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Wrestling / Kenta Kobayashi

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Kenta Kobayashi (born March 12, 1981), better known simply as KENTA, is a Japanese professional wrestler and former kickboxer. Kobayashi is best known for his fourteen year stint in Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he was a former Global Honored Crown Heavyweight, Junior Heavyweight, Tag Team and Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champion. He made occasional appearances All Japan, New Japan, Dragon Gate, The Brazilian Wrestling Federation, Peru's Leader Wrestling Association, Xplosion Nacional de Lucha Libre in Chile, AAA in Mexico, the German westside Xtreme Wrestling and NOAH's fellow Global Pro Wrestling Alliance members Pro Wrestling ZERO1, Harley Race's World League Wrestling and Ring of Honor before he joined WWE in 2014. He adopted the name Hideo Itami and formed a successful tag team with fellow puroresu superstar Prince Devitt, who was now known as Finn Balor.

However, due to injuries and his size, he was relegated to NXT and to 205 live and then promptly left the company after quite a while of being underutilized. He then went to New Japan where he entered the G-1 Climax Tournament, and shocked the world by joining the Bullet Club, and turning on his best friend Katsuyori Shibata.

In America, KENTA is probably best known for creating the Go 2 Sleep finisher that was famously adopted by CM Punk.

Not to be confused with Kenta Kobashi, his idol and mentor. He actually dropped his last name and started writing his first name in all-capital letters upon his entrance to NOAH to avoid confusion with him.

"Tropes 2 Sleep":

