Kenta Kobashi, a hall-of-fame caliber wrestler with the NOAH promotion in Japan, has been removed indefinitely from future shows after being diagnosed with kidney cancer, announced NOAH president Mitsuharu Misawa Thursday.
Kobashi, 39, is one of the most prominent wrestling stars in Japan today, and a lynchpin in the success of NOAH, a moderately successful organization that presents wrestling in a relatively traditional manner, even as the business is overtaken by mixed martial arts in Japan.
It is unknown when Kobashi will undergo medical procedures to eradicate the cancer, or if he will return to wrestling.
Misawa, whose career is tied closely with Kobashi’s, appeared wrought in making the announcement this past week at a late-night press conference in Tokyo. He said that the tumor, which appeared malignant upon discovery, was discovered as part of a routine checkup. Kobashi told of pain in his waist, and a scan revealed the tumor.
When Kobashi was a young wrestler in All Japan Pro Wrestling, he joined Misawa’s stable in the late 1980’s. In the years that have followed, Kobashi has bloomed into a star in his own right, including forming a notable tag-team with Misawa, and fighting him several years later. Their matches are considered among the best ever in Japanese wrestling, winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s match of the year twice in 1998 and 1999, and second place for the award in 1997.
When Misawa left All Japan and formed his own company, NOAH, in 2000, most of the star wrestlers left with him, including Kobashi. The company had no problems gaining quick leverage against All Japan, as the new promotion landed both the stars and television time once held by All Japan. But Kobashi was crucial to the fledgling company, lending it credibility and star power it needed badly due to the shrinking overall prominence of wrestling within Japan at the time, and to this day. Kobashi denied badly needed knee surgery to remain with the company until he was forced out when the problems grew bad. There was doubt that he would return and, even so, whether he would be the same wrestler he once was.
The doubt was removed when, over a year later in 2002, he returned in prime form—a la Shawn Michaels—and set attendance records for the promotion, while establishing himself as one of the greatest pure wrestlers in wrestling history, turning in superb matches with Jun Akiyama, Kensuke Sasaski, Samoa Joe, and others.
Over a year later, in 2002, he returned in prime form—much like Shawn Michaels—and set attendance records for the promotion. Quickly returning as the promotion’s top star and perennial champion, Kobashi impressed in the ring, turning in emotionally charged, superb matches with Jun Akiyama, Kensuke Sasaski, and Samoa Joe.
Kobashi is in conversation with doctors to discuss how best to proceed. The typical response to kidney cancer is surgery to remove all or part of the kidney, and, by extension, the tumor. If surgery is performed before the tumor has a chance to spread to other parts of the body, patients have a high success rate. As of now, Kobashi is said to be in pain too great to continue wrestling, but optimistic about returning in the future.