Born March 27, 1967 in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, Japan Trained by Giant Baba and Dory Funk jr., among others, Made his professional debut against Motoshi Okuma on Feb. 26, 1988 for All Japan Pro (credit to Wikipedia.org for this info)
Kobashi is about to make his grand return from his tumor-removing surgery on Dec. 2. I felt there was no better time to look at his career.
1) Innovation- 9
Kenta Kobashi was chosen, years ago, as the heir to the Japanese wrestling throne by Misawa himself. When Misawa branched off and created Pro Wrestling NOAH, he brought Kobashi with him to further cement his legacy. Kobashi and Misawa's feud in All Japan created and distinguised Kobashi as a star on par with Misawa, but one with a brutal style and thirst for competition. The fans embraced him and he took NOAH on his back after defeating Misawa in a instant 5 star classic. After that Kobashi did what so many great Japanese wrestlers have tried to do and traveled to America to cement his legacy. He succeeded and he did so by changing his wrestling philosophy and style very little. His match against Samoa Joe showed the wrestling world that the Japanese athletes and Kobashi could main event in America and that their style is the true strong style of Pro Wrestling. Kobashi was the forefront of the the current generation's strong style wrestling in Japan and will continue to be, I predict, for many years to come.
2) Conditioning- 10
His stocky frame isn't the most toned, but it works for him. He is incredibly muscular, but not so much that it bogs him down and makes him slow. He has incredible stamina, especially for working at such high levels of competition. He often goes 30 to 40 minutes a night, doing things to people's bodies and his own that should be criminal just to watch. He's even worked longer matches than that. Kobashi at 40 years old isn't getting any younger, but he also doesn't appear to be slowing down. He works great with younger talent as well and keeps great pace with them. He is a real thoroughbred.
3) Skill- 10
His wrestling acumen is unparalleled. He has had classic matches with almost everyone he has stepped into the ring with in Japan from Misawa, Akiyama, Kawada, Vader, Williams, Taue, Takayama, and Samoa Joe. He is hard hitting, has a great move set and knows it well. All of his stuff comes off looking real and incredibly painful. He will take a bump, a huge bump sometimes and works pain very realistic on his face. And he can fly, at 40 years old, despite all his injuries, he can still pull off a clean moonsault. He's had nearly 20 5 star matches in his career as rated by Dave Meltzer and has won Wrestler of the Year as voted by Wrestling Observer for the last 3 years. His resume speaks for itself, but his matches speak even louder. Probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, bar none.
4) Psychology- 10
Japanese pyschology is so different from the way American performers utilize it. Kobashi has mastered the Japanese art. He knows the fans like hard hitting action from him and he delivers it to a tee. He knows pacing very well and knows when to be explosive and when not to be. There's something about the way the Japanese put a match together when it's done correctly, the back and forth, the will, the guts, the strength to absorb 6 blows just to get one in, the passion to finish an opponent, Kobashi knows it and uses it almost better than anyone.
5) Interviews- 6
Thankfully, NOAH releases all their DVD's with English commentary and subtitles. It's not that Kobashi is a bad interview, the thing I like about what he does is shows a lot of passion and anger and enthusiasm even though he's not particularly enigmatic like a lot of performers. He's the strong silent type and his promos don't linger on or meander. In his world, there's nothing much to talk about besides fighting and I like that.
6) Character- 9
In Japan, it's all about character, not a guy dressed in a goofy jump suit, or wearing a chicken costume, or a catchphrase, it's about your character. Kobashi is the man who has succeeded Misawa; that's who he is. He was a young upstart that had potential, then he became the "Burning Hammer" a man whose passion was undeniable and whose attacks could break bones. Harley Race has now dubbed him "Mr. Pureoseau" which means Mr. Pure Wrestling, a namesake reserved for Genichiro Tenryu now passed on to Kobashi. He is a fighting spirit and fights for the fans of NOAH. He never has an off day, or mails in a performance. That's his character and I actually can get behind this more than 90% of any other gimmick out there.
7) Fans- 10
"Ko-bosh-ee! Ko-bosh-ee!" You can hear the rafters come unglued and hear the fans screaming his name in those 3 famous syllables when he enters an arena. He has earned the respect of the Japanese fans and fans worldwide. He is a huge star there and garners massive reactions anytime he walks the aisle and sells out major arenas all over the company. Even when he came to the states to ROH, the fans erupted upon seeing him and had waited for hours and weeks and months to get to see him compete. I think at this point, only your most surface fan doesn't know who Kobashi is, despite the face that he is one of those "foreign wrestlers" and if you claim to be a wrestling fan and don't know who is, you deserve to be the next guy in line to get crabs from Lita.
8) Basics- 9
Kobashi knows his stuff. He went through the grueling All Japan dojo and was trained by one of the great scientific wrestlers of our time, Dory Funk jr. He doesn't go to submission moves a lot, even though it's a way of life in Japanese wrestling, but he has some good transitions. His chops and ridgehands are among the most brutal strikes in all of combat sports anywhere. Kobashi is spot on and can do almost anything he wants in the ring.
9) Feuds/ Matches- 9 All I need to do is give you a list of matches that were voted their respective matches of the year and you need to seek them out, IMMEDIATELY:
92- w/ Kikuchi v. Furnas/ La Fon
95- w/ Misawa v. Kawada/ Taue
95- v. Kawada (1 hr. draw)
98- v. Misawa
99- v. Misawa
03 v. Misawa
04 v. Akiyama
05 v. Joe
And the list could go on and on, he's feuded with the biggest names to ever grace Japanese wrestling. The only drawback is he missed competing with a lot of the great wrestlers that have come from New Japan Pro as those would have been classics.
10) Gutcheck- 10
Simply put, the man has more courage than most competitors out there. He just underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor in his brain. The man survived brain cancer and now, less than year later, he's climbing back into the ring. Just the guts and love of this sport to do such a thing is miraculous, to bounce back successfully is iconic. It's an inspiring story of a man who is trying to fulfill his destiny and that is to be remembered as one of the greats of all time. And he's well on his way.
Final Score: 92
PO: Thumbs Up
(Thanks to Wikipedia for the info and good luck to Kobashi Sunday Dec 2 on his return)