On tonight’s edition of 205 Live, a graphic came across the screen advertising the impending arrival of NXT Superstar Hideo Itami to Raw‘s Cruiserweight Division.
— WWE (@WWE) November 22, 2017
Hideo Itami has been an question mark in the WWE Universe, sadly due almost entirely from injury. But in Japan, under the name KENTA, he was an absolute legend. Arguably one of the biggest homegrown stars from Pro Wrestling NOAH, Itami wrestled with them for 14 years prior to joining NXT in 2014 as one of the top international signings the WWE had made in the past decade. As KENTA in NOAH, he was GHC Heavyweight Champion, 3x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion and 2x GHC Tag Team Champion. He got his North American exposure through a series of high profile runs in Ring of Honor from 2005 to 2009, facing the likes of Low Ki, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and Tyler Black (Seth Rollins).
But his first NXT run stopped before it really truly started – several months after debuting, alongside Finn Balor in late 2014 – he was injured in May of 2015 and was shelved for over a year with a serious shoulder injury, that encountered complications in early 2016. He returned to the ring in June of 2016. Just as he was getting his stride back, he was the victim of a botched powerbomb from Riddick Moss and was injured once again, spending another seven months on the injured reserve list. He returned this spring and had short feuds with NXT Champion Bobby Roode, his old ROH rival Kassius Ohno and Aleister Black before disappearing off television once again.
He’s managed to remain healthy and his switch to a heel demanding respect allowed Itami to return to more of his aggressive style from Pro Wrestling NOAH. It will be interesting to see how much of that he retains, but the prospects of him facing the likes of Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Mustafa Ali, or even the rumoured returning Neville good help to continue to elevate 205 Live and Raw‘s Cruiserweight Division. Hideo Itami becomes the 6th NXT call up this week, after the Raw debuts for Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville and Smackdown Live debuts for Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan.