Welcome to another edition of Trading Places! For those of you who are new readers, these articles are purely speculative looks at what might happen if two wrestlers were to switch promotions at the drop of a hat! If this type of article interests you, I’ve already examined the potential career paths of MJF and Roman Reigns in the first episode, and R-Truth and The Guy Who Sticks His Hands in His Pockets (or just Pockets) in the second!
But in this episode, we’re looking at two guys who have had remarkably similar careers thus far, even though they’re in different promotions. Both guys were popular in Japan, went to the United States, and became tag team champions, both with varying degrees of success. That’s right, this episode is all about Kenny Omega & Shinsuke Nakamura! Without any further teasing, let’s get right into it! As always, we’ll start with the bigger star of the two.
Shin gets top billing here, because he’s been more successful in his WWE run. He’s had runs with the Intercontinental and US titles, and he won the Royal Rumble once. That’s not bad, but how far would he go in AEW? I expect the fan reception for him there would be better than it would for Roman or R-Truth! AEW’s fan base seems to place a particular reverence on Japanese wrestlers for some reason. He had a similar response when he was in NXT, which is primarily an indy crowd, so he’d be super popular overnight.
That just leaves the question of booking. AEW has a serious issue at this point of bringing in new stars and having them lose major matches right away instead of building them up slowly. Would Tony Khan see Nakamura as a top star? I’m not entirely sure, but I wouldn’t put much stock in his opinion since he’s new at this. Doesn’t seem like Nakamura would be the type to run with the Young Bucks, so I don’t see him being very popular backstage, but you can’t argue with that fan response. Nakamura would be a top star very quickly based on the response from that audience!
There’s just one more thing to consider: would Nakamura lay down for Cody? Roman and R-Truth couldn’t escape this fate, but I see something different for Nakamura. I’m not saying the fans would riot if he lost, because nobody riots anymore, but if Cody pins him, people may start seeing through all his smoke and mirrors. He may not be able to be world champion at this point, but he’s on TV more than Moxley is. The difference between Nakamura and all of Cody’s recent opponents (Eddie Kingston, Warhorse, etc) is Nakamura’s not just an indy guy. He could go back home and be over like God at any time he wants to, so his signing should be treated as a big deal. I can see him going over Cody, but only in a non title match.
The verdict on Shinsuke Nakamura to AEW is: he breaks the trend! He’s treated as a top star, beats Cody fair and square, and becomes a top guy in their promotion until he decides to hang it up. He could be a future AEW champion! Just please don’t have him beat MJF.
Let’s get this out of the way: Kenny’s not the best wrestler in the world. The best wrestler in the world is Daniel Bryan. Kenny hasn’t had any significant wrestling training to speak of. Some of you may not know that Kenny had a short run in WWE’s developmental territory before he ran off to Japan and started wrestling sex dolls. I’m totally ignoring that for the purpose of this article, but it still took place. Kenny comes across as a pretentious douche to a lot of people, mostly because he thinks he’s reinventing the wheel every time he gets in the ring. I get the feeling he wouldn’t be well liked in WWE’s backstage environment. Nakamura may not be liked by the Young Bucks and their fan base, but that’s only because they’d be jealous that he’s more popular than they are.
The sex doll thing isn’t even an issue here, since we’ve discussed that Vince McMahon doesn’t watch any wrestling that’s not his own. But I can’t see Kenny getting past the developmental program. He may be popular to the NXT crowd, but that’s a coin flip since they’re more interested in the execution of the moves and Kenny’s ring work leaves a lot to be desired. Because of his unwillingness to accept that Daniel Bryan is worlds better than he is, I can’t even see Kenny making it to TV. But for the sake of being thorough, let’s assume that he makes it to RAW or Smackdown. I can’t see the mainstream fans being accepting of his version of wrestling or comedy.
The verdict on Kenny to WWE is: He comes in with a big head based on his sex doll matches in Japan. After languishing in NXT for two years, he shows up to Smackdown and gets booed (or laughed) out of the building. Not expecting this in the slightest, Kenny is taken aback. He suffers a mental breakdown and quits wrestling. The dirt sheets still say he’s the best wrestler ever, even though Daniel Bryan is right there.
If you enjoyed this purely speculative article, tune in next week when my friend and Wednesday Night War co-host Josh DeBord helps me pick two wrestlers out of hat for the next episode! If you want to see us talk about AEW and NXT live as they happen, tune in to our Facebook live stream every Wednesday (unless preempted by the NBA playoffs)!