Kenta Kobayashi

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Kenta Kobayashi
KENTA2.jpg
Birth name Kenta Kobayashi
(Japanese: 小林 健太)
Born (1981-03-12) March 12, 1981 (age 33)[1][2]
Sōka, Saitama, Japan[2][3]
Resides US
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Halimao[1]
Hideo Itami[4]
Kenta
Kenta Kobayashi[1]
Billed height 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)[2]
Billed weight 81 kg (179 lb)[2]
Trained by All Japan Pro Wrestling[5]
Kenta Kobashi
Yoshihiro Takayama
Debut May 24, 2000[1][2]

Kenta Kobayashi (小林 健太 Kobayashi Kenta?, born March 12, 1981),[2] best known by his ring name Kenta (stylized in all capital letters), is a Japanese professional wrestler. He is currently signed to the American professional wrestling promotion WWE, where he works in its developmental territory NXT under the ring name Hideo Itami. He is best known for working for Pro Wrestling Noah, where he is a former one-time Global Honored Crown (GHC) Heavyweight Champion, three-time GHC Junior Heavyweight and one-time GHC Tag Team Champion.[6] He was also the winner of the 2012 Global League and the 2013 Global Tag League tournaments. A former amateur kickboxer, Kobayashi's wrestling style is based upon strong kicks and strikes.

In professional wrestling, Kobayashi has won several championships in his career: the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, which he held on three occasions, as well as being one half of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions twice; 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.[7]

After starting his career in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), Kobayashi's home promotion is considered to be Noah, his destination following the departure of wrestlers from AJPW,[8] but due to 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 previous years in American promotion Ring of Honor (ROH).[9]

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 spells with Roman letters in all capitals.[1]

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.[3] 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.[10]

Pro Wrestling Noah[edit]

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.[10]

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;[11] 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.[12] Following his relative success in the tournament, Kenta had an increase in his popularity, and he joined his mentor, Kenta Kobashi, in his faction, Burning.[1]

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 Liger and Takehiro Murahama in the finals on July 16.[7] While defending the tag 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.[13]

Kenta (far left) with Samoa Joe and Katsuhiko Nakajima.

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 in the wrestling world. Kenta began his trial series on the First Navigation tour, beating Juventud Guerrera. This was followed by defeats against Yoshinari Ogawa and Jun Akiyama. The final match of the series was a loss against Marufuji in October.[10] While the series was taking place, Kenta and Marufuji made more defenses of 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[1] 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.[15]

On March 5, 2006, Kenta faced a major challenge in Kenta Kobashi, which saw him lose following a Burning Hammer.[5] This was followed by a loss of the Junior Heavyweight title on June 4 to Takashi Sugiura.[1] 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.[5]

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 would have 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.[1] 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 & Shingo Takagi, in a winning effort before losing them to Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Kotaro Suzuki,[16] only to defeat the team to win the second NTV Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League Tournament.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] In October Kobayashi was forced to vacate the title after suffering a knee injury, which would keep him sidelined for over seven months.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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 IV, on November 23, 2010.[23] On January 29, 2011 Kenta would turn heel and join the Disobey stable with members Mohammed Yone, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Genba Hirayanagi. Kenta would change his look and attitude. Then on March 5, 2011 he would turn on Mohammed Yone, removing him from the group. One week later, March 12, he would rename the stable No Mercy (NMC) after the album of T.I. as he is a fan of him and the album. 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 would become 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 would lose to Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki. Then on August 18, 2011 Kenta and Yoshihiro Takayama would win 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 would confront GHC Heavyweight Champion Go Shiozaki after he defeated Takayama to retain the title. Kenta let it be known that he wanted the title and got a number one contender's match with Takashi Sugiura. On October 10, Kenta would defeat Sugiura and earn a shot against Go Shiozaki set for November 27. Kenta and Kanemaru would finally lose the GHC Junior Heavyweight tag title to Aoki and Suzuki on October 16, 2011.

Transition to the heavyweight division (2011–2013)[edit]

At Noah's Halloween show on October 31, 2011, Kenta would continue his path on becoming a heavyweight by challenging the NJPW team Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) for the GHC Heavyweight tag belts with Yoshihiro Takayama. The match was set for 2012, but would never happen 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 would lose 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 would then name 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 would recruit 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.[24] However, they lost the title to Akitoshi Saito and Go Shiozaki just eighteen days later.[25] On November 23, Kenta won the 2012 Global League Tournament.[26]

GHC Heavyweight Championship reign (2013–2014)[edit]

