Former WWE Superstar Hideo Itami, known as KENTA in New Japan Pro Wrestling, says his five years in WWE were the most frustrating days of his life.
KENTA gave the comments in a new interview with Sports Illustrated to promote NJPW’s eight-man tournament for a shot at the IWGP United States Championship.
“I’ve felt in my heart that the five years I spent in WWE were the most frustrating days of my life. I’ve talked about this, but I’ll always remember the humiliation in America. Being here reminds me of that regret. And when you’re not good, you tell yourself that. That is what inspires me.”
KENTA explained while going to WWE was an attempt to work for the world’s largest organization, NJPW is a better fit for him.
“It may have been possible [in WWE] to satisfy myself as I was in the “world’s largest organization”. But as a wrestler, I now prioritize what I want to do. I can do what I want and where I want to now.”
Should KENTA get a shot at the IWGP United States Champion, he would face Jon Moxley. He admits a few years ago, he and the former Dean Ambrose were on different levels. He does not feel like that now.
“I said many times that I’m going to prove that I’m the best pro wrestler in this business. That’s why I’m here. I’ve had ridiculous past feelings here in America, and I want to get rid of that humiliation. That’s why this tournament is a great opportunity for me. And I want to get the belt from Moxley. Honestly, a few years ago, Moxley and I were at different levels. But I don’t feel like that now.”
“Life is funny. I think no one thought Moxley would do a match with me a few years ago. But if I win this tournament, it could come true. This is the best chance. I’ll shut up those who looked down on me. That is one of my motivations.”
KENTA rose to fame as an accomplished star in Japan and also completed in Ring of Honor. In 2014, he signed with WWE and was assigned to NXT. In 2017, he was moved to the main roster as part of the cruiserweight division on 205 Live. He never found his footing in WWE and was granted his release in 2019.