Friday, 30 July 2010
Kenta Kobayashi (小林健太, Kobayashi Kenta), also known by his ring name KENTA, is a Japanese professional wrestler and one of the last two trainees of the All Japan Pro Wrestling dojo before the Pro Wrestling Noah split, which he followed. He initially used his real name, but due to obvious potential confusion with his mentor Kenta Kobashi (in both English and Japanese), he dropped his surname and began spelling his given name in Roman all caps. His style is a combination of martial arts kickboxing (he mastered kickboxing at an early age) and shoot style. He has even challenged heavyweights like Mitsuharu Misawa and Genichiro Tenryu to staredowns and feuds despite often being on the losing end of attacks.
Following the split from All Japan (where Kenta Kobayashi debuted in May 2000 Vs. Naomichi Marufuji) one of Mitsuharu Misawa's main focuses in the new Noah group was the junior division, which had never really received much attention in AJPW but had been used by other promotions (notably, New Japan Pro Wrestling & World Championship Wrestling) to great success. This meant that juniors like the then-Kenta Kobayashi would be allowed the opportunity to shine like never before. Having struggled with injuries in the early part of his Noah career, Kobayashi returned on the July 2001 "Accomplish Our First Navigation" tour as simply KENTA and began his rise up the ladder.
When GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Naomichi Marufuji was forced to vacate the title after suffering a knee injury on the April 7, 2002 Tokyo Ariake Colossium show, KENTA entered into the tournament that would crown a new champion. He defeated Kotaro Suzuki and veteran Tsuyoshi Kikuchi en route to the final where he fell to Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Following another unsuccessful challenge for Kanemaru's title on December 1, KENTA continued to improve in the ring and refine his increasingly popular character, now as part of mentor Kenta Kobashi's BURNING stable with Tamon Honda, Kentaro Shiga and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi.
Rise To Stardom
On the March 1, 2003 Nippon Budokan show, KENTA teamed for the first time with Naomichi Marufuji, who had returned in January from the aforementioned knee injury against Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Makoto Hashi in a match which they won when Marufuji pinned Hashi. They teamed semi-regularly from then on (mostly in trios matches with Kotaro Suzuki) before entering the tournament to crown the first GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions on the June/July "Accomplish Our Third Navigation" tour. They defeated Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Mitsuo Momota and Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki in the opening rounds before beating junior heavyweight legend Jushin Liger & Takehiro Murahama in a highly rated match in the final at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. KENTA challenged for the GHC Jr. Title once again on November 30, 2003, but was once again beaten back, this time by Takashi Sugiura. However, in that match, and indeed, throughout the year, KENTA showed enough growth to earn himself a seven match Trial Series going into 2004, which would be a rare opportunity to face some of the company's top heavyweight stars in singles action.
Following another successful defense with Marufuji against New Japan wrestlers El Samurai & Wataru Inoue on the year opening Budokan Hall show, KENTA began his trial series on the "First Navigation" tour, beating Juventud Guerrera. This was followed by a defeat to Yoshinari Ogawa and another against Jun Akiyama on May 14, 2004 at Korakuen Hall. The final match of the series was a loss against Naomichi Marufuji in October. While the series was taking place, KENTA & Marufuji made even more defenses of their titles, against Yoshinari Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki, Kotaro & Ricky Marvin, Marvin & SUWA and, on Noah's first Tokyo Dome show against Kendo Kashin & Takashi Sugiura on July 10, 2004.
On July 16, 2006 in the Budokan, KENTA & Marufuji revived their tag team to take on WILD II (Takeshi Morishima and Takeshi Rikio) in what ended up as a 30-minute draw.
The first few months of 2005 passed with KENTA being involved in little of note until the March 5, 2005 Budokan Hall show, where, in an undercard trios match, sparks flew between KENTA and all three of his opponents—Yoshinobu Kanemaru, SUWA and Takashi Sugiura, all of whom he had issues with in the past which were still unresolved—with Sugiura winding up knocked out on the outside of the ring. This set the stage for many of KENTA's programs throughout the year as on April 24 he had a violent match with SUWA that ended in his opponent getting disqualified for referee violence. After an incredible display in the 2005 Differ Cup, where they had extremely highly rated matches with indy stars such as Ibushi Kota & KUDO, Spanky & Kaz Hayashi and Minoru Fujita & Ikuto Hidaka, winning the tournament, KENTA & Marufuji faced Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Takashi Sugiura on June 5 in Sapporo with the GHC Jr. Tag Titles on the line. After nearly thirty five minutes of yet another highly rated match, Sugiura pinned KENTA to crown new champions after a near two year reign. This would signal the end of the KENTA & Marufuji tag team, as KENTA re-set his sights on the GHC Jr. Singles belt and Marufuji formed a team with heavyweight Minoru Suzuki, going after the GHC Heavyweight Tag Titles.
On July 18 at Pro Wrestling Noah's near-sellout second Tokyo Dome show he challenged Yoshinobu Kanemaru (who defeated Jushin Liger for the title at the previous year's Dome show) for the third time and finally managed to wrestle the title away from him, in a match that is considered by some as the match of the night at one of wrestling's greatest ever supershows in terms of quality from top to bottom. KENTA made his first defense of the belt at Budokan Hall on September 18 in a match with SUWA that had to be restarted after weapon use by SUWA, then kept going despite further blatant conduct; nonetheless, KENTA ended their feud with the pinfall victory. He made his second against Mushiking Terry on October 28 at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Also, after his defense against SUWA, rising heavyweight star Katsuyori Shibata offered congratulations and suggested that the two should tag together. KENTA accepted, and on November 5 at Budokan Hall, they formed The TAKEOVER. The two challenged recently crowned tag team champions Takeshi Morishima & Mohammed Yone, entering a strong showing but losing when Morishima pinned KENTA. The two regrouped to defeat Mitsuharu Misawa & Go Shiosaki on December 4 in Noah's final big show of the year.
