Asuka (wrestler)

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Asuka
Asuka NXT Takeover Dallas 2016.jpg
Urai at NXT TakeOver: Dallas in April 2016
Birth name Kanako Urai (浦井 佳奈子, Urai Kanako)[1][2]
Born (1981-09-26) September 26, 1981 (age 36)[1][3]
Osaka, Osaka, Japan[1][3]
Residence Orlando, Florida, U.S.[citation needed]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Asuka[4]
Kana
Kana-hime[5]
Ramen Woman[6]
Skull Reaper Kana[7]
Tomoe Gozen[8]
Billed height 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)[1][3][9]
Billed weight 62 kg (137 lb)[1][3]
Billed from Osaka, Japan[9]
Trained by Yuki Ishikawa[10]
Debut June 16, 2004[3]

Kanako Urai (浦井 佳奈子, Urai Kanako, born September 26, 1981)[1][3] is a Japanese professional wrestler, better known by the ring name Asuka /ˈɑːskə/ (明日華, Asuka). She is currently signed to WWE, performing on the Raw brand. She is a former NXT Women's Champion, with her reign of 510[nb 1] days being the longest of any title in WWE's post-national expansion era. In addition, the company has billed her as having the "longest undefeated streak in WWE history".

Her techniques include various kicks and submission holds, leading to a reputation for a stiff wrestling style. She has also worked as a freelance graphic designer and video game journalist, and through her work with Microsoft, she has been sponsored by the company, wearing an Xbox 360 logo on her gear.

Previously known as Kana (華名, Kana), she started her professional wrestling career in the AtoZ promotion in June 2004, where she remained until retiring in March 2006. She returned to the ring a year and a half later, starting to work as a freelancer for promotions such as JWP Joshi Puroresu, NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Wave, Reina Joshi Puroresu, Smash, and Wrestling New Classic. Her achievements include winning the JWP Openweight Championship, NEO Tag Team Championship, Reina World Women's Championship, Smash Diva Championship, and Wave Tag Team Championship.

In August 2015, Urai signed a developmental deal with WWE. After spending two years in WWE's developmental branch NXT, she was moved to the promotion's main roster in September 2017. In December 2015, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter stated that Urai "may be the best worker in WWE, man or woman".[12] In 2017, Asuka became the first Japanese wrestler to top Pro Wrestling Illustrated's annual PWI Female 50 list.[13]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (2004–2010)[edit]

Urai, working originally as a graphic designer, decided to find a new career in professional wrestling, after becoming a fan of the likes of Keiji Mutoh, Satoru Sayama, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Antonio Inoki, Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada, Masakatsu Funaki, Volk Han and Minoru Suzuki.[14][15] Trained by Yuki Ishikawa,[10] Urai adopted the ring name Kana and made her professional wrestling debut for all female promotion AtoZ on June 16, 2004, in a match against Leo-na.[1][3] She would spend the first part of her career with AtoZ, before suddenly announcing her retirement due to chronic nephritis on March 19, 2006.[3][15] During her time away from the ring, Urai opened her own graphic design agency.[3] After spending a year and a half away from professional wrestling, Urai made a comeback on September 22, 2007, and began working as a freelancer for promotion such as Ice Ribbon, JWP Joshi Puroresu, NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Wave and Pro Wrestling Zero1, while also forming the Passion Red stable with Nanae Takahashi, Natsuki☆Taiyo, Ray and Yumiko Hotta in NEO, which would become her new home promotion.[3] On October 10, 2009, Kana teamed with Takahashi to defeat Hiroyo Matsumoto and Kyoko Inoue for the NEO Tag Team Championship, Kana's first professional wrestling title.[16] They would hold the title for two months, before losing it to Ayumi Kurihara and Yoshiko Tamura on December 31, 2009.[16] On January 24, 2010, Kana announced that she had quit Passion Red.[17]

Pro Wrestling Wave (2008, 2010–2015)[edit]

