Normally, the weekly Hot Take is a chance to blow off some steam and complain about something going on in WWE. This edition, though, is more of a sad realization to come to terms with.
After this past episode of SmackDown, it may be time to let go of the idea that Shinsuke Nakamura can become anything big on the main roster.
To stave off the wrong impression for those who didn't see it—and, based off the ratings, that must apply to a lot of people—there wasn't any grand sweeping burial that took place that positioned Nakamura as the next James Ellsworth or anything of the sort.
Rather, he suffered from the same treatment that he's been plagued with for the past year, which is that he was barely featured, and in the short segment he took part in, he still managed to be upstaged.
Nakamura was scheduled to face Tye Dillinger, but before long, The Perfect 10 suffered an attack from Randy Orton out of nowhere.
Technically, because of the interference, Dillinger walked away with the victory by disqualification, meaning Nakamura had a short match that hadn't generated any real buzz or anticipation building up to it and he lost. That does him no favors.
Orton's attack on Dillinger became the focal point for the next few minutes before The Viper walked off. Then, Nakamura landed one final blow on Dillinger for an exclamation point to end the segment.
With all of this happening, the focus shifted from Nakamura to Orton, and for what? Right after this happened, Orton told Mike Rome in a backstage interview segment that Dillinger isn't even his next victim; he just found the whole Perfect 10 gimmick annoying.
Basically, WWE positioned Orton to come out and steal the thunder away from Nakamura not to further a feud, but to make Orton look more threatening—and not to Nakamura, mind you, but just in general.
Nakamura meant absolutely nothing in this equation. His spot easily could have been filled by anybody else, like Andrade "Cien" Almas or Shelton Benjamin. In no way was it crucial that the Nakamura character himself was involved.
This isn't even something new. Ever since Nakamura won the United States Championship, he's been just a bit-player in the bigger feud between Orton and Jeff Hardy.
Nakamura's match against Hardy at SummerSlam wasn't a real storyline so much as it was just a continuation of what had preceded it with the thinnest connectivity possible, as it was Hardy's rematch for the title.
After Nakamura retained, it was Orton who played mind games and became the bigger talking point even by not doing a single thing.
Then, Orton and Hardy kept their feud going until Hell in a Cell—a card Nakamura was absent from.
This is also the case with Super Show-Down. Every title on SmackDown is being defended and every champion on Raw is at least being represented in the two tag team matches, but Nakamura is the only person holding a belt on the main roster who isn't booked for the event.
You'd think having the midcard title would put more of a spotlight on him, but even as champion, Nakamura can't seem to be the focal point.
The United States of Nak-America isn't thriving. It's a failed state.
It's become such a regular thing for Nakamura to not make any splashes, to the point where it sadly doesn't even matter anymore. Nobody is making a stink about it. It's become commonplace and, dare I say, acceptable.
He had a ton of momentum going his way with his Royal Rumble win, only to come up short at WrestleMania.
His heel turn could have ushered in a new resurgence to an even higher platform, but WWE chose to book a series of repetitive matches against AJ Styles that ended in draws, because Nakamura clearly wasn't the priority. He could stay in the discussion with a no-contest, but he wasn't good enough to actually win.
It seemed like the United States Championship would undo some of that damage, but he hasn't had a solid feud since then as Orton keeps taking the attention away and drawing it to himself.
You can't blame Orton. He's doing what the writers want him to do and he received a bigger reaction for his part in the segment than both Nakamura and Dillinger combined.
You may not even be able to blame Nakamura, who can't stroll into work on a Tuesday afternoon and demand to be booked with the same significance as Seth Rollins is as the midcard title-holder on Monday Night Raw.
This all likely boils down to the people who call the shots in WWE not seeing enough value in Nakamura to invest more time in him, but also realizing that there's more to him than just being some guy they can downgrade too much.
Basically, letting him drop off the face of the earth means the problem is out of sight and out of mind, and if he's away from multiple episodes, people may not be thinking about how little he has going on and the writers can focus on other tasks.
Meanwhile, putting a championship on him helps counteract the perception that he's lost a ton of stock. After all, the titles should, for all intents and purposes, only be going to the most important people, and if you hold one, you should be a big deal.
Sadly, that isn't the case, and as more time goes on where Nakamura is booked like an afterthought and someone who is window dressing to a bigger story he's not involved in, the more obvious it will become that Nak-America is a crumbling nation doomed to have its assets seized by someone else.
Once Nakamura drops the United States Championship, it will be hard for him to get enough momentum to build back up to the main event scene in any proper fashion, and before the blink of an eye, he'll be another Bray Wyatt or Jinder Mahal type but without the world title to show for it.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.