Shinsuke Nakamura closed last week’s episode of NXT with incredible flair. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he demonstrated his physical dominance and asserted his verbal acumen in anticipation of his championship return/grudge match with Samoa Joe in Toronto.
Nakamura’s swagger and ability to deliver embodied the best of what WWE can bring its viewers. In fact, his show-closing performance was reminiscent of the hottest star in the history of the promotion: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Although their signature entrances are so different, both Austin and Nakamura come to the ring in way that clearly and immediately communicates their values and personalities to the audience. While Nakamura’s trance-like dance moves are about as far from Stone Cold’s brisk, purposeful walk as possible, the King of Strong Style uses his entrance to build fan anticipation for his decisive words and actions, just as the Texas Rattlesnake did.
Nakamura’s promo Wednesday night was pure Austin. His come and get it attitude in spite of his opponent’s attempts to get under his skin spoke to the “don’t get mad, get even” style that helped Stone Cold launch the Attitude Era. Rather than recapping the litany of his opponent’s dastardly deeds, the NXT Champion simply asserted his intent to take his opponent to the woodshed and prove himself the toughest champion in the world.
Beating up the oddly interloping Patrick Clark was another Austin-esque moment for the King of Strong Style. While savagely beating lesser wrestlers is generally considered heelish, when it comes from Steve Austin or Shinsuke Nakamura, it’s simply a reflection of their utter contempt for any bullshit. Their focus on the prize is so narrow that any distracting, disrespectful stimulus must be swiftly eliminated.
Even the Kinshasa, Nakamura’s high-impact finishing move, harkens back to Stone Cold’s Stunner. It’s a quick strike of focused aggression and a decisive climax that’s designed to remove obstacles, be they the annoying Clark or the imposing Joe. It’s a move that the crowd lustily anticipates and enthusiastically celebrates because it’s the most distilled representation of their hero’s take no prisoners attitude.
Nakamura’s entire presentation this week, from the entrance to the promo and beatdown, was so reminiscent of the way an ascendent Steve Austin would act that it begged the fundamental question echoing from the mountaintops: What is the King of Strong Style doing in NXT? While his feud with Samoa Joe will undeniably rock the house at NXT Takeover Toronto, wouldn’t the greatest wrestler in the world be better served and better used rocking the house at Survivor Series?
What if Stone Cold had cut the Austin 3:16 promo in developmental? Would it have been as good? Probably. Would if it has been as impactful and profitable? No way.