KENTA in November 2019
Birth name Kenta Kobayashi (小林 健太, Kobayashi Kenta)
Born March 12 1981 (1981-03-12) (age 39)
Sōka, Saitama, Japan
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Halimao
Hideo Itami
Kenta Kobayashi
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 82.5 kg (182 lb)
Billed from Tokyo, Japan
Trained By Kenta Kobashi
Yoshihiro Takayama
Debut May 24, 2000

  Kenta Kobayashi (小林 健太, Kobayashi Kenta, born March 12, 1981)[1] is a Japanese professional wrestler, best known by his ring name KENTA (stylized in all capital letters). A former amateur kickboxer, Kobayashi's wrestling style is based upon strong kicks and strikes. He currently works for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a part of the Bullet Club stable, where he is a former one-time NEVER Openweight Champion.

He is best known for his time in Pro Wrestling Noah, however he started his career in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), before moving to Pro Wrestling Noah; through Noah's involvement in the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance, a global organization of cooperative promotions that allow their competitors to travel abroad to other companies, he has wrestled extensively in American promotion Ring of Honor (ROH).[2] He initially wrestled under his real name, but due to potential confusion with his mentor Kenta Kobashi (in both English and Japanese), he dropped his surname and began only using his given name, which he spelled with Roman letters in all capitals.[3] He is also well known for his time in American promotion WWE where he worked under the name Hideo Itami (ヒデオ・イタミ, Hideo Itami) on NXT and in their cruiserweight division.

Kobayashi has won several professional wrestling championships in his career: he is a former one-time Global Honored Crown (GHC) Heavyweight Champion, three-time GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion,[4] three-time GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, and one-time GHC Tag Team Champion; once was the inaugural reign with longtime partner and rival, Naomichi Marufuji, which saw the two hold the title for almost two years, as well as a reign with protégé Taiji Ishimori.[5] He was also the winner of the 2012 Global League and the 2013 Global Tag League tournaments.

Professional wrestling career Edit

All Japan Pro Wrestling (2000) Edit

Prior to wrestling professionally, Kobayashi had a variety of athletic backgrounds, practicing baseball and kickboxing; the latter came to be a strong foundation in his wrestling style often referred to as shoot style.[6] Kobayashi made his professional wrestling debut on May 24, 2000 against future ally and rival, Naomichi Marufuji, in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) to compete in their junior heavyweight division. He did not remain in the company long as Mitsuharu Misawa, acting president of AJPW, decided to secede from the company following a dispute with other forces, thus leading to Misawa forming his own company, Pro Wrestling Noah.[7]

Pro Wrestling NoahEdit

Early appearances and Burning (2000–2003) Edit

One of Misawa's focuses in his new promotion was the junior heavyweight division, which never was treated with high regard in AJPW despite the successes in other promotions. Being sidelined with injuries for the majority of Noah's first year of operation, Kobayashi made his return in July 2001, simply named Kenta.[7]

Kenta's first involvement in a championship situation came when Naomichi Marufuji was forced to vacate the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship after suffering a knee injury;[8] Kenta entered into the tournament held to determine a new champion. He advanced to the finals by defeating Kotaro Suzuki and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi before losing to Yoshinobu Kanemaru on the Navigation with Breeze Tour.[9] Following his relative success in the tournament, Kenta had an increase in his popularity, and he joined his mentor, Kenta Kobashi, in the faction Burning.[3]

Junior Heavyweight Championship success (2003–2011)Edit

March 1, 2003 saw Kenta team with Naomichi Marufuji for the first time against Makoto Hashi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru in a winning effort. They began teaming regularly as the two entered into a tournament to christen the first GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions during the company's Accomplish Our Third Navigation tour; they went to win the tournament by defeating junior heavyweight veterans Jushin Thunder Liger and Takehiro Murahama in the finals on July 16.[5] While defending the tag team title, Kenta continued his venture in hopes of winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight title once again on November 30, 2003, in an unsuccessful bid against Takashi Sugiura.[10]

As part of a reward for the way Kenta performed, he earned himself a trial series of seven matches going into the next year, seeing Kenta able to challenge more established stars in an attempt to elevate his status. Kenta began his trial series on the First Navigation tour, beating Juventud Guerrera. This was followed by defeats to Yoshinari Ogawa and Jun Akiyama. The final match of the series was a loss against Marufuji in October.[7] While the series was taking place, Kenta and Marufuji continued defending their title against a number of challengers: El Samurai and Ryusuke Taguchi, Yoshinari Ogawa and Kotaro Suzuki, Suzuki and Ricky Marvin, Marvin and Suwa and, on Noah's first Tokyo Dome show, against Kendo Kashin and Takashi Sugiura. Their reign as champions came to an end after almost two years by Kanemaru and Sugiura after the latter pinned Kenta.[10]

