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January 18, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: NJPW strips Nakamura, Sting to HOF

New Japan Pro Wrestling announced on 1/12 that they were stripping Shinsuke Nakamura of his IC title, rather than having him lose it in the ring to Kenny Omega.

It’s unclear what led to the decision, as Nakamura will be working with the promotion through 1/30 and in theory, since the angle had already been shot, could and should have lost it to Omega at the Korakuen Hall show on the last night.

One can argue that because the word is already out, as Nakamura did an interview last week with Tokyo Sports noting he was leaving for WWE after his contract expires at the end of this month, that it served no purpose to book a lame duck title match because people would “know” the outcome.

But that argument falls apart due to the nature of the situation. If it was an established star it would be one thing, but Omega is a former junior heavyweight who has never been booked as a top singles star. Now, because of the departures of both A.J. Styles and Karl Anderson, Omega is being pushed as an emergency measure to be the top singles star of The Bullet Club and top foreigner. He’s got no credibility for that position, but a pin on Nakamura would be instant credibility. Plus, with Anderson & Gallows, who are also leaving, they are being booked in a tag team title rematch with Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe on the 2/14 New Beginnings in Niigata PPV, where the same logic would tell you the lame duck wrestlers are losing on their last night in.

Nakamura, who at press time is on vacation in Sri Lanka, will be holding a press conference on 1/25, to discuss his departure. He is expected in the U.S. in February and to report to Orlando at that point.

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