WWE.com: Hideo Itami On His Hard Road Back To NXT From Injury

After being forced out of action for nearly a year and a half, Hideo Itami made his long-awaited return to an NXT ring several weeks ago. As one of Japan’s biggest stars, Itami’s decision to sign with WWE NXT in summer 2014 made headlines all over the world. Now, he’s back in the headlines by returning to the ring in the hopes of picking up right where he left off. This week, Itami sat down with WWE.com to discuss his return, the frustrations of being injured and his future goals.

WWE.COM: How did it feel to finally return to an NXT ring?

ITAMI: I’m so happy to be back. Words cannot explain how much it meant. But my goal is not just to be back in action; I’m also focused on reaching the next level.

WWE.COM: For those who were unfamiliar with your shoulder injury, what exactly happened?

ITAMI: I suffered a dislocated shoulder, which was a very tough injury. I have torn my ACLs in both knees and I’ve broken an ankle, but this is the longest I’ve ever been out of action in my entire career. It was the toughest injury of my life.

WWE.COM: I understand you had two different surgeries, which extended your time away from the ring, right?

ITAMI: Yes, I had the first surgery in May 2015 and a second one in February 2016. When I first suffered the injury, I thought I was only going to be out for six months.

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Video: What’s Next For Hideo Itami?

Video: Hideo Itami Returns In Two Weeks

WWE.com: The 10 Biggest Signings In WWE History

#8. Hideo Itami

When he was known as KENTA, this Japanese grappling expert was credited as both the inspiration and the greatest foil of mat masters like Daniel Bryan. And when WWE signed him, it was, to put it mildly, a very big deal. Interviews were commissioned, photos were taken, tweets were tweeted and congratulations were given, right up until the day he debuted. Independent acquisitions like Itami have become somewhat commonplace in NXT these days, though both his introduction — William Regal brought him out as KENTA and he became Hideo Itami before our eyes — and its buildup were unprecedented.

WWE.com: 16 Superstars To Watch In 2016

Blink and you may have missed Hideo Itami’s big WrestleMania moment, when the spark-plug Japanese NXT Superstar peppered Big Show with stinging slaps to the face in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. It’s worth a replay on WWE Network. A rabid master of the wrestling arts, Itami’s world-traveled pedigree — Daniel Bryan counts him as an inspiration — catapulted him to The Show of Shows before he even got to the main roster. Imagine what he’ll do once he returns from shoulder injury. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE.com: Hideo Itami To Address The NXT Universe This Wednesday On WWE Network

As revealed on WWE NXT’s Twitter today, Hideo Itami will return to NXT this Wednesday to address the NXT Universe.

Itami has not been seen since before TakeOver: Unstoppable. The morning of the live special, Itami was attacked in the parking lot by a still-unknown assailant. The attack left Itami with a torn rotator cuff that required surgery to repair and forced him out of a No. 1 Contender’s Match.

The Japanese Superstar has been active on social media in the weeks since TakeOver, tweeting as he recovers and prepares for his return to the ring. Though his arm is in a sling, Itami returned to Japan to greet the WWE Universe and spread the word about the upcoming WWE Live tour in his homeland.

What does Itami have to say? Will he be able to shed any light on the attack that put him out of action? Find out on WWE NXT, this Wednesday at 8/7C, only on the award-winning WWE Network!

Samoa Joe Mentions Hideo In Exclusive Interview With WWE.com

In a recent exclusive interview with WWE.com, the newest addition to the NXT roster Samoa Joe, was asked several question including who currently on the NXT roster he’s been keeping his eye on since debuting. Here’s what he had to say:

WWE.COM: Is there anyone else in NXT you have your eye on?

JOE: Absolutely. Finn Bálor is someone I’ve had experience with. I helped start the New Japan Dojo in Los Angeles. I remember seeing him and what he was able to do. And now, he’s No. 1 contender, so if it’s not going to be Kevin, it’s going to be [Bálor].

Tyler Breeze is a tremendous athlete, but he’s far too pretty. It bugs me. Eventually, when he comes back, Hideo Itami, too. We’ve locked up over the years and had our fair share of wars. I’m more than happy to have another with him. There are a lot of unresolved personal issues there. Hopefully, we can get into the ring and sort them out.

You can read the full interview here.

WWE.com: Hideo Itami Injured In Parking Lot Attack

ORLANDO, Fla. — Early indications are that Hideo Itami suffered a torn rotator cuff in what appears to have been an attack in the parking lot outside Full Sail University earlier today.

As seen on the NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable Pre-Show, an NXT fan captured footage of Itami laying on the ground. The Japanese Superstar will not be able to compete in tonight’s Triple Threat No. 1 Contender’s Match.

According to sources, Itami went to the doctor’s office, at which point his injury was diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff.

Stay tuned to WWE.com for more details as they become available.

NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable Predictions

Robbie Brookside: I’ve made no bones about the fact that I think Tyler Breeze is on a roll. However, Finn Bálor, watching him work out and hit the stomps off the ropes, he can hit that at any time on anyone. I’ve got to go with Finn Bálor. WINNER: Finn Bálor

Sara Del Rey: Triple Threat Matches are such a tough dynamic. Anyone could come out on top. All three have a good claim to the No. 1 Contendership. I’m going with Hideo. He’s got the most experience, a dynamic in-ring style and the heart to pull it out. WINNER: Hideo Itami

Norman Smiley: There’s a lot of history there between those guys. I’ll go with Finn Bálor. He’s very impactful and spectacular and creative in the ring. WINNER: Finn Bálor

Finn Bálor: 2, Hideo Itami: 1, Tyler Breeze: 0