ASUKA, known as VENY in America, boasts one of the most interesting stories in the world of professional wrestling. Dubbed “the world’s first genderless pro wrestler,” they became one of the stars to not only challenge barriers but break them down. Since their debut, ASUKA made an impact in every promotion they’ve worked, from Pro Wrestling WAVE to Dramatic Dream Team. In fact, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, smart money would have been on them making a splash in their United States debut. Regardless, they’ve made the most of every opportunity.
Prior to getting involved in wrestling, ASUKA had an upbringing unlike most. In their youth, they became a professional wrestling fan; watching such stars as Ayako Hamada would influence ASUKA to pursue wrestling in their later years. ASUKA became involved in athletics, including nihon kenpo, largely due to their father’s influence. Despite being skilled in combat sports, ASUKA wasn’t invested. Instead, they shifted their attention to more feminine hobbies, such as makeup, which resulted in bullying from classmates.
ASUKA received their first taste of wrestling in high school. As a student in Sendai, ASUKA became the captain of the wrestling team, which their family supported. On their 16th birthday, they came out as gay to their father. Though ASUKA’s father initially convinced his child to continue wrestling, he was supportive of their choices in life. During high school, they worked different jobs to make money and ponder careers to focus on as a muscular individual. Dropping out of high school, ASUKA applied to Pro Wrestling WAVE. From there, ASUKA’s new path began.
ASUKA’s Start in Wrestling
ASUKA began their training under Hamada, the same woman they had watched on TV and helped inspire them. Following this full-circle event of sorts, ASUKA made their official debut in August of 2015, facing Yuu Yamagata in a losing effort. From there, ASUKA cut their teeth against other established talent, including Hamada and future AEW Women’s World Champion Hikaru Shida. As a transgender wrestler, their debut during the summer garnered considerable media attention. Not only did this bring more attention to ASUKA and their budding career but instilled confidence in those looking to get into wrestling as well.
Heading into 2016, ASUKA became a more prominent fixture in WAVE. They competed in that year’s Catch the Wave tournament, securing 2 points. The following July, they debuted for OKASA Women’s Pro-Wrestling, where they faced Ryo Mizunami in the second to last match of the night. From there, ASUKA participated in other WAVE tournaments, including the Dual Shock Wave. ASUKA’s prominence in WAVE wasn’t due to mainstream media attention, but instead the effort they put forth in each match.
Though ASUKA remained largely in WAVE throughout 2017, they expanded by wrestling in other promotions. ASUKA debuted for YMZ Pro Wrestling in May and Marvelous the month after. Later that summer, they appeared for World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana. Simply put, the Japanese wrestling world was becoming aware of the “genderless pro wrestler.” Later that September, ASUKA received their first title match when they challenged Rina Yamashita for the Regina Di WAVE Championship. Though they lost, ASUKA fought valiantly in this main event encounter. Throughout the remainder of 2017, they appeared for other promotions such as SEAdLINNNG and OZ Academy.
In January of 2018, ASUKA debuted for Pro Wrestling ZERO1. It was here they worked alongside Takuya Sugawara, who had been a multi-time NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Champion. Following that year’s Catch the WAVE tournament, where they amassed 3 points, ASUKA debuted for Dramatic Dream Team in May. Working with names including Akito and Daisuke Sasaki, ASUKA became more familiar with a more comedic take on wrestling. August saw ASUKA receive their first taste of gold when they bested Takumi Iroha for the Regina Di WAVE Championship. They would hold onto the title until December when they dropped it to Mizunami. ASUKA’s first reign was a strong one, though, as they defeated Miyuki Takase and Hana Kimura, just to name a few stars.
Adding More Gold
Despite the aforementioned title loss, ASUKA wouldn’t be without gold for long. In January of 2019, at DDT Sweet Dreams, ASUKA won a battle royal to become the new Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion; they would drop the title to Saki Akai in a gauntlet match the next month. ASUKA became a more regular competitor for DDT during this year. In April, they made their Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling debut, facing Baliyan Akki in a competitive 10-minute draw. This wouldn’t be their final appearance for the promotion, either.
In June, ASUKA participated in ZERO1’s Fire Festival tournament. In Block A, they earned 5 points. September saw ASUKA win their second Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, which they lost quickly thereafter, per the unpredictable nature of the title in question. During the fall, ASUKA contested for the SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Tag Team Championship but to no avail. Their luck turned around in early November, however, concerning the KO-D Ten Man Tag Team Championship. Alongside Yuki Ino, Danshoku Dino, Mizuki, and Trans Am Hiroshi, ASUKA added said championship to their resume. The rising star also appeared for Gatoh Move once more in 2019, facing Chon Shiryu in a draw.
The Future of ASUKA
By early 2020, ASUKA was set to make their debut in North America. In February, it was announced that they would be appearing for the EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch event the following April. Furthermore, they would wrestle under the name VENY. This event wouldn’t take place, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced several wrestling events to be canceled. Despite this, ASUKA continued to wrestle in Japan. Case and point, last month, they faced Mei Suruga on the sixteenth episode of Gatoh Move’s ChocoPro. Post-match, ASUKA gave a touching speech in memory of Hana Kimura, who tragically passed away the same day. Earlier this month, ASUKA also challenged for the SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Championship, albeit unsuccessfully.
ASUKA’s accomplishments between the ropes can’t be ignored, but for them, what’s just as important is the impact they could make outside of competition. They expressed an interest in creating friendships with other transgender people and discussing life topics relevant to them. Though there is still work to be done in terms of widespread awareness, ASUKA’s success is indicative of positive change. The “genderless pro wrestler’s” career is relatively young but their potential, athletically or otherwise, is high.
Akito vs. ASUKA (July 15, 2019)
In this match, not only was ASUKA fighting for the DDT Extreme Championship but forging their reputation in the most unique of circumstances. As the name would suggest, this Lighttube Deathmatch featured said weapon as the focal point. Neither the challenger ASUKA nor the champion Akito wanted to get up close and personal with it. Watching both competitors be as gentle with the object as possible made for comedic moments. This match had the Japanese wrestling scene buzzing and upon watching it in full, you will see why. It may not be the first style of match one would associate with lighttubes, but viewers that go into this with an open mind will be entertained
Mei Suruga vs. ASUKA (May 23, 2020)
One of the most interesting parts of Gatoh Move’s ChocoPro events has been the litany of outside talent they brought in. On this episode, ASUKA stepped into Ichigaya Chocolate Square against one of the company’s bright stars, Mei Suruga. From the get-go, one could imagine this would be a unique match-up, as the tall and muscular guest towered over the diminutive “Mei-chan.” As is customary with most Gatoh Move matches, comedic moments were aplenty, including an impromptu dance-off between the competitors. They also made good use of the Ichigaya venue and its different quirks. As the more recent match featured here, it’s another worth checking out.
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