WWE News: Former Superstar Says His Five Years In Company Were The ‘Most Frustrating’ Of His Life
New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) star KENTA, who was previously known in WWE as Hideo Itami, recently hinted that he was quite unhappy with his lack of in-ring success during the half-decade he spent working for the latter promotion.
In an interview published on Friday afternoon, Sports Illustrated‘s Justin Barrasso spoke to KENTA, who opened up on a number of topics, mostly centering on his current stint in NJPW. He did, however, touch on his WWE run, during which he spent a few years on the NXT brand before moving to the main roster as part of the cruiserweight division.
Comparing his experiences with both companies, the mononymous grappler — whose answers were translated from Japanese to English by Sports Illustrated— said that there was a chance he could have found satisfaction working in the United States for the “world’s largest organization,” but he added that he now has the freedom to do what he wants as a professional wrestler.
Regarding his WWE stint, KENTA told Barrasso that his five years with the company were the “most frustrating days of [his] life.”
“I’ve talked about this, but I’ll always remember the humiliation in America. Being here reminds me of that regret. And when you’re not good, you tell yourself that. That is what inspires me.”
Prior to signing with WWE in 2014 as part of the NXT roster, KENTA had a successful run in Japanese promotion Pro Wrestling Noah. As reported by Bleacher Report, he was considered to be “one of the most highly touted signings” in recent WWE history ahead of his debut for the black-and-gold brand. However, he suffered multiple shoulder injuries in the years that followed and mostly failed to live up to his advance billing when he was moved to the cruiserweight division in 2017.
Despite being known for his entertaining in-ring style, KENTA failed to win the Cruiserweight Championship on multiple occasions and had reportedly asked to be released by WWE in January 2019. The company made his release official in February of that year, freeing him up to make his NJPW debut shortly thereafter.
At the time of his interview with Barrasso, KENTA was preparing to face David Finlay for a shot at the IWGP United States Championship — a match he ultimately won, per Wrestling Inc. According to the 39-year-old, he and current titleholder Jon Moxley were “at different levels” when they were both working for WWE. However, at this point in his career, he no longer feels that way and is looking forward to “[getting] rid” of his past embarrassment in the U.S. by winning the title.