Thursday, November 3, 2016

Podcast Deep Dive: How2Wrestling - How2Shinsuke

The How2 gang takes a stab at Nakamura
Photo Credit:
Show: How2Wrestling
Episode: How2Shinsuke
Run Time: 2:08:55

For more than a year, real-life couple Kefin Mahon and Jo Graham have been doing a monthly examination and discussion of a pro wrestler's career, with the loose thread always going back to Graham not having watched hardly any wrestling before meeting Mahon. She is quickly becoming well-versed in our weird world of wrestling nonsense, and this episode demonstrates this by showing her familiarity with their subject: Shinsuke Nakamura.

In Graham's mind, literally everyone knows who Nakamura is. Okay, maybe not everyone everyone, like how everyone knew who Stone Cold or Hulk Hogan was. But among wrestling fans who watch anything more than just RAW, then yes, everyone is up on Nakamura. So how does this happen? How does one wrestler become so beloved over seemingly such a short period of time?

One way of determining this is to look at the evolution of the performer and see how he became what he is now. It turns out that Nakamura had greatness within him from the very beginning, earning the nickname "Super Rookie." Even as a "young boy" he was tapped for holding down a big spot in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and one of those big spots came from his 2006 match with Brock Lesnar. Graham couldn't believe how Nakamura looks like almost a different person back then, with his short, practical haircut and slightly smaller physique. This was him going up against a changed Lesnar - washed out of the NFL, unwilling to go back to WWE, biding his time until going to UFC. And even then, Nakamura gets a great match out of him.

Mahon gives a rundown of the next few years in Nakamura's career where he continued doing excellent work and eventually took on the form in which we now know him. He got that weird haircut, his arms and limbs started doing inexplicable things, and his face became a cool rubber mask.

The next match they discuss is Nakamura's match against Kota Ibushi at WrestleKingdom 9. Speaking as a huge fan of NJPW, I will admit that I had not seen a second of the product until after that show went down, so the hosts are correct when they say this match probably went a long way toward getting a lot more eyes on what was happening in Japan. The image that made me want to start watching was just seeing The King of Strong Style making his entrance in his big crown.  Mahon says only Nakamura could pull this look off: "Compare King Barrett to Kingsuke Nakamura here, with the way Barrett came out in his silly little crown and his robe. He just looked like he felt fucking stupid. Whereas Shinsuke is coming out here and he's like, 'Yeah, I'm the King of Strong Style. Duh."

They also go into Nakamura's debut match for WWE, at NXT Takeover: Dallas, where he took on Sami Zayn. Nak had the crowd chanting "holy shit" just for his entrance, and the camera caught Zayn making a certain face. Graham says, "He's just sitting in the corner, just kind of chillin', just watching Shinsuke. And in his eyes, you can see he's starstruck." She's totally correct. Zayn has wrestled all over the world against basically everyone, but he has never stepped in the ring with a person exhibiting an aura like Nakamura does, and all he can do is smile.

How2Wrestling was created with the intention of showing people how easy it is to get into pro wrestling: you just have to watch a ton of stuff and do boatloads of reading. No big deal, right? But Graham has shown that it truly isn't that hard. Sure, it does take some extra time out of your life. There are so many books I could have read in the hundreds of hours I've spent watching wrestling just in the last year, but when I think about it, the amount of information processing I've done over those hundreds of hours is equivalent to...I don't know, seven books? Ehh whatever, it's a rewarding experience.

The hosts have worked hard to make a show that can appeal both to obsessive fans and relative newcomers. If you're an obsessive fan and you think you know everything, you'll still get a kick out of hearing Graham learn new things and be bowled over with delight. I'm currently downloading their episode about Owen Hart, as I'm sure it will be beautiful, especially in the hands of such gentle British souls.