Kanako Urai (September 26, 1981) is a Japanese professional wrestler, better known by the ring name Kana. She is currently signed to WWE on the Smackdown brand under the ring name Asuka. She is a former NXT Women's Champion, holding the record for the longest reign at 510 days. She is known for her stiff wrestling style, which includes various kicks and submission holds. She also works as a freelance graphic designer and video game journalist and through her work with Microsoft, she is often sponsored by the company, wearing an Xbox 360 logo on her gear. She previously worked in many Japanese promotions such as Japanese Women Pro-Wrestling Project, SMASH, and Pro Wrestling WAVE. In SMASH, she held the SMASH Divas Championship on two occasions.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (2004–2010)
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. Urai, adopting the ring name Kana, made her professional wrestling debut for all female promotion AtoZ on June 16, 2004, in a match against Leo-na. She would spend the first part of her career with AtoZ, before suddenly announcing her retirement due to chronic nephritis on March 19, 2006. During her time away from the ring, Urai opened her own graphic design agency. 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. 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. They would hold the title for two months, before losing it to Ayumi Kurihara and Yoshiko Tamura on December 31, 2009. On January 24, 2010, Kana announced that she had quit Passion Red.
Pro Wrestling Wave (2008-2015)
Kana had made some appearances for Pro Wrestling Wave in 2008, but did not start working regularly for the promotion until the end of 2010, when NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling folded. On July 24, 2011, Kana defeated Ayumi Kurihara in the finals to win the 2011 Catch the Wave tournament. 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. 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. Four days later, Kana and Kurihara lost the Wave Tag Team Championship to Ran Yu-Yu and Toshie Uematsu. On March 6, the new incarnation of Triple Tails was named White Tails, in reference to Wave's top villainous alliance, Black Dahlia. On November 27, Kana defeated Yumi Ohka in a singles match, after which she declared herself the new "ace" of Wave. 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. On March 17, Kana was defeated in the finals of the tournament by Yumi Ohka. 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. They made their first successful defense on July 7 against Fujimoto and Kyusei Sakura Hirota. 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. Three days later, Kana and Shirai lost the Wave Tag Team Championship to Shidarezakura (Hikaru Shida and Yumi Ohka) in their second defense. From September 1 to October 6, Kana took part in the 2013 Dual Shock Wave tournament, where she teamed with Yumi Ohka. 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).
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. After the match Kana left the arena smiling and later challenged Syuri to a rematch, which was made official on June 30. 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. 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. 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. Kana then began feuding with Tajiri, which led to an intergender match on December 24 at Happening Eve, where Tajiri was victorious. Following the loss, Kana reemerged on January 29, 2011, as the leader of the Triple Tails stable with the Shirai sisters (Io and Mio), dubbing herself "Sekai no Kana" (literally "World Famous Kana"). Kana then continued working against the opposite sex, defeating Jessica Love on January 30, 2011, teaming with the Shirais to defeat Tajiri, Ken Ohka and Yoshiaki Yago on February 25, and losing to Funaki on March 31. 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. In response, Kana vowed to make Serena respect her. 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. On May 3 at Smash.17, Serena defeated Kana with a spear in the first singles match between the two. At the following event on June 9, Smash started a tournament to crown the inaugural Smash Diva Champion. In her first round match Kana defeated Lin "Bitch" Byron. On August 11 at Smash.20, Kana defeated Syuri to set up a rematch with Serena in the finals of the tournament. On September 8, Kana defeated Serena to become the inaugural Smash Diva Champion. On November 24 at Smash.23, Kana lost the Smash Diva Championship to Tomoka Nakagawa in her first defense. On January 19, 2012, at We Are Smash, Kana defeated Nakagawa in a rematch to regain the title. 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. 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.
United States (2011–present)
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. 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. Later that same day on Volume 42, Kana defeated Del Rey via submission. 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. Later that day, Kana defeated LuFisto on Volume 44 in her final match for the weekend, after which she shook LuFisto's hand. The following weekend Kana made her debut for Chikara, defeating Jessie McKay in her first match on October 7 in Burlington, North Carolina. The following day Kana was defeated by Sara Del Rey in the main event of a show in Kingsport, Tennessee. On February 19, 2012, Shimmer Women Athletes announced that Kana would be returning to the promotion on March 17. 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. Later that same day on Volume 46, Kana was defeated in a singles match by Mercedes Martinez. The following day on Volume 47, Kana and LuFisto defeated Christina Von Eerie and MsChif in a tag team match. Kana then defeated Kellie Skater on Volume 48, in her final match of the weekend. 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. Later that same night on Volume 50, Kana was defeated by Ayako Hamada in a singles match. The following night on Volume 51, Kana defeated Athena in a singles match. 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). 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. Kana returned to singles action a week later on April 13 at the tapings of Volume 54, where she defeated Jessie McKay. Later that same day on SHIMMER Women Athletes Volume 55, Kana was defeated by Madison Eagles in another singles match. The following day, Kana first defeated Ayako Hamada, Mercedes Martinez and Yuu Yamagata in a four-way match on Volume 56, before finishing her weekend with a win over Kalamity in a singles match on Volume 57. 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.
