So hear me out … the influence that KENTA has had on pro-wrestling is truly undeniable. Born Kenta Kobayashi and hailing from Japan his 2000 debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) was only the first stop in his ongoing career. He would go on to wrestle for Pro Wrestling NOAH where he would align himself with his mentor Kenta Kobashi and form the faction Burning.
While there, he perfected the more stiff and strike-oriented shoot/strong style of wrestling. Most notably he was the creator of the Go To Sleep (GTS) finisher made famous in the states by CM Punk. Since then many other wrestlers, from Sammy Guevara to Matt Riddle, have utilized a variation of the move. But that wasn’t the only move brought to us by the Hero of Pain. The Buzaiku knee used by Bryan Danielson as well as other strong style strike combinations that we now see regularly used were heavily influenced by him. There’s just something about those kicks and strikes and how they land that gets the fans pumped. Whether it was his time in ROH or just a matter of US talent watching his Japanese matches, it’s obvious that KENTA drew their attention.
What’s crazy is that he had to stop using the GTS during his stint in WWE under the name Hideo Itami. It has never been fully confirmed if it was due to WWE trying to scrub all things CM Punk or the fact in one of its few uses he broke Brian Kendrick’s orbital bone.
Currently, he is still creating magic and continuing to innovate while in NJPW with the Bullet Club stable and making a few AEW appearances. At 41 years old he is still running circles around the competition and putting on amazing matches. For years to come his influence will be felt and go down as the stuff of legend.
… and that’s the bottom line