Notable Ring Names: KENTA, Hideo Itami From: Sōka, Saitama, Japan Born: March 12th, 1981 Currently Works For: WWE (In NXT) Mini Bio: 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. Full Bio:View here Stats & Accomplishments:View here
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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Hideo Itami is going to WrestleMania. Though he’s only been in WWE NXT — and America — for six months, the Japanese sensation has made an immediate impact since arriving. It was no different at the first session of WrestleMania Axxess tonight, where Itami won a four-man tournament to earn a spot in the prestigious Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal this Sunday at WrestleMania.
Itami defeated former NXT Champion Adrian Neville in the semi-finals of the tournament. That win earned the Japanese star a spot in the finals against his friend and occasional tag team partner Finn Bálor, who beat Tyler Breeze in the other semi-final match. It was the first time the two friends met since they clashed in the semi-finals of an NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s Tournament, where Bálor emerged victorious.
Itami and Bálor had WWE fans at Axxess swarming around the ring to catch a glimpse of a high-octane struggle. In the end, the Japanese Superstar put his friend away with a running dropkick to punch his ticket to WrestleMania. The magnitude of this opportunity isn’t lost on Itami. He almost couldn’t believe that he was heading to The Show of Shows.
”I’m not dreaming? This is real?,” an exhausted Itami asked Corey Graves in a WWE.com exclusive interview.
And if the big win wasn’t enough, Itami was joined by a very special guest to celebrate his victory in the ring. WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Inductee Tatsumi Fujinami entered the Axxess arena to raise Itami’s arm in victory.
“He is a legend in Japanese wrestling,” Itami said. “I was very honored. Very honored.”
After letting the magnitude of the moment set in, Itami turned his attention to Sunday night and the prestigious over-the-top-rope affair.
“I’m not finished, “ he declared. “The Battle Royal? I’m going to win.”
How will Hideo Itami fare in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? Find out this Sunday during the two-hour WrestleMania 31 Kickoff, live on WWE Network at 5pm. ET/2pm. PT!
An NXT tournament will be held this Thursday at WrestleMania Axxess, with the winner earning the right to compete in the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal days later at WrestleMania.
Tournament participants will include former NXT Champion Adrian Neville, Finn Bálor, Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami, WWE.com has confirmed. WrestleMania Axxess, which is the year’s biggest gathering of WWE fans, takes place at the San Jose Convention Center Thursday, March 26, through Sunday, March 29.
Find out which NXT Superstar will outlast the competition and make his debut on The Grandest Stage of Them All when the action goes down this Thursday at Axxess!
Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze continued their longstanding rivalry in this week’s main event. After last week’s sneak attack, Itami was out for payback against Prince Pretty. Breeze, on the other hand, was determined to show that he’s more than just a pretty face. The selfie-obsessed Superstar spent the early moments of the match trying to avoid Itami’s trademark kicks, only to get caught with a knee and a hard clothesline on the arena floor.
Breeze eventually knocked Itami off the top rope and locked on a tight headlock to take control, keeping his rival grounded. Itami rebounded, trading big blows with Prince Pretty. The Japanese sensation looked to be on the verge of victory after sending Breeze face-first into the ring post, but Prince Pretty absorbed a flurry of strikes, evaded a dropkick in the corner and clobbered Itami with the Beauty Shot to earn the victory!
Fresh off his victory over Tyler Breeze at TakeOver: Rival, Hideo Itami was looking to continue his good fortunes against Bull Dempsey, who was hoping to get back on track after falling to Baron Corbin. Despite giving up a good deal of size to the 300-pound Wrecking Ball, Itami did not back down, fighting out of Dempsey’s clutches and chopping the big man down to size with his trademark kicks.
Itami picked up the victory with a flying dropkick, but the Japanese sensation’s night was not over, as Breeze ambushed him with a Supermodel Kick. However, that wasn’t enough to keep Itami down. Itami got up and cut Breeze’s selfie session short with a series of lightning-quick kicks.
After Tyler Breeze attacked Hideo Itami from behind backstage last week, NXT General Manager William Regal made this match to kick off NXT TakeOver: Rival. Itami was all business, while Breeze somehow managed to look even more vain than usual, upping his self-photography game with a fur-covered selfie stick. Prince Pretty was also briefly distracted by a beautiful blonde who, apparently, couldn’t resist Breeze’s good looks and ran out from the crowd, jumping on Breeze’s shoulders before being escorted away by security.