Kana in December 2010

Kana had made some appearances for Pro Wrestling Wave in 2008,[18][19][20] but did not start working regularly for the promotion until the end of 2010, when NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling folded.[16] On July 24, 2011, Kana defeated Ayumi Kurihara in the finals to win the 2011 Catch the Wave tournament.[21] On October 30, Kana and Kurihara defeated Ran Yu-Yu and Toshie Uematsu to win the Dual Shock Wave 2011 tournament and become the first ever Wave Tag Team Champions.[22] While a tag team champion with Kurihara, Kana also regularly teamed with Mio Shirai as Triple Tails.S and on February 1, 2012, Kurihara, Mika Iida and Shuu Shibutani were made official members of Triple Tails.[23] Four days later, Kana and Kurihara lost the Wave Tag Team Championship to Ran Yu-Yu and Toshie Uematsu.[24] On March 6, the new incarnation of Triple Tails was named White Tails, in reference to Wave's top villainous alliance, Black Dahlia.[25] On November 27, Kana defeated Yumi Ohka in a singles match, after which she declared herself the new "ace" of Wave.[26][27][28] On February 17, Kana, as the 2011 Catch the Wave winner, was granted entrance into the Wave Single Championship tournament, defeating Mio Shirai in her semifinal match.[29][30][31] On March 17, Kana was defeated in the finals of the tournament by Yumi Ohka.[32][33][34]

On April 21, Kana and Mio Shirai defeated Misaki Ohata and Tsukasa Fujimoto to win the Wave Tag Team Championship, bringing Triple Tails.S its first title.[35][36][37] They made their first successful defense on July 7 against Fujimoto and Kyusei Sakura Hirota.[38] On July 12, the White Tails stable produced their final event before the group's dissolution, during which Kana wrestled the soon-to-retire Ayumi Kurihara to a ten-minute time limit draw.[39] Three days later, Kana and Shirai lost the Wave Tag Team Championship to Shidarezakura (Hikaru Shida and Yumi Ohka) in their second defense.[40][41][42] From September 1 to October 6, Kana took part in the 2013 Dual Shock Wave tournament, where she teamed with Yumi Ohka.[43] The team made it all the way to the finals of the tournament, before losing to Las Aventureras (Ayako Hamada and Yuu Yamagata) in a three-way match, which also included Muscle Venus (Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto).[44][45] In July 2015, Kana made it to the semifinals of the 2015 Catch the Wave tournament, but was defeated there by eventual tournament winner Yumi Ohka.[46]

Japanese independent circuit (2010–2015)[edit]

On April 29, 2010, Kana held her first self-produced event, titled Kana Pro, which saw her lose to Meiko Satomura in the main event of the evening.[3][47] On June 19, Kana formed the Triple Tails stable with Io and Mio, the Shirai sisters, and together the three of them would work for several promotions across Japan.[48][49] Kana Pro's second event took place on January 10, 2011, and saw Kana and Yuki Ishikawa lose to Carlos Amano and Yoshiaki Fujiwara in the main event.[3][47] Triple Tails also put together their own shows, which took place on February 13 and May 8, 2011.[47] Kana Pro's third event took place on September 24 and saw Kana lose to Kengo Mashimo in the main event.[47] On October 29, Kana was elected the eighth president of 666, a small independent promotion for which she had wrestled for the past year.[50] On November 5, Kana took part in the final event held by the Battlarts promotion, defeating Aki Shizuku in a singles match.[51]

