Kenta Kobayashi (小林 健太 Kobayashi Kenta, born March 12, 1981) 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 and the winner of the 2020 New Japan Cup USA.
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). 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. 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, 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. He was also the winner of the 2012 Global League and the 2013 Global Tag League tournaments.
- 1 Professional wrestling career
- 1.1 All Japan Pro Wrestling (2000)
- 1.2 Pro Wrestling Noah
- 1.3 Return to Pro Wrestling Noah (2018)
- 1.4 New Japan Pro Wrestling (2019-Present)
- 2 In wrestling
- 3 Championships and accomplishments
- 4 References
Professional wrestling career[edit | edit source]
All Japan Pro Wrestling (2000)[edit | edit source]
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. 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.
Pro Wrestling Noah[edit | edit source]
Early appearances and Burning (2000–2003)[edit | edit source]
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.
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; 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. 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.
Junior Heavyweight Championship success (2003–2011)[edit | edit source]
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
On March 5, 2006, Kenta faced a major challenge in Kenta Kobashi, which saw him lose following a Burning Hammer. This was followed by a loss of the Junior Heavyweight title on June 4 to Takashi Sugiura. 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.
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. 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, only to defeat the team to win the second NTV Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League Tournament.
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. 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. In October, Kobayashi was forced to vacate the title after suffering a knee injury, which would keep him sidelined for over seven months.
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. 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. 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. 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 | edit source]
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. However, they lost the title to Akitoshi Saito and Go Shiozaki just eighteen days later. On November 23, Kenta won the 2012 Global League.
Heavyweight Champion (2013–2014)[edit | edit source]
On January 27, 2013, Kenta defeated Takeshi Morishima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at Great Voyage 2013. On February 9, Maybach Taniguchi turned on Kenta and stole his Heavyweight Championship belt. 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. On March 10, Kenta defeated Maybach Taniguchi for his first successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship. On April 28, Kenta and Yoshihiro Takayama defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki in the finals to win the 2013 Global Tag League. 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. The following day, Kenta made his second successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Takashi Sugiura. On June 2, Kenta defeated New Japan Pro Wrestling representative and reigning GHC Tag Team Champion Toru Yano for his third successful title defense. 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. On July 7, Kenta made his fourth successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Naomichi Marufuji. Kenta's fifth successful title defense took place on August 4, when he defeated Muhammad Yone. 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. On October 5, Kenta defeated Diamond Ring representative Katsuhiko Nakajima for his eighth successful title defense. With the win, Kenta became the first wrestler to successfully defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship eight times during a calendar year. On December 7, Kenta defeated New Japan representative and winner of the 2013 Global League, Yuji Nagata, for his ninth successful title defense. Kenta's near one-year long reign ended on January 5, 2014, when he lost the title to Takeshi Morishima in his tenth defense.
On February 3, 2014, Kenta and Maybach Taniguchi's long rivalry culminated in a No Disqualification match, where Kenta was victorious. 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. On April 30, Noah held a press conference during which Kenta announced his resignation from the promotion. Kenta wrestled his farewell match on May 17, where he and Naomichi Marufuji defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Takashi Sugiura.
Return to Pro Wrestling Noah (2018)[edit | edit source]
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 | edit source]
Bullet Club and NEVER Openweight Champion (2019-2020)[edit | edit source]
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 intention 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 retain 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.
COVID-19 Pandemic and feud with Jon Moxley (2020–2021)[edit | edit source]
On January 5, 2020, on 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. On February 9, KENTA unsuccessfully challenged Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships. Since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, KENTA along with several members of the Bullet Club were unable to work on NJPW events in Japan, leading him to take part in NJPW Strong series, in which he took part in the 2020 New Japan Cup USA, defeating David Finlay on August 21 in the finals to win the tournament. Following the match, KENTA was handed a contract, which gave him the right to challenge for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, in which he would have to defend it, similar to the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate. Afterwards, he was attacked by Jeff Cobb, who he had defeated in the semifinals, signaling his first challenger for the contract. On September 11, at Fighting Spirit Unleashed, KENTA defeated Jeff Cobb to make his first successful title defense. From September 19 until October 17, KENTA took part in the 2020 G1 Climax, finishing the tournament with a record of five wins and four losses, failling to advance to the finals of the tournament. During the tournament, on October 6, Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated KENTA in their head-to-head match in the tournament. Both wrestlers failed to advance to the finals, despite defeating Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. respectively, in their last tournament matches. On October 19, KENTA and Tanahashi faced each other in a eight-man tag team match, with Tanahashi winning the match for his team. Afterwards, in a post-match interview, Tanahashi, who recently regained his confidence, challenged KENTA for his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate. In contrast, KENTA sarcastically said that Tanahashi should fix the damage on his briefcase first, before giving him a match. The following day, NJPW officially announced the match. On November 7 at Power Struggle, KENTA defeated Tanahashi to make his second successfull title defense of the contract.
