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Wrestling / Shinsuke Nakamura

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The King of Strong Style
"He loves Freddie Mercury, the former lead singer of Queen; for you kids that don't know, you can Google it. He's a Michael Jackson devotee. He's also called the King of Strong Style. Meaning he's a badass. How you can go from Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson, to being a badass, is a unique journey, but this multi-talented unique personality gets it done."
Jim Ross describing Shinsuke Nakamura during his entrance at Wrestle Kingdom 9.

Shinsuke Nakamura (born February 24, 1980 in Mineyama, Kyoto) is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist, one of the primary mainstays of New Japan Pro-Wrestling through the first 13 years of his career.

After training at the New Japan dojo, Nakamura's career began in NJPW in 2002, where he quickly established himself as a bright young prospect due to his strength, speed, and technique, earning the nickname of "Super Rookie". He was regarded so highly that just 15 months into his career, he became the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history at just 23 years old, a feat only made more remarkable by the fact that he endured a short MMA career endorsed by Antonio Inoki at the same time, ending up with a 3-1-1 record. Though his title reign was ended by injury, the next two years saw him move on to his one IWGP Tag Team Championship run with future Arch-Enemy Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as two excursions to North America—the first with Tanahashi during said tag title reign, the second on his own for further development.

He came back from excursion number two as part of Masahiro Chono's Power Stable BLACK, specifically as the man Chono intended to make The Ace of the company. Chono ended up leaving the stable for a legends group, though, allowing Nakamura to reform it as RISE. Nakamura's rivalry with Tanahashi began to kick into high gear around this time, culminating in his victory over Tanahashi for his second turn as IWGP Heavyweight Champion. However, RISE would become splintered as several of the members later betrayed the team to join Togi Makabe's faction Great Bash Heel. The two groups proceeded to feud with each other, all the while slowly imploding simultaneously—a development which soon presented an opportunity to redirect both Nakamura's and New Japan's future direction.

During a match between Nakamura and Makabe, one of Makabe's closest allies in GBH, Toru Yano, betrayed Makabe to help Nakamura win. Shortly thereafter, Yano and Nakamura announced the disbandment of RISE and creation of the new faction CHAOS, consisting of nearly every member of GBH at the time not named Makabe or Tomoaki Honmanote . Shinsuke began to reinvent his persona into something akin to a Drunken Master without the actual drunkenness, as well as adopting a more violent wrestling style to go with it which made greater use of knee strikes and straight right hands, including his Boma Ye running knee finisher—a move which first gained infamy when it was used to take out Hiroshi Tanahashi and force him to vacate the world title.

Nakamura eventually faced Makabe for the vacated championship and won it for a third time. As champion, Nakamura declared his intent to resurrect strong style puroresu, which he considered a fallen art within New Japan, crowning himself with the nickname "The King of Strong Style". He lost the championship to Makabe after six months, and would make a series of unsuccessful title challenges since then, but continued to remain a mainstay in the company as well as obtain more gold following the creation of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

He became the third IC champion in July of 2012; said title reign would last for a record 313 days, which to this day is still the longest run in the championship's history. He went on to hold the championship four more times over the years, each time taking it back directly from the man that ended his previous run, including in the second longest title run in history as well at 227 days. Needless to say, Nakamura is infamously synonymous with the IWGP Intercontinental title. CHAOS remains one of NJPW's top active stables to this day, and through the stable, Shinsuke has also became something of a mentor and close friend to another young superstar realizing his potential as a future face of Shinnihon: "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada.

On January 6, 2016 Nakamura confirmed in an interview with Tokyo Sports that he would be leaving New Japan and sign with WWE; he subsequently vacated his Intercontinental title later that month. He made his WWE debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, defeating Sami Zayn. On August 20, Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe to win the NXT Championship. He would later lose the championship at Takeover: Toronto to Joe in a rematch, only to win it back 15 days later at a house show in Osaka, Japan. He joined WWE's main roster on the SmackDown following WrestleMania 33. He would then go to win his first Royal Rumble the following year.