Kenta's first major rivalry in singles competition began in March 2005 following a dispute with SUWA, which led to a series of confrontations between the two, including a violent match that ended in his opponent getting disqualified for assaulting the referee.[11] This led to Kenta getting one more chance to challenge for the Junior Heavyweight title against Yoshinobu Kanemaru on July 18, which saw him win the title.[3] He made his first defense two months later against Suwa, then against Kotaro Suzuki as his alter ego, Mushiking Terry. Simultaneously, Kenta began teaming with Katsuyori Shibata as The Takeover, challenging for the GHC Tag Team Championship, the heavyweight version of the company's tag team title.[12]

On March 5, 2006, Kenta faced a major challenge in Kenta Kobashi, which saw him lose following a Burning Hammer.[13] This was followed by a loss of the Junior Heavyweight title on June 4 to Takashi Sugiura.[3] This saw Kenta shift his attention to the GHC Heavyweight Championship, challenging Naomichi Marufuji, losing in a match which won numerous awards and accolades from the wrestling media.[13]

Kenta spent the majority of his 2007 time in Noah wrestling a variety of tag team and six-man tag team matches with protégé Taiji Ishimori and Akitoshi Saito as partners. He saw most of his success with Ishimori as the two had critically acclaimed matches against a wide variety of competitors, including Ring of Honor (ROH) competitors on loan to the company due to the talent exchange agreement, the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance (GPWA), between ROH and Noah: the Briscoe Brothers, Davey Richards, and Bryan Danielson.[3] As Kenta and Ishimori progressed as a unit, they entered the first NTV Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Tournament; in the finals they beat Marufuji and Kota Ibushi to win the tournament. They later challenged the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Dragon Gate wrestlers BxB Hulk and Shingo Takagi, in a winning effort before losing them to Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Kotaro Suzuki,[14] only to defeat the team to win the second NTV Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League Tournament.[15]

Following his loss of the tag title, Kenta returned to competing in singles competition by defeating Bryan Danielson for his second GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, which led to a match with Marufuji, who had won the World Junior Heavyweight Championship, to attempt to unify the titles; the match ended in a sixty-minute draw, keeping the titles in the hands of their respective holder, while gaining favorable reviews for their efforts by the media with some claiming it to be a Match of the Year.[16] Kenta lost the title in February 2009 to rival in their interpromotional rivalry with another member of the GPWA in the Kensuke Office, Katsuhiko Nakajima, only to win it back in the next month.[17] In October, Kobayashi was forced to vacate the title after suffering a knee injury, which would keep him sidelined for over seven months.[18]

Kobayashi made his return from injury on June 6, 2010, losing to Naomichi Marufuji in a GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship number one contender's match.[19] On October 30, 2010, Kenta and Atsushi Aoki defeated Roderick Strong and Eddie Edwards in the finals of a tournament to win the 2010 Nippon TV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League.[20] As a result, Kenta and Aoki received a shot at the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, but were defeated by the champions, New Japan Pro Wrestling representatives Koji Kanemoto and Tiger Mask, on November 23, 2010.[21] On January 29, 2011, Kenta turned heel and join the Disobey stable with members Muhammad Yone, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Genba Hirayanagi. Kenta would change his look and attitude. Then on March 5, he turned on Yone, removing him from the group. One week later, he renamed the stable No Mercy. On May 25 Kenta and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki of the ANMU stable to win the vacant GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. After months of trying to persuade his mentor Yoshihiro Takayama to join No Mercy, on June 26 Takayama turned on his partner Takuma Sano during a tag match against Kenta and Kanemaru and became the fourth member of the group. Kenta and Kanemaru would then make it to the finals of the Junior Tag League on July 30. They lost to Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki. Then on August 18, 2011 Kenta and Yoshihiro Takayama won the Noah 2 Day Tag Team Tournament. On August 24, Kenta and Kanemaru successfully defended their tag title against Aoki and Suzuki, who got the shot due to their victory in the Junior Tag League. On September 23, Kenta confronted GHC Heavyweight Champion Go Shiozaki after he defeated Takayama to retain the title. Kenta got a number one contender's match with Takashi Sugiura, which he won on October 10. Kenta and Kanemaru lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight tag title to Aoki and Suzuki on October 16.

