After months of rumors and speculation, puro and indy fans' hopes and fears can shift to their next gear. Because one of the biggest names in Japanese pro wrestling is taking his talents to Orlando.
Kenta Kabayashi, who in the ring was known by a stylized version of his name, KENTA, was announced to have signed a contract with WWE before the company's live event in Osaka today. Hulk Hogan was there to give it the kind of respect that the Japanese market would expect and that the Pro Wrestling NOAH mainstay deserves. Triple H commented afterward, working his Paul Levesque gimmick.
Here's the full press release:
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.
More will undoubtedly come out (or leak out) about WWE's plans especially how quickly they plan to progress a 33 year old who has already worked extensively with talents the company employs or is familiar with such as Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Jason Albert.
While many had speculated that he might debut immediately on Raw or Smackdown, this does make it sound like he will work a program or two on NXT first. After their experience with Mistico/Sin Cara, that's probably wise, and it will allow the hardcore portion of the American fan base - many of whom might now Kenta only from YouTube - to form a connection with him. It could also give us some dream matches or pairings with guys like Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, or possibly even a couple of rumored signings that are still unconfirmed like Kevin Steen and Prince Devitt.
They also appear to be allowing him to work under his real name. The press release drops the 'all caps' presentation of his name, but freely talks about what 'Kenta' brings to WWE. That makes it seem unlikely that they'll change it when he shows up in Orlando, and may just be a good sign that he'll be allowed to work a straight-forward, "I'm one of the best wrestlers in the world" gimmick as opposed to being saddled with a stereotype or comedy character like Yoshi Tatsu or Jimmy Wang Yang.
So, it's really happening Cagesiders! Are you excited? Tell us your hopes and dreams for Kenta in the WWE below!