Aside from New Japan, companies he has wrestled in periodically include CMLL, Ring of Honor, and Pro Wrestling NOAH. He was voted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2015.

Not to be confused with Japanese soccer player Shunsuke Nakamura.

"The King of Strong Style Tropes":

  • The Ace: In the early part of his WWE run. Not many can claim to have beaten both John Cena and Randy Orton clean on live TV, both within the span of a month, and followed it up by winning their first Royal Rumble a few months later by eliminating Roman Reigns. He was unpinned/unsubmitted in singles matches in the main roster from his debut there up until SummerSlam 2017, roughly five months, which is an absolutely absurd number in the current era of the WWE. Even in his Face–Heel Turn, which he describes with the words "I forgot who I am almost," he became United States Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and Tag Team Champion with Cesaro, both of whom turned back face around the same time in early 2021.
  • Achilles' Heel: If he has any, it's Americanized Heel tactics, something he's struggled with all the way back to NJPW. He's used to both the Japanese heel tactics which involve more brutality than anything, on top of himself being the one getting in the opponents head. However American heel tactics involves more stalling and subterfuge and it ends up turning the tables on him. Shown best in his NXT Title matches against Bobby Roode. STILL an issue for him even after his move to the main SmackDown roster, which cost him his chance at the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2017.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Intentionally used in his first interview following his heel turn at WrestleMania 34. Renee Young was asking him why he attacked AJ Styles, and he was clearly having none of it, so he cut the interview short by saying "Sorry, no speak Engrish," and walking off.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Hiroshi Tanahashi. Or rather, Tanahashi views him as his grand rival, Nakamura views Tanahashi more as an endless thorn in his side he can't seem to get rid of.
    • His rivalry with Samoa Joe got real personal, real fast. With Joe actively trying to cripple Nakamura after he won the NXT championship from him. Nakamura responded in kind, mowing down security guards to get to Joe.
      Nakamura: You want my NXT championship?! Come get it. Do whatever you want! Your cheap, dirty trick, I DON'T CARE! I'll just beat you... with no mercy.
    • Jinder Mahal in summer 2017, a rivalry which prompted Shinsuke to go through John Cena and Randy Orton just for a chance to get at Jinder.
    • AJ Styles for most of 2018. They previously fought at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in what was a match of the year contender then. After losing to Styles at WrestleMania XXXVI, Nakamura turned heel and low blow Styles in almost all their encounters. The two would fought several times more until Styles defeated him at Money in the Bank.
    • Jeff Hardy in summer 2018.
    • Rusev in fall 2018 until Royal Rumble 2019.
    • Baron Corbin, their start a feud in mid-2017 but only a short rivalry and the feud was ended after Nakamura became number one contender for the WWE Championship. Their restart a feud in mid-2021 after Nakamura interested on Corbin crown with the help of Rick Boogs to steal the crown.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Usually chosen to take on mixed martial arts competitors fighters due to his own MMA success.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Sure, Nakamura is flamboyant both in nature and in his entrances. But in the ring, he's a monster. Combine stiff knees, kicks, and mixed martial arts experience and you have one dangerous man.
  • Big Entrance: Quite possibly the best example comes from his entrance at Wrestle Kingdom 8 where he arrived with flaming pyros, a descending elevator to capture his presence, and Japanese strippers to accompany him for his championship defense.
  • Boastful Rap: The Dark Reprise of his entrance theme is this, featuring ore a lot. ("I", but carrying the connotation of self-assuredness, even arrogance.) Not to mention the refrain:
    Wakaru ka, ore no chikara? (Do you understand my power?)
    Wakaru ka, ore wa ichiban! (Do you understand that I am number one!)
  • Boring, but Practical: The Boma Ye/Kinshasa is not as visually spectacular as some other finishers, but being a freaking knee to the skull, you can be more or less sure that the opponent will not get up for a while.