On March 11, 2012, Kana made her debut for the DDT Pro-Wrestling promotion, taking part in an eight-person ten minute battle royal for the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, which she won five minutes into the match by pinning Michael Nakazawa, before losing it with just 50 seconds remaining in the match to Antonio Honda, only to regain it via submission with just 22 seconds remaining in the match.[52] On April 8, Kana defended the title in another ten minute battle royal, during which she lost the title twice to Michael Nakazawa and once to Keita Yano, but each time managed to regain it and left the match with it, now as a five-time champion.[53] On April 25, Kana made her first appearance for Ice Ribbon in three years, when she teamed with Aki Shizuku to defeat April Davids and ICE×60 Champion Hikaru Shida.[54] On April 30, Kana lost the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship to Ayumi Kurihara at a Pro Wrestling Wave event in the opening match of the 2012 Catch the Wave tournament.[55][56] On May 5 at Ice Ribbon's Golden Ribbon 2012 event, Kana defeated Hikaru Shida in a non-title singles match.[57] On May 12, Kana made her Mexican debut, when she took part in Toryumon Mexico's DragonMania VII event, defeating Syuri in a singles match.[58] In early July, Kana and Mio Shirai took part in the 2012 Japan Expo in Paris, France.[59] Kana returned to Ice Ribbon on October 20, when she teamed with new ICE×60 Champion Mio Shirai in a tag team main event, where they defeated Maki Narumiya and Tsukasa Fujimoto.[60]

Following her December 2012 departure from WNC, Kana began making more regular appearances for both Ice Ribbon and JWP.[61][62][63][64] She was, in storyline, brought into JWP by her friend Arisa Nakajima, much to the chagrin of the promotion's president Command Bolshoi, who was one of the wrestlers upset by her 2010 manifesto.[65] On February 24, 2013, Triple Tails.S held its first self-produced event in nine months, which saw Kana and Mio Shirai wrestle Arisa Nakajima and Ayako Hamada in a main event tag team match.[66] On May 5, Kana made another appearance for JWP, submitting JWP Openweight Champion Arisa Nakajima in a tag team match, where she and Rydeen Hagane faced Nakajima and Nana Kawasa.[67][68] Post-match, Kana and Nakajima came to blows, with Nakajima claiming that she was now defending all of joshi against Kana.[69][70] Ahead of Ayumi Kurihara's impending retirement, she and Kana came together on July 26 to produce the "kanAyu" independent event, which saw Kana and Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! lose to Kurihara and Masaaki Mochizuki in a main event tag team match.[71][72] On August 18, Kana returned to JWP and defeated Arisa Nakajima to become the new JWP Openweight Champion.[73][74] Following the win, Kana, portrayed as the villainous outsider, smeared makeup on Nakajima's face, before gloating over capturing JWP's top title during Plum Mariko's memorial event.[74][75] Kana made her first successful title defense on September 16 against the reigning JWP Junior and POP Champion Manami Katsu.[76][77] Kana made her second successful title defense on October 14 against JWP Tag Team and Daily Sports Women's Tag Team Champion Hanako Nakamori.[78][79] While continuing to badmouth JWP and its wrestlers, Kana also entered a storyline, where she began professing her love for Arisa Nakajima, much to the bewilderment of the former champion.[78][80] As part of the storyline, Kana refused title challenges made by Kayoko Haruyama and Leon and instead named Nakajima her next challenger.[81][82] On December 15 at JWP's annual year-end Climax event, Kana lost the JWP Openweight Championship back to Nakajima in her third title defense.[83][84][85][86]

On December 27, 2013, Kana and Mio Shirai announced they were disbanding Triple Tails.S, with their final self-produced independent event taking place in early 2014.[87] On February 25, 2014, Kana produced an independent event titled KanaProMania in Korakuen Hall, which saw her defeat Meiko Satomura in the main event.[88] On April 16, Kana took part in a rare women's match promoted by Pro Wrestling Noah, defeating JWP representative Rabbit Miu.[89] On May 15, Kana and Mio Shirai produced Triple Tails.S' final independent event before officially dissolving the partnership, which featured a main event tag team match, where Kana and Arisa Nakajima defeated Shirai and Kayoko Haruyama.[47] The next Kana Pro event took place on June 16 at Korakuen Hall, where Kana and Naomichi Marufuji were defeated by Meiko Satomura and Minoru Suzuki in an intergender main event tag team match.[90]

On October 5, 2014, Kana made a special appearance for All Japan Pro Wrestling, teaming with Mika Iida in a tag team match, where they were defeated by Shuu Shibutani and Yumi Ohka.[91] The next Kana Pro event took place on October 7 in Korakuen Hall and saw Kana being pinned by Syuri in a main event tag team match, where she teamed with Minoru Suzuki and Syuri with Yoshiaki Fujiwara.[92][93]

