Wrestling / Kanako Urai

The Empress of Tomorrow

"No-one is ready for Asuka!"

Kanako Urai (born September 26, 1981 in Osaka, Japan) is a professional wrestler, gravure idol, video game journalist and graphic designer best known simply as Kana (usually spelled in all-caps as KANA).

Originally working as a designer, Urai turned to wrestling when she was inspired by many of the great wrestlers of her time, including the likes of Keiji Mutoh and Minoru Suzuki amongst many others. After training with Yuki Ishikawa, Kana debuted for the all-female promotion AtoZ in June 2004, spending nearly two years there before suddenly retiring in March 2006 due to chronic nephritis. A year and a half and a graphic design agency later, however, Kana returned to the ring as a freelancer, working for several joshi puroresu (Japanese women's pro wrestling) promotions as well as Pro Wrestling ZERO1. She eventually found a home with the Passion Red stable and NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling promotion, winning her first professional wrestling title via the NEO Tag Team Championship which she and Nanae Takahashi held for two months in 2009, until she quit the stable at the start of 2010.

In April she held the first of several Kana Pro self-produced events, and by summer 2010 she began working regularly for SMASH, Yoshihiro Tajiri's follow-up replacement for Fighting Opera HUSTLE. She quickly developed an arrogant, power-hungry character in which she became the top heel first for SMASH, then for joshi puroresu in general, as well as the leader of a stable called Triple Tails in both SMASH and Pro Wrestling Wave, which she joined following the folding NEO at the end of the year. When SMASH folded in 2012 to be replaced by Wrestling New Classic, Kana signed a home promotion contract with WNC, ostensibly ending her days as a freelancer, though this didn't work out in practice — not only did she appear several times for Dramatic Dream Team in addition to her Wave commitments and Kana-Pro events, and she wound up quitting WNC at the end of the year due to late payment issues. During her time in these promotions she became the inaugural and first two-time SMASH Diva Champion, a two-time Wave Tag Team Championnote , and five-time DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championnote .

Aside from staying with Wave, Kana continued to find work through other joshi promotions such as JWP Joshi Puroresu, Ice Ribbon, and Reina Joshi Puroresu, as well as her own Kana-Pro and Triple Tails.S shows. She has also made rare appearances for Pro Wrestling NOAH and All Japan Pro Wrestling. She became was a one-time JWP Openweight Champion, one-time Reina World Tag Team Champion with Arisa Nakajima, and one-time Reina World Women's Champion during this time. She has also frequently traveled abroad to the United States to compete for SHIMMER and CHIKARA, often chasing after the SHIMMER Tag Team Championship with LuFisto but never obtaining. In contrast to the majority of her Japanese work, much of her time in America was spent working as a face.

In July 2015, Kana revealed her plans to retire from professional wrestling and try new things after an upcoming Kana-Pro event in September. However, this would be misdirection, as she signed with WWE the following month, later taking on the ring name Asuka when she officially debuted on the NXT developmental brand. At NXT Takeover: Dallas, the first big show of 2016's WrestleMania weekend, she defeated Bayley for the NXT Women's Championship.

Not to be confused with musician Moon Kana.

More on her career here.

"These tropes are the future":

