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WWE has failed to hype AJ Styles vs Nakamura fued

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AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania 34 has been anticipated by WWE fans since Nakamura’s main-roster debut almost exactly one year ago, yet the build to the bout has left a lot to be desired.

While Styles vs. Nakamura does essentially sell itself as a marquee ‘Mania match, WWE should be promoting it as such. The WWE Championship is up for grabs on April 8, but it doesn’t feel like an important encounter.

Even on such a loaded card, the two former IWGP heavyweight champions will find a way to contest a classic and potentially steal the show. That said, it’s a shame the company has failed to generate the proper heat for what has been referred by many to as a modern-day dream match in WWE.

The seeds for Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania were planted at last year’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view. As soon as they came face-to-face for the first time in a WWE ring, the crowd showered them with thunderous “Yes!” chants, knowing they were seeing something special.

They were then wisely kept apart in the months that followed to ensure that their one-on-one match would mean as much as possible. Styles soared back into the WWE title picture while Nakamura struggled to maintain momentum in feuds with Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

Nakamura’s Royal Rumble win in January got him back on track en route to WrestleMania, yet WWE has done nothing to establish any bad blood between the former rivals.

It’s almost unbelievable that Styles has hyped up his upcoming outing against Nakamura better on Twitter than WWE has on television. Other than the occasional mention of their match from Wrestle Kingdom 10 on commentary, SmackDown Live has been light on true build for Styles vs. Nakamura.

A video package or a sit-down interview with the world-renowned Superstars would go a long way in getting casual fans invested in their WrestleMania match. Granted, they are two of the most beloved babyfaces on the blue brand, but what are their motivations for wanting to walk away with the title in tow?

Instead, we have been treated to painfully brief backstage conversations between them and subtle teases of tension on recent editions of SmackDown.

The closest Styles and Nakamura came to a physical altercation was on the most recent edition of SmackDown, when Nakamura feigned hitting the Kinshasa on Styles. The King of Strong Style’s apparent overconfidence is only story they have been telling heading into WrestleMania.

Considering he lost their last match together, Styles should be much more desperate than he is to come out of WrestleMania on the winning end. After all, Nakamura is the one man he has yet to beat, and that has haunted him ever since.

Turning one of them heel (likely Styles) would have been one way to breathe new life into their stagnant storyline, but with both at the peak of their popularity, that would have been a short-sighted move.

Over on Raw, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar have furthered their feud extremely well through vicious beatdowns and worked shoots. It is bound to be the main event of WrestleMania because of how personal their rivalry feels and how high the stakes are, unlike with Styles and Nakamura.

With most of the SmackDown spotlight on the Daniel Bryan-Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn saga, it’s hard to blame the WWE Championship competitors for feeling like afterthoughts. However, fans should be given more of a reason to care about them as characters and their drive to be the best.

Not long remains for WWE to hit a home run with the buildup for Styles vs. Nakamura. A hot brawl or verbal exchange on the final SmackDown before WrestleMania would be much more effective in generating excitement for the match than whatever else they have attempted to pull off up to this point.

 

 

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