Pro Wrestling

10 Interesting Facts You Should Know About Shinsuke Nakamura Source:

So, you may have heard that WWE signed this Japanese wrestler named Shinsuke Nakamura, but since you don’t follow much wrestling outside of North America, you’re not sure why some wrestling fans are really, really excited. Well, fortunately for you, we’ve gathered a bunch of pertinent information about the career of one of Japan’s most popular wrestlers, so that when Shinsuke Nakamura finally does make his WWE debut, hopefully you’ll understand why he is legitimately one of the biggest international signings WWE has ever made.

10. He Was The Youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion In History

This part occasionally confuses people who aren’t as knowledgeable about Japanese pro wrestling, so we’ll get it out of the way first. The company Shinsuke Nakamura wrestled for in Japan is called New Japan Pro Wrestling, or NJPW. The titles that are fought over in NJPW, however, are all references to the company’s governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix, or IWGP. Chief among the titles is the IWGP Heavyweight Title, which serves the same purpose as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Nakamura is a three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, which is far off the record of seven reigns. However, in NJPW, the cumulative length of your title reigns is seen as more important, and at 390 days as champion, Nakamura slides into the top ten overall rankings, ahead of luminaries like NJPW founder Antonio Inoki and some guy named Brock Lesnar. Most importantly, Nakamura holds the record for youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion ever, accomplished when he won the title in 2003 at the age of 23. By comparison, the youngest WWE World Heavyweight Champion in history is Randy Orton, who was 24 when he won the belt at SummerSlam 2004. Source:

9. He Has Wrestled Several WWE Superstars Already

Nakamura himself has said that one of the reasons he came to WWE was to wrestle Daniel Bryan, and while that will never take place (and believe me, we’re very upset about that), there are still lots of dream matches left with members of the WWE roster. More importantly, there are even some dream re-matches that could concievably take place in WWE. On top of that list has to be a re-match with Brock Lesnar, who Nakamura faced back in 2006 in Japan but was unable to defeat. There’s also the man who Nakamura faced during one of his trips to North America as part of Ring of Honor, the angry Canadian known as Kevin Owens. Of course, from more recent history, Nakamura could always rekindle his feud with AJ Styles, after just having their first one-on-one match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January 2016 (which we’ll talk more about later). And if you want to go out on a limb, there’s always the possibility that we could see Nakamura hook up one more time with Kurt Angle, who Nakamura actually defeated in their only match together in 2008. Source:

8. He Nearly Came To WWE In 2006

We just talked about how Nakamura faced Brock Lesnar, who was IWGP Heavyweight Champion in 2006, and lost, because he was facing Brock Lesnar. Well, that loss actually inspired Nakamura to leave Japan and travel the world, seeking to become a better wrestler and potentially, one day, actually beat Lesnar. To that end, Nakamura travelled to Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and other locations around the globe, training in various different styles of wrestling. He even made a special trip to train with Lesnar at Brock’s personal gym! As part of Nakamura’s world tour, NJPW President Simon Inoki actually discussed loaning him to WWE, so he could learn about North American pro wrestling from the very best, and also in a promotion that Lesnar himself had worked for. Unfortunately, that never ended up happening, as Lesnar suddenly departed NJPW to sign with UFC, because in Lesnar’s world, giving adequate notice is something that other people do. Having just lost one of its biggest stars, NJPW demanded that Nakamura return home to help the promotion. Source:

7. He Had A Short But Successful MMA Career

Like many Japanese wrestlers at the time, when Nakamura was starting out in New Japan, he also had a fledgling MMA career. Only months after making his pro wrestling debut, Nakamura also made his mixed martial arts debut, losing his first match. Nakamura would end his brief fighting career with a 3-1-1 record, with all three of his victories coming via submission, and even competing in two matches while he was IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Presumably, Nakamura ended his MMA career to focus exclusively on wrestling, but he did bring a lot of his MMA experiences into his pro wrestling persona, including a match against Brock Lesnar just before Lesnar would make his own transition into MMA. Nakamura would also have several MMA-style matches against Daniel Gracie, the man who handed him his only loss in MMA. Nakamura’s hard-hitting style would serve him well as he matured as a wrestler, which would eventually culminate in Nakamura crowning himself “The King of Strong Style”. Source:

6. The King of Strong Style

One of Nakamura’s more prominent titles is “King of Strong Style”, which has led to him wearing an actual crown during his ring entrances. But you might wonder what “Strong Style” actually means? Well, you may have heard of “WWE Style”, which is the way WWE trains its wrestlers to put on matches that show of their skills in a TV-heavy environment. “Strong style”, similarly, is the style of wrestling that is the foundation of New Japan Pro Wrestling, pioneered by WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki. It relies on treating pro wrestling like it is a legitimate athletic contest (to a certain extent), with a focus on hard (albeit still worked) strikes and kicks, as well as putting an emphasis on submission wrestling. Many NJPW wrestlers have a background in some form of MMA, and are quite often treated like real athletes by the Japanese public. Nakamura named himself the King of Strong Style during a heel run where he claimed he wanted to “resurrect” strong style in NJPW, during a war with Inoki’s new promotion at the time, IGF. Source:

