Hideo Itami has requested his release from WWE and been given it. It makes sense as he hasn't done anything of note in WWE. Partially because of injuries and partially because he never got good at English promos which will always hold somebody back in WWE. Plus his style doesn't really fit with WWE at all. Which, as his twitter name change tells us, means that KENTA is back. When I first found out about indie wrestling and specifically RoH I didn't know much about Japanese wrestling except that it existed. As RoH grew they started to with Pro Wrestling NOAH and had wrestlers interact with some of the bigger names and KENTA was one of those wrestlers and he made a big impact on me. He's the wrestler that got me into Japanese wrestling and led to me being such a fan of NJPW, even though he never worked there.
His tag team with Naomichi Marafuji was the touchstone I used to find matches on youtube. I'd find good matches with them and then search their opponents and keep spreading my knowledge of Japanese wrestlers. The Junior Heavyweight style and their matches got me to buy my first NOAH VHS as well. KENTA & Marafuji vs. Ricky Marvin & Juventud Guerrera was the reason I chose that show and it was worth the whole cost. It took me a little longer to get into the heavyweight style in Japan and appreciate the other matches. The fact that I only had a VHS player when I was home from college during the Summers stopped me from ordering too many VHS and the Japanese shows didn't really come out on DVD.
The matches between Marafuji and KENTA cemented my fandom. The two men work perfectly against each other and know exactly what the other is going to do when. They both excelled at the Junior Heavyweight level, but when Kobashi and Misawa were nearing the end of their careers those two were the big stars of the promotion and they had to move up in weight class. Marafuji more successfully put on the weight, but KENTA always had a style that fit in with the heavyweights better with his stiff kicks.
Once he left for WWE his time in NXT was marred by injuries that kept him sidelined before he moved up to 205 Live. I have missed most of this part of his career as I don't watch WWE stuff much. I reupped my subscription so my friend could use it for Royal Rumble on his birthday so I watched his match against Cedrick Alexander which was really good. I've heard his feud with Mustafa Ali has some really good matches that I want to check out as well.
More than anybody else who has left WWE I'm looking forward to what the future holds for KENTA. A return to NOAH seems really likely. The company sustained him early in his career, and Naomichi Marafuji is still there. However there are other options. If he wants to return to Japan I'm sure NJPW is willing to give him a good deal. He has tweeted about how he loves Ring of Honor as well and they have a working deal with NJPW that would allow him to work with both companies. If he just wants to work in the US there is always All Elite Wrestling. I'm sure they would push him, but he already took a chance on a new company once in his career, who knows if he's willing to do it again. The only thing I'm sure of is that wherever KENTA ends up I'll be ready to watch the next stage of his career and wait for him to be back at the top of the card where he belongs.
My favorite match of his will probably always be his match against Roderick Strong in RoH because I got to see it live. I never thought I'd have the chance to see him in person so it made the four hour trip to Detroit a no-brainer. It was a really good show and was a ton of fun. It wasn't the best match on the show, but it was what got me to make the trip and will always have a special place for me. So if you've only seen him in WWE and want some suggestions on matches to watch just ask me on twitter I'll be more than happy to give you some ideas.