On July 8, 2015, Kana announced that following the September 15 KanaProMania event, she would go on an indefinite hiatus from professional wrestling.[94][95] Kana stated that she wanted to try something new after wrestling for over ten years, while dismissing a rumor that she was pregnant.[96] After revealing she had signed with WWE, Kana wrestled her final match in Japan at the September 15 KanaProMania: Pulse event, where she teamed with Hikaru Shida and Syuri in a six-woman tag team main event, where they defeated Arisa Nakajima, Rina Yamashita and Ryo Mizunami.[97][98]

Smash (2010–2012)[edit]

Kana made her debut for Yoshihiro Tajiri's new Smash promotion on June 25, 2010, losing to Syuri in the main event of Smash.4.[99] After the match, Kana left the arena smiling and later challenged Syuri to a rematch, which was made official on June 30.[100] The rematch took place on July 24 at Smash.5 and saw Kana, now a full blown villain, defeat Syuri via submission in just three minutes.[99] As part of the attempt to get her over as the top villain, Kana wrote a manifesto for the Weekly Pro-Wrestling magazine, which was published on August 4 and where she attacked the entire joshi puroresu community, claiming it was full of wrestlers with no personality and bad attitudes and who wrestled in an unrealistic manner.[101] The article led to a confrontation between Kana and wrestlers from the JWP Joshi Puroresu promotion on August 30 at Smash.7, but never led to a direct match.[102] Kana then began feuding with Tajiri, which led to an intergender match on December 24 at Happening Eve, where Tajiri was victorious.[103] Following the loss, Kana reemerged on January 29, 2011 as the leader of the Triple Tails stable with the Shirai sisters,[104][105] dubbing herself "Sekai no Kana" (literally "World Famous Kana").[106] Kana then continued working against the opposite sex, teaming with the Shirais to defeat Tajiri, Ken Ohka and Yoshiaki Yago on February 25,[107] and losing to Funaki on March 31.[108]

In April Kana entered a feud with former WWE performer Serena, stemming from a comment she made, calling Kana a talented "amateur" wrestler, while she herself had worked for the top promotion in the world.[109] In response, Kana vowed to make Serena respect her.[14] The first encounter between the two took place on April 30 at Smash.16, when Serena teamed with Makoto and Syuri to defeat the Triple Tails in a six-woman tag team match, when Serena pinned Kana with her finishing maneuver, the spear.[110] On May 3 at Smash.17, Serena defeated Kana with a spear in the first singles match between the two.[111] At the following event on June 9, Smash started a tournament to crown the inaugural Smash Diva Champion, which saw Kana defeat Lin "Bitch" Byron in her first round match.[112] On August 11 at Smash.20, Kana defeated Syuri to set up a rematch with Serena in the finals of the tournament.[113] On September 8, Kana defeated Serena to become the inaugural Smash Diva Champion.[114] On November 24 at Smash.23, Kana lost the Smash Diva Championship to Tomoka Nakagawa in her first defense.[115] On January 19, 2012 at We Are Smash, Kana defeated Nakagawa in a rematch to regain the title.[116] Kana's second reign ended also in her first defense, when she lost the title to Syuri on February 19 at Smash.25, after which the two longtime rivals hugged and made peace with each other.[117][118] On March 14, Smash held Smash.Final, the promotion's final event before ceasing its operations, during which Kana teamed with Último Dragón to defeat Mentallo and Syuri in a tag team match.[119]

American independent circuit (2011–2014)[edit]

