Note from 2/3 Observer:
In what to me was a huge surprise, Pro Wrestling NOAH star KENTA (Kenta Kobayashi, who turns 33 in March) has been at the Performance Center since Sunday for a several day tryout. I’m not sure if he’ll work this coming week’s tapings or not. His last match in Japan was 1/25 and he flew out the next morning to Florida and started his tryout the next day. The KENTA thing has its ironies. KENTA was one of the hot young stars in Japan a decade ago, and Punk, in particular, copied a lot of his stuff, including the GTS finisher, and made it his own in the U.S. market. He was also one of Bryan’s favorite wrestlers, and Bryan’s Busaiku knee was KENTA’s other finisher. Except for his really fast kick and chop routine that Punk used to do when he first came in and was either told not to or stopped on his own, almost all his big moves are already established by someone else here (who took them directly from him), which means he’s going to have to drop his biggest spots. At the time, KENTA was a big star and Punk and Bryan were indie guys who studied tapes and looked up to him. Now, KENTA, even though he held the GHC title for a year and was second in the Japanese MVP voting to Okada by Tokyo Sports, because NOAH has fallen so badly, he’s less of a star while Punk and Bryan are two of the biggest stars in the world. As a general rule, the cornerstone guys of the promotions in Japan have great loyalty to their companies and are lifers, so between his size (5-foot-7, 180ish) the hard striking style (which doesn’t fit well with WWE) and language issues and WWE’s usual treatment of Japanese talent (Yoshi Tatsu was a good worker and a bigger guy, who had a cool look, maybe could never be a superstar but could have been a good working underneath guy), it’s not the right fit in some ways. Still, this may tell you just how bad things in NOAH are because you don’t go to Orlando for a week as a tryout guy when you’re a long-time main eventer unless you’re looking to get out. He’s also considered NOAH’s biggest star to its limited audience, so it’ll be a big blow to that group if he signs here. That also changes the dynamic of him in Japan. Daily Sports in Japan reported he was going to be offered a contract and NOAH would be doing a farewell show for him. That may be a premature story but I have little doubt he’d impress WWE officials since it’s not like they see talent at his level walking into the Performance Center for first looks, and aside from having to tone down the physicality, and tweak a few things, his style will work against Americans a lot easier than the guys from Mexico.