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Wrestling / Kanako Urai

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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, Akira Maeda 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. The next year would see Asuka move up to the Raw main roster, soon claiming a landmark victory at the first Women's Royal Rumble match in 2018.

Not to be confused with musician Moon Kana.

More on her career here.

"These tropes are the future":

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Asuka's persona on the main roster is more or less that of an unstoppable force of nature with no qualms about plowing through anyone, heel or face. Despite this, she has been shown on numerous occasions to be a supremely honorable woman, showing nothing but pure respect to anyone who can give her a good fight.
  • 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.
    • Ember Moon towards the end of her run in NXT.
    • Once Asuka won her first Royal Rumble and it became clear which champion she would face, Alexa Bliss became this in breathtakingly short order. Or so it seemed, as Asuka actually had other plans…
  • Arrogant Kung Fu Girl:
  • 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.
  • Author Appeal: She was a big fan of the Japanese U-system and everything related to shoot-style, and it shows: her kickpads are similar to those used in Satoru Sayama's Shooto, while most of her moveset is modelled after Nobuhiko Takada's (down to using the headkick, the armbar and the crossface chickenwing as finishing moves).
  • Badass Boast: Asuka's WWE entrance theme is a long, wonderfully poetic, and exceedingly epic one of these.
    From far and wide and lightyears away
    Cast from the shadows that light my way
    Fallen idols scream yesterday
    Your kings and your queens hit the ground like rain
    From far and wide and lightyears away
    The one force of nature they call by name
    I come from tomorrow to take back today
    I am the future!
  • 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 with female wrestlers.
  • Berserk Button:
  • 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.
  • Bring It: On more than one occasion, when Asuka has had beef with multiple women, she's requested a match to let off steam. The authority figure asks who Asuka wants to face, and she responds "Both/all of them!"
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: Her undefeated streak in WWE was broken (cleanly) by Charlotte at Wrestlemania 34.
  • 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.
  • 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 headed for Raw.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: During one Raw match with Nia Jax, Asuka managed to injure the former's leg enough to render her unable to continue.
  • 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, and later ascended when both she and Nakamura won their respective Royal Rumble matches in 2018.
  • 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 2K17 game 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.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Trained at the Battlarts Dojo before she made her wrestling debut in Major Girls Fighting AtoZ.
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: Her hair has consistently been some shade of neon red throughout the course of her career and she is highly aggressive and notoriously stiff in the ring.
  • 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.
  • Insistent Terminology: Do not call the Empress "queen".
  • 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
  • Multicolored Hair: She tends to have dye her hair multiple colors with red being the most dominant.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: Against Yumi Ohka in WAVE, although that wasn't a point Kana intended to make, as she's not that much younger. Kana just couldn't help running her mouth after Misaki Ohata attributed Ohka's losses to her age. It was a point Kana intended to make during The Triple Tails' campaigns against Tajiri and the other "old men".
    • Also against Alexa Bliss during Wrestlemania Season 2018. Despite Bliss being a full decade younger than Asuka, the veteran in this case was presented as Bliss' absolute most insurmountable challenge yet.
    • She also fight against Nia Jax in NXT and Main Roster.
    • Against Carmella at Money In The Bank (2018) and Extreme Rules (2018).
  • Older Than They Look: Urai is 37 as of this writing, but looks, acts, and wrestles like someone closer to 25.
  • One Steve Limit: One of her WAVE Targets was a rookie debuting in 2015 going only by the name Asuka. This caused confusion when WAVE's Asuka came out as transgender in December 2017.
  • 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 Lesnar-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".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The laid back, calculating blue to the excitable, reckless LuFisto's red.
  • Screaming Warrior: Just about all of Asuka's in-ring dialogue is this.
  • 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.
  • She's Back: In the aftermath of her stunning Wrestlemania defeat at the hands of Charlotte Flair, Asuka swapped brands and promptly went right back to doing what she does best: absolutely flattening the entire roster.
  • 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: 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. On the main roster she has gone between the occasional English promo and promos that switch between Japanese and English
  • Skimpy Villains Sensible Heroes: Downplayed, in that Kana's ring gear tends to be less sensible than Syuri's but Kana has almost always used some form of war paint, which only got more and more exaggerated until the point she was a clown, so she wasn't tying to be "sexier" than Syuri so much as Syuri's a legit shooter with a lot less flair for dramatics. Even with The Triple Tails, who are meant to be sexier than Apple Tale, Apple Tale only serve as cheerleaders for Syuri during matches and are likely to run if someone attacks them. They are more sidekicks who are being mocked rather than heroes opposing villains in this context.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 became 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 deliberately wear a pair of underwear over top of her trunks or have the design on the trunks replicate the look.
  • Ur-Example: Won the first women's Royal Rumble.
  • White Mask of Doom: Her entrance has her wearing a noh mask.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Has managed to avoid these over the course of her career, which is amazing consider her attires, but ultimately fell victim to this trope on the Feb 19, 2018 edition of Monday Night Raw, when her top came loose and exposed a good part of her left breast, including her (rock hard) nipple.
  • 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.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • In her WWE NXT run Ember Moon is one of the few people she treats as an equal. Ember came the closest to beating her and injured her to the point of her having to relinquish the title. When the two met at the Royal Rumble 2018 Asuka was delighted.
    • She also respects Bayley who was the first person to give her challenge both in NXT and RAW.
    • In the months between Asuka's Royal Rumble victory and Wrestlemania 34, Charlotte Flair became indisputably the greatest foe in Asuka's WWE career, with their feud ending on Charlotte beating Asuka's streak. Despite the weight of such a crushing loss, Asuka - audibly and visibly struggling through tears - still congratulated Charlotte after their show-stealing match and graciously reciprocated when Charlotte locked her in a tight hug.
      • This, however, changed when Charlotte turned heel and started disrespecting her and her legacy while making fun of her crushing defeat during the build-up to their (and Becky) TLC match for the title. Asuka now thinks she got lucky.
    • On the note of the above, Becky Lynch herself - the woman whose title Asuka would come to take at TLC - filled this spot after Charlotte's Face–Heel Turn in late 2019. In the leadup to their match at Royal Rumble 2019, Becky congratulated Asuka on her title victory...and then proceeded to goad her into once more becoming the Wrestling Monster she used to be. All of this culminated in the two of them taking each other to their absolute tooth-and-nail limit at the Rumble, a match during which Asuka would be forced to use every move in her arsenal, her finisher, Becky's finisher, and finally a brutal modified Asuka Lock to finally put The Man away.
  • 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


Example of: