WWE stars are used to performing high-risk maneuvers inside the ring. The highly trained professionals usually go through such moves with ease, but unfortunately, sometimes injuries can occur as well. This could lead to a disruption in storylines and there can be heat on the wrestler who executed the move. This was the case on a 2017 August episode of SmackDown in a match between John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura.
WWE was pushing Nakamura as a top babyface on the blue brand. They placed him in a Number One contender’s match for the WWE title against Cena. Nakamura beat the ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ clean, but even such a rare occurrence was overshadowed by a major botch in the match.
Nakamura landed John Cena on his head
During their match, the ‘King of Strong Style’ hit Cena with an inverted exploder suplex that led to the 16-time World Champion landing on his head. The major impact of the fall was on Cena’s surgically repaired neck. After TV replays showing how badly Cena landed, everyone was concerned about his well-being. Thankfully, Cena wasn’t seriously hurt and continued the match.
However, there were reports of Vince McMahon not being happy with Nakamura considering how much he values Cena and the fact he was still a top draw for the company at that time. A year after the infamous botch, Nakamura talked about the incident in an interview with Gorilla Position.
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The 42-year-old star said that the backstage reaction to his botch wasn’t kind, and he even feared for his job. Nakamura stated, “Some people were upset backstage, not John Cena. But someone. They got p****d off at me, ‘Why did you do that?’ So, I just thought my career is finished today. The former Intercontinental Champion said he did find some support backstage, including from Cena, who even took the blame.
He continued, “But everybody came to support me and help me, even John Cena. He went, ‘not his fault my fault.’” It is possible that WWE may not have strictly punished Nakamura for this mistake, but Cena siding with him and taking the blame surely helped the matters. In fact, after their match was over, Nakamura did apologize to ‘The Franchise Player’ for the botch, only for Cena to tell him to not be sorry.
Despite nearly putting WWE’s most prized assets on the shelf, the company didn’t sour on Nakamura. He didn’t win the WWE Championship from Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam that year but continued to be pushed as a top star on SmackDown.
His exploits continued to impress the higher-ups, and the crowd became heavily invested in his ‘rockstar’ character. WWE kept Nakamura hovering close to the main event scene for some time. This culminated in the Japanese wrestler winning the 2018 Royal Rumble match, where he eliminated Roman Reigns and John Cena in the end.
This further showed the extent of faith the management had in Shinsuke Nakamura and resulted in a WrestleMania title match. Since then, Nakamura has also won the Intercontinental and United States Championship and continues to be a valuable part of the WWE setup.