On October 30, on the thirteenth episode of NJPW Strong, KENTA alongside his Bullet Club stablemates Hikuleo, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa faced Alex Zayne, David Finlay, Misterioso Jr. and PJ Black in a winning effort. Aftewards, in a post-match interview, Finlay challenged KENTA to a match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate. On November 20, at New Japan Showdown, KENTA defeated Finlay to make his third successful title defense. On December 4, on the eighteenth episode of NJPW Strong, Brody King, alongside ACH, David Finlay, Juice Robinson and Karl Fredericks faced KENTA alongside his Bullet Club stablemates Hikuleo, Jay White, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa in a winning effort, after King pinned KENTA. Aftewards, in a post-match interview, King challenged KENTA to a match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate. On December 18, at Detonation, KENTA made another successfull title defense of the contract against Brody King. On December 11, the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) defeated FinJuice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) to win the 2020 World Tag League, following the outside interference of KENTA, who attacked Robinson with his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase. On December 21 at Road to Tokyo Dome tour, following a tag team match between KENTA and Robinson, KENTA attempted to attack Robinson with his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase, only for Robinson to attack him instead. Afterwards, Robinson left with KENTA's IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase, only to challenge him to a match for his contract. The following day, KENTA attacked Robinson with his briefcase, before accepting his challenge. On December 23, after being announced that Robinson would miss the event due to an orbital bone fracture, KENTA and his Bullet Club stablemate faced Satoshi Kojima and Toa Henare in a winning effort. Afterwards, Kojima challenged KENTA to a match for his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate, before KENTA tried to attack him with his briefcase, only for Kojima to lay him out with the Koji Cutter, with the match being announced on the following day. On January 4, at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in Tokyo Dome, Jon Moxley made an appearance in a pre-taped vignette warning the winner of the match between KENTA and Kojima, KENTA eventually won the match. After an eleven-month absence, Moxley made his return to NJPW on January 29, during an episode of NJPW Strong, attacking KENTA. Two days later, NJPW oficially announced the title match. On the February 3 episode of All Elite Wrestling's Dynamite, KENTA returned the favor to Moxley, attacking him after his match. On February 26, at The New Beginning in USA, KENTA received his shot at the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion, Jon Moxley.
In wrestling[edit | edit source]
- Finishing moves
- As Hideo Itami
- GTS – Go-To-Sleep (Fireman's carry dropped into a knee lift) – Innovated
- Sakura Knee Strike (Inverted facelock transitioned into a three-quarter facelock facebreaker knee smash)
- Shotgun Kick (Running single leg front dropkick)
- Spinning roundhouse kick to a kneeling opponent
- As KENTA
- As Hideo Itami
- Signature moves
- As Hideo Itami
- As KENTA
- Bridging Tiger suplex
- Falcon Arrow (Sitout suplex slam)
- Fisherman buster
- Multiple kick variations
- Koutoubu Kick (Roundhouse)
- Slingshot leg drop
- Standing or a running high-angle sitout powerbomb
- Ura Go 2 Sleep (Argentine backbreaker rack dropped into a knee lift to the back of the opponent's head) – Innovated
- "Black Sun"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]
- Alianza Latinoamericana de Lucha Libre
- Torneo Latino Americano de Lucha Libre (2013)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #22 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2013
- Pro Wrestling Noah
- GHC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Naomichi Marufuji (1), Taiji Ishimori (1) and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (1)
- GHC Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Maybach Taniguchi
- 2 Days Tag Tournament (2011) – with Yoshihiro Takayama
- Differ Cup (2005) – with Naomichi MarufujI
- Global League (2012)
- Global Tag League (2013) – with Yoshihiro Takayama
- Matsumoto Day Clinic Cup Contention Heavyweight Battle Royal (2013)
- One Day Six Man Tag Team Tournament (2002) – with Kenta Kobashi and Kentaro Shiga
- Nippon TV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League (2007, 2008, 2010) – with Taiji Ishimori (2007, 2008) and Atsushi Aoki (2010)
- Global Tag League Fighting Spirit Award (2014) – with Yoshihiro Takayama
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling
- Tokyo Sports
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
References[edit | edit source]
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- Scherer, Dave 2015-03-28. See the open for WrestleMania, Triple H talks NXT, Itami finally gets to use his move, former Diva doing a reality show, tons of WrestleMania notes and more . Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved on 2015-04-01.
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