The dust has finally settled after what must be one of the busiest and most frenetic starts to a year in professional wrestling’s recent history. There were big events and debuts. Talent departures and arrivals. And injuries. There were some of those too.
John Cena had a fantastic 2015 (despite his once-feared Attitude Adjustment losing some of its effectiveness), but a shoulder injury is going to keep him out of action for months, according to WWE. That means he won’t be at WrestleMania, right? Well, it is John Cena. Let’s just say it appears to be extremely unlikely that he probably might not be there…maybe.
There had been reports Cena was in line to face Undertaker in a long overdue match on a big stage between two superstars who’ve rarely crossed paths over the past decade. Without Cena, WWE’s top priority heading into WrestleMania has to be finding a new opponent for Undertaker.
Last year, the Deadman faced Bray Wyatt, and it was…OK. Undertaker’s match at WrestleMania XXX against Brock Lesnar was unforgettable thanks to the shocking end of The Streak, but the match itself was far from a technical classic.
In years prior, Undertaker was on an epic run, often having the best match on WWE’s biggest show of the year. He’s one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time, but he also benefited from sharing the ring with CM Punk, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Edge.
WrestleMania 32 could be Undertaker’s last in WWE, and if that’s the case, you know he wants go out with another classic match on the big stage. You’d assume WWE management feels the same, but to make it happen Undertaker needs someone whose abilities are on the same level as the names listed above. The problem for WWE is there are precious few on its payroll right now who fit that profile.
WWE’s main roster has been ravaged by injuries, and the company is missing some of its most popular and skilled stars at a time when it needs them the most. Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and Sting are all part of the overly crowded injury list that Cena just joined.
That leaves few options for Undertaker, whose presence at WrestleMania demands a worthy opponent. Fortunately, WWE may be close to signing one of the best pro wrestlers on the planet.
Earlier this month, Shinsuke Nakamura (along with A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows) reportedly gave notice to New Japan Pro Wrestling that he will be leaving the company. His signing with WWE seems inevitable. The moment that happens, he will be the best wrestler in the company. That’s not opinion. It’s a fact. The charismatic and popular star has performed at the highest level over the past five years. Outside of Japan, he’s virtually peerless.
Undertaker vs. Nakamura would be a dream match with global interest. Stylistically, both know how to deliver hard-hitting action alongside dramatic storytelling. They both incorporate mixed martial arts into their matches. Nakamura’s unique charisma would give fans a fresh reaction when Undertaker plays his usual mind games leading up the match.
It makes sense from a corporate perspective. WWE Network just launched in Japan. What better way to attract new international subscribers than by showcasing one of that country’s most popular wrestler?
And perhaps the best reason of all – This may be the only opportunity anyone ever gets to make this match happen.
There are some potential obstacles. Most WWE fans probably don’t know who Nakamura is. He’s largely unproven as a draw in North America, though he has headlined sold-out shows promoted by Ring Of Honor. He also has a top-selling t-shirt on ProWrestlingTees for whatever that’s worth. Still, WWE would probably need a shortcut to making Nakamura credible in the eyes of the less enlightened corners of the WWE Universe. Fortunately, the company already has the perfect person for that job on its payroll.
Paul Heyman has the verbal ability to make Nakamura an instant threat to Undertaker. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to imagine if Brock Lesnar is already committed to another match at WrestleMania, Heyman would feel compelled to find someone else to vanquish a returning Undertaker. Lesnar and Nakamura have a history with one another, which could lead to a personal endorsement from Brock himself. What could be higher praise in the eyes of the WWE Universe?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what path you follow to get to a match between Nakamura and Undertaker. It’s what happens inside the ring at AT&T Stadium on April 3 that matters. If this WrestleMania is Undertaker’s last, he deserves the opportunity to go out with the very best. No one gives him a better chance at doing just that than Shinsuke Nakamura. He can deliver what fans expect from a match involving Undertaker at WrestleMania. That makes him the perfect choice…if WWE can get a deal done.