Transition to the heavyweight division (2011–2013) Edit

At Noah's Halloween show on October 31, 2011, Kenta challenged the NJPW team Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Yoshihiro Takayama. The match was set for 2012, but never happened due to injury. In November, Kenta entered Noah's Global Tag League and developed a new submission move he called "Game Over" to help him dispatch heavyweights. Kenta would make it to the finals on November 20, but would lose to Takeshi Morishima. On November 27, he lost to Go Shiozaki in his GHC Heavyweight title shot. In December 2011, Kenta tore his ACL again, forcing him to undergo another surgery to repair it. It was announced that he would be out of action for six to seven months. Tokyo Sports named Kenta the 2011 Technical Wrestler of the Year. Despite his injury, Kenta would stay in Noah and manage No Mercy during his injury. On February 14, 2012, Kenta recruited Shuhei Taniguchi as the fifth member of No Mercy and change his name to Maybach, becoming his mouthpiece and talking for him.

Kenta made his in-ring return on July 22, 2012, losing to Naomichi Marufuji. On October 8, Kenta and Maybach Taniguchi defeated Magnus and Samoa Joe to win the GHC Tag Team Championship for the first time.[22] However, they lost the title to Akitoshi Saito and Go Shiozaki just eighteen days later.[23] On November 23, Kenta won the 2012 Global League.[24]

Heavyweight Champion (2013–2014) Edit

On January 27, 2013, Kenta defeated Takeshi Morishima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at Great Voyage 2013.[25] On February 9, Maybach Taniguchi turned on Kenta and stole his Heavyweight Championship belt.[26] The following week, Kenta took part in a South American tour with the Alianza Latinoamericana de Lucha Libre (AULL) promotion, during which he won the Torneo Latino Americano de Lucha Libre, defeating Super Crazy in the finals.[27][28] On March 10, Kenta defeated Maybach Taniguchi for his first successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship.[29] On April 28, Kenta and Yoshihiro Takayama defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki in the finals to win the 2013 Global Tag League.[30] On May 11, Kenta took part in Kenta Kobashi's retirement match, where he, Go Shiozaki, Maybach Taniguchi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru were defeated by Kobashi, Jun Akiyama, Keiji Mutoh, and Kensuke Sasaki.[31] The following day, Kenta made his second successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Takashi Sugiura.[32] On June 2, Kenta defeated New Japan Pro Wrestling representative and reigning GHC Tag Team Champion Toru Yano for his third successful title defense.[33] Six days later, Kenta was pinned by Yano in a GHC Tag Team Championship match, where he and Yoshihiro Takayama unsuccessfully challenged Yano and Takashi Iizuka.[34] On July 7, Kenta made his fourth successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Naomichi Marufuji.[35] Kenta's fifth successful title defense took place on August 4, when he defeated Muhammad Yone.[36] Next Kenta defended his title against the reigning GHC Tag Team Champions, first defeating Shane Haste on September 7 and then Mikey Nicholls on September 16.[37][38] On October 5, Kenta defeated Diamond Ring representative Katsuhiko Nakajima for his eighth successful title defense.[39] With the win, Kenta became the first wrestler to successfully defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship eight times during a calendar year.[40] On December 7, Kenta defeated New Japan representative and winner of the 2013 Global League, Yuji Nagata, for his ninth successful title defense.[41] Kenta's near one-year long reign ended on January 5, 2014, when he lost the title to Takeshi Morishima in his tenth defense.[42]

On February 3, 2014, Kenta and Maybach Taniguchi's long rivalry culminated in a No Disqualification match, where Kenta was victorious.[43] After Yuji Nagata had defeated Morishima to become the GHC Heavyweight Champion, Kenta received the first shot at the new champion, but was defeated in the title match on February 22.[44] On April 30, Noah held a press conference during which Kenta announced his resignation from the promotion.[45][46][47] Kenta wrestled his farewell match on May 17, where he and Naomichi Marufuji defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Takashi Sugiura.[48]

Return to Pro Wrestling Noah (2018)Edit

In 2018, Wrestling Observer Newsletter's journalist Dave Meltzer indicated a working relationship deal between Noah and WWE, with KENTA, returning to Noah in a one time appearance. However, on June 26 it was announced that KENTA, billed as Hideo Itami would face Naomichi Marufuji in his 20th anniversary show as a professional wrestler. At Marufuji's anniversary show, Hideo was defeated by Marufuji.

