WWE held an NXT tournament during WrestleMania Axxess on Thursday evening to determine which NXT star will compete in Sunday’s Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31.
Four current NXT stars were involved in the tournament to determine the battle royal entrant. The competitors were Hideo Itami, Adrian Neville, Finn Balor, and Tyler Breeze. According to a report by Ringside Excess, the first round consisted of Itami defeating Neville and Balor defeating Breeze. Then, in the finals of the tournament, Hideo Itami defeated Finn Balor to earn a spot wrestling in the battle royal at WrestleMania 31 (though the battle royal will now actually occur during the pre-show, rather than during WrestleMania itself). Following his victory, Itami was congratulated by 2015 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Tatsumi Fujinami.
Hideo Itami originally signed with WWE in June of last year. Itami made his first appearance in front of a WWE crowd at NXT TakeOver three months later in September. Since that point, his time in NXT has been marked by a bit of a struggle to adjust to the American-WWE style of wrestling. Itami had been a major star in Japan (as KENTA) going back to the early 2000s, but the “strong style” of Japanese wrestling is far different than the style taught at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. This is one of the reasons Itami was sent to developmental despite his history of winning championships and performing in main events for All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Considering the three other wrestlers who took part in the tournament at Axxess, one would have to consider Itami’s victory and subsequent placement on the card at WrestleMania a bit of a surprise. Adrian Neville has been rumored for several months to be primed for a move to the main roster at any point, as has Tyler Breeze. Finn Balor, who has quickly adapted to WWE-style since signing last year and has superstar written all over him, also seemed to be a logical choice for the spot on the WrestleMania card. There have even been recent reports that Balor is getting moved up to the main roster soon after WrestleMania.
Will Itami’s appearance in the main roster battle royal begin his time on the main roster for good? Or will Hideo continue his training and adaption to WWE-style wrestling back at the WWE Performance Center in Florida? The latter seems to be the more likely result as of this point in time.
[Image via ProWrestlingPowerhouse.com]