Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura: WWE Match of the Year (So Far)

Former NXT Champion Sami Zayn sat in the corner of the ring awaiting his TakeOver: Dallas opponent, Japanese mega-star Shinsuke Nakamura. The look on Zayn’s face wasn’t that of a wrestler zoned in for a huge match against “The King of Strong Style”. It showed a wrestling fan anxious to meet a celebrity.

Zayn vs Nakamura optimized the artistic beauty of professional wrestling. It wasn’t a spectacle of endless aerial strikes, bodies crashing through props, or a litany of fancy takedowns executed at a racers’ pace. It was a complete story told through compellingly believable physicality, done at a gradual, deliberate tempo.

It introduced its two main characters, built on their individual purpose within the dialogue, brought their conflict to a climax, and then closed the tale with a rewarding ending.

Nakamura leapt from the top turnbuckle, landing a stiff knee strike to the back of Zayn’s head. This setup his finishing maneuver “Kinshasa”, a running knee strike to the face. By this moment in the match both opponents and their spectators had been taken on an emotional thrill ride.

The match’s audience, like its world-renowned opponents, were invested from beginning to end. The result, a pinfall victory for Nakamura, was gratifying for all parties.

Zayn entered the contest as the well-established NXT Superstar being challenged by a much-hyped new arrival. His loss to Nakamura didn’t tarnish his reputation. It also didn’t cheapen his previous accomplishments. Not once during the match did it feel like Zayn shouldn’t lose. The slate was clean. Throughout the match it was believed the fall could go either way. That’s great wrestling!

At one point during Nakamura’s entrance the camera spied Zayn smiling as he watched the flamboyant former IWGP Champion. Zayn wasn’t in character, turning on face for entertainment value. This was a genuine smile, one shared by the thousands in attendance and the millions who watched at home.

By: Mr. Joe Walker

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