Back in 2014, WWE gained a huge boost of talent when Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Kenta signed with the company to appear on NXT programming. Balor and Owens went on to become household names and NXT Champion during their time in the brand. Kenta became Hideo Itami, and he was also ascending into a huge babyface for NXT as well. Unfortunately, injuries completely derailed his WWE career to the present day.
In May 2015, Itami suffered a massive shoulder injury that kept him out of action until June 2016. However, a neck injury derailed his career again, which put him back on the shelf until this past April. After losing two years of his wrestling career, Hideo is finally healthy and is currently competing in NXT again. His feud with Bobby Roode was brief but good. Unfortunately, he may be leaving WWE again for a very different reason.
It’s being rumored that Hideo Itami could be leaving NXT and WWE once his deal expires over the next few months. The expectation is he would prefer to wrestle for a promotion in Japan again, especially since Itami hasn’t had the best run with WWE. His shoulder injury derailed his career in NXT, but the neck injury was a devastating blow to his momentum and his future in NXT and as a potential main roster talent.
At one time, Hideo Itami seemed bound for great things in WWE. The original creator of the GTS was really over with the NXT Universe, and he would have been another big piece of NXT’s growth over the past few years. Instead, Itami missed the most important period in NXT history, and he just became a factor for the brand heading into the feud with Bobby Roode. However, he lost his title shot against Roode in Chicago.
His run in the NXT Title hunt was brief, but it shows the impact Hideo Itami will have with NXT for quite a while. The brand is in a new era, and the truth is, the window for “The Japanese Sensation” may have closed with WWE. There is still an opportunity for Itami to succeed on 205 Live or re-emerge as a top guy for NXT, but his desire to be with his family in Japan is understandable considering all the circumstances he’s under.
The WWE website even did a video teasing Hideo’s self-imposed exile to Japan after losing to Roode. Meanwhile, a heel turn has begun for Itami on NXT programming, which is expected to lead to a feud with Kassius Ohno over the next several weeks. Since his contract is expected to expire over the next few months, it’s unlikely a sizable push will happen for him. Unfortunately, his NXT career will most likely be defined by his injuries.
The fact is that WWE isn’t the be-all and end-all of the wrestling industry. It may be the land of opportunity, but Kenta has an extensive history in All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah. He will likely get offers from most other promotions, including Ring of Honor and others. Like any athlete, a big injury at the wrong time can kill a career. Thankfully, Kenta has Japan to go back to, and that could be a great thing for him.
The WWE Universe will never know what could have been with Hideo Itami. He had very high expectations when he came into the company, but he didn’t underperform like some wrestlers. Instead, WWE fans will be forced to think about what could have been for him in WWE if the circumstances were a little different.
[Featured Image by WWE]