All week, we here at Sports Al Dente will be previewing all 14 matches on the WrestleMania 34 super card. This is shaping up to be one of the biggest WrestleMania’s in recent history, as every title will be defended on the card for the first time since 2001. Back then, though, there were only six active titles in WWE. This year, the ‘Mania card features nine title matches.
One of those title matches is AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship. A match nobody thought would happen in the WWE, Styles versus Nakamura. They will face off for the richest prize on wrestling’s grandest stage. Here’s a quick preview of how we got to this dream match.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship
How We Got Here
Styles won the WWE title from Jinder Mahal on Smackdown Live in November, ending the Modern-Day Maharaja’s six-month title reign. Styles successfully defended the title against Mahal at December’s Clash of Champions, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at the Royal Rumble, and in a six-pack challenge at Fastlane. The Phenomenal One has taken on all challengers in his four-month reign as champion.
Nakamura earned his opportunity for the title by winning the men’s royal rumble match. Nakamura entered 14th, lasting nearly 45 minutes to win a championship match at WrestleMania. Immediately after the match, Nakamura was asked which champion he’d be challenging on the grandest stage of them all. The Artist simply answered “A…J…Styles!”
Styles and Nakamura have only faced off once before in singles competition, but it was considered by many to be the best match of 2016. Taking place at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10, Styles challenged Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. This would be the last title match for both in NJPW, as Styles, Nakamura, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson all joined WWE by the end of January 2016.
The battle between Styles and Nakamura was a classic, with Nakamura winning in a 24-minute war. With both men coming to WWE, fans hoped that one day we would get the re-match between the two on WWE programming. They will get just that at the Superdome on April 8.
Both Styles and Nakamura have been playing the “mutual respect” card throughout this feud. Unlike the Universal title match, Styles and Nakamura have not made any physical contact with each other during the buildup. Nakamura keeps on mentioning that he’ll win at WrestleMania with a “knee to face,” which hasn’t rattled Styles much.
Nakamura finally got to Styles a little bit on the March 27 edition of Smackdown Live, as he set up for the patented Kinshasa knee strike, only to stop before making contact with Styles. It was perfect mind games from the challenger heading into their showdown at ‘Mania.
This match probably has the highest expectations of any on the WrestleMania card. These two are considered two of the top 5-10 wrestlers in the word currently, and the one prior match between the two was an all-time classic. This has “match of the night” capabilities written all over it.
WrestleMania 34 takes place from The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on April 8 with a special start time of 7 pm eastern/6 pm central. The show is streaming live on the WWE Network.