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Kenny Payne (Dallas Dupree Young) is the youngest son of a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Qatar, and the younger brother of Shawn Payne. He enrolls as a new student at West Valley Middle School, where he is a target of bullying by Anthony LaRusso and his friends. After being catfished and cyberbullied by the gang, Kenny visits Shawn in juvenile hall and claims that Anthony knows karate. Shawn suggests that Kenny look for Robby Keene, a former inmate whom he once fought. Kenny, despite his timid nature, arrives at Cobra Kai due to Shawn's recommendation. After he is rejected by Kreese, Robby visits Kenny at his house, returning his backpack and trains Kenny on his own time after learning of his bullying, with the duo developing a mentor-mentee relationship. Kenny later tells Robby that Shawn is sentenced to an extra month in juvenile hall for spitting in a guard's face. With Robby's tutelage, Kenny goes after Kyler, who has taunted him, earning his spot at the dojo and impressing Kreese. As a result, he gains more confidence, but like many Cobra Kai students becomes increasingly aggressive. When Anthony steals Kenny’s clothes to embarrass him during gym class at one point, Kenny furiously tells Robby that he’s had enough of the bullying from Anthony and his friends and vows to use his training to get back at them once and for all. Despite the latter's disapproval, Kenny uses his training from Silver to lure Anthony and his friends into a trap at the middle school library to attack them and exposes them for their bullying of him, getting them all suspended from school. Later during the All-Valley tournament, he loses to Robby in the quarter finals. Anthony approaches Kenny in the locker room afterwards and attempts to apologize for tormenting him only for a vengeful Kenny, furious with Anthony's past actions against him and losing the quarter finals match to Robby with a broken nose, to viciously attack him in retaliation for his past actions against him before Robby intervenes and breaks off the fight. Kenny vows revenge against Anthony when they begin high school the next year. Horrified by Kenny’s actions against Anthony, Robby lectures Kenny for going against how he trained him to fight, but Kenny, having been corrupted by Cobra Kai, asserts "no mercy" before leaving.

In Season 5, Kenny becomes one of the top students behind Tory in Silver's Cobra Kai and torments Anthony with the help of his Cobra Kai gang in retaliation for his past actions against him by kicking him into a pool and even going so far as to give Anthony a swirly at one point. During the Sekai Taikai tryouts, Kenny is pitted against Hawk. Using the "silver bullet" technique he learned from Silver (who had paid off the referee), Kenny defeats Hawk by cutting off his airway, forcing him to forfeit. When the Miyagi-Fang students attempt to expose Silver's cheating at the All-Valley Tournament, Kenny leads the Cobra Kai students in attacking them, who knew about the raid thanks to Mitch tipping them off. During the fight, he singles out Robby for leaving him to rejoin Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang, taking advantage of his compassion and defeats him with the silver bullet, until Miguel comes to Robby's defense and easily defeats Kenny. After Silver's actions are exposed and Silver's ultimate defeat by Daniel LaRusso, Kenny, feeling betrayed, abandons Cobra Kai. In the aftermath, Robby attempts to speak with a depressed Kenny, but Kenny sadly asks to be left alone before leaving in shame.