On August 3, 2011, it was reported that Kana would be making her debut in the United States in early October, working for all-female promotion Shimmer Women Athletes on 1 and 2 and for Chikara on 7 and 8.[120][121] In her Shimmer debut on Volume 41, Kana was shown in early segments ignoring Sara Del Rey and Cheerleader Melissa's welcoming, establishing herself as a villain in the process. Later, she defeated Mia Yim in her first match for the promotion.[122] Later that same day on Volume 42, Kana defeated Del Rey via submission.[122] The following day on Volume 43, Kana was defeated by Cheerleader Melissa in a match to determine the number one contender to the Shimmer Championship.[123] Later that day, Kana defeated LuFisto on Volume 44 in her final match for the weekend, after which she shook LuFisto's hand.[123][124] The following weekend, Kana made her debut for Chikara, defeating Jessie McKay in her first match on October 7 in Burlington, North Carolina.[125] The following day, Kana was defeated by Sara Del Rey in the main event of a show in Kingsport, Tennessee.[126] On February 19, 2012, Shimmer Women Athletes announced that Kana would be returning to the promotion on March 17.[127] In her return on Volume 45, Kana, now a babyface, teamed with LuFisto in a tag team match, where they were defeated by Hailey Hatred and Kalamity.[128] Later that same day on Volume 46, Kana was defeated in a singles match by Mercedes Martinez.[128] The following day on Volume 47, Kana and LuFisto defeated Christina Von Eerie and MsChif in a tag team match.[129] Kana then defeated Kellie Skater on Volume 48, in her final match of the weekend.[129]

Kana returned to Shimmer on October 27, 2012, when she and LuFisto unsuccessfully challenged the Canadian NINJAs (Nicole Matthews and Portia Perez) for the Shimmer Tag Team Championship as part of Volume 49.[130][131] Later that same night on Volume 50, Kana was defeated by Ayako Hamada in a singles match.[131][132][133] The following night on Volume 51, Kana defeated Athena in a singles match.[134][135] Later that night on Volume 51, Kana, in her final match of the weekend, teamed with LuFisto in a tag team match, where they defeated Made in Sin (Allysin Kay and Taylor Made).[135][136] On April 6, 2013 at the Volume 53 internet pay-per-view, Kana and LuFisto unsuccessfully challenged the Canadian NINJAs for the Shimmer Tag Team Championship in a four-way match, which also included the teams of Global Green Gangsters (Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa) and Made in Sin.[137][138] Kana returned to singles action a week later on April 13 at the tapings of Volume 54, where she defeated Jessie McKay.[139][140][141] Later that same day on Volume 55, Kana was defeated by Madison Eagles in another singles match.[140][141][142] The following day, Kana first defeated Ayako Hamada, Mercedes Martinez and Yuu Yamagata in a four-way match on Volume 56,[143][144] before finishing her weekend with a win over Kalamity in a singles match on Volume 57.[144][145] Upon her return to Shimmer on October 19 at Volume 58, Kana and LuFisto were given another shot at the Shimmer Tag Team Championship, but were defeated by the defending champions, the Global Green Gangsters.[146][147][148] Kana returned to Shimmer on October 18, 2014, unsuccessfully challenging Cheerleader Melissa for the Shimmer Championship at Volume 67.[149]

Wrestling New Classic (2012)[edit]

On April 5, 2012, Tajiri announced the follow-up promotion to Smash, Wrestling New Classic (WNC), which would hold its first event on April 26, and named Kana as part of the promotion's roster.[150][151] For the first time since 2006, when she was affiliated with AtoZ, Kana signed a contract to make WNC her new home promotion, officially ending her freelancing days, though the deal allowed her to continue working for Pro Wrestling Wave and producing her own independent events.[152] On April 26 at WNC's first event, Before the Dawn, Kana teamed with Mio Shirai in a tag team match, where they defeated Makoto and Syuri, with Kana pinning Makoto for the win.[153] Post-match, Kana verbally assaulted Makoto, which led to Shirai turning on her and siding with Makoto.[154] At WNC's second event, Starting Over on May 24, Kana submitted Makoto in a tag team match, where she teamed with Syuri and Makoto with Riho, a replacement for an injured Mio Shirai.[155][156] Two days later at Go! Go! West: Osaka, Kana submitted Makoto again, this time in a singles match.[157] On June 17, Kana produced her first Kana Pro event in collaboration with WNC, where she and Kenichi Yamamoto were defeated in the main event by Daisuke Ikeda and Syuri.[158] The rivalry between Kana and Makoto continued at WNC's following event on June 22, where Makoto ended her losing streak by pinning Kana in a tag team match, where Kana teamed with Syuri and Makoto with Mio Shirai.[159][160] On July 15, Kana defeated Shirai in a singles match, after which she had another heated exchange with Makoto, who had been sidelined from in-ring action with a fractured wrist.[161]

