Nakamura only earned the right to face The Maharaja less than three weeks before Sunday's pay-per-view. The former NXT champ knocked off John Cena in a No. 1 Contender's match on SmackDown. WWE then had to fast-track the Mahal-Nakamura feud with minimal time for it to grow.
The King of Strong Style then tangled with the champ at SummerSlam, falling short in large part thanks to The Singh Brothers' interference.
The ending of that bout was a familiar one to anyone who watched Randy Orton and Mahal's feud unfold. Nakamura's story will parallel The Viper's moving forward, too. He'll headline a number of SmackDown pay-per-views opposite Mahal.
It's unlikely Nakamura simply fades from the WWE title picture at this point. He still has a victory over Cena on his resume. And he has an argument that he deserves a rematch considering how Mahal won.
That ending at SummerSlam was no climax. It was the setup for the next showdown. Mahal can dismiss Nakamura as a challenger if he likes, but at least one rematch is in the works.
SmackDown's next PPV, Hell in a Cell, won't arrive until Oct. 8.
That will give WWE some time to add bad blood to the Mahal-Nakamura feud. Ambushes are on their way. Things will grow more personal. Their next matchup will feel less random than their SummerSlam clash as a result.
And Nakamura winning the gold feels like an inevitability.
He's too popular, too fun, too unique not to showcase as champion. Mahal's run has largely underwhelmed. The dethroning of The Maharaja is coming.
As Matt Wilansky of ESPN.com wrote: "There's little doubt that Nakamura will have his share of time with the WWE Championship."
During Nakamura's title chase, both he and Mahal will likely temporarily veer off from their rivalry to wrap up unfinished business. Nakamura will take down Baron Corbin again. Mahal is destined to cross paths with Cena once more.
The Lone Wolf is sure to be furious after losing his Money in the Bank cash-in match and dropping his SummerSlam bout to Cena. His recent issues with Nakamura suggest those two have a fight or two left between them. And Corbin's recent win-loss record point to Nakamura claiming more victories.
As for Mahal, he and Cena never got to finish their own recent battle on SmackDown. Corbin's failed cash-in interrupted the proceedings.
Cena's star power will assure him a WWE Championship match, but his frequent hiatuses and free-agent status in terms of brands mean he's likely to be asked to carry the SmackDown torch.
That's going to be Nakamura's job eventually. He'll have to find a way to keep The Singh Brothers at bay in order to claim the crown atop Mahal's head, though.