What an interesting week it’s been for professional wrestling. Hideo Itami has reportedly wrestled his last match for the WWE, and has been granted his release from the company. According to the article, much like the many wrestlers before him (Dean Ambrose, The Revival, and Mike and Maria Kanellis) Itami has been dissatisfied with his creative direction in the company. The difference between Itami and those talents is that the company will actually grant him his release.
After a 90-day no compete clause has completed, the former KENTA will be free to go where he pleases.
Stop & Go: Itami’s WWE Career
In mid-2014 Kenta Kobayashi signed his WWE contract, and reported to NXT. He made his in-ring debut at the end of that year, and also announced he would be going by Hideo Itami (meaning “Hero of Pain”). He was thrust into an angle with The Ascension, and even announced a newly debuting Finn Balor as his tag team partner.
Set to compete for a shot at the NXT Championship in May of 2015, Itami suffered a shoulder injury that was expected to keep him out for at least six months. At the beginning of 2016, reports came out that he was not ready to return and wouldn’t be for a while.
Itami, after a year of inactivity, finally returned to the ring in June of 2016. He was scheduled to team up with Kota Ibushi in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, but suffered yet another injury. This neck injury would keep him out of action another calendar year.
Mid-2017, Itami returned to challenge then NXT Champion Bobby Roode for his championship. Unsuccessful in his attempt to capture the championship, Itami turned heel. He worked a short program with Aleister Black, and then it was off to 205 Live.
Where Does KENTA Go From Here?
Itami’s 205 Live run was decent at best. He had a series of good matches with both Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali, but never captured the Cruiserweight Championship.
In September of last year, Itami returned to his home promotion of NOAH to face Naomichi Marufuji in a match at Marufuji’s 20th Anniversary show. Itami changed his name on twitter back to KENTA. He also changed his avatar to a picture of himself and his trainer Yoshihiro Takayama. So all signs point to him returning home to NOAH after his 90-day no compete clause has ended.
As much as I hate to admit it, KENTA cutting ties with WWE was a long time coming. He never truly got to show the WWE Universe what he could do, and unfortunately had a reputation of being injury prone. Wherever KENTA ends up, I hope he can regain the glory he had before his lackluster WWE career.