Several stars are bound to make memorable impacts over WWE WrestleMania 33 weekend, though Shinsuke Nakamura specifically will be one to watch for.
Coming out of Wednesday's edition of NXT, it has been announced that Nakamura will receive his NXT Championship rematch against Bobby Roode at TakeOver: Orlando on April 1. He originally dropped the title to Roode at TakeOver: San Antonio and has been in hot pursuit of the championship in the two months since.
Kassius Ohno, who recently returned to NXT, has also been involved in the title mix as of late. It's safe to assume he will be the top babyface of the brand going forward, with Nakamura ready to be called up to the main roster any day.
Although Nakamura is far and away the most popular wrestler on NXT, he has already achieved it all in just one year. As a two-time NXT champion, there aren't any obvious feuds for him if he does regain the gold on the anniversary of his NXT debut.
That said, the only logical booking option for him would be to have him arrive on either Raw or SmackDown Live post-WrestleMania. While his departure would be a big blow to WWE's developmental system, he is needed more on the main roster.
In that case, his upcoming championship clash with Roode in the Sunshine State should serve as a fantastic farewell to NXT from Nakamura. He can put over the new champion on his way out, and his epic entrance will be what fans remember from that night, not his loss.
In recent years, NXT stars have surfaced in the annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania. That would be one way to use Nakamura at WrestleMania 33, but he is well above competing with the directionless talent of WWE.
He recently expressed interest in facing AJ Styles at the event, which wouldn't be out of the ordinary considering Sami Zayn also pulled double duty during the WrestleMania 32 weekend. Sadly, Styles is already booked for a bout with Shane McMahon, and there will always be another opportunity for them to square off in the future.
Beside, with WrestleMania 33 slated to be a grand six hours in length (including the Kickoff show), Nakamura would easily be overshadowed if he were to debut at the event. Instead, saving his initial appearance on the main roster for the following week's television tapings would be for the better to ensure it packs as much of a punch as possible.
WWE has had a rich history of introducing fresh faces to fans the night after WrestleMania, and this year's episode should be no exception. Typically, a handful of wrestlers are brought up from NXT at one time, and Nakamura being among those elite few is a no-brainer.
All eyes tend to be on Raw coming out of WrestleMania and not SmackDown, but the game has changed with the blue brand airing live on Tuesday nights. SmackDown has been treated as an equal to Raw since the brand split last summer and thus deserves some new roster additions as well.
Between the two brands, Nakamura would be a far better fit for SmackDown, with Raw receiving Samoa Joe, Goldberg, Bayley and other notable names in recent months. Meanwhile, SmackDown is in desperate need of top faces, with John Cena set to take time off following WrestleMania, per Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc).
From Styles to Bray Wyatt to Baron Corbin to The Miz, SmackDown has a healthy crop of heels, so Nakamura wouldn't have trouble settling into a meaningful program from the get-go. He should also be positioned as a big deal to allow him to maintain his momentum.
Needless to say, no audience would give Nakamura a more raucous reaction than a post-WrestleMania crowd, which normally consists of rowdy fans from around the world. He would immediately be viewed as a star by those unfamiliar with his body of work from earlier in his career.
Nakamura is in line for a more monumental WrestleMania weekend than anyone else on Raw, SmackDown or even NXT, and if handled the right way, his likely debut could cap off the exciting festivities on a high note.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a Digital Journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.
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