  • Bring It: One of his trademark taunts is to lean back while bow-legged and make the "come here" gesture with his hands while screaming "COME ON!"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Shinsuke is a little weird and his stage dances are straight-up bizarro. He's also legitimately deadly, being a former MMA fighter in the vein of Brock Lesnar, and one of the best wrestlers currently working.
  • Camp Straight: He's married but has trained in ballet and is a huge fan of Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson, as shown on his page quote. His signature bizarro persona and stage dances are based on both of them.
  • Catchphrase: "YEAOH!", said at the end of his promos as an exclamation of his energy. Also talks about "the heat" as the personification of his fighting spirit and competition.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Dips into this in promos and matches.
  • Combination Attack: With Hiroshi Tanahashi, he had the Shining Wizard Triangle, in which he would perform his shining triangle and Tanahashi would do a shining wizard to the back of the opponent.
  • Confusion Fu: He says his style is to be fluid like water, always moving and slithering about to confuse his opponent.
  • Cross Through: One of four CHAOS members who frequently crossed through Ring of Honor in 2015, along with Kazuchika Okada and Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Trent Barreta).
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: MVP kicked a lot of ass around the 2011 G1 Climax, ever so briefly looking like he might be the one to advance out of block B. Nakamura had a sound strategy for putting the newcomer down, destroying his ribs, but he instinctively grabbed opening for the cross armbar, a big mistake as MVP's strong, uninjured arms allowed him to endure the hold and come to terms with the damage to his midsection. Plus there wouldn't have been enough wrestling and strikes for such an opening to present itself if Nakamura had just kicked MVP's ribs again while he was struggling with them instead of trying for a Boma Ye.
  • Dark Reprise: His heel theme draws from the original "The Rising Sun", but features a Heavy Metal backing track and aggressive Japanese rapping.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In WrestleMania 34. When Styles went to praise Nakamura, he was attacked with a low blow. This turned Nakamura heel for the first time in WWE. Nakamura turned heel again on the Raw after SummerSlam 2023, by attacking Seth Rollins while celebrating their win over The Judgment Day.
  • Finishing Move: Boma Ye/Kinshasa (running knee to the opponent's face or back of the head), Shining Triangle (a shining wizard which replaces the knee with locking a triangle choke), Landslide (Samoan Driver) and cross armbreaker variations.
  • Freudian Trio: Was the Id to two such trios in New Japan:
  • Groin Attack: Seems to be his go-to move in his WWE heel run. He signaled his turn with one at WM 34, and then hit AJ Styles with two on the following episode of Smackdown, one of his nut punches lifting Styles several feet off the ground. Ouch. He's been sneaking up on Styles to do this to him ever since.
  • Heel–Face Turn: On the January 9, 2021 episode of SmackDown, Nakamura compete in the gauntlet match to determine number one contender for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble defeated Rey Mysterio, King Corbin and Daniel Bryan before losing to Adam Pearce after been assaulted by Roman Reigns and Jey Uso turning face since 2018.
  • Hero Killer: Submitted El Hijo del Santo when in Mexico via triangle choke. It shocked the lucha libre world and sent waves towards Japan.
    • In WWE, he defeated Jeff Hardy by low blow and Kinshasa in Extreme Rules (2018) in less than 10 seconds to become United States Champion for the first time.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • In real life with Hirooki Goto, who entered New Japan in the same year as Nakamura, and helped him out with the NJPW tryouts in first place.
    • Also with Kazuchika Okada. When Nakamura left NJPW, the majority of his goodbye celebration featured him and Okada crying on each other, before Okada paraded him around the ring on his shoulders with tears falling from his eyes.
