Well, this one’s been a long time coming. There were months of conflicting reports about workouts at the WWE Performance Center in Florida, followed by denials that these workouts meant anything significant. But today, one of the worst-kept secrets in the wrestling world can finally be confirmed – WWE has signed Japanese star KENTA to a contract. And before I get any further, let me apologize for how often Hulk Hogan appears in this story that has so little to do with him.
KENTA (real name Kenta Kobayashi, not to be confused with retired Japanese wrestling star Kenta Kobashi, seen here with the Hulkster) has been on WWE’s radar since his January workout at the Performance Center. The image you see above was posted on WWE’s official Japanese website to advertise the official announcement (attended by “Ichiban” himself) and fan the flames of this will-he-or-won’t-he mystery… unfortunately, any and all mystery was deflated when some genius in the tech department gave this image the unfortunate filename “kenta-teaser-image.jpg.” I can only assume this was followed by Vince McMahon frantically learning how to say “YOU’RE FIRRRRRRRRED” in Japanese.
WWE® SIGNS JAPANESE STAR KENTA TO NXT®
STAMFORD, Conn., July 12, 2014 – WWE (NYSE:WWE) today announced it has signed Kenta, one of Japan’s biggest stars, to its NXT division. The announcement took place during a signing ceremony at a WWE Live Event in Osaka, Japan with WWE icon and Hall of Famer, Hulk Hogan presiding.
Kenta’s intense and straight forward in-ring style has led to his success in Japan, as well as during visits to the U.S. He is expected to reach new heights of global success with WWE.
“Kenta is an incredible performer who brings the crowd to its feet when he steps into the ring”, said Paul Levesque, Executive Vice President, Talent, Creative and Live Events, WWE. “WWE’s signing of Kenta reflects our continued dedication to creating a diverse roster that appeals to our global fan base.”
“I am humbled to join WWE’s NXT division and look forward to honing my craft with the global leader in sports entertainment,” said Kenta.
Kenta will relocate to Orlando, Florida where he will train at WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center to enhance his talents both athletically and creatively.
For those of you not in the know, KENTA is a huge name in Japan. Prior to today, his wrestling promotion of choice was Pro Wrestling Noah, where he won just about every championship and tournament they had to offer. He’s also done some freelance work for Ring of Honor, where he crossed paths with wrestlers like Low Ki, Samoa Joe, and The Artist Currently Known As Daniel Bryan. And speaking of Daniel Bryan, you know that running high knee finisher he does? Yep, that’s a KENTA original. He also invented the Go 2 Sleep, which was then watered down by Alternative Press red carpet personality CM Punk. Let me put it this way – Punk’s GTS is a gentle spring breeze, and KENTA’s version is a hurricane making landfall on your face.
It’s probably safe to say he’ll have to find a new finisher, but beyond that, how does WWE plan on using KENTA? Their track record with performers like Yoshi Tatsu and Kenzo Suzuki isn’t promising by any means. I’m not looking forward to this all-time great heading down to NXT with a semi-racist gimmick and some half-assed developmental name like “Howard Mitsubishi” or something. Or who knows, maybe he’ll get treated with dignity and respect before going on to team up with Sami Zayn and form The Internet’s Most Beloved Tag Team. I don’t know, I guess you could say I’m cautiously excited for this. Just remember that one time WWE signed an international legend, gave him a mini-trampoline, and sent him on his way after three years. Anything can happen.