Every mentor has a student that always seems to stand out more than others. For the legendary Kenta Kobashi, that would be this particular protege, KENTA. Although he is a Junior Heavyweight, KENTA has established a reputation as one of the top Junior Heavyweights in NOAH and all of puroresu, and has also gained a strong following in the USA thanks to semi-regular appearances and a stiff, hard-hitting style in the ring. His ring name is stylized and spelled in all caps to avoid potential confusion with Kobashi.
KENTA debuted in All-Japan in 2000 under his real name, but his stay was very short because his debut came shortly before Mitsuharu Misawa’s mass talent exodus to form NOAH and he went along. He would miss most of the first year with injuries but returned as simply KENTA in 2001. On his return, he made an immediate impact on the Junior Heavyweight division, advancing all the way to the finals of a tournament to crown a new champion before losing. He soon aligned with Kobashi in his new faction. In 2003 KENTA first formed a team with fellow Jr. standout Naomichi Marufuji and would soon win a tournament to become the first GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. This didn’t stop KENTA from making singles strides-although he would come up short in a GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title shot in November 2003, 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 a defeat to Yoshinari Ogawa and another against Jun Akiyama. The final match of the series was a loss against Marufuji in October. While the series was taking place, KENTA and Marufuji made more defenses of their titles, 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.2005 saw KENTA enter his first major singles rivalry, 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 GHC Jr. 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 titles. Towards the end of 2005, KENTA made the first of several trips to the USA, appearing for Ring Of Honor on their year-end event. He successfully defended the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title against Low Ki. In 2006, KENTA continued shifting his focus to singles-although he generally came up short, including losses to Kenta Kobashi and Takashi Sugiura-which cost him the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title, a losing effort against GHC Heavyweight Champion Marufuji still won him numerous accolades and awards from the Japanese media. He also made frequent appearances in ROH throughout 2006, further increasing his fan following and enhancing his reputation as one of the top Junior wrestlers while further showcasing his stiff, hard-hitting style.2007 saw a return to mainly tag team action, primarily with Taiji Ishimori and/or Akitoshi Saito, with a series of critically acclaimed matches throughout the year including wins over ROH talent and claiming the first NTV Cup Tag Team Tournament title. KENTA & Ishimori would then bring the GHC Jr. Tag Team Titles back to NOAH, winning them from the Dragon Gate team of BxB Hulk & Shingo Takagi. After dropping the titles, KENTA returned to singles, and beat Bryan Danielson for the GHC Jr. Title and earned a title vs. title match against then-All-Japan World Jr. Champion Marufuji. The match went to a 1 hour time limit draw so both men kept their respective titles, but the match garnered positive reviews and some Match Of The Year consideration. KENTA lost the title in February 2009 to Kensuke Office’s Katsuhiko Nakajima, but won it back soon after. He still holds the title today and, as fall 2009 approaches, is once again making trips back to the US for ROH shows including some matches to be broadcast on national TV in the US. He continues to mix it up with the Heavyweights as well, frequently teaming with and against his mentor, Kobashi, sometimes still facing Kobashi in singles matches. He has not only become a credit to his protege, but one of the top Jr. Heavyweights in puroresu and another example of how the smaller guys can and sometimes do have success against the Heavyweights.
KENTA once again won the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title in 2009, but was forced to vacate it in early 2010 due to a serious knee injury he suffered in October. He made a successful return to the ring on June 6, 2010. During his absence he wrote a series of columns for NOAH, and it’s possible that he will continue to write columns for the Japanese wrestling magazine Weekly Pro Wrestling starting in July 2010. Just before his return he also celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut. Although he has yet to recapture any of his titles since his return he has formed an impressive-looking team with former rival Atsushi Aoki, and together they won the NTV Cup Tournament in late 2010. In fact, KENTA has now won 3 of the 4 NTV Cups to date.
KENTA turned heel in early 2011, aligning with the former Disobey faction until they kicked out Mohammed Yone and became known as NO MERCY.
Stats & info:
Real name: Kenta Kobayashi
Weight: 180 pounds/82 kg
Experience: 10 years
Finishing move: GO 2 SLEEP
Current affiliation: NOAH
Ring Entrance Theme: “WHAT YOU KNOW”
3-time GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion
3-time GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
2002 One Day 6 Man Tag Tournament
2003 GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Tournament
2007, 2008, 2010 NTV Cup Jr. Tag League
2003, 2004 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Tag Team Of The Year
2006 Tokyo Sports Best Bout Award
2006, 2007 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Wrestling Maneuver Award
Ring entrance music (old music, no longer used-the song is called “Shout Of My Soul”):