  • Hidden Depths: Shinsuke has an impressive set of pipes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: His martial arts training and interest in MMA/shoot fighting caught the interest of Antonio Inoki, who proceeded to exploit him in true Bad Boss light by putting him on a short but harsh MMA career. Nakamura ended up spending as much time off from New Japan for injuries as he did for excursions. Also, this meant he was the guy often put up to not only fight these guys, but to take their abuse on Inoki's whims. One particular example came at the 2004 Toukon Festival, when, angered for Nakamura thwarting negotiations to work a high profile match with Naoya Ogawa by threatening to attack Ogawa shoot-style, Inoki instead put the two in separate tag team matches and then ordered Kazuyuki Fujita, one of Nakamura's opponents, to shoot on him during the match. The ensuing No-Holds-Barred Beatdown included a really rough shoot kick to the face which knocked Shinsuke for a loop. But Inoki wasn't satisfied—so after the match was done, the head honcho came out personally and beat on Shinsuke some himself.
  • Hurricane Kick: One of his typical spots is a roundhouse kick followed into a spin kick if the opponent dodges the first, in the vein of Masaaki Mochizuki's Illusion.
  • I Know Amateur Wrestling: A multiple champion, with both world and national titles. He has additional training in MMA, Goju-ryu Karate and kung fu, the latter because Bruce Lee was his chilhood idol.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: His incredible ring jackets and attire somehow somehow pull this off.
  • Meaningful Rename: His original WWE theme was named "The Rising Sun". After his heel turn, he gained a new theme titled "Shadows of a Setting Sun".
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The cross armbar is a pretty simple hold, but it becomes much flashier done in flying or tilt-a-whirl variants like Shinsuke used to do.
  • My Name is Shinsuke Nakamura: How he introduces himself all the time to "those who don't know him". Normally preceded by "Do you wanna know...who I am?"
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The King of Strong Style. His finisher has this also, as boma ye literally means "kill him" in Lingala.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: He started practising martial arts not only because his love of puroresu and kung fu flicks, but also because he was bullied in school and wanted to fight it back.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Completely lost his flamboyant, cocky demeanor late in his match with Kota Ibushi at the 2013 G1 Climax, descending into an unsightly rage, and hitting endless brutal kicks and vicious stomps to Ibushi.
    • Their match at Wrestle Kingdom 9 followed suit, in part because of Ibushi mocking Nakamura's mannerisms early in the match. This time, however, Ibushi gave almost as good as he got from Nakamura.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: His feud with Baron Corbin & Jinder Mahal. Post Face–Heel Turn, he's the younger villain (at age 38) to AJ Styles' older hero (at age 40) and Jeff Hardy.
  • Older Than They Look: Shinsuke is in absurd shape for a man seriously pushing 40 years old, the age at which most wrestlers have either retired or are nearing it.
  • Power Stable: RISE, BLACK, G.B.H. and Chaos.
  • Power Trio:
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Back in his stay at the Aoyama University, he divided his time between the wrestling club and the painting club, which is not something you see in many pro wrestlers' background. Also, see the page quote. Good Ol' JR spelled it out perfectly.
  • Red Baron: Many. "The King of Strong-Style", "Super Rookie", "Child of God", "The Black Savior", "Supernova", and in Mexico, "El Samurai de NJPW" ("The Samurai of NJPW"). In Japan only, he also is called for some more lyrical ones, like "Erabareishi Kyuseishu" ("The Chosen Savior") and "Yoku Fukaki Gudosha" ("The One Who Seeks the Truth with Deep Desire").
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: If we go by the theory that Nakamura screaming his intentions to shoot on Naoya Ogawa was an attempt to make sure Ogawa knew he wasn't an easy target for any potential repeat of the Hashimoto incident rather than simply pronouncing a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Inoki's response with Fujita means Shinsuke all but assured the very situation he was trying to avoid.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During a press panel in Washington, D.C., he specifically stated that he took much of his wrestling style and persona from Michael Jackson, his rationale being that after the Fukushima disaster, you can only live once, so it's better to be proud of what you like and be energetic. From that, one could assume that his all-red leather ensemble is in turn a reference to the iconic red jacket Jackson wore on the music video for "Thriller".
