Hideo Itami was recently hurt at an NXT live event. He promises to be back as early as December to be featured in NXT’s visit to Japan, but will still need to spend some time on the sidelines. In the world of pro wrestling, this is known as horrible timing and incredibly bad luck.
We aren’t all that far removed from Itami being one of the “it” performers in NXT. He, alongside other international Superstars like Bálor and who have you, came to the federation with an already established cult following. Thanks to his work in New Japan, Itami was an already somewhat marketable name, and the sky appeared to be the limit for the former amateur kickboxer.
That feels like it was so long ago, however.
Nearly every wrestler Itami once had major, engaging, and important feuds with is on the main roster. Bálor is up, Tyler Breeze is (barely) trotting about the WWE Universe, and there’s been so much turnover at the NXT level since the first time Itami was injured that he was in a position to get lost even at this lower developmental brand when he came back from his last injury.
Part of the problem here is the aforementioned previous injury. The one that cost him a substantial amount of time as it already was.
He was actually forced to have a year of inactivity. A full year. Then he returned… and now he is gone, yet again.
Anyway, there’s more complications this time around. Not only has Itami lost whatever momentum he built during his original NXT run (which came with a lot of press), but he’s not getting any younger. He’s 35, in fact, which isn’t ancient in the wrestling business, yet when you couple that with his now apparent pension to get put on the injured reserve, things aren’t looking great for him.
After all, older wrestlers who get injured a lot don’t tend to get younger and injured less.
The actual issue isn’t just the injury. It is within the idea of him getting injured almost immediately after returning from a different one. Because Vince McMahon has his hands on all “important” decisions, and he does not care all that much — at least from a historical perspective — about a guy’s non-WWE fame, Itami may become a bit of an afterthought thanks to possibly being perceived as being an older, injury-prone talent.
While unpopular to NXT diehards, it is actually somewhat understandable. The main rosters are already full with previously NXT-honed talents and international Superstars. Then there’s Itami, who once fit that sort of build, but if the if the WWE sincerely believes him to be injury-prone, or simply doesn’t want to continue to invest money into an aging talent, it would be understandable for the entire creative team to back off from the idea of Itami ever being a talent of mattering.
I am not arguing that is the route the company should or will go. Simply pointing out the rather obvious, as billion dollar companies tend to want to have assets that can work for them at their disposal — ones that can only help here and there, not so much.
In an odd way, though, this can be a blessing in disguise for Itami. The WWE can look at his situation (age, injury history, etc.), realize it not only wants to give him a shot on the main roster before it’s too late, but keep relations with international stars on solid ground (by not treating them like green talent), and hurl him on the main roster upon his healthy recovery.
That’s also a very real thing that can happen. I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it, as the WWE could have already done that this last injury-return, but stranger things have happened than a guy getting promoted for non-altruistic reasons.
Regardless, here is to hoping that the injury is not that bad as being reported or it is a blessing in disguise. Because, man, the only other thing it can be is the end of Itami in the WWE as we knew it, and that would be all kinds of stinky.