One of the most decorated Superstars in the glorious history of Japanese sports-entertainment has found his new home in NXT. The athlete formerly known as KENTA stole headlines when he signed with WWE in summer 2014, an announcement that carried such gravity that WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan traveled to Japan to oversee the ceremonial contract signing.
A former four-time tag team champion, three-time junior heavyweight champion and former heavyweight champion in his native land, KENTA debuted at NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way, where he revealed his new ring name, Hideo Itami.
Itami’s warm reception came to a quick end when The Ascension, fresh off losing the NXT Tag Team Championships, interrupted the newcomer and demanded a title rematch. For their less-than-honorable actions, Konnor & Viktor received a world-class ejection from the squared circle by Itami. At the following NXT TakeOver special on WWE Network, Itami solidified himself as a WWE Superstar-in-the-making, teaming with Finn Bálor to down the once-dominant Ascension in a thrilling contest.
He took a break from tag team action to enter an eight-Superstar tournament to determine the No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship. Itami bested Tyler Breeze in the opening round to take a spot in the semifinals, but fell to his partner and friend, Bálor. After the loss, Itami was viciously attacked backstage by Breeze, who said Itami “blew it” by losing to Bálor. Itami got a chance at payback for Prince Pretty’s sneak attack, defeating Breeze at NXT TakeOver: Rival on Feb. 11!
Itami earned the opportunity of a lifetime at WrestleMania 31 Axxess, when he defeated Adrian Neville and Finn Bálor to win a spot in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Itami used his hard-hitting strikes to eliminate Bo Dallas, but ran into a brick wall when he came face-to-face with Big Show. Though the WWE Universe gained a great deal of respect for the Japanese star for not backing down from the giant, there was nothing Itami could do to prevent Big Show’s massive hand from knocking him out of the Battle Royal.
Though Itami rebounded from the WrestleMania setback, he was literally knocked out of the NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match to at TakeOver: Unstoppable, following a mysterious packing lot attack.
No matter which continents he’s fighting on, no matter the moniker, Hideo Itami remains one of the most talented and respected competitors on the globe, and he’s ready to prove it to the NXT Universe.