Shinsuke Nakamura is a Japanese pro wrestler and an MMA fighter who is presently signed under the World Wrestling Entertainment and appears on SmackDown. Born and brought up in Kyoto, Japan, Shinsuke got bullied as a kid. His determination to be able to defend himself and love for wrestling programmes on television unknowingly set the course of his future. He started wrestling with New Japan Pro wrestling and wrestled there for 14 years, becoming in process, one of Japan’s most loved wrestlers. At the age of 23, he became the youngest wrestler in the IWGP history to become the promotion’s Heavyweight champion. He also got his hands on the Intercontinental championship many times, along with the tag team titles at IWGP. In 2014, his success at the New Japan Cup tournament got him in the eyes of American promotions and although he was well trained in MMA, jiu-jitsu and other martial arts, he didn’t care about joining UFC, and instead went for WWE. Before becoming the part of main WWE rooster, he was involved in NXT and his success there led him to make his main WWE rooster debut via SmackDown in April 2017.
Childhood & Early Life
Shinsuke Nakamura was born on 24th February 1980 in Kyoto, Japan as an average kid in an average family. Like most Japanese families, he led a much disciplined life since his early days but not for long. As he entered school, his shyness and physical weakness became a laughing stock for his schoolmates and he got bullied quite a lot. For the same, he was shamed by his siblings to not be able to stand up and fight for himself.
Nakamura was a huge fan of anime and was inclined towards art, liked to draw SG Gundam, the popular series characters and never quite considered a career in wrestling. But getting bullied in school had to stop and this led him to start training himself to become stronger in order to be able to protect himself. And during this time, his love for wrestling blossomed and he even bought a little book called ‘How to be a Pro Wrestler’ when he was in junior high.
He played basketball in school and also trained himself in karate and jiu-jitsu and when he found out that it was something that interested him greatly, he started looking forward to a career in Martial arts and idolized Jackie Chan. He even acted in school plays taking inspiration from Jackie Chan films and went on with dreaming about moving to China once the school was over.
Everything changed when he joined his school’s amateur wrestling team and within a year, he became its captain and in 1998, he won the JOC cup earning the first spot. After that, it was all him and fighting and he trained himself for MMA, kickboxing, wrestling, body building and the first success came his way in September 2001, when he got selected for the New Japan Pro Wrestling and he never looked back after that.
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His techniques were unmatchable, so were his speed and strength and these combined qualities, added with a boyish charm and flamboyance quickly made him a loved fighter in the NJPW. In his first year at the promotion, he earned the title of ‘Super Rookie’ just after a first few fights.
In his first ever pro MMA fight, he faced Daniel Gracie in December 2002 and lost, which turned out to be a massive blow for Nakamura. But he made a solid comeback in his second fight against the opponent Jan Nortje in early 2003 and later in the same year, he defeated Shane Eitner ‘
The biggest fight of his career was the next one, where he was pitted against the reigning IWGP Heavyweight champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan in December 2003. Nakamura was 23 then and after a very intensely memorable fight, he defeated his opponent and became the youngest ever IWGP Heavyweight champion.
In mid-2004, he got a chance to win one more title in form of the NWF Heavyweight championship against Yoshihiro Takayama and successfully unified his championship but that fight was hard on his body and he got injured. The injury forced him to submit his title and when he returned to the ring all fit and fine, he got the chance to win it back against Bob Sapp, but was unsuccessful.
In December 2004, Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kensuke Sasaki and Minoru Suzuki to win the IWGP tag team championship, and defeated the title quite a few times before losing it a year later to a tag team called ‘Cho-Ten’.
In January 2006, the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar accepted Nakamura’s challenge for a title match and Nakamura faced a defeat. This loss was very hard on Nakamura and he started honing his skills furthermore, gaining some muscle mass in the process, and Brock Lesnar agreed to help him with that. But soon, Nakamura was called back to New Japan and he started fighting again and in January 2008, he was once again in fight for the IWGP Heavyweight championship, which he won against Tanahashi but lost it 3 months later to Keiji Mutoh.
Nakamura made several attempts to win back the title, but was unsuccessful. Another big title victory came his way in 2012 in the form of IWGP Intercontinental championship, which he won against Hirooki Goto. Nakamura had his first successful title defence against Oliver John at the Sacramento Wrestling Federation’s event in August 2012 and made 8 more successful title defences before meeting La Sombra in the ring in May 2013 and ended his massive 313 day reign as the champion with a loss.
However, he regained the title in July from La Sombra for a second term as the reigning IWGP Intercontinental champion and in January 2014, Hiroshi Tanahashi snatched the title away from Nakamura. In the same year, he emerged the winner at the New Japan cup tournament and around that time, he retook the title again, making him three times champion. In the next few months, Nakamura would again lost and regain the title and by the end of his term with the NJPW, he was the five times intercontinental champion.
In January 2016, official announcements were made about Nakamura joining WWE with the NXT rooster. Nakamura, with a new skill set won first few matches at NXT, and in August 2016, became the NXT Champion after defeating Samoa Joe for the same. After losing and regaining the title from Joe, Nakamura lost it to Bobby Roode in January 2017 and made an unsuccessful attempt to gain it back.
His entry at a SmackDown episode on 4th April 2017 surprised the audiences where he interrupted The Miz and Marise and went on starting a rivalry with Dolph Ziggler, whom he then defeated at Backlash. Nakamura also made an unsuccessful attempt to win Money in the Bank challenge, which resulted in him getting injured, but he quickly recovered.
On 1st August though, Nakamura defeated John Cena for a title shot for the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal and lost the title match at SummerSlam 2017. But he became the #1 contender again after defeating Randy Orton on 5th September.
Shinsuke Nakamura has been married to Harumi Maekawa since September 2007.
Nakamura loves children and has appeared in a kid’s advertisement and also Pharell William’s music video for the song ‘Happy’.
Nakamura has also published his autobiography which came out in May 2014 titled ‘King of Strong Style’.