All wrestlers have to start somewhere on the path to making their dreams a reality, whether it be a wrestling school, church basement, bingo hall, etc. From there, those wrestlers work their way up to the pinnacle of their dreams. For many, that’s a career in WWE. But sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. In LWOPW’s newest feature, “Before They Were Famous,” we take a look at the pre-WWE careers of some of the company’s top current stars, following along on their road to superstardom. This series continues with a focus on women’s division star Asuka.
She is a former WWE women’s tag team champion, former Smackdown women’s champion, winner of the first-ever women’s royal rumble, holder of the longest NXT Women’s Championship reign in history at 510 days, and has the longest undefeated streak in WWE history as she went 914 days without defeat racking up over 240 wins. She is the empress of tomorrow Asuka! Asuka has accomplished so much in her career with WWE but what many may not know is she debuted all the way back in 2004 and had a successful run in the Joshi scene before joining the WWE.
Asuka had her debut match in 2004 for Major Girl’s Fighting AtoZ under her real name Kanako Urai. She was trained by BattleArts alumni Yuki Ishikawa who had a shoot fight background, including a fight in PRIDE. She wrestled a series of exhibition matches as Urai before her debut before officially debuting in June at Korakuen Hall as Kana. In late 2004 she competed in All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (AJW)‘s Tag League The Best alongside the legendary Yumiko Hotta and finished as a runner up. Asuka got to share the ring with many legends such as Hotta, Jaguar Yokota, Manami Toyota, and many more. Asuka wouldn’t have much success in her early days and retired on March 19th, 2006
Return & Passion Red
Passion Red (Nanae Takahashi, Kana, and Natsuki*Taiyo) were such a quality team that didn't last incredibly long. pic.twitter.com/VW52c1JDFv
— Puro Central Shop (@purocentralshop) August 11, 2016
Asuka would return to wrestling in September 2007 against Nanae Takahashi for Pro Wrestling SUN. In NEO Ladies the two would form the faction Passion Red alongside Natsuki Taiyo. The trio would team together until 2010 and was responsible for Asuka’s first title win when she and Takahashi won the NEO tag team championships. The group’s main adversaries in NEO were The Amandra Revolution as well as NEO’s main unit. The group held several Passion Red produce shows as well before Kana’s decision to leave the group in 2010.
Triple Tails, WAVE & SMASH Success
Asuka would join another faction soon after her Passion Red departure as she formed Triple Tails alongside Io Shirai (who left to join Stardom) and her sister Mio Shirai. Pro Wrestling WAVE and SMASH Wrestling also became two of her regular stomping grounds. This began a successful spell for Asuka as she would kick off her legendary series with Meiko Satomura at a self-produced Kana Pro show. 2011 would see the next fight between Kana and Satomura at a Triple Tails produced show, she would also have her most successful year to date winning the SMASH Diva Championship, her first singles title, winning the Catch The WAVE tournament, made her US debut for SHIMMER, and capped it all of by winning the Dual Shock Wave tournament alongside Ayumi Kurihara to become the first-ever WAVE tag team champions.
More Title Wins & Controversial Match With Minoru Suzuki
2012 and 2013 were more of the same for Asuka as she continued to win titles. In 2012 she got involved with DDTPro winning the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship five times and became a two-time SMASH Diva Champion. She became a two-time WAVE tag champion alongside Mio Shirai and became JWP Openweight Champion as she made JWP her second home replacing the now-defunct SMASH.
2014 would see Asuka take part in her most controversial match to date, we’ve all seen the gifs of Minoru Suzuki beating up Asuka. This clip is from a Kana Pro show at Korakuen Hall where Asuka teamed with Pro Wrestling NOAH‘s Naomichi Marufuji to take on Satomura and Suzuki. For any that haven’t seen the match, it is worth it just to see the sheer toughness displayed by Asuka. She ended 2014 as a double champion in REINA as she teamed with Arisa Nakajima to win the REINA World Tag Team Championships before defeating now-UFC alumni Syuri.
Final Year As Kana & Signing With WWE
At a Kana Pro show in February 2015 Asuka wrestled her only student Konami in her official debut. Konami, now wrestling for Stardom, shows many of Kana’s influences in her wrestling style adopting a submission-based approach, utilizing stiff strikes, and wrestles barefoot like Kana. She would team with Konami just two months later at a JWP show as she fought Meiko Satomura one last time in a tag match also involving Comand Bolshoi. In September it was announced that she has signed with the WWE and would become Asuka and made her NXT debut one month later at NXT Takeover: Respect defeating Dana Brooke and kicking off her unbeaten streak that would go down in history
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE and NXT content on the WWE Network.