Monday 14 July 2014

KENTA in the Land of Sports Entertainment

So WWE’s signed KENTA to a developmental contract. This is kind of a big deal.

Kenta Kobayashi (he wisely chose to stylize his ring name KENTA in part to avoid confusion with his real life mentor and fellow wrestler Kenta Kobashi) previously worked for Pro Wrestling NOAH and had been their biggest name and most reliable wrestler for several years. He is (or was) the most significant name in puroresu not to be working for New Japan. That company, along with WWE, TNA, All Japan and NOAH, had all made their interest in him known but KENTA opted to go with WWE’s offer. Perhaps he’s always dreamt of being a WWE Superstar™.

The KENTA signing is all thanks to Hulk you know.
KENTA will start out stationed in NXT. He may have been the top star of NOAH and wrestled a variety of styles around the world but that doesn’t matter. In modern WWE everyone starts the same way. Which makes perfect sense. KENTA needs to familiarise himself with the WWE ring, learn how to interact with a WWE crowd, and get used to wrestling alongside the WWE camera setup, amongst dozens of other intricacies.

And, of course, he needs to improve his English. He’s not fluent. WWE won’t want him to be but they will want him to be passable before they promote him to the main roster, and understandably so. He needs to be able to have basic interactions with fans outside arenas and in airports, and have a decent enough understanding of the language to read an audience and interact with fellow wrestlers. It’s all as much a part of the job as kicking people really hard.

This is not to say that KENTA needs perfect English to succeed in WWE. I don’t think that’s the case. Many wrestlers have made it to positions of prominence with limited verbal skills. The most obvious example is Brock Lesnar. During his initial run with the company he developed into a decent, if unspectacular, talker. Since returning he’s barely uttered a word, instead being paired up with premier chat man Paul Heyman.

Outside of WWE Sabu exhibited drawing power as a crazed madman that never spoke in both the US and Japan in the 90s. Goldberg was about the only star WCW created for themselves, and he was never one for long promos. Vader, Taz, and Rob Van Dam were all star attractions for various promotions without speaking. Back in WWE Undertaker initially became a star without really doing much beyond wrestling slowly and looming as managers nattered about him.

Of course, there are arguments for why none of this applies to KENTA. Sabu, Goldberg and anyone else who became a star without talking outside of WWE were all working in different systems with different expectations and requirements. Undertaker had a very specific gimmick that didn’t lend itself to lengthy promos. And Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar, a proven box office draw with a star aura whose limitations WWE will work around because of the wealth of positive attributes he possesses.

But, really, none of this matters. If KENTA’s English is deemed not good enough it needn’t stop him becoming a star. He could be introduced as an “international superstar” Heyman Guy. He could be introduced as a member of The Authority, handpicked by Triple H as another star of tomorrow. WWE could even get their act together and cast another manager to pair KENTA with. Ultimately an inability to cut lengthy promos will only hinder KENTA (under whatever ring name he ends up with) as much as WWE allows it to. It’s his ability to interact with crowds and the quality of his matches that will determine whether KENTA becomes a star or not.

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