Brian Damage, Craig Wilson, John Carbery and Russ Morgan
The WWE roster is filled with “superstars” at every level. There are the main roster guys who regularly appear on Raw and SmackDown, those who are used as glorified jobbers and those who are barely used at all. In this series of pieces, we will take an individual wrestler barely used and decide if they are worth keeping or should they be let go. Today we decide if we Book or Cook Hideo Itami.
Brian: We have to go back down to NXT to discuss this individual. When Japanese sensation KENTA was signed to a WWE contract, I was excited, but at the same time concerned. The WWE had not had the greatest of track records at that point with talent from the Rising Sun.
I felt he would either be cast with a very stereotypical Japanese gimmick or be lost due to his lack of speaking proficient English. I was impressed that the WWE made a big deal over his signing by having none other than Hulk Hogan take part in an official contract signing in Japan. Since then, KENTA was renamed Hideo Itami (Meh) and he seemed on the fast track to the NXT title.
That is until he got hurt and was forced out of action for well over a year with a shoulder injury. After he returned, Itami was a part of a much different landscape in NXT and seemed a bit out of place. Just when he was shaking off the ring rust, he got hurt yet again! Can Hideo Itami ever recover from yet another setback or is he about finished in the WWE’s universe?
Craig: This is an interesting one, undoubtedly. Like Brian, I too was excited to see KENTA in a WWE ring. I had a similar reaction to the somewhat predictable changing of his name but based on what little I’d seen, and all that I had heard, I was looking forward to seeing him in the ring and, more recently, seeing him return to the ring.
When he returned from his first knock and was thrown immediately into a programme with Austin Aries it made it clear as day that the WWE had big plans for him and I was looking forward to a series of matches between the pair. Sadly, another injury has prevented this coming to fruition and that is a real shame.
But what is the long-term effect of these injuries on the future of Itami in the WWE? I’ve read numerous pieces about Vince McMahon losing faith in superstars who he deems as injury prone such as Wade Barrett and, more recently, Sasha Banks.
With it being NXT, it’s Triple H who has more of a say but still… Can he afford to take a risk on someone that’s had several high profile injuries in such a short period of time? Ultimately, that’s what this discussion comes down to, right? Can he prove he can remain injury free for a sustained period of time? If not, then it’s a clear cook…
Craig: I genuinely feel for Itami, he’s had a rough go of it in WWE and is an incredible in-ring talent but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’s released.
When he returned from his shoulder injury it was painful to watch him try to lift his left arm, the scar tissue is really visible and the skin is so tight that he couldn’t really lift his arms in victory properly. His armpit in particular looks stretched to breaking point when he’s doing mundane acts. I’m no doctor but that doesn’t look healthy.
Then he came down with a second injury and well you have to wonder how much time and money WWE are going to put into him without getting a proper return on their investment? As cold as it is to fire someone who’s on the injured list, it is something they, and countless other promotions, have done in the past.
I was honestly surprised that they hired him in the first place. He’s quite stoic and wrestling focused, not exactly the type WWE goes after. As a major Japanese star too, he’s been completely overshadowed by Shinsuke Nakamura who possesses comparable if not better in ring skill and an overdose of charisma that completely negates his speaking ability, though his English is especially strong too. While obviously there’s room for more than one Japanese star in WWE at the moment Itami isn’t measuring up to his fellow countryman.
I’d love to see Hideo bounce back and have a great run on the main roster of WWE. While I don’t ever see him rising to the main events on Raw or Smackdown I could see a healthy Itami having a great mid-card run as either Intercontinental, US or even Cruiserweight champion. He could easily mix it up with the main event crowd on TV also. Whether that happens remains to be seen, I only hope that the injuries he’s sustained in NXT don’t restrict him from making a living in Japan should he end up being wished the best in his future endeavours.
Brian: Yeah, I agree with everything that has been said thus far. If this was Shinsuke Nakamura on the injured list, I would still give him a fighter’s chance because of his incredible in-ring ability and amazing charisma. While Itami has all the in ring skill in the world, he does lack a certain charisma which hurts his case here a little. I just hate to give up on such a great talent like Hideo Itami despite all the setbacks.
Craig: I agree with everything that’s been said, especially about the lack of charisma. If he boasted that then the company might overlook, to a certain extent, the injuries but instead he has injuries and a lack of charisma against his name. He is a talented in-ring worker and one I was happy to see return. But his long-term future at the WWE isn’t looking too great…
John: It’s not a good time to be injury prone in WWE right now either as they’re signing up every name talent under the sun, its only a matter of time before the bough breaks and a flurry are let go. I’d imagine a lot of people occupying shaky lower card spots are worried about their job security let alone someone who hasn’t ventured beyond NXT and isn’t likely to anytime soon.
Brian: I am still holding out hope that this latest injury setback is not as long or as severe as the last injury. Hideo Itami is a beast in the ring when healthy. It has just been unfortunate what has happened to him. Sadly, as we are all painfully aware of..success at the NXT level doesn’t always translate to the main roster.
Itami has a lot of work to do to get to that point and I honestly don’t see it happening. So I begrudgingly have to put him down a ‘cook.’ I just do not see him doing anything big or significant the rest of the way. I hope I am wrong because Itami is that good.
Russ: He has been really unlucky with his injuries. His lack of personality maybe a problem whilst trying to connect with the WWE universe. Might be worth him getting a manager?
There you have it – our take on the fortunes of current NXT talent Hideo Itami, known perhaps best from his time in Japan as KENTA, with injuries and a lack of charisma working against him. Got a different opinion? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
You can read all previous ‘Book or Cook?’ pieces here.