“The King of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Finn Balor to win his first Intercontinental Championship at WWE’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Well, the match technically took place on the Extreme Rules pre-show, or as WWE calls it, the kickoff. The match was a late addition to the card, with many fans left scratching their heads at the decision to have two main event-caliber performers serve as the night’s opening match. Still, Balor and Nakamura did the best with the slot they were given, engaging in a fun, fast-paced contest that never dragged.
Balor and Nakamura of course have history from their days wrestling in Japan, with both men having been former members of the Bullet Club faction. Despite that past, tonight’s match was actually only Balor and Nakamura’s third one on one encounter under the auspices of WWE. The first was an absolute classic that happened on NXT TV shortly before Balor left the brand permanently for the main roster, and only a few months after Nakamura’s NXT debut against Sami Zayn.
The second WWE singles match between Balor and Nakamura took place last Tuesday on SmackDown, another opening match that tried its best to steal the show early. Nakamura came out on top in that non-title contest, and that actually turned out to be a bad omen for Balor’s title reign, as the Irish superstar ended up pinned by Nakamura on the Extreme Rules kickoff after a deadly Kinshasa knee strike. The Intercontinental Championship now belongs to Nakamura.
The Intercontinental Championship joins a growing list of accolades for Nakamura, who spent much of 2018 feuding with AJ Styles over the WWE Championship. While Nakamura never managed to capture that gold, he did win the Royal Rumble match to get it, joining a very select group of wrestlers. He’s also a 2-time former NXT Champion, and a 2-time former United States Champion. It’s hard to imagine him not holding either the WWE or Universal Championships before his time in WWE ends.
That’s one thing Balor has on Nakamura, having been the inaugural Universal Champion, despite only holding the title for 24 hours due to injury. While WWE no longer enforces the old rule where champions automatically received a rematch after losing their title, one assumes this will likely just be the beginning of a long feud between Balor and Nakamura, two of WWE’s finest competitors, and a combo that would make a hell of a WrestleMania main event at some point in the future.
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