Later that same event, Kana's uneasy alliance with Syuri came to an end, when Syuri turned on her, after losing to Ayako Hamada, and joined a new villainous stable formed by Akira and StarBuck.[162] The first match between Kana and Syuri since the latter's turn took place in the main event of a WNC event on August 2, where Syuri, Akira and StarBuck defeated Kana, Hajime Ohara and Tajiri.[163] On August 30, Kana, Mikey Whipwreck and Tajiri were defeated in a Barbed Wire Board Deathmatch by Syuri, Akira and StarBuck.[164][165] Kana, Whipwreck and Tajiri were also defeated in a rematch the following day in Osaka,[166] before coming back to win the second rematch on September 1 in Toyohashi, ending the villainous trio's win streak in the process.[167] In the main event of a WNC event on September 17, Kana earned a big win over Syuri, defeating her via submission in a tag team match, where she and Tajiri faced Syuri and Akira.[168] The following day, Kana and Makoto, who share the same birthday, held a press conference to announce that they were coming together to produce an event at Shinjuku Face on November 9, celebrating their 31st 23rd birthday, respectively.[169] On September 20, Kana was defeated by Akira in an intergender match at Korakuen Hall.[170][171] On November 9, Kana and Makoto produced the first MakoKana Pro event. Early in the event, the two teamed together in a tag team match, where they defeated the Ice Ribbon team of Hamuko Hoshi and Hikaru Shida.[172][173] Later, in the main event, Kana teamed with Sendai Girls' Pro Wrestling's Kagetsu in another tag team match, where they wrestled Syuri and JWP's Arisa Nakajima to a thirty-minute time limit draw.[172][173][174] The match was billed as the first confrontation between Kana and Nakajima, who both started their careers in AtoZ.[173][174] On November 26, Kana entered the WNC Women's Championship tournament, defeating Makoto in her first round match.[175] Two days later, Kana was eliminated in the semifinals of the tournament by Nagisa Nozaki, following interference from her Kabushiki gaisha DQN stablemate Jiro Kuroshio.[176][177] Following the match, Kana announced that she was quitting WNC and once again becoming a freelancer, claiming that she had not been paid for months and had not been able to get in contact with the promotion's president Tsutomu Takashima.[178] WNC officially released Kana from her contract on December 4.[179]

Reina Joshi Puroresu (2014–2015)[edit]

On August 30, 2014, Kana began working for Reina Joshi Puroresu as a storyline "consultant".[180] After Kana used her power to strip Ariya and Makoto of the Reina World Tag Team Championship,[181][182] she and Arisa Nakajima became the new champions on November 20 by defeating Lin Byron and Syuri in a tournament final, when Syuri was betrayed by her own partner, paid off by Kana.[183] On December 26, Kana defeated Syuri to win the Reina World Women's Championship.[184][185] Following the win, Kana announced she would reform Reina as the promotion's new "general producer" (GP).[185][186] In early 2015, Kana launched her own stable, originally named Kana-gun ("Kana Army"), but later renamed Piero-gun ("Clown Army") due to all members adopting Kana's clown makeup; members of the stable included native wrestlers Makoto and Rina Yamashita, foreigners Alex Lee, Cat Power and La Comandante and male wrestlers Hercules Senga and Yuko Miyamoto.[187][188][189] On January 12, 2015, Kana and Nakajima made their first successful defense of the Reina World Tag Team Championship against Goya Kong and Muñeca de Plata.[190][191][192] On February 25 at KanaProMania: Advance, Kana and Arisa Nakajima lost the Reina World Tag Team Championship to Hikaru Shida and Syuri.[193][194] On March 25, Kana lost her position as the Reina GP to Shida, after she and her stablemates Cat Power and Yuko Miyamoto were defeated in a six-person tag team match by Shida, Shiro Koshinaka and Zeus.[187] In May, Kana made her first successful defenses of the Reina World Women's Championship against visiting Mexican wrestlers, defeating Gitana on May 17,[188][195] and Reyna Isis on May 29.[189][196] On June 13, Kana made her third successful title defense against Yako Fujigasaki.[197][198] On August 31, ahead of her impending departure from the promotion, Kana announced she was relinquishing the Reina World Women's Championship.[199] She wrestled her final match for the promotion on September 4, when she and Syuri defeated Konami and Makoto in a tag team match.[200]