Prince Pretty spent the early parts of the match trying to avoid Itami’s lightning-quick kicks, but finally got caught with one and was sent to the arena floor. Back in the ring, Breeze took back control and worked over the legs of Itami, applying a vicious Figure-Four Leglock around the ring post. Breeze wore down his rival’s leg, but Itami, possessing great fighting spirit, refused to give in. A fired up Itami fought through the pain and unleashed a series of devastating blows, capped off with a huge running dropkick to pick up the victory!
Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami will each be in search of payback when they battle one-on-one at NXT TakeOver: Rival.
The WWE Network special’s newest match, announced on the TakeOver Pre-Show, stems from the first round of the NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s Tournament, where Itami eliminated Breeze in a competitive contest, dashing the gorgeous Superstar’s hopes of winning the NXT Title. Furious over his elimination, Breeze fired back weeks later, sneak-attacking Itami backstage after the Japanese Superstar narrowly lost to tag partner Finn Bálor in the tournament’s semifinals.
Though Breeze’s ambush proved effective, now that TakeOver: Rival’s newest matchup is official, could Breeze’s selfie-ready good looks be in jeopardy when he faces the slicing, debilitating kicks of Itami? Or will Breeze, denied an opportunity at the NXT Championship he craves so dearly, crank up the intensity like never before?
Watch this fierce conflict unfold tonight at NXT TakeOver: Rival, airing live on WWE Network at 8pm. ET/5pm. PT.
With Neville watching from the announcers’ desk, Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami set aside their friendship with a chance to face the high-flyer for the No. 1 contendership to the NXT Championship on the line. The two allies showed how well they knew each other, putting on a display of chain wrestling that had the NXT Universe on the edge of their seats.
The two friends launched blow after blow, neither man able to gain a clear advantage, until Itami connected with a rapid-fire series of punches and kicks that looked to finally give him the upper hand. However, Bálor rebounded and sent Itami crashing into the corner with a huge dropkick. That left Itami in position for the Coup de Grace off the top rope, allowing Bálor to pick up the win and take his place in the finals of the No. 1 Contender’s Tournament against Neville next week at TakeOver: Rival!
Hideo Itami was hoping to join his friend Finn Bálor in the semi-finals of the No. 1 Contender’s tournament, but would have to get through the wily Tyler Breeze to make it. Prince Pretty did well at avoiding Itami’s hard kicks at first, but soon found himself on the receiving end of a fierce boot to the chest.
Though Prince Pretty took control after throwing Itami face-first into the turnbuckle, Itami refused to give up. The Japanese star battled back with fighting spirit, stunning Breeze with a tornado DDT onto the ropes. After surviving another onslaught from Breeze, Itami secured his spot in the semi-finals with a huge flying boot to the face.
Daniel Bryan vs. KENTA (Ring of Honor Glory By Honor 2006)
WE SAID: In the final months of his 462-day reign as Ring of Honor Champion, Daniel Bryan defended his title in New York City’s Manhattan Center against a Japanese sensation who would later emerge in WWE NXT as Hideo Itami. Then billing himself with the stylized handle of KENTA, the Pro Wrestling Noah standout possessed a style that was extraordinarily similar to Bryan’s — both favored heavy strikes, wrenching submissions and an unmistakable arrogance — and the resulting battle became one of The American Dragon’s defining bouts as champion.
In a match that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin may have described as “snug,” Bryan and KENTA exchanged blistering kicks that seemed capable of shattering bone. At one point, the champion became so frustrated with the challenger’s constant boots that he began throwing careless headbutts that cautioned his own wellbeing. Despite his recklessness, Bryan ultimately locked Itami in his Cattle Mutilation submission hold — after countless attempts — to secure the victory. It was ugly, but the war instilled a respect in both men that persists to this day. — RYAN MURPHY
BRYAN SAID: “I’d just separated my shoulder and torn a couple of tendons maybe three weeks before going into the Manhattan Center again in New York City. The emotion was very, very high, everybody knew I was hurt, and KENTA kept kicking the crap out of my arm. My sister was in the crowd and she actually cried. I consider wrestling art. You want people to be entertained. If you can, make ‘em laugh, but when you really get ‘em, you make ‘em cry. And that was one of those matches that was able to do that.”
Curtis Axel finally got his chance to make a mark in NXT, and wasted no time getting in Hideo Itami’s face. The former Intercontinental Champion tried to gain the upper hand by pounding away at Itami’s back, but the Japanese star quickly caught Axel off-guard with a series of rapid-fire kicks. Axel rebounded and stomped his foe into the canvas, but the resilient Itami refused to relent, fighting back to his feet and clobbering Axel with a devastating spinning kick to earn the victory.