WWE's recent Superstar Shake-up injected new life into both the Raw and SmackDown Live rosters, but there was perhaps no bigger development than the call-up of Shinsuke Nakamura to the blue brand immediately following WrestleMania 33.
Now finding himself on the same show as AJ Styles, Nakamura crossing paths with his old rival from New Japan Pro Wrestling is only inevitable. A contest of that caliber, however, would be best saved for WrestleMania 34 next spring.
Nakamura and Styles produced a Match of the Year contender at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January 2016, with the Japanese emerging victorious and remaining the IWGP Intercontinental champion. Interestingly enough, it was on that night both men gave their notices to the company and informed them they were WWE bound.
The two icons have taken different roads to super stardom in WWE. While Styles wasted no time in making his main roster debut at Royal Rumble 2016, Nakamura first reported to NXT starting WrestleMania 32 weekend, where he contested a classic with Sami Zayn.
In the year that has passed since then, both men have attained an amazing amount of success on their respective brands. Shortly after Nakamura became NXT champion at TakeOver: Brooklyn 2, Styles clinched his first WWE Championship at September's Backlash pay-per-view.
Through it all, a dream match pitting Styles up against Nakamura in a WWE ring has been the ultimate goal for fans familiar with their storied past. Of course, such a marquee match deserves to take place at WrestleMania, and next year's installment is a fitting stage for it to come to fruition.
Then again, we have seen long-awaited encounters occur at secondary events before, including Money in the Bank (such as Styles vs. John Cena). It would be easy for WWE to rush into the rivalry later this year, but holding off on it will make fans want to see it happen that much more.
When Styles originally didn't have an opponent set for WrestleMania 33 many months ago, fans pitched the idea of Nakamura being brought up to the main roster to face off with The Phenomenal One. While it would have been an amazing match, it wouldn't have received the same fanfare as it would have had it been built up over time.
Rarely does WWE utilize long-term booking for stars other than John Cena and Brock Lesnar, but Styles vs. Nakamura should be the exception. This is the type of bout that could headline the event with a world title up for grabs given the popularity of both men.
Until then, Styles and Nakamura must be kept apart on the blue brand and continue to build momentum by battling the best it has to offer at the moment.
On the April 11 edition of SmackDown Live, Nakamura interrupted Dolph Ziggler in the middle of the ring, seemingly teasing a feud between the two. Although nothing was furthered the following week, that will likely be the direction they go in with Nakamura for the immediate future.
Beyond Ziggler, The King of Strong Style can then set his sights on bigger names later on in the year, including Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn. This will allow him to slowly work his way into the main event scene on Tuesday nights.
Meanwhile, Styles can kill time in the United States Championship picture. He recently completed his face turn by becoming the new No. 1 contender to the title and will challenge Owens for the strap presumably at Backlash in May.
Doing Styles vs. Nakamura at any point in the next six months would be a massive mistake, because it should be a blockbuster bout for both hardcore and casual fans of WWE. Not having them cross paths until next spring would lead to an epic moment when they do eventually come face-to-face.
Few things in WWE are ever considered a guarantee, but it is more a matter of when and not if Styles vs. Nakamura will happen, and WrestleMania 34 must be the desired destination.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a Digital Journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.