  • Action Girl: Even more than most women wrestlers, she's willing to fight men and to even book herself against them when the opportunity presents itself. Becomes Dark Action Girl as a heel in Japan.
  • Arch-Enemy: Syuri Kondo was this in SMASH and other promotions especially after KANA's heel turn. Team Disingenuous (Emma and Dana Brooke) have been this on NXT.
  • Ass Kicks You: Uses a hip attack as part of her moveset. In the past it's been called Billiken and even been known to finish off seated opponents.
  • Badass Longcoat: Her entrance attire is an immensely long open kimono, which billows out behind her as she makes her way to the ring.
  • Bare Your Midriff: As is typical.
  • Berserk Button: Touching her breasts, which has its roots in Kana challenging chauvinistic male wrestlers back when she was primarily a baby face. Even after her heel turn Funaki was able to set her off by holding up a picture of her torso.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Asuka will ask for handshakes and show opponents respect, but if you try to take advantage of that she'll be happy to make you pay for it.
  • Big Bad: Has been this in SMASH, Reina, and JWP.
  • Bullying a Dragon: On her self promoted shows she tends to pick fights with much larger wrestlers. Sometimes these challenges are plausible on paper, such as goofy DDT junior heavyweights like Munenori Sawa, sometimes she sets her sights on mixed martial arts champions nearly a hundred pounds heavier than her, such as Minoru Suzuki of Pancrase, but it rarely ends well for Kana.
  • Blue Oni: The laid back, calculating blue to the excitable, reckless LuFisto's red.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Nobody is ready for Asuka!"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: As Reina's kayfabe "consultant" and later "general producer", where she often used her power to screw over her enemies and put herself and her friends in higher positions on the roster, eventually winning both the Reina World Tag Team and World Women's Championships in part because of this.
  • Cute and Psycho: She acts cutely outside the ring, but in the ring she becomes totally crazy and sadistic, and has also been tyrannically power-mad at times.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: With her winning streak on NXT (longer than Goldberg's famous streak in WCW), beating her was treated as this. Except that it never happened; nearly a year and a half later, she relinquished the title due to injury and is headed for RAW.
  • Distaff Counterpart:
    • To Hideo Itami, both entering NXT as well-known Japanese wrestlers known for their stiff strikes and introduced in their debut by William Regal under their original ring names/first names so they could personally reveal their new WWE names.
    • To Brock Lesnar, as the beastly uber-dominant athlete who represents Something Completely Different to the usual sports-entertainment fare of WWE and seems utterly brutal and unbeatable as a result, and who it is a horrible idea to taunt or provoke. Her cutesy demeanor and bugeisha look is the only aspect of her that seems like it may defy this trope…except it actually enhances the distaff part.
    • In Japan she was this to Minoru Suzuki, the dangerously stiff worker who also happens to be a freelancer and eventually a Power Stable leader looking to take over Japanese wrestling. One of her stables was even initially called Kana-gun, clearly modeled after Suzuki-gun.
    • There have been some comparisons to Shinsuke Nakamura as well, for the same reasons as Itami, aside from the ring name since Nakamura got to keep his name. Reached new levels when she eagerly greeted Nakamura when he arrived at the WWE Performance Center for the first time.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Before joining WWE, she wrestled barefoot, wearing kick pads with no shoes. This is no longer allowed after Rusev broke his ankle, so instead, her boots as Asuka are designed to give the illusion of this from a distance.
    • Interestingly her model in the WWE games is still barefoot.
  • The Dreaded: Has become this in NXT, due to everything about her being simultaneously alluring and terrifying. People were surprised when Bayley actually gave her a fight in their NXT Women's Championship title match at Takeover: Dallas.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted in Japan. Her anti-joshi manifesto continued to be used as a storyline sore point between her and many joshi wrestlers for years in several promotions, and her rivalry with Syuri has always been evident whenever they've interacted. Even when acting as allies, KANA and Syuri's relationship remained uneasy and the longer they had to work together the more inevitable a turn became.
  • Extremity Extremist: She's notorious even in the harsh world of joshi wrestling for her stiff kicks and strikes.
  • Evil Counterpart: Kana and the Shirai sisters' Triple Tails turned out to be this to Syuri's Apple Tale dance group.
  • Fanservice Model: Apart of her wrestling career, Kana is also known in Japan as a gravure model.
