According to The Wrestling Observer, WWE told Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro their new roles are now to make new stars. This direction effectively erases any chance of either wrestler finding residency in the main event scene.
This news comes one month after Nakamura’s standout performance in a gauntlet match on SmackDown following an unannounced babyface turn. For many, Nakamura’s renewed popularity echoed Kofi Kingston’s situation from two years ago.
Kingston was nowhere near the world title picture until he replaced Mustafa Ali in a gauntlet match. His amazing performance captivated the fanbase, forcing WWE to change their plans and book him in WrestleMania’s world title match.
For Nakamura, there was a dash of life imitating art as he filled in for Cesaro, who was originally booked in the match. Cesaro hadn’t signed a contract extension at the time, which reportedly expires after WrestleMania.
WWE placing a glass ceiling over two of the best workers on their roster sounds ludicrous, but not surprising since we’re talking about Vince McMahon. Historically, once McMahon sees someone in a certain role, it’s near impossible to change his mind.
This next statement won’t be popular. If Nakamura and Cesaro were going to be main event players, it would have happened by now.
Cesaro turned 40 last December and has been on WWE’s main roster for nine years. He’s been one of WWE’s most consistent in-ring performers during that time, with diehard fans hoping for a world title run with the “Swiss Superman.”
Sadly, his lack of on-screen charisma has prevented him becoming a next level star.
Nakamura, who turns 41 in two weeks, was one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s most prominent stars when he signed with WWE in 2016. He was booked to win the WWE Championship in 2018 until Vince McMahon changed the finish at the last minute.
As a result, Nakamura would lose three matches in a row, as a newly minted heel, in a poorly booked feud. His stock as a character never recovered. Plus, Nakamura’s lack of English was always going to be a mark against him in a company with such star-spangled DNA.
Nakamura and Cesaro helping new talent get over is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, such a role is high praise for a wrestler. On the other hand, such a position erodes a character’s on-screen credibility.
To help a new wrestler get over with the audience, they need to beat people with credibility. This will require WWE to heat up Nakamura and Cesaro repeatedly, making them viable opponents for the rising stars they see across the ring.
After so many stop and start pushes where a wrestler wins a bunch of matches but always loses the big one; fans get wise to the act and lose interest. If Vince ever decided to push a wrestler in this role, it’s too little, too late. No one will buy it.
Dolph Ziggler has occupied the role of making new stars for years. When he worked a program with Drew McIntyre last year, Raw drew low television ratings because no one believed Ziggler would win. Nakamura and Cesaro are in for the same fate.
While this news stinks for wrestling fans, it’s a great business move for WWE. All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) youth movement has led to criticism of WWE’s much older roster as their reliance on legends from the past has stalled the creation of new stars.
Nakamura and Cesaro reportedly signed new five-year deals with a sizable pay increase. Not only does this keep them away from AEW, but it gives WWE two highly paid and talented player-coaches to help cultivate the superstars of tomorrow.
Even if WWE cannot make new stars in the next five years, they still kept Nakamura and Cesaro away from AEW. For all of WWE’s success, they’re the only ones who see Nakamura and Cesaro as star makers instead of stars. AEW would probably use them in featured roles
Nakamura and Cesaro will be in their mid to late 40’s when their deals are up and have most likely signed their last high dollar professional wrestling contract. While they deserve better on-screen roles, they put pen to paper knowing their new job description.
If they’re happy with their new deals, then I’m happy for them. They’re not the first wrestlers put in this position, and they won’t be the last. Besides, Vince McMahon could change his mind tomorrow, and this blog would have been written for nothing.