japan’s door will be open if that does happen, for sure.”
Could Moné’s success in NJPW, not to mention how the brand impacted performers like Cody Rhodes and A.J. Styles before her, help to influence WWE stars who want to prove themselves outside of “The Fed” when their contracts come to an end? Probably so; while NJPW doesn’t pay as well as WWE, it does present a chance for international stars to test their mettle, and parlay that success into a better position in WWE, as Bronson Reed learned first-hand. If a star like Drew McIntyre fails to come to a contractual agreement with WWE, don’t be surprised to see him appear at the Tokyo Dome under the “Drew Galloway” moniker.