  • Finishing Move: Kana lock (crossface chickenwing), Kanagon (grounded dragon sleeper)...biliken(diving hip attack). In NXT the Asuka lock remains and she also tends to knock opponents out with head kicks.
  • Flanderization: Was set back in her bookings for a couple of years as well as mostly stuck in the character of an arrogant power-hungry schemer in Japan for over half a decade thanks to the Weekly Pro-Wrestling Worked Shoot manifesto about the problem with joshi wrestling, a move which was intended to get her heat with the fans but only confused them and instead got her heat with the other wrestlers and promoters.
  • Genki Girl: Can give off that impression a lot of the time, as demonstrated in her NXT debut segment, when she was excitedly jumping around and yelling "DREAM COME TRUE" in adorably broken English. However, when her smile is directed at an enemy, it becomes clear how dangerous she is. Just ask Emma and Dana Brooke what her smile told them when they slapped her that night.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: If you check It's All About Me below, any Japanese company that let Kana in was basically this in kayfabe. However, the top runner here has to be Yoshihiro Tajiri. Not only didn't Tajiri fire her from SMASH the minute she singlehandedly made her name a dirty word in joshi, he allowed her to align with the Shirai sisters within his company's shores. Then, when SMASH was replaced by WNC, he let her join despite Triple Tails almost running him out of town in the former. Luckily she didn't get very far as a heel, as Mio Shirai soon turned on her for disrespecting her friend, and ended up working together with Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck often until the company started going under.
  • I Have Many Names: Kana, Ramen Woman, Tomoe Gozen, Asuka.
  • I Shall Taunt You: She occasionally makes it a point to mock her opponents by mimicking parts of their entrances both during and after her matches.
  • It's All About Me / Small Name, Big Ego: As SMASH's Big Bad, she gave herself the nickname of "Sekai no Kana", literally calling herself world-famous; tried to run Yoshihiro Tajiri out of the business and take over the company alongside her main partners in Triple Tails, the Sexy Purple Thunder Sisters; and even pissed off the entire joshi community by writing a manifesto for the Weekly Pro-Wrestling magazine in which she claimed joshi was full of wrestlers had no personality, bad attitudes, and unrealistic wrestling styles, something many joshi wrestlers felt she had absolutely no business doing. Corrupt manipulative power scheming has largely been her character in Japan ever since.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats / Renaissance Man: We got a wrestling video game journalist who makes designs for mobile platforms and wears the Xbox logo on her tights.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Can move through strikes and submissions at a frightening speed.
  • Meaningful Rename: She changed her name from KANA to Asuka in NXT, named for Lioness Asuka, one of the most popular and important female wrestlers in Japanese wrestling history.
  • Monster Clown: She was always known for black Facial Markings but ended up becoming a full on clown during the time she led Kana-gun/Piero-gun.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Once modeled a trilogy of gravure DVDs called Manifest, as well as a fourth with Mio Shirai called Sadistic Tails. Then there was that match with Lin Bairon
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: Her feud against Dana Brooke and Emma
  • Older Than They Look: Looks, acts, and wrestles at least a good eight years younger than her actual 35.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Asuka's gonna kill you!" Yep, the "gonna kill you" thing handed down from Taz to Samoa Joe to every badass that pops up on NXT, and she's now part of that cycle.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Asuka stands at all of 5'3". This did nothing to stop her from hitting the 6'3", 240-pound Nia Jax with a Brock-style German Suplex.
  • Power Stable:
    • Passion Red in NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling.
    • Triple Tails in SMASH, Kana-Pro, Pro Wrestling Wave, etc.
    • Kana-gun, later named Piero-gun, in Reina Joshi Puroresu.
  • Power Trio: The founding members of Triple Tails were KANA and the Sexy Purple Thunder Sisters, Mio and Io Shirai. The founders became White Tails when divisions between the wider group formed.
  • Psycho Lesbian:
    • Towards Lin Bairon in SMASH. At one point prior to a match between the two, she suggested that the loser should remove her top and bare her breasts. The match wound up incorporating some heavily suggestive moments, and after Kana knocked Bairon out and beat her she fondled her and actually started to strip her, until Bairon suddenly came to and scurried away before the top could be removed.