WWE[edit]

NXT Women's Champion (2015–2017)[edit]

Asuka in March 2016

On August 22, 2015, Urai attended WWE's NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn event in Brooklyn, New York, where she was shown in the audience and identified as "Kanna".[201] The appearance led to speculation that Urai had signed with WWE.[202][203] On August 27, it was confirmed that Urai had signed with WWE a few weeks earlier.[204] Urai and WWE held a press conference on September 8 in Tokyo, confirming her signing to WWE's developmental territory NXT,[205][206] where she was scheduled to start at the end of the month.[207]

Urai appeared at the September 10 tapings of NXT, where her new ring name was announced as Asuka.[4] Her debut appearance, which aired on September 23, ended with her being confronted by Dana Brooke and Emma,[208] which led to her debut match on October 7 at NXT TakeOver: Respect, where she defeated Brooke.[209] While she continued racking victories over various wrestlers,[210][211] including main roster performer Cameron,[212] Asuka continued her feud with Brooke and Emma,[213] which led to a match between Asuka and Emma, at NXT TakeOver: London on December 16, where Asuka was once again victorious. The performance of Asuka and Emma in the match was highly praised by critics, Meltzer called the match fantastic.[12]

On the January 13, 2016, episode of NXT, Asuka was defeated in a number one contender's over-the-top-rope battle royal for Bayley's NXT Women's Championship; Eva Marie eliminated Asuka, then Carmella won by eliminating Marie.[214] On the February 10 episode, Asuka saved Carmella from Eva Marie and Nia Jax after her loss to NXT Women's Champion Bayley. Afterwards, Asuka had a staredown with Bayley, indicating that she wanted a shot at her title.[215] After Asuka and Bayley defeated Marie and Jax in a tag team match on the March 16 episode, an NXT Women's Championship match between the two was made official by NXT General Manager William Regal.[216] On April 1 at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, Asuka defeated Bayley by technical submission to win the NXT Women's Championship for the first time.[217] On June 8 at NXT TakeOver: The End, she successfully defended the title against Nia Jax.[218] During the summer, WWE held the 2016 WWE draft, during which several NXT wrestlers were moved to the main roster. NXT head Paul Levesque later revealed that when Vince McMahon brought up the idea of moving Asuka, Levesque told him that she was the one person NXT could not afford to lose, calling her the brand's "anchor".[219] Asuka ended up being kept out of the draft and remained in NXT.[220] After Bayley earned herself a title rematch against Asuka, tensions between the two began to rise,[221] leading to the match on August 20 at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, where Asuka retained the title.[222] On November 19 at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, Asuka successfully defended the NXT Women's Championship against Mickie James, refusing to shake James' hand afterwards, displaying the first signs of a heel turn.[223] On the January 11, 2017, NXT, Asuka attacked Billie Kay and Peyton Royce (who had attacked her prior to the show), but was overcome by the two until Nikki Cross entered the ring to drive them away before turning on Asuka. This led to Asuka demanding a title match against all three, which William Regal granted.[224] On January 28 at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Asuka successfully defended the NXT Women's Championship against the three in a fatal-four way match.[225] In early February, Asuka became the longest-reigning singles champion in NXT history, male or female.[226] In March, Asuka worked several live events with WWE's main roster as a replacement for an injured Naomi. The tour included a show at Madison Square Garden on March 12.[227][228] On April 1 at NXT TakeOver: Orlando, Asuka successfully defended the NXT Women's Championship against Ember Moon. During the match, Asuka continued showing heelish behaviour, including shoving the referee into Moon to avoid her finishing maneuver, the Eclipse, en route to winning the match.[229]

