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Shinsuke Nakamura Hopes ‘Tribute to the Troops’ Match Leads to More With Roman Reigns

They’re two of the most accomplished performers of their generation and the Japanese WWE star hopes they’ll lock horns again.

In a rich example of the extraordinary depth of the WWE roster, Shinsuke Nakamura meets Roman Reigns at Tribute to the Troops.

Tribute is an honor for me, especially as a foreigner from Japan,” Nakamura says. “Japan and [the] United States fought each other a long time ago, but it is wonderful to see the respect for all races and diversity. I am honored to pay my respect for everyone’s sacrifices.”

Nakamura is the reigning Intercontinental champion, while Reigns is the long-standing universal champ. More than that, this is a meeting of two stars from different parts of the world. Reigns is the son of Sika, one half of the famed Wild Samoans, and is a perennial WrestleMania main-eventer. Nakamura is a legendary figure in Japan, where he headlined New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s signature Wrestle Kingdom event on three different occasions. That show takes place every Jan. 4 at the famed Tokyo Dome, and a year before the event was officially christened Wrestle Kingdom, Nakamura also wrestled in the main event of the 2006 Dome show against Brock Lesnar.

A three-time IWGP heavyweight champion in New Japan, there are few performers as spectacular and captivating in the ring as Nakamura. A true competitor, he would love this match at Tribute for the Troops to ignite a program between himself and Reigns.

“This is a match for a special show,” he says. “After this, we need a full story between myself and Roman Reigns.”

Nakamura places Reigns in a rare group of wrestling luminaries, one that even includes all-time great Hiroshi Tanahashi.

“Roman has a real responsibility for WWE and professional wrestling, and a responsibility to his bloodline to be the best professional wrestler,” Nakamura says. “He is one of the best in the world. But I need to get the WWE world title. I need to prove I’m better than him.

“Roman has that fighting spirit. I want to wrestle him more, and that includes Rick Boogs vs. Paul Heyman.”

Boogs is Eric Bugenhagen, who is flourishing in the role of Nakamura’s cornerman. He is also a physical specimen who possesses an impressive background in amateur wrestling, and he would relish the chance to play a role in a program against Reigns, Heyman and The Usos.

“Me and Shin, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do together,” says Boogs, who was also hyping WrestleMania presale tickets for next year’s two-day event in Texas. “My focus is on Shin, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to show what I can do as a competitor. We’re going to capitalize every time we get an opportunity, and we’ll be ready if we get that chance against Roman and The Bloodline.”

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Another integral member of the Nakamura entourage is Pat McAfee, the former NFL player-turned-podcaster-extraordinaire-turned-SmackDown broadcaster. In a manner reminiscent of the way Jesse “The Body” Ventura would once highlight the work of Randy “Macho Man” Savage, McAfee has been tremendous in the way he expresses genuine joy and unadulterated excitement whenever Nakamura and Boogs appear on-screen.

“Without Shin and without Pat, I’m not where I am right now,” Boogs says. “They’re the foundation of elevating me. I’ve known Pat for a few years after we met in NXT when he was doing the preshows, but we never knew each other too well. Pat became a fan of mine because of my social media. And he loved Shin’s theme song—he had it as his ringtone. It worked out that I’m the guy playing that music. Pat was rooting for us to succeed, so it’s been very organic and authentic.”

As talented as he is in the ring, McAfee’s passion helps project Boogs as a legitimate superstar. Nakamura also shared his appreciation for McAfee’s broadcasting.

“I love Pat McAfee,” Nakamura says. “I’m trying to entertain people all over the world while I team with Rick Boogs, and Pat sees that.”

Nakamura also makes a claim as one of the most decorated intercontinental champs in wrestling history. In addition to his two reigns in WWE, he is also a five-time IC champ in New Japan.

“That was the second belt in New Japan, but I tried to change that image and have matches like you would see for the IWGP heavyweight title,” Nakamura says. “I tried to make that championship my own and bigger than any other belt. It was the main event of Wrestle Kingdom [in 2014 against Tanahashi], and it was bigger than the IWGP heavyweight championship.”

Nakamura has few equals in terms of presence and presentation. Now, after mastering the English language, Nakamura wants to cut compelling promos en route to becoming the top star in WWE.

“I am ‘The King of Professional Wrestlers,’ ” Nakamura says. “Like my entrance, I want to give the audience something they will never forget. I also want to give the best work in the ring. People will see that against Roman Reigns, and they will see it every time I am in the ring.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.