A year ago, I was praising WWE for its foresight to make the Raw Women’s Division the centerpiece of its Monday night programming. Taking a page from TNA’s playbook, where Knockouts were a focal point of weekly television, the company that has pushed this “revolution” for two years stepped outside the box and took a chance that paid off.
This past Tuesday, WWE did something similar, hoping for the same results.
Daniel Bryan announced that Shinsuke Nakamura and John Cena would meet in the main event of SmackDown Live next week, with the winner earning a shot at the current WWE World Champion – Jinder Mahal – at SummerSlam.
What a minute. What has WWE done? Putting a “dream match” on live television, not forcing fans to spend $9.99 to watch it. It’s not unheard of, but it’s a curious decision by booking to sell such an important match on a Tuesday night. Cena, who took down Rusev in a flag match at Battleground, would appear to be the odds-on favorite to face the Anti-American heel, doing what the 16-time world champion does best. It is another attempt for Cena to surpass Ric Flair as the wrestler who has won the most world titles of all time.
Excuse me while I pause in disgust. I am sure you all know my feelings on this subject. Flair is wrestling royalty. Cena is a product of the era the McMahons have created.
Getting back to the point I am trying to make, the Nakamura-Cena match is something dreams are made of. Or could be made of. Or could be a flop from the start since the chemistry must be perfect in this scenario. Nakamura has moved on from his feud with Baron Corbin, winner of the Money in the Bank contract (thank goodness) and Cena is looking for another feud to conquer.
WWE may think it has gold in its sights, but it might prove to be an ill-fated attempt at success. For the fans, this is a chance to see if the company is ready to push the Japanese superstar – given that he has been booked poorly since making his way to the main roster from NXT.
Personally, I would much rather see Nakamura and AJ Styles renew an old rivalry of two babyfaces that would set SmackDown Live on fire. Timing is everything for WWE and its attempt to bring the fans back to professional wrestling. The history of Nakamura-Styles in Japan is something the company should build on, but may be waiting for WrestleMania 34 to relive the past.
It is rumored WWE will once again undergo a “superstar shakeup” after WrestleMania in New Orleans, attempting to find the right combination for both red and blue brands and create different storylines that appeal to fans’ sensibilities. The most recent move to change rosters gave SmackDown Live a decided advantage since WrestleMania 33. The sudden shift to make the Universal Title the most important belt in the company has eased that stronghold just a bit.
The one thing that concerns me about a match between Cena and Nakamura, with a seasoned veteran and an upstart, is how WWE books both performers. It’s hard to imagine Cena putting Nakamura considering his lack of time on the main roster. It’s also hard to see WWE setting up its most recent import for failure. Cena is obviously the idea choice to face Mahal as the “Captain America” of the company. WWE could very possibly be in a “no win” situation should Nakamura lose this match.
The move to give Nakamura a push maybe too soon. A situation where there is no winner on Tuesday night would force a triple-threat match at SummerSlam. From there, it’s anybody’s guess how WWE decides to book the championship match. But the safe move is to put the title on Cena’s waist until the company figures out when Corbin will cash in his Money in the Bank contract.