Around this time, WWE began promoting Asuka's "undefeated streak ... since her arrival" in WWE/NXT.[230] Asuka had lost multiple-person matches both on NXT TV and at NXT live events in 2016, though she had never personally been pinned or submitted in any of them.[214][231][232][233] In May, after she attacked Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot after they were the remaining participants in a number one contender's battle royal, Asuka was scheduled to defend the NXT Women's Championship in a fatal four-way match against all three at NXT TakeOver: Chicago.[234] However, Moon was pulled from the match due to a legitimate shoulder injury,[235] and Asuka went on to retain her title against Riot and Cross in a triple threat match.[236] With that match, WWE acknowledged she had broken the record for the longest winning streak in WWE history, breaking that of previous record holder Goldberg.[237] In June, Asuka ended her feud with Nikki Cross, after defeating her in the first-ever Last Woman Standing match to retain her championship.[238][239] On August 17, Asuka surpassed Rockin' Robin's 502 day WWF Women's Championship reign to become the longest-reigning champion in WWE history, excluding the years-long title reigns achieved in the pre-national expansion days.[240] Two days later, Asuka defeated Ember Moon at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III to continue her title reign.[241] On August 21, WWE announced that Asuka had broken her right collarbone during the match after landing awkwardly from a throw. She was expected to miss six to eight weeks.[242][243] Due to her injury, Asuka relinquished the NXT Women's Championship at the August 24 NXT tapings, ending her reign at 510[nb 1] days. William Regal, after calling her "one of the greatest champions in WWE history", announced during her farewell segment that negotiations had begun to move Asuka up to WWE's main roster.[244][245]

Raw (2017–present)[edit]

On the September 11 episode of Raw, it was announced that Asuka had been signed to the brand by general manager Kurt Angle.[246][247] During the No Mercy Kickoff show, it was announced that Asuka would make her main roster debut on October 22 at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event.[248] She went on to defeat Emma at the event and again the following day in her Raw debut.[249][250] On November 19 at Survivor Series, Asuka represented Team Raw in a ten-woman elimination tag team match against Team SmackDown, winning the match for her team by scoring the last two eliminations over Tamina and Natalya and becoming the sole survivor.[251] On the November 27 Raw, Asuka broke the WWE TV records for the fastest submission win and fastest win without a distraction or foreign object when she defeated Dana Brooke in five seconds.[252]

Other media[edit]

Urai has released three gravure DVDs, titled Manifesto (マニュフェスト, Manyufesuto, 2011),[253] Manifesto II (マニュフェストII, Manyufesuto II, 2012),[254] and Manifesto Final (マニフェスト Final, Manifesuto Final, 2015).[255] She and Mio Shirai have also released a gravure DVD together, titled Sadistic Tails (2012).[256][257][258] Urai, as Asuka, appears as a playable character in the video games WWE 2K17 and WWE 2K18.[259][260]

Personal life[edit]

Urai is a graduate of the Osaka University of Arts Junior College.[261] She has written for Xbox Magazine and designed graphics for Nintendo DS and various mobile applications,[15] while also owning a hair salon named Another Heaven in Yokohama.[14] Prior to her career in professional wrestling, Urai had a sports background in badminton and figure skating.[1]

In wrestling[edit]

Asuka applying the Asuka Lock on Bayley, just seconds before winning at NXT TakeOver: Dallas

Wrestlers trained[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Asuka is a one-time and longest-reigning NXT Women's Champion

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The episode aired on September 6, 2017, and as a result WWE officially recognizes her reign as having lasted 523 days.[11]

References[edit]

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