When Kenta Kobayashi debuted in NXT 3 years ago and changed his name to Hideo Itami, the future seemed bright for the Japanese sensation. Fast forward 4 months and Itami injures his shoulder and does not compete for over a year.
Upon his return there was again high hopes before a botched move at a live event left Itami again out of action for another 6 months. Itami is now back in NXT and coming off the back of a NXT title match at Takeover. A heel turn is now Itami’s best course of action.
Itami’s main roster call up does not feel like it is coming any time soon. As long as he avoids injury, Itami can make a huge impact in NXT over the coming months. The only issue is that NXT already has a crop of top babyfaces. Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black, and the seemingly new face of NXT, the fantastic Drew McIntyre.
On the heel side of things there is SAnitY, Tomasso Ciampa, and the champion Bobby Roode. With SAnitY in a set position on the card and the newly turned Ciampa set to be solely focused on Gargano NXT needs a new top heel. Itami can fill that role.
The biggest issue with Itami being a heel is the language barrier. This is solved easily with the actions speak louder than words approach which works extremely well with the strong style of Itami. A turn for Itami was hinted at during a backstage confrontation between Itami and Ohno following Takeover: Chicago. Having Itami just lose it due to frustration over injuries and being unable to win the big one in NXT will be a great way to kick off a heel run.
Feuds with Ohno, Strong, and even McIntyre are all fantastic prospects. There are so many options in terms of storylines for a newly turned Itami. The bottom line is simple, NXT needs a new top heel. Having missed some of NXT’s best times, this is Itami’s opportunity to take a real shot at being the top star he can be.