The WWE expects to sign several new wrestlers in the coming weeks, and the forthcoming batch of talent has a decidedly Japanese flavor. The Land of the Rising Sun is jam-packed with great wrestlers, and the WWE has successfully acquired two of the country’s top names.
KENTA, real name Kenta Kobayashi (not to be confused with the legendary Kenta Kobashi), has already inked a contract with the company. According to the WWE’s Japan office, the signing will be officially announced at a press conference in Osaka on July 12.
KENTA, who is 33 years old, turned pro in 2000 and made quite a name for himself in Japan, wrestling mostly for Pro Wrestling NOAH. He has also worked in the United States, making sporadic appearances for Ring of Honor from 2005-2009. A stellar worker, KENTA is widely recognized as one of the world’s best wrestlers.
He’s a smaller competitor, standing only 5-foot-8 and weighing in at 180 pounds. Compared to a typical Vince McMahon wrestler, he’s practically a little person. Knowing McMahon’s modus operandi, it’s hard to see KENTA getting a serious long-term push for these reasons.
The same could be said for WWE’s second Japanese acquisition, Prince Devitt (real name Fergal Devitt). Although born in Ireland, the 32-year-old built his reputation working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. After honing is craft in the United Kingdom, Devitt signed on with NJPW in 2006 and has been there ever since. Devitt is a spectacular high-flyer who is also regarded as a top wrestler, but his size will limit his upward mobility in WWE.
At 5-foot-11, he’s taller than KENTA, but he also weighs only 180 pounds.
The WWE is still a big man’s company for all intents and purposes, so I don’t see either KENTA or Devitt making it to the very top of the ladder. They’re going to need to rely on their in-ring skills to get them through, and that usually isn’t enough to break the glass ceiling. Agree or disagree, wrestling ability has always been secondary to Vince McMahon. In Vince’s eyes, interviews, charisma and looks mean more than anything else.
That’s not to say they won’t succeed. The fanbase has grown to appreciate wrestling talent, and lord knows both these men have plenty of that. The trick will be developing characters that get over with the WWE audience, augmenting their superior in-ring abilities. Are they destined to be heavyweight champions? Probably not, but there’s no reason why they can’t make a splash.
The WWE wanted these men for a reason. Perhaps there’s a movement brewing in WWE towards smaller, more athletic wrestlers. More likely, Vince McMahon needs great workers to make his bigger, more charismatic superstars look good. We’ll find out soon enough.