Much of the focus on history at Royal Rumble on Sunday night, Jan. 28, 2018 was on the history being made in the main event Women’s Rumble match.
Shinsuke Nakamura was grabbing a piece for himself in a WWE career which is rapidly becoming full of firsts - at least for the Japanese Superstar personally. After wowing the fans in his debut match at TakeOver: Dallas in 2016 with an opponent he’d only met once before the bell rang in Sami Zayn, or stealing the show in his first-ever ladder match with a few moments opposite the man he’ll now face at WrestleMania 34, AJ Styles, Nakamura’s been blazing his own trail in The ‘E.
A trail that now includes winning the first Rumble match in which he competed. Shinsuke told ESPN it was the greatest moment of his career, and it might be all the more amazing because he claimed to be unfamiliar with the concept before taking part in the 30-man, over-the-top-rope elimination battle royal:
“This was my first time being in a match with these kinds of rules. I’ve never watched a Royal Rumble match. This was my first time. I wanted to enjoy it for the first time being in it.”
Now, as our man on the New Japan beat ReverendKain pointed out in the Cageside offices, Wrestle Kingdom starts with a pre-show Rumble every year, so the NJPW veteran has probably at least heard about the concept. But a star of Nakamura’s caliber probably wasn’t hanging in gorilla watching the Tokyo Dome opener, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The important thing is the crowd felt comfortable with The King of Strong Style winning. Maybe because of that, Nak told ESPN:
“...today I finally feel like I’m there. I feel at home. It’s hard to choose the words even if I was speaking Japanese. It’s hard to find the words.”
Welcome home, Shin. And maybe do a little research before your first Elimination Chamber in 2019 (I kid, I kid)?