    • Also towards Arisa Nakajima by the end of 2013 on forward. She'd already had a friendship with Arisa, who actually got her into JWP early in the year, only for their friendship to turn into an explosive rivalry a few months later which culminated in Kana beating her for the JWP Openweight Championship. Towards the end of the year, after Arisa went through a losing streak, a brooding period, and a shoulder dislocation, Kana suddenly began professing her love for Arisa and even went so far as to give Nakajima a free shot at the Overweight title, and despite Arisa beating her in said match she earnestly got the two thrown back together as a team in numerous promotions afterwards.
    • It's pretty understated in her WWE career to date, but on one occasion she gently brushed Emma's face with the back of her hand with that look on her face. Emma was understandably skeeved out.
  • Red Baron: "World Famous", "Skull Reaper", "The Empress of Tomorrow".
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Convinced REINA to strip Ariya and Makoto of the World Tag Team Titles then paid Syuri to turn on Lin Byron so that she and Arisa Nakajima could take the belts unopposed.
  • Shout-Out: Her name of "Asuka" in WWE is a tribute to Lioness Asuka.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Told Nia Jax at their contract signing...
    Asuka: You. Talk. Too much.
  • The Silent Bob: For obvious reasons, she almost never speaks on camera when working outside the Japanese market, preferring to communicate by means of gestures and terrifying facial expressions. She started cutting more English promos after she became NXT women's champion, probably to prepare her for the main roster, where she'll likely be requested to talk more often.
  • Slasher Smile: If Asuka is smiling in your direction, it's bad news. The smile alone produced an Oh, Crap! reaction from Dana Brooke and Emma during her debut, and whenever her opponents strike a particular nerve with her in a match, her smiling is usually a sign of a comeback and bad things for her opponent. Best summed up at the NXT announce table during Asuka's entrance at Takeover: Dallas.
    Corey Graves: "As beautiful as it is, Tom, that is one of the most terrifying smiles you will ever see in your life. It's a precursor to a throwdown."
  • Spell My Name with an "S": WWE misspelled her name as "Kanna" when spotting her in the crowd next to Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn.
  • Tag Team: Within Triple Tails there was Kanayu with Ayumi Kurihara
  • Technicolor Toxin: Her cutesy demeanor, colorful hair, and extravagant kimono and ring attire make her appear as a cross between a geisha and a gravure idol, the latter her occasional trade, but in the ring she's just as dangerous as any Badass Normal woman you'll see in an anime. Corey Graves once compared her to a poison dart frog — small, brightly colored, and lethally dangerous — though really, he could've mentioned any number of real-life natural creatures who use this as a form of bait or self-defense. As a face, she only turns the venom on those who turn it on her first, putting the toxicity on a level of Beware the Nice Ones or Good Is Not Nice. As a heel, she outright tends towards Light Is Not Good.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Announced she was retiring from pro wrestling in September to try something else, was on NXT in October. A 21 day retirement.
  • Tournament Arc
    • Became SMASH's first Diva Champion when she gained her first victory over Serena Deeb during the tournament finals of SMASH 21.
    • Kanayu beat Uematsu*Ran to win the 2011 WAVE Dual Shock and become the promotion's first exclusive Tag Team Champions (the TLW belts were shared with JWP).
  • Underwear of Power: While this is the normal for wrestlers, she is one of the few to more often than not wear a pair of underwear over her tights (typically a thong).
  • White Mask of Doom: Her entrance has her wearing a noh mask.
  • The Worf Effect: Immediately did this to both Sara Del Rey and Cheerleader Melissa in SHIMMMER. Melissa got hers back with gusto. Sara didn't, but beat her most of they time when they wrestled elsewhere.
  • Worked Shoot: The "how to save joshi wrestling" manifesto she wrote in the early goings of her SMASH heel run. Trouble is, it backfired by pissing off her peers instead of the fans.
  • Wrestling Monster: A cute-looking girl from Japan with colorful hair can become this if she learns how to crisply execute a wide assortment of strikes and submissions at lightning speed and can suplex people bigger than her with relative ease.
  • You Go, Girl!: If a Japanese promotion includes both sexes, she's willing and able to fight with the men. Just ask Tajiri, who she terrorized in SMASH. Or Minoru Suzuki, who she actually booked herself to take an ass-kicking from in one of her Kana-Pro events. Even in WWE she has been shown practicing her strikes on a male striking coach who happens to be a retired mixed martial artist.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Has been dyed red, bright pink, red and green…
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Her kick and knee pads, thigh bands, and Underwear of Power are seemingly designed to evoke a customized version of this.

Alternative Title(s): Kana, Asuka