In one of the more anticipated matches of the night, former NXT Women's Champion Asuka made her triumphant main roster debut at TLC when she took on Emma in a match that had been promoted and hyped since SummerSlam. She's had arguably the mot anticipated main roster debut of NXT alumni because of her unprecedented undefeated run. However, there's no doubt that some fans are still wondering what the hype is all about. While she looked good in her debut, and the obligatory rematch on Raw, there's much more to Asuka than that. Here, we'll be giving a brief rundown of Asuka’s career so far, from her work in Japan, the American indie circuit and even her work in NXT. Are you ready for Asuka?
After training under the tutelage of Yuki Ishikawa, Asuka, then working under the name Kana, made her professional wrestling debut in 2004. Despite a background in video game journalism and sporting success in badminton and figure skating, she was inspired to wrestle by the likes of Minoru Suzuki, Akira Maeda and Volk Han, helping develop a shoot based submission heavy style influenced by those three men. She would wrestle for two years in the all-female promotion AtoZ before briefly retiring due to a chronic nephritis in 2006.
She made her comeback on September 22, 2007 in a match against future passion Red stablemate Nanae Takahashi. She spent several years wrestling on the Japanese joshi independent circuit. This included working for promotions such as Ice Ribbon, DDT, Pro Wrestling Wave and Misawa’s Noah. During this time, she formed the all joshi stable of the aforementioned Passion Red with Nanae Takahashi, the Hotta Sisters and Natsuki Taiyo and would hold the NEO Tag Title’s with Takahashi, the Kuzu Pro Diva Title, the infamous DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Title, and the Pro Wrestling Wave Tag Team Championship with Ayumi Kurihara.
She attracted controversy in 2011 amongst the puroresu community when she heavily criticized the joshi puroresu scene for their lack of focus on realism in matches, limited personality, and the focus on beautiful women in the sport. This was done in order to get her over as the top villain in Yoshihiro Tajiri’s Smash promotion in Japan. Although this was meant to lead to a major storyline where Kana (the name Asuka went by at the time) would oppose everyone in Smash, this did not eventual. Out of this however, she would go on to form one of the best female trios acts in wrestling, joining forces with the Shirai sisters (Mio and Io).
She would go on to hold several more title’s across several promotions, including the Smash Diva Title, the JPW Openweight Title and the Reina World Tag Title with Arisa Nakajima. She also promoted her own wrestling events under the name Kana Pro. She would face wrestlers such as Tajiri, Mikey Whipwreck, Kenny Omega and her idol Minoru Suzuki, gaining a reputation as one of the toughest wrestlers of the puroresu and joshi circuit.
Before moving to NXT, Kana would spend a few years working in American promotions such as Chikara and Shimmer. She would make her debut at Shimmer’s Volume 41, when she would defeat recent Mae Young Classic competitor Mia Yim. Over the following days, she would defeat LuFisto and Sara Del Ray, whilst losing to Cheerleader Melissa. She would form a team with LuFisto as a babyface and would go on to have matches against the likes of Mercedes Martinez, Kellie Skater, Athena and Jessie McKay. She would make sporadic appearances for Shimmer. She would also compete in Shine, Chikara and other smaller American promotions during her stints over here.
After signing with the WWE, she wrestled her final match in Japan in a six woman tag at the eponymously named KanaProMania, teaming with close friends Hikaru Shida and Syuri to defeat the team of long-time rivals Arisa Nakajima, Ryo Mizunami, and Rina Yamashita. She would be given a send-off by her fellow joshi wrestlers and the faithful and the Korakuen Hall, recognized for being the biggest joshi star in Japan since Manami Toyota.
Utter domination in NXT
Asuka first appeared in front of the NXT audience at the inaugural NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn back in 2015 under a variation of her previous ring name ‘Kanna.’ It was announced five days later that Asuka had been signed to WWE and that she would be appearing on the NXT brand. She would make her debut at NXT TakeOver: Respect where she would defeat Dana Brooke after being goaded into a match. She then defeated Emma at NXT TakeOver: London after Emma kept poking the bear that was Asuka.
From there, she would help Bayley fend off those two along with Eva Marie, Nia Jax, and others before challenging Bayley for the NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: Dallas and making Bayley pass out in the Asuka Lock. As NXT Women's Champion, she then defeated Nia Jax at NXT TakeOver: The End before besting Bayley in their rematch at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 2.
After this, Asuka would slot into a tweener role after beating Mickie James at NXT TakeOver: Toronto and refusing to shake her hand. This would be when Asuka would start using the catchphrase, ‘Nobody is ready for Asuka!’ After constant attacks by them, Asuka demanded a fatal four way at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio in which she defeated Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, and Nikki Cross to keep her championship.
She would further show aspects of her tweener role after cheating to beat Ember Moon, who had given her more of a fight than any other opponent, at NXT TakeOver: Orlando. From there, she started a story arc where she would only face people she deemed worthy, going on holiday until GM William Regal found her an opponent.
She would beat Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot at NXT TakeOver: Chicago after attacking each during a battle royale to determine a number one contender for her title. After this, she would culminate a long-standing rivalry with Nikki Cross after months of targeting each other with a last woman standing match on NXT TV, which Asuka won. From here, Ember Moon would return from injury to challenge Asuka for the NXT Women's Title at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 3, beating her in her best match in WWE.
She would break her collarbone during this match and be forced to vacate the NXT Women's Championship at the NXT tapings after TakeOver: Brooklyn 3, ending her reign at 510 days and being the longest reigning female champion in the company’s modern history (barring Moolah for moral reasons). She would also break Goldberg’s undefeated record with her current unbeaten run being 193-0 (195-0 including her two wins over Emma since arriving).
Why is Asuka so revered?
The reason that Asuka has gained such a fearsome reputation in NXT is simple, she has the indelible ‘it’ factor that people look for. Dave Meltzer said in the December 16, 2015 edition of the WON that she ‘may be the best worker in WWE, male or female.’ She has been masterfully presented to the audience, with an elaborate entrance, extravagant costume and a well-crafted undefeated streak helping Asuka to become the longest reigning NXT Women's Champion in history. She has had great matches with the likes of Bayley, Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Nia Jax, whilst also putting in good performances against every other opponent she has faced like Ruby Riot, Billie and Peyton, Mickie James and Aliyah. Asuka, if handled with care and due diligence, could be a special attraction in the WWE, and if allowed, she could easily be figured into a believable main event program with the likes of Charlotte or Alexa Bliss, and even Ronda Rousey if they were to allow it. As Jim Ross would say, Asuka is a can’t miss prospect which the WWE need to capitalize on.
Asuka/Kana Matches you need to watch
- Asuka vs Ember Moon NXT Takeover Brooklyn 3 (10.08.2017)
- Asuka vs Bayley NXT Takeover Dallas (01.04.2016)
- Asuka vs Emma NXT Takeover London (16.12.2015)
- Kana vs Arisa Nakajima JWP Pure-Slam 2013 (18.08.2013)
- Kana vs Mio Shirai Pro Wrestling Wave (15.01.2015)
- Kana vs Sara Del Rey Chikara Klunk In Love (08.10.2011)
- Kana vs Nikki Storm Shimmer Volume 65 (13.04.2014)
- Kana vs Cheerleader Melissa Shimmer Volume 43 (02.01.2011)
Are you excited to see Asuka on the main roster? Let us know in the comments below!