John Cena, the face of WWE for so many years, faced off with Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time on 1st August 2017, in what had previously been described as a “dream match” for wrestling fans…
#1 Contender Match for WWE Championship
(Winner via pinfall: Shinsuke Nakamura
Two years ago, if you were to tell wrestling fans that they’d one day see John Cena face both A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura at separate times in a WWE ring, they’d call you crazy. But in wrestling in 2017, that is in fact reality.
A lot of negative talk surrounded this match in the lead-up. Not because people didn’t want to see it, because they did, but because many felt that it should not have been given away on free television in the United States. I completely understand that argument, but I don’t think that is a decision that fans of the company need to concern themselves with. If WWE were happy to put this match on weekly television, then that’s their choice. The only downside I can possibly see for fans is the match being cut up with advert breaks, rather than what would have been an uninterrupted match were it on a PPV show.
As it happens, the commercial breaks did break the momentum of the match a little. No question, there was a big fight feel surrounding the whole bout, but as the match went on I really did find myself wondering just how much better it would have been on PPV. All the ingredients were there for a great match, and I do believe Cena and Nakamura will have that match one day, but unfortunately their first battle with each other promised a lot, teased even more, but largely didn’t deliver. One could argue that it did wet the appetite, however.
I liked that the match stayed in the ring, and that Nakamura kept trying to submit Cena. I did roll my eyes when Cena locked in the STF, as I suspected he would make a greater effort to tighten it up given he was facing a strong-style opponent, but he didn’t, and the hold looked weak as a result. Speaking of weak…when’s the last time we’ve seen the Attitude Adjustment no-sold like it was here? It will be interesting to see how WWE protect that finisher in future, because watching two straight ones do zero damage to Nakamura did ruin the illusion of the move a little.
There was a somewhat worrying moment when Nakamura performed a backdrop on Cena, as he set up the final transition of the match, but dropped Cena on his neck. For his part, Cena stayed relatively calm about it, but the replays of the footage showed just how bad a landing it was. One kick to the head later, and Nakamura was the new #1 contender for the PROGRESS Championship, and wrestling fans all over the world were more than likely stunned to see Cena lose clean to Nakamura. Cena doesn’t often lose without shenanigans, so this was a real show of confidence in Nakamura.
As I wrote earlier, I feel like the match was a teaser of a much bigger, much more important, match down the road. Cena is currently trying to wrestle everyone left on his list, as he has suggested retirement is in his future in some form, so a rematch with Nakamura may not happen for a while yet, but I strongly believe we will get one.
All in all, a decent television match but nothing more. My only regret with this match is that it was broken up with commercials, which dampened the momentum a little.