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2019-Present) Edit

After KENTA leaving WWE on February 22, KENTA made a surprise appearance in New Japan Pro Wrestling, on June 9, at Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall, after Katsuyori Shibata introduced him. At the event, KENTA announced his intentions on taking part in the G1 Climax. From July 6 until August 10, KENTA took part in the 2019 G1 Climax, where he finished the tournament with a record of four wins and five losses, failing to advance to the finals of the tournament. During the tournament, KENTA picked an important victory over Hiroshi Tanahashi. On August 12, KENTA teamed up with Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi in a match against Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa). During the match, KENTA turned on his partners and joined the Bullet Club. Afterwards, Katsuyori Shibata tried to attack him, but was overpowered by the Bullet Club. On August 31 at Royal Quest, KENTA defeated Tomohiro Ishii with help from his Bullet Club stablemates to Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa to win the NEVER Openweight Championship. After the match, in a post-match interview, KENTA challenged Ibushi for his Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship match contract. On September 16 at Destruction in Kagoshima, KENTA unsuccessfully challenged Ibushi for the contract. Afterwards, KENTA destroyed Ibushi's briefcase. Later that month, KENTA began feuding with Yoshi-Hashi, who challenged him to a title match for the NEVER Openweight Championship. On September 22 at Destruction in Kobe, KENTA defeated Yoshi-Hashi to make his first successful title defense. KENTA would return the favor to Tonga and Loa on September 15 at Destruction in Beppu, after helping them retaining the IWGP Tag Team Championship in their match against Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi. On October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling, KENTA teamed with his Bullet Club stablemates Jay White and Yujiro Takahashi in a losing effort against Ishii and his CHAOS stablemates Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi. Afterwards, KENTA and Ishii were involved in a brawl, leading Ishii to challenge KENTA to a rematch for the NEVER Openweight Championship. Leading to the match, Ishii proclaimed that he wanted to see the old KENTA, while KENTA who started to have an arrogant attitude, began trying to reduce Ishii to comedic figure, in order to take his credibility as a challenger for the title. On November 3 at Power Struggle, KENTA defeated Tomohiro Ishii to make his second title defense. From November 16 until December 8, KENTA and his Bullet Club stablemate Yujiro Takahashi took part in the 2019 World Tag League, failing to win the tournament with a record of nine wins and six losses. Afterwards, KENTA began feuding with Hirooki Goto. Throughout the 2019 World Tag League, KENTA began usually mocking Goto after his matches, leading Goto to attack him on November 29. Despite being attacked by Goto, KENTA continued to mock Goto leading him to attack KENTA again on December 8. At a press conference the following day, Goto drew the ire of KENTA, after calling into question his in-ring abilities, leading KENTA to return the favor and attack him.

On January 5, 2020 in the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14 in Tokyo Dome, KENTA lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to Hirooki Goto. Later that night, KENTA attacked Tetsuya Naito and challenged him for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, seating on top of him afterwards.

In wrestling Edit

  • Finishing moves
    • As Hideo Itami
      • GTS – Go-To-Sleep (Fireman's carry dropped into a knee lift)[49][50][51] – Innovated
      • Sakura Knee Strike (Inverted facelock transitioned into a three-quarter facelock facebreaker knee smash)
      • Shotgun Kick[49] (Running single leg front dropkick)[52]
      • Spinning roundhouse kick to a kneeling opponent[53][54]
    • As KENTA
  • Signature moves
    • As Hideo Itami
      • Big boot to a cornered opponent or an oncoming opponent
      • Corner dropkick
      • Diving clotheslie
      • Falcon Arrow (Sitout suplex slam, sometimes from the top rope)[13][55]
      • Fisherman suplex
      • High knee to a cornered opponent
      • Knee drop, with theatrics
      • Tornado DDT onto the ring ropes[52][58][59][60]
    • As KENTA
    • Bridging Tiger suplex[13]
    • Falcon Arrow (Sitout suplex slam)[13][55]
    • Fisherman buster[13]
    • Multiple kick variations[55]
      • Koutoubu Kick (Roundhouse)[13]
    • Slingshot leg drop[13]
    • Standing or a running high-angle sitout powerbomb[13]
    • Ura Go 2 Sleep (Argentine backbreaker rack dropped into a knee lift to the back of the opponent's head)[55] – Innovated
  • Nicknames
  • Entrance themes
    • "Art & Life" by Twista featuring Young Chris, Memphis Bleek, and Freeway[55]
    • "What You Know (Instrumental)" by T.I.[55]
    • "Enio" by SebastiAn[1]
    • "Tokiwakita (Time Has Come)" by CFO$

Championships and accomplishments Edit

References Edit

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