On January 22, 2006 at the Tokyo Nippon Budokan, KENTA made his 5th GHC Jr. Heavyweight title defense (the 3rd and 4th were made in America; see Foreign Excursion) against Naomichi Marufuji, finally beating his long time friend & former GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title partner. KENTA's win broke up a run of 6 consecutive Marufuji singles wins against KENTA. On March 5, KENTA faced Kenta Kobashi, and lost due to a Wrist-Clutch Burning Hammer; he is to date the only junior heavyweight as well as arguably the only Noah "trueborn" (despite training in the All Japan dojo, he debuted on the "split" tour and his career is almost entirely in Noah) to receive any variation of the Burning Hammer. On April 23, 2006 KENTA made his 6th GHC Jr. Heavyweight title defense against Taiji Ishimori, also at the Tokyo Nippon Budokan, making him the to date most successful GHC Jr. Heavyweight champion. KENTA lost the GHC Jr. Heavyweight title on June 4 to Takashi Sugiura after tapping out to a grapevined ankle lock. On October 29, he received a shot at the GHC Heavyweight Championship against his long-time partner Naomichi Marufuji, but lost after a Pole Shift, in a memorable match which won "Best Bout" in Tokyo Sports' annual professional wrestling awards.
Return To The Tag Division
On March 20, 2008 KENTA won his second GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, this time with Taiji Ishimori, who had become his regular tag team partner. It was the first title that he had won in over a year and a half. In their first defense of the titles, KENTA debuted his new submission hold the "Manji-Lock" on Ricky Marvin to pick up the victory. They later lost the title to the newly formed heel team of Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kotaro Suzuki. On September 6, 2008 KENTA and Ishimori won the NTV Jr Tag League Tournament after defeating the current champions (Kanemaru & Suzuki) in the finals.
KENTA, along with his Noah colleague Naomichi Marufuji, made their debut for independent promotion, Ring of Honor, at ROH's last show of the year, Final Battle 2005 on December 17, 2005. KENTA defended his GHC Jr. Heavyweight title for the fourth time against Low Ki. Earlier in his foreign tour, KENTA made his third defense against Ace Steel in his North American debut for Harley Race's WLW promotion on December 10, 2005. He also defeated Ty Dalton on December 11, 2005, again for WLW.
KENTA returned to the United States to wrestle for Ring of Honor at the main event of the Best in the World show in New York City on March 25, 2006. He and Naomichi Marufuji (for the first time teaming in the U.S.) defeated the team of Samoa Joe and ROH World champion Bryan Danielson after KENTA used the Go 2 Sleep on Danielson. KENTA returned to Ring of Honor for a one week tour during the month of June. KENTA returned to Manhattan on June 17, featuring him in the main event against Samoa Joe and ROH World champion Bryan Danielson in a non-title, one-fall Triple Threat match, where KENTA pinned Danielson after the Go 2 Sleep, marking the second time KENTA has defeated the ROH World Champion. After the match, KENTA declared he wanted a championship match. June 23 saw his Detroit debut against one half of the ROH World Tag Team champions, Roderick Strong, whom he defeated with the Go 2 Sleep. The following night, he debuted in Chicago against the other half of the ROH Tag Team champions and former ROH World champion, Austin Aries and was victorious with the Go 2 Sleep. The ROH Wrestling School in Philadelphia held a training seminar with KENTA, along with head trainer Bryan Danielson, on June 18.
On August 4, KENTA competed for ROH for a sixth time when he debuted in Long Island, teaming with Davey Richards to face the Briscoe Brothers. However, he received his first (indirect) loss after Richards was pinned. On August 5, though, he went one on one with Davey Richards and defeated him with the Go 2 Sleep. On September 15, KENTA, along with Naomichi Marufuji, has made his eighth appearance for ROH when he debuted in East Windsor, Connecticut, where he teamed with Marufuji to defeat the Briscoe Brothers. On September 16, his ninth appearance featured his return to Manhattan at ROH's debut in the Manhattan Center where KENTA competed against Bryan Danielson for the ROH World title and lost via tap out to the Cattle Mutilation, which Dave Meltzer rated four and 3/4 stars (in effect, 95% out of 100%). KENTA and Danielson had a second match on a December 2 Pro Wrestling Noah show, which KENTA won.
KENTA would soon end his American tour, but not before teaming with Davey Richards once more, going against Austin Aries and Roderick Strong in a hard hitting match at Honor Reclaims Boston on November 3, only to see loss again when Richards took the fall once more. On November 4 at The Bitter End, he ended his excursion with a win over Matt Sydal. Afterward, he had one last confrontation with Samoa Joe, sending a message to Noah and signaling that KENTA would more than likely be back in late 2007.
KENTA returned to Ring of Honor on May 11 and 12 in Connecticut and New York. On May 11, he faced the masked wrestler Delirious in a first time match-up. This match ended with KENTA victorious. He went on to team up with Nigel McGuinness against Bryan Danielson and Morishima in a losing effort. He returned to the Midwest during the weekend of June 22 and 23 in Dayton and Chicago. He defeated Noah addition & No Remorse Corps member Rocky Romero in Dayton. He also had his third singles match with Danielson at the Chicago event, which KENTA again won in a very sporting contest. KENTA's next venture to ROH was during both nights of the Glory By Honor VI event on November 3 and November 4. In Philadelphia on the first night, he teamed with the GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa in his ROH debut against the team of the former Ring of Honor Champion Takeshi Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji, with the match ending in a thirty minute time limit draw. The following night in New York, KENTA lost to Misawa in a match for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.