  • Aborted Arc:
    • He had two storylines in NXT that ended abruptly as a result of him suffering injuries that required him to receive surgery and months-long recovery.
      • Itami's mysterious attacker in 2015 was never revealed but it is presumed to be Kevin Owens when the NXT Champion walked pass him and mocked him.
      • Itami and Austin Aries have a short feud in 2016 but nothing came out of it and Itami was again removed from a televised event after another injury.
    • In New Japan, on the same night he turned on his best friend Katsuyori Shibata, he also attacked Tetsuya Naito after becoming a double champion (holding the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles) on the main event and held the titles himself, but nothing came of it afterwards.
  • A Father to His Men: To No Mercy. He even acted as the group's manager when he wasn't medically cleared to wrestle and kept Yoshinobu Kanemaru even after it was announced he wouldn't be renewing his contract with NOAH.
  • Animal Motifs: In his post-WWE run, he's taken to using Smilodon fossils and teeth for his gear and merch.
  • Anti-Climax: He's known for such stunts as dramatically using the top rope to slingshot into the ring only to overshoot the opponent and dismissively kick him in the back of the head.
  • Apologetic Attacker: In 2019, he often apologizes for any especially smug or rude thing he says or does to his opponents, though he rarely ever means it.
  • The Apprentice: Was one to Kenta Kobashi. Taiji Ishimori was one to him, at least symbolically, as there styles are not very similar. You could call KENTA a more general mentor than Taiji an apprentice.
  • Arch-Enemy: In NXT: The Ascension.
  • Bash Brothers: With Naomichi Marufuji, Atsushi Aoki, Taiji Ishimori and Ricky Marvin in NOAH, and with Finn Bálor in NXT.
  • Bastard Understudy: To Mohammad Yone in the NOAH stable Disobey. KENTA eventually overthrew Yone and started No Mercy in Disobey's place. He then displayed an amazing amount of genre blindness by accepting his own bastard understudy, Maybach Taniguchi, into the group. As it turned out, Taniguchi was not just this trope but a mole against the whole NOAH promotion from CHAOS. Maybach used the same trick KENTA had used, teaming up with and then betraying Go Shiozaki, to earn his loyalty as KENTA had used to earn Yone's!
  • Call-Back:
    • More than the style of his master Kobashi, KENTA's fighting style closely resembles the embellished shoot-style from Battlarts, which is not worked very much nowadays.
    • Finn Bálor made his NXT debut in 2016 helping Itami to fend of the Ascension. Few years later, Itami returned the favor by making his debut on RAW to help Balor against Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Few more years later, KENTA returned to Japan by going to NJPW… and in only a few short months joining the Bullet Club, welcomed by several friends of Prince Devitt as well as his own former NOAH tag team partner Taiji Ishimori.
  • Captain Ersatz: Has made "appearances" in the Fire Pro Wrestling games, though in defiance of the usual, it was actually confirmed to be him a few times.
  • Catchphrase: "Show me respect!" / "Respect me!" See Dude, Where's My Respect? below.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: He unveiled an inverted version of the Go 2 Sleep which hit his opponent in the back of the head, but he rarely used it. It could be considered his own version of his mentor Kobashi's dangerous Burning Hammer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Not with his words, but one of KENTA's defining traits is the flagrant disrespect he pulls off in the ring. Whether it be a look of absolute disinterest at an opponent's weak strikes or playing around with them in the middle of the match.
  • Delinquent Hair: During the early-mid 2000s he buzzed his hair and bleached it blond, which wouldn't have been a big deal in American but was pretty delinquent in Japan. Later did the same thing upon his return to Japan shortly after joining Bullet Club, trying for a blonde look before settling on a dead grey.
  • Determinator: Has been booked like this; most of his early matches and combat encounters have seen Itami start out getting knocked around quite a bit but refusing to stay down.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The reason for Face–Heel Turn, claiming that nobody has a speck of respect for a deserving man.
  • Establishing Character Moment: During his introduction at Takeover 2, was interrupted by The Ascension, a Tag Team that have a history of squashing their opponents. He ended up taking them both out—while wearing very formal clothes, all by himself.
  • Expy: With his stiff kicks, submission combos and nasty attitude, Japanese press inevitably compared him to Akira Maeda. In fact, Maeda himself commented on the similarities and was pleased with them.
  • Extremity Extremist: Is particularly famous for his stiff kicks.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After losing a championship match to Bobby Roode at Takeover: Chicago, Hideo lashed out in frustration at the locker room, prompting Kassius Ohno to calm him down, but after weeks of tension between two, Itami unleashed three GTS at Ohno, solidifying his turn.
    • He would turn heel again at the 2019 G1 Climax finals by betraying his best friend Katsuyori Shibata and joining the Bullet Club.
  • Failed a Spot Check: After his friend Finn's Big Entrance at R-Evolution, Hideo confusedly replied, "Finn, something changed?" when asked what he thought about Finn's paint... while Finn, still painted, was standing right next to him. It figures KENTA would be used to Prince Devitt's antics by this point in their careers.
  • Finishing Move: GTS - Go To Sleep, which he innovated even though CM Punk used it first within WWE TV.
    • He also uses the YES Lock which he calls the "Game Over" (Not to be confused with Miro's camel clutch finisher with the same name) around the time Daniel Bryan starts using the Busaiku Knee. Perhaps they're making a Shout-Out to each other by borrowing moves.
