Shinsuke Nakamura dropped the United States Championship to Rusev on the Christmas edition of SmackDown Live and put an end to 2018 in a disappointing way.
When Nakamura joined the WWE, he was presented as the guy that could become the new face of the company.
Thanks to his presence in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he made some of the greatest performances of his career, he entered the WWE in high expectations.
As a matter of fact, he received a push from the company and won the 2018 Royal Rumble, going on to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship.
Styles and Nakamura had some great battles in NJPW, so it was the perfect opportunity for the company to build a dream match.
The creative team made all the wrong decisions and the heel turn of the Japanese wrestler was a failure. The match was built on the low blows of Nakamura and cost him the chance to become the WWE Champion.
Although he challenged AJ Styles multiple times over spring, he couldn’t win the title and, inevitably, he sank to midcard.
Even there, his character was underdeveloped and it seemed there was no plan for him, despite his talent and potential.
Consequently, he entered himself into meaningless matches and rivalries against midcard opponents and the momentum wasn’t on his side.
Even when he won the United States Championship, the creative team again had no plan for him, which led to him not being one of the top wrestlers in the roster.
In the last months of 2018, his role continued to be undefined and only his match against Seth Rollins at Survivor Series was one of the best of the pay-per-view.
But, things didn’t change much and, consequently, he lost the title to Rusev on the latest episode of SmackDown Live and ended 2018 in a disappointing way.
Nakamura’s contract expires on February and there are already rumours regarding his future in the WWE.
NJPW has shown its interest to bring him back to the show, yet it is not likely this will happen.
In case Nakamura makes the decision to re-sign with the WWE, he should receive a push and again challenge for the top titles.
Otherwise, and given his talent and wrestling skills, it will not make any sense to remain with the company and compete in meaningless matches against midcard opponents.