Kenta Kobayashi (March 12, 1981), is a Japanese professional wrestler who was signed to WWE on the 205 Live brand under the ring name Hideo Itami. He is best known by his ring name stylized as KENTA and for working at 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. 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.
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 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).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, only to use his given name, which he spells with Roman letters in all capitals.
Professional wrestling career
Pro Wrestling Noah
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. 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 his faction, Burning.
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. While defending the tag titles, 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 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. 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.
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 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. 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., only to defeat the team to win the 2nd NTV Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League Tournament.
Following his loss of the tag titles, 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 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 IV, on November 23, 2010. 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 titles 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 titles to Aoki and Suzuki on October 16, 2011. At Noah's Halloween show on October 31, 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 of 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 the ACL in his knee again, forcing him to undergo another surgery to repair it. It was announced that he would be out of action for 6 to 7 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. However, they lost the title to Akitoshi Saito and Go Shiozaki just eighteen days later. On November 23, Kenta won the 2012 Global League Tournament.
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 Mohammed 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 Tournament, 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.
Ring of Honor
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. 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. Kenta returned for In Your Face featuring him in a three-way match against Joe and Danielson, which ended in similar fashion.
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. This led to a series of matches with the two against each other, as well as reluctant partners. 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.
Kenta made his return to Ring of Honor on May 11 of the next year against Delirious in a winning effort. 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. The following night had Kenta wrestle Misawa for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in a losing effort.
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. Kobayashi was scheduled to return to ROH in November 2009, but was forced to cancel the appearances after suffering a knee injury.
World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
On January 27, 2014, Kenta, with Noah's blessing, entered WWE's Performance Center in Orlando, Florida for a tryout. 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. On June 27, Tokyo Sports reported that Kenta had signed with WWE and that the signing would be officially announced on July 12. During WWE's July 12 event in Osaka, the promotion officially announced the signing of Kenta during an in-ring segment with Hulk Hogan. Kenta will relocate to Orlando to resume training at the Performance Center, while also working for WWE's developmental territory NXT.
Kenta made his NXT debut on September 11 at Takeover II. After being introduced by NXT General Manager William Regal he announced his new ring name, Hideo Itami. The Ascension then came out as they were still very upset after losing their titles earlier that night and proceeded to attack Itami and then demand a rematch. Itami recovered and cleared the ring of both members of the Ascension. On the September 18 edition of NXT, Itami defeated Justin Gabriel on his in-ring debut match but his celebration was cut short when the Ascension attacked him resulting a feud between the two. On the following week of NXT, Itami distracted The Ascension for them to lose their rematch against the Lucha Dragons for the NXT Tag Team Championship. On the following week of NXT, a match was set up between Itami and one of the Ascension members Viktor but before the match even started both members of the Ascension attacked Itami which caused the match to never start. On the next episode of NXT, Itami defeated Viktor but both him and Funaki were attacked by both members of the Ascension. The assault against Itami would continue for several more weeks until the October 30th episode of NXT, after the latest assault, Itami refused to leave NXT and announced that he would bring a friend to help battle against the Ascension.
On the November 6th episode of NXT, Itami's friend was revealed to be Finn Bálor and they both would bring down the Ascension that night. After weeks of feuding with the Ascension with his friend Finn Bálor, he and Bálor will both fight against them in a tag match at the NXT Takeover: R Evolution event. At NXT Takeover: R Evolution, Bálor, with a body paint look, and Itami defeated The Ascension at the special event.
On the January 21 edition of NXT, Itami advanced to the semifinals of an NXT Championship number one contender's tournament by defeating Tyler Breeze. His former tag team partner, Finn Bálor also advanced to the semifinals and will face him on the February 4 edition of NXT. On the February 4th edition of NXT, Itami would lose to Bálor in the semifinals. On NXT Takeover: Rival, Itami would defeat Tyler Breeze after feuding with Breeze for few short weeks before the special event.
On March 27, Itami won the WrestleMania Axxess NXT tournament by defeating Adrian Neville and then Finn Bálor to get a spot in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the pre-show of WrestleMania.
Raw/205 Live (2017-2019)
On December 18, 2017 Itami made his debut on Raw, in a tag match teaming Finn Bálor to defeat The Miztourage members Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel after their initial handicap match against Balor ended in disqualification. This drew out Itami to the ring to aid his former NXT teammate Balor. Their match ended with Itami securing the pinfall over Axel. He made his second main roster debut the next night, December 19 on 205 Live.
On February 22, 2019 WWE announced they had come to terms on the release of Itami.
- Finishing moves
- As Hideo Itami
- Diving double foot stomp
- GTS - Go To Sleep – Innovated
- Go To Sleep '18 (Inverted facelock spun into a three-quarter facelock single knee facebreaker)
- Corkscrew roundhouse kick to a kneeling opponent
- Shotgun Kick (Running single leg front dropkick)
- "Rings of Saturn" (actually a scissored Kimura)
- As KENTA
- Busaiku he no Hizageri / Busaiku Knee Kick (Single leg running high knee)
- Game Over (Omoplata crossface) – 2011–present
- Go 2 Sleep – Innovated
- As Hideo Itami
- Signature moves
- Bridging Tiger suplex
- Falcon Arrow (Sitout suplex slam)
- Fisherman buster
- Multiple kick variations
- Koutoubu Kick (Roundhouse kick)
- 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"
- "International/Japanese Sensation"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Alianza Latinoamericana de Lucha Libre
- Torneo Latino Americano de Lucha Libre (2013)
- Nikkan Sports
- Match of The Year Award (2006) vs. Naomichi Marufuji on October 29
- Match of The Year Award (2008) vs. Naomichi Marufuji on October 25
- Technique Award (2006, 2007)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Ranked No. 22 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2013
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- GHC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion (3 times)
- GHC Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Maybach Taniguchi
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion (3 times) - with Taiji Ishimori (1), Naomichi Marufuji (1), Yoshinobu Kanemaru (1)
- 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
- Tokyo Sports
- Best Tag Team Award (2003) with Naomichi Marufuji
- Match of the Year Award (2006) vs. Naomichi Marufuji, October 29, 2006
- Outstanding Performance Award (2013)
- Technique Award (2011)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Wrestling Maneuver (2006, 2007) Go 2 Sleep
- Tag Team of the Year (2003, 2004) with Naomichi Marufuji
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Qualifying Tournament (2015)