  • Forced to Watch: On NXT, as his friend Funaki (yes, that Funaki) promised to come to his aid against the Ascension. The following episode ended with Itami tied in the ropes as Konnor and Viktor proceeded to beat Funaki senseless.
  • Hate Sink: He was already catching a fair bit of vitriol just joining NJPW as switching between Japanese Promotions is generally frowned upon as it is.note  Then he joined Bullet Club by turning on Katsuyori Shibata and the hate grew exponentially. But THEN he attacked Tetsuya Naito during his LIJ Roll Call right after he achieved his Double Champion dream in the Main Event of Wrestle Kingdom and...well, as commentator Kevin Kelly put it, "He is now the most hated wrestler in the entire world."
  • Heel–Face Turn: He eventually turned face upon arriving on the main roster by helping Finn Bálor fend off against The Miztourage.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Katsuyori Shibata in Japan. They have described themselves as twin souls...which made his heel turn on him all the crueler.
  • I Know Kickboxing: And it shows. With the notable exceptions of Yoshihiro Takayama and possibly Takuma Sano, his kicks were the hardest in Pro Wrestling NOAH.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Seemingly ignorant of the "Please Come Back" chants, when Sinclair bought Ring of Honor from Cary Silkin, KENTA was one of the wrestlers they didn't want to pay for out of the belief he couldn't draw. For their sake this knowledge didn't get out to fans until well after the fact when Sinclair changed gears and decided to let ROH have all the Japanese wrestlers its budget would allow.
  • Lightning Bruiser: He can catch just about anyone, sometimes literally as in grabbing them out of the air as they try to jump away from him or over his charges.
  • Meaningful Rename: Two of them. First, the initial decision to go simply by the all-caps KENTA instead of his full name so as to avoid confusion with his similarly-named mentor Kenta Kobashi. Then there's the Hideo Itami name, which he claims is Japanese for "Hero of Pain".
  • Mr. Fanservice: That other reason NOAH moved him out of the Juniors to the heavyweights, so they could keep cycling him through the card and attract those who found him pleasing to look at.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Go 2 Sleep is just a knee strike to the face, only that transitioned from a fireman's carry throw for a lot more of power. Same with his Busaiku Knee Kick, which is a flying knee.
  • Mythology Gag: Hideo Itami attempts a fireman's carry Once an Episode when he's wrestling as a tease to the fans. Since NXT's fanbase is generally a smarkier lot even than the main roster, many of them are aware that Itami is setting up for the transition into the Go 2 Sleep knee lift - popularized by CM Punk but originally used by Kenta, who is credited with inventing it. Of course, when he finally did the actual move against Tyler Breeze in NXT San Jose, the crowd went nuts.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Hideo is rather small by pro wrestling standards, but some of his transitions for the Go 2 Sleep involve him deadlifting people quite a bit bigger than him off the ground.
  • Power Stable: Burning, Disobey and No Mercy in NOAH. Bullet Club in NJPW.
  • Red Baron: "The Japanese Sensation", "The Black Sun", "Kuroi Keya O" (Japanese for "The Black King of Kicking"). As a member of the Bullet Club he's Shijō Saiaku no Ran'nyū-sha" (Japanes for "The Worst Intruder in History").
  • Signature Move: Resting on the opponent's head after kneeing them in the corner.
  • Slide Attack: Triple baseball slide after a tree of woe with Low Ki and Ricky Marvin.
  • Tag Team: KENTA's won NOAH's junior heavyweight tag team title belts three times with Naomichi Marufuji, Taiji Ishimori, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru as his partners. He's also won the Heavyweight tag team title belts one time with Maybach Taniguchi, though aside from getting the belts off of TNA affiliated Samoa Joe and Magnus, this didn't end up so well.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Repeatedly taking on the Ascension by himself did not work out in his favour, because while Itami's very skilled, it was still two vs one, and he only triumphed over them in their first meeting because he took them by surprise- an element quickly lost once the Ascension realized what they were dealing with. He eventually wised up and brought Finn Bálor to help him.
  • Tournament Arc
    • KENTA had been in at least two Junior Heavyweight Title tournaments and one Differ cup before he finally won his first, the 2003 GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Tournament with Naomichi Marufuji. Two years later, he and Marufuji won the Differ Cup too.
    • He and Taiji Ishimori won back to back round robin style Nippon TV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag Leagues in 2007 and 2008.
    • He'd win the 2010 Nippon TV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League with Atsushi Aoki
    • He won the 2011 "Two Days Tag Tournament" while representing No Mercy with Yoshihiro Takayama
    • His first individual tournament victory was the 2012 Global League 2012, defeating Takashi Sugiura in the finals.
    • His first win outside of NOAH was in the finals of the Torneo Latinoamericano de Lucha Libre 2013 where he beat Super Crazy. He'd go in to win The Global Tag League that year back in NOAH, representing No Mercy with Yoshihiro Takayama again.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Itami's recent loss to Bobby Roode in an NXT Title match has brought out something of a dark side, demonstrated fairly clearly in an NXT episode several weeks later where he fights Oney Lorcan, beats the crap out of him, then nails him with three consecutive GTS's (where Lorcan was completely defenseless after the first and Itami refused to pin him.) And he probably would have done more if Kassius Ohno hadn't intervened.
  • Wham Shot: After the main event of the "Beach Break" special episode, KENTA makes his AEW debut by attacking Jon Moxley, whom he is scheduled to face at the end of February for the IWGP United States Championship at NJPW Strong.

Alternative Title(s): Hideo Itami, Kenta