During Sunday’s Money in the Bank men’s ladder match, WWE offered a glimpse into one of the biggest matches the company can make. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura went toe-to-toe in the highlight of the main event, possibly teasing a feud that will culminate at SummerSlam 2017 or WrestleMania 34.
After being attacked by Baron Corbin during his entrance, Nakamura missed most of the match. He later returned to dominate almost every superstar competing for the MITB briefcase, leaving himself and Styles in the middle of the ring. The two wrestlers drew the biggest crowd reaction of the night, trading blows and eventually climbing the ladder before Corbin knocked them off and grabbed the briefcase for himself.
The fans in attendance would’ve much preferred Styles or Nakamura win a WWE Championship opportunity at the moment of their choosing, but neither wrestler needed it. They are the two most popular babyfaces on the “SmackDown Live” roster, now that John Cena is a free agent, and WWE will miss a golden opportunity if they don’t put them up against one another in singles competition.
Styles and Nakamura would likely steal the show at any WWE show. That’s exactly what they did in January of last year when they faced off at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10.
According to the latest rumors, WWE wants to make SummerSlam as big as possible, making up for what many would describe as a lackluster last few months. There’s been talk of both Triple H and Kurt Angle wrestling on the card, which could feature a few matches worthy of WrestleMania. Adding Styles vs. Nakamura to the pay-per-view at Barclays Center would certainly help make it a can’t-miss event.
An argument can be made for saving the match for WrestleMania 34. Waiting several months could ensure that the match gets the proper build while allowing Nakamura to establish himself further in the eyes of some of the more casual WWE fans.
Neither Styles nor Nakamura has a title at the moment, and that isn’t likely to change within the next few months. With so much time remaining until WrestleMania 34, however, that could change, raising the stakes for what would already be a highly anticipated match.
Few wrestlers have ever made the impact that Styles has in WWE in just their first 18 months with the company. Debuting at the 2016 Royal Rumble, the Prenominal One quickly got over with the crowd as a babyface, and he was just as effective during his time as a heel. His feuds with Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose and Cena produced some of the year’s best matches, and he has been WWE’s top performer since he joined the roster.
Nakamura hasn’t had nearly the same success on the main roster, having debuted just two days after WrestleMania 33, but that doesn’t seem to be too far off. He dominated NXT for a year, and his unique charisma and in-ring style makes him unlike any wrestler in WWE.
There was some speculation that Styles could face Nakamura at WrestleMania 33, but that never materialized.