5. He Competed In Two Different Unification Matches

To continue with the idea that Nakamura was incredibly important to New Japan, during his three reigns as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, he took part in two different unification matches, which are huge deals no matter what promotion you’re part of, since you’re literally combining two titles to make a super-title with the combined lineage of both belts. When WWE unified the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles (technically, for the second time), it was such an important event that they decided they couldn’t possibly have Alberto Del Rio be part of that match, and went with John Cena facing his eternal rival Randy Orton instead. That’s how big a deal unification matches are, and Nakamura’s been in two. And more importantly, he won them both. In his first reign, he defeated the National Wrestling Federation champion (the NWF is actually a North American territory, and their title was established in 1970 and has been held by several WWE Hall of Famers) to amalgamate those two belts. Then there was that match with Kurt Angle that we mentioned earlier, where he unified the two versions of the IWGP Heavyweight title (Angle’s version, which he wore while in TNA, was actually the IGF version and not the “original” one). Source:

4. He Appears In A Music Video

You know how there are, like, five thousand versions of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” music video? Well, then it should come as no surprise that there is an official Japanese version of the video, starring Williams, but also including appearances by both Shinsuke Nakamura and another of NJPW’s top stars, Kazuchika Okada (who is also rumored to be someone WWE is heavily interested in bringing in). The video is actually incredibly hard to find, so if it does’t work, we apologize, but you should never deny yourself the opportunity to listen to “Happy”, because it’s so bright and cheeful that it will just make your day that much better. We actually can’t back that up, scientifically, but trust us, it’s true.

3. The Greatest IWGP Intercontinental Champion Of All Time

When he left for WWE, Nakamura was forced to vacate the IWGP Intercontinental title, which many feel was basically created to be around his waist. Similar to WWE’s Intercontinental Championship, the New Japan version has been traditionally held by someone who isn’t currently fighting in the main event for the IWGP Heavyweight title, but who is still seen as potentially being on that level. Ironically, Nakamura was not the first man to hold the title, which was created in 2011, and in fact, was not part of the inaugural tournament to crown the first champion. However, in the short history of the title, it has been won by Nakamura a staggering 5 times, for a cumulative title reign of over 900 days. Only one other wrestler has even won the title twice at this point, and has held the title only a third as many days. Six other wrestlers have held the title a single time. While it’s likely that Nakamura’s record of five reigns will likely be eclipsed one day, it is still an incredible accomplishment that currently outstrips anyone else in the promotion. Source:

2. Boma Ye

That would be the name for Nakamura’s finisher (it can also be written “Bomaye”), a running knee strike that, like everything Nakamura does, hits really hard. It’s also a phrase that has its roots in Lingala, a language spoken in central Africa. Why is a Japanese wrestler naming his finisher in an African language? Well, the phrase, when translated to English, actually means “Kill Him”. The reason it might sound familiar to you is because it was more famously used by fans of one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali, during the “Rumble in the Jungle” fight against George Foreman. That fight, one of the most important in boxing history, took place in Zaire, a country located in (you guessed it) central Africa. We have to wonder if WWE will delve too deeply into the translation, given their dedication to remaining PG, but we should note that the promotional video they released for Nakamura states that the Boma Ye “has taken out more men than polio”.

1. He Has Already Wrestled a Match of the Year Contender in 2016

While the Royal Rumble may be the first Pay Per View of the year in WWE, New Japan holds their own show every year in early January that they consider to be their version of WrestleMania. Now known as Wrestle Kingdom, it takes place at the 50,000+ seat Tokyo Dome, has been going on for twenty-five years, and is billed as the largest wrestling event in the world outside of WWE. In 2016, Nakamura was part of one of the top matches on the card, defending his Intercontinental title against none other than AJ Styles, who was the leader of NJPW’s Bullet Club at the time. It was the first time the two had met one-on-one in history, and the anticipation was high for a match between two of the best wrestlers in the world. They did not disappoint, and the only reason their match might not be the front-runner for Match of the Year is because the IWGP Heavyweight title match that followed was considered even better by some. Days later, it was revealed that both Styles and Nakamura would be leaving NJPW and signing with WWE. Styles beat Nakamura to WWE by appearing at the Royal Rumble, but after what is expected to be a short stay on the NXT roster, Nakamura will be very close behind. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.