    • His Finishing Move in NJPW was called "Bomaye" then renamed in WWE as "Kinshasa". Both are references to "The Rumble in the Jungle" match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974. At the event, the crowd was pro-Ali, so they were shouting, "Ali boma ye", ("boma" means "kill" and "ye" means "him") note  "Kinshasa" is the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, where the match took place.
  • The Rival: With AJ Styles. They were primarily the former from the tail end of their New Japan Pro-Wrestling careers, all the way through to their WWE careers, doing their best to one-up each other, leading to a WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania. When AJ came out victorious, it flipped to the second when Shinsuke officially started his Face–Heel Turn by...punching AJ where the sun doesn't shine. He's now made it his life's mission to terrorize AJ whenever possible.
  • Translator Buddy: Sami Zayn has become Shinsuke's, insisting that only he understands "The Artist".
  • Tournament Arc:
    • Has competed in many G1 Climax, G1 Tag League, and New Japan Cup tournaments over the years, winning each tournament only once:
      • G1 Tag League in 2006 with Masahiro Chono.
      • G1 Climax in 2011. In fact he went undefeated for the entirety of this tournament. Two years prior at 2009's G1, he went undefeated until Togi Makabe upset him in the finals.
      • New Japan Cup in 2014.
    • Won two six-man tag team tournaments: the 2003 Teisen Hall Cup tournament with partners Hiro Saito and Tatsutoshi Goto, and the 2004 Yuko tournament with Blue Wolf and Katsuhiko Nakajima.
    • He and Koji Kanemoto won the 2006 National District tournament.
  • Troll: Has partook in master level trolling.
    • In their build to their NXT championship match, when Samoa Joe was being restrained by half a dozen security guards, Nakamura reaches out and does the "got your nose!" routine. To Samoa freaking Joe.
    • He's also responded to AJ Styles guessing that he was about to say he'll beat him at WrestleMania for the WWE Championship by telling him to have more confidence before confirming the statement anyway. Then at the end of the March 27, 2018 Smackdown episode (2 weeks before their WrestleMania match), Nakamura rescued Styles from an attack by Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable but then ran up like he was going to hit Styles with a Kinshasa...then stopped, patted him on the head and said "knee to face" before walking off while Styles was still angry about being toyed with.
    • On the Smackdown after his post-match heel turn, he told Renee Young "I don't know what came over me, I'm very sorry for what I did to AJ Styles"... followed by a wink and a shit-eating grin. When she called him on it, he switched to "Sorry, no speak English".
  • True Companions: Aside from Hirooki Goto above, he's also formed quite a bond with most if not all of his long-running stablemates in CHAOS, especially Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii, the only wrestler Nakamura trusted enough to take as a tag partner, as they share many points in common on their wrestling philosophies. Naturally, Nakamura's departure led Okada to invite and convince Goto to join CHAOS, so that's no longer an "aside" statement.
  • Unknown Rival: Invokes this on Tanahashi by trying to dismiss the man as some annoying gnat that just won't go away, but given the amount of times they've faced each other in big match situations, history leans more toward Tanahashi's account of them being grand rivals.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • He and Tanahashi are former IWGP Tag Team Champions together from their days as Young Lions. Then they went on to become grand rivals.
    • His past with Samoa Joe, whom he trained alongside with back in 2002 is brought up frequently during their many battles in late 2016.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Akebono, for the brief time they faced back in mid-2000. Naka said that, while Bono was a weird guy, he was also one of the most interesting wrestlers he had ever faced. (Being a grand sumo and such, he was basically a gigantic Puzzle Boss to wrestle.)
    • Nakamura bumped fists with Kota Ibushi after their incredibly intense IWGP Intercontinental title match at Wrestle Kingdom 9, then put Ibushi further over in his promo after the match.
    • Later bumped fists with AJ Styles after winning their match at Wrestle Kingdom 10.
    • Offered Sami Zayn a warm handshake and a hug after their match at NXT Takeover: Dallas.
    • He gave Finn Bálor the same treatment as Zayn after their (near) half hour long match on NXT, which was Bálor's sendoff before joining the main roster.