Just a few weeks after his debut, Shinsuke Nakamura is already making waves on SmackDown Live.
In fact, Nakamura is now a major part of the WWE’s marketing campaign for Backlash, the SmackDown Live exclusive pay-per-view that airs on May 21st. Nakamura is seen in every ad for the show, even though he doesn’t yet officially have a match booked for it.
NXT fans are very familiar with Shinsuke Nakamura, but for everyone else, who is this charismatic but mysterious wrestler? Shinsuke Nakamura is his real name, he is 37-years-old, and he is from Kyōtango, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Since 2007, he has been married to Harumi Maekawa.
Here’s everything else you need to know about Shinsuke Nakamura.
1. He Got His Start With New Japan Pro-Wrestling
Shinsuke Nakamura made a name for himself at New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
He joined NJPW in March 2002, and he immediately impressed everyone there; not long after their debut, Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata became known as the new Three Musketeers.
In December 2003, Nakamura won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. At the age of 23, he became the youngest person to ever hold that title.
All the while he was working with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Nakamura also performed in mixed martial arts.
2. He Has Crossed Paths With Brock Lesnar
In January 2006, Shinsuke Nakamura challenged Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, losing to Lesnar at Toukon Shidou Chapter 1.
Following this event, Nakamura took some time to travel the world and train with Brock Lesnar in Lesnar’s personal gym, according to Goliath.
During this time, there was some discussion about Nakamura coming to the WWE, but that did not end up happening. Brock Lesnar would soon leave New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Nakamura returned to the company in September 2006.
Nakamura has continued to say that he wants to have a rematch with Brock Lesnar, according to Channel Guide Magazine. That’s not something that will happen anytime soon, though, as Brock Lesnar is part of the Raw brand and Shinsuke Nakamura is part of the SmackDown Live brand.
3. He Used to Room With Daniel Bryan
Brock Lesnar is not the only current WWE superstar that Shinsuke Nakamura has crossed paths with. He actually used to be roommates with Daniel Bryan.
This was around the time that Nakamura was training for mixed martial arts; he and Bryan lived together in Los Angeles, California along with a third roommate: Lyoto Machida.
During an appearance on the Talk is Jericho podcast, Nakamura revealed that during this time, Daniel Bryan was the only one of them that actually spoke any English.
Daniel Bryan has since said that this was a strange experience because Nakamura and Machida did not get along.
“…Nakamura and Lyoto Machida, like, had this, like, weird rivalry, right? They just didn’t like each other,” Bryan said, according to Wrestling Inc. “I was kind of like the peacemaker of the crew. I wouldn’t say peacemaker, but you could just see, like, Lyoto Machida didn’t speak great English. I mean, he spoke decent English and Nakamura spoke decent English, but just enough for the miscommunication. And they’re both stud enough athletes to be like ‘ugh, ugh’ and really get after each other.”
Now, over a decade later, Daniel Bryan is the commissioner of SmackDown Live, the show that Shinsuke Nakamura performs on.
4. He Joined WWE in 2016
In January 2016, the WWE announced that it had signed Shinsuke Nakamura, whose contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling had recently expired.
Nakamura made his WWE debut in April 2016, defeating Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. He went on to defeat Tye Dillinger in his NXT television debut. A few months later, at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe to win the NXT Championship.
Nakamura held onto the title for three months, losing it to Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto in November 2016. However, Nakamura won it back the following month at a live event, only to lose the title to Bobby Roode in January.
On the April 4th episode of SmackDown Live, the first show to air after WrestleMania, Shinsuke Nakamura made his main roster debut, interrupting The Miz and, later in the evening, having a match against Dolph Ziggler, though this match was only for the live audience and was not broadcast on television.
5. He Was Inspired by Michael Jackson
In an appearance on the Talk is Jericho podcast, Shinsuke Nakamura said that his character is in some way inspired by Michael Jackson.
Nakamura elaborated on this point by saying that he saw Michael Jackson almost as a martial artist because of his dance style and the way he mastered balance and movement.
This is why, on a recent episode of SmackDown Live, Dolph Ziggler accused Shinsuke Nakamura of essentially ripping off Michael Jackson.
Nakamura also says some of his other influences are Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jushin “Thunder” Liger.