On January 27, 2013, Kenta defeated Takeshi Morishima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at Great Voyage 2013.[27] On February 9, Maybach Taniguchi turned on Kenta and stole his Heavyweight Championship belt.[28] 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.[29][30] On March 10, Kenta defeated Maybach Taniguchi for his first successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship.[31] On April 28, Kenta and Yoshihiro Takayama defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki in the finals to win the 2013 Global Tag League.[32] 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.[33] The following day, Kenta made his second successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Takashi Sugiura.[34] On June 2, Kenta defeated New Japan Pro Wrestling representative and reigning GHC Tag Team Champion Toru Yano for his third successful title defense.[35] 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.[36] On July 7, Kenta made his fourth successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Naomichi Marufuji.[37] Kenta's fifth successful title defense took place on August 4, when he defeated Mohammed Yone.[38] 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.[39][40] On October 5, Kenta defeated Diamond Ring representative Katsuhiko Nakajima for his eighth successful title defense.[41] With the win, Kenta became the first wrestler to successfully defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship eight times during a calendar year.[42] On December 7, Kenta defeated New Japan representative and winner of the 2013 Global League Tournament, Yuji Nagata, for his ninth successful title defense.[43] Kenta's near one-year long reign ended on January 5, 2014, when he lost the title to Takeshi Morishima in his tenth defense.[44]

On February 3, 2014, Kenta and Maybach Taniguchi's long rivalry culminated in a No Disqualification match, where Kenta was victorious.[45] 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.[46] On April 30, Noah held a press conference during which Kenta announced his resignation from the promotion.[47][48][49] Kenta wrestled his farewell match on May 17, where he and Naomichi Marufuji defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Takashi Sugiura.[50]

Ring of Honor[edit]

2005–2006[edit]

Aside from competing in Pro Wrestling Noah, Kenta has been able to compete abroad in the United States with other participating members of the GPWA. His first appearance in the country was with Ring of Honor, at Final Battle 2005, as a fan favorite, defending the GHC Junior Heavyweight title against Low Ki.[51] He returned to the company the following year for Best in the World in New York City on March 25 where he and Naomichi Marufuji defeated the team of Samoa Joe and ROH World champion Bryan Danielson after Kenta connected with his finishing strike, the Go 2 Sleep on Danielson.[52] Kenta returned for In Your Face featuring him in a three-way match against Joe and Danielson, which ended in similar fashion.[53]

Kenta's first loss in the company came in the form of a tag team match, which saw his partner, Davey Richards, get pinned in a match against the Briscoe Brothers.[54] This led to a series of matches with the two against each other, as well as reluctant partners.[55][56] At Glory by Honor V: Night 2 Kenta received another match against Danielson for the ROH World title, which saw him submit to Danielson's signature hold, the Cattle Mutilation.[57]

2007–2009[edit]

Kenta made his return to Ring of Honor on May 11 of the next year against Delirious in a winning effort.[58] Ring of Honor made its pay per view debut with the show, Respect is Earned, teaming with Nigel McGuinness against Danielson and Takeshi Morishima in a losing effort; following the match, Kenta spent several months with the company competing against rival, Davey Richards and his contingency, the No Remorse Corps. Kenta made his next appearance on the Glory By Honor VI tour; the first night had him team with the GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa against Takeshi Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji, with the match ending in a thirty-minute time limit draw.[59] The following night had Kenta wrestle Misawa for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in a losing effort.[60]

Kenta made his return in 2009 against ROH World Champion, Nigel McGuinness in a losing effort at the company's seventh anniversary show. He returned a few weeks later to challenge Davey Richards once more, as well as make his second pay per view appearance for Take No Prisoners teaming with Tyler Black against Katsuhiko Nakajima and Austin Aries.[61] Kobayashi was scheduled to return to ROH in November 2009, but was forced to cancel the appearances after suffering a knee injury.[62]

WWE[edit]

NXT (2014–present)[edit]

On January 27, 2014, Kenta, with Noah's blessing, entered WWE's Performance Center in Orlando, Florida for a tryout.[63][64] In a press release, Kenta claimed that he was not after a WWE contract, but only wanted to fulfill a dream and take part in a WWE workout.[65] On June 27, Tokyo Sports reported that Kenta had signed with WWE and that the signing would be officially announced on July 12.[66][67] During WWE's July 12 event in Osaka, the promotion officially announced the signing of Kenta during an in-ring segment with Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart. Kobayashi relocated to Orlando to resume training at the Performance Center, while also working for WWE's developmental territory NXT.[68]

Kobayashi debuted on September 11 at NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way, introduced by William Regal. At the event of his debut, he announced his new ring name, Hideo Itami, and fended off The Ascension, when they interrupted the segment to confront Regal.[4] Itami made his in-ring debut at the following day's tapings of the September 18 NXT, defeating Justin Gabriel, after which he was attacked by The Ascension.[69][70]

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • Alianza Latinoamericana de Lucha Libre
    • Torneo Latino Americano de Lucha Libre (2013)[29]
  • Tokyo Sports
    • Best Bout Award (2006) vs. Naomichi Marufuji, October 29, 2006[81]
    • Best Tag Team Award (2003) with Naomichi Marufuji[81]
    • Outstanding Performance Award (2013)[82]
    • Technique Award (2011)[83]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]