Throughout Japan’s history, there has been many women who have gone against tradition. Some of the most famous names include the likes of Nakano Takeko, Empress Jingu and Tomoe Gozen. These warriors have laid the groundwork for modern Japanese women to leave their mark on the world.
A woman who has followed in their footsteps is Kanako Urai. Better known by her wrestling names, Kana and Asuka, Urai is one of the most gifted athletes on the planet.
Building a legacy
Before she was known as Asuka, Urai had a background in graphic design, badminton and figure skating. This sportiness led to her changing careers and becoming a professional wrestler. Working under the name of Kana, Urai made her debut in 2004 for an all-women’s promotion called AtoZ.
For the next few years, Urai honed her craft in other promotions like Pro Wrestling Wave, Battlearts and Smash. In 2011, she made her wrestling debut in America by working for Shimmer Women’s Athletics and Chikara. This gave her more exposure to a mainstream wrestling crowd. She gained a reputation on the independent circuit for her smash-mouth style and technical abilities.
Becoming the Empress of Tomorrow
In 2015, Urai signed up to the WWE and joined the development brand NXT. As Asuka, she was booked as an unstoppable force and quickly established herself as the face of the NXT women’s division. Ultimately, she went on to win the NXT Women’s Championship in 2016 at NXT: TakeOver Dallas.
From that point on, Asuka took on all comers and continued to defeat them. During this time, Asuka surpassed the undefeated streak of Goldberg, who had previously won 173 matches without being pinned. She held onto the title for an incredible 510 days, becoming the longest reigning women’s champion in NXT history. She probably would have held the belt for longer if a collarbone injury hadn’t forced her to vacate the title.
Asuka joined the main WWE roster in 2017 and continued her path of dominance. In 2018, she made history again by becoming the winner of the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble match. This led to a brilliant match at Wrestlemania 34 against Charlotte Flair. Although she lost, Urai cemented her legacy as one of the WWE’s greatest ever performers. Her undefeated streak lasted for 914 days, a feat that has yet to be surpassed.
Forging a new path
After Wrestlemania 34, the WWE’s booking of Urai became questionable. She was underutilised on Smackdown, but managed to capture the Smackdown Women’s Championship in late 2018. Her reign lasted for 100 days.
Despite not being booked as she should be, Urai hasn’t stopped pursuing her other interests. An avid gamer, she runs a YouTube channel called KanaChan TV. Her channel focuses on retro games and pop culture themes. With the videos hosted in English and Japanese, Urai’s channel is worth watching for her love of pop culture.
Whether she’s in the ring or outside of it, Urai’s passion for entertaining people goes without saying. It’s one of many reasons why she has established herself as an exceptional wrestler and personality outside of Japan.