Wrestling New Classic (2012)
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. 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. 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. Post-match, Kana verbally assaulted Makoto, which led to Shirai turning on her and siding with Makoto. 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. Two days later at Go! Go! West: Osaka, Kana submitted Makoto again, this time in a singles match. The following day at Go! Go! West: Hiroshima, Kana main evented her first WNC event, when she, Mikey Whipwreck and Tajiri were defeated in a six-person tag team match by Akira, Dave Finlay and Syuri. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. On August 30, Kana, Mikey Whipwreck and Tajiri were defeated in a Barbed Wire Board Deathmatch by Syuri, Akira and StarBuck. Kana, Whipwreck and Tajiri were also defeated in a rematch the following day in Osaka, before coming back to win the second rematch on September 1 in Toyohashi, ending the villainous trio's win streak in the process. 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. 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. On September 20, Kana was defeated by Akira in an intergender match at Korakuen Hall. 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. 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. The match was billed as the first confrontation between Kana and Nakajima, who both started their careers in AtoZ. On November 26, Kana entered the WNC Women's Championship tournament, defeating Makoto in her first round match. 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. 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. WNC officially released Kana from her contract on December 4.
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. 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. 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. Triple Tails also put together their own shows, which took place on February 13 and May 8, 2011. Kana Pro's third event took place on September 24 and saw Kana lose to Kengo Mashimo in the main event. On October 29, Kana was elected the eighth president of 666, a small independent promotion for which she had wrestled for the past year. On November 5, Kana took part in the final event held by the Battlarts promotion, defeating Aki Shizuku in a singles match.
On March 11, 2012, Kana made her debut for the Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) promotion, taking part in an eight-person ten minute battle royal for the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship. Five minutes into the match, Kana pinned Michael Nakazawa to win the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship. With just 50 seconds remaining in the match, she lost the title to Antonio Honda, but managed to regain it via submission with just 22 seconds remaining in the match. On April 8, Kana defended the title in another ten minute battle royal. During the match, Kana 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. 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. 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. On May 5 at Ice Ribbon's Golden Ribbon 2012 event, Kana defeated Hikaru Shida in a non-title singles match. 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. In early July, Kana and Mio Shirai took part in the 2012 Japan Expo in Paris, France. 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.
Following her December 2012 departure from WNC, Kana began making more regular appearances for both Ice Ribbon and JWP. 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. 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. 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. Post-match, Kana and Nakajima came to blows, with Nakajima claiming that she was now defending all of joshi against Kana. 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. On August 18, Kana returned to JWP and defeated Arisa Nakajima to become the new JWP Openweight Champion. 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. Kana made her first successful title defense on September 16 against the reigning JWP Junior and POP Champion Manami Katsu. Kana made her second successful title defense on October 14 against JWP Tag Team and Daily Sports Women's Tag Team Champion Hanako Nakamori. 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. As part of the storyline, Kana refused title challenges made by Kayoko Haruyama and Leon and instead named Nakajima her next challenger. 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. On December 27, Kana and Shirai announced they were disbanding Triple Tails.S, with their final self-produced independent event taking place in early 2014. On February 25, 2014, Kana produced an independent event titled Kana ProMania in Korakuen Hall, which saw her defeat Meiko Satomura in the main event. On April 16, Kana took part in a rare women's match promoted by Pro Wrestling Noah, defeating JWP representative Rabbit Miu.
On August 22, 2015, Urai attended WWE's NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn event in Brooklyn, New York, where she was shown on camera and identified as "Kanna". The appearance led to rumors that she had signed with WWE. On August 27, it was confirmed that Urai had signed with WWE a few weeks earlier. Urai and WWE held a press conference on September 8 in Tokyo, confirming her signing to WWE's developmental branch — NXT,] where she was scheduled to start at the end of the month. Urai appeared on the September 23 episode of NXT and revealed her new ring name as Asuka, before signing her WWE contract. She was later interrupted by Emma and Dana Brooke, who rudely ejected her from the ring. This led to her debut match on October 7 at NXT TakeOver: Respect, where she defeated Brooke. Asuka racked up victories against various wrestlers, including defeating Emma at NXT Takeover: London on December 16.
On the January 13, 2016 episode of NXT, Asuka was eliminated by Eva Marie in a number one contender's over-the-top-rope battle royal for Bayley's NXT Women's Championship. 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. 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. On April 1 at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, Asuka defeated Bayley by technical submission to win the NXT Women's Championship for the first time. On June 8 at NXT TakeOver: The End, she successfully defended the title against Nia Jax. After Bayley earned herself a title rematch against Asuka, tensions between the two began to rise, leading to the match on August 20 at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, where Asuka retained the title.
At NXT TakeOver: Toronto on November 19, Asuka successfully defended the title against the returning Mickie James. Following her victory, Asuka refused to shake James' hand, beginning Asuka's heel turn. On the January 11, 2017 edition of NXT, Asuka was attacked by Billie Kay and Peyton Royce until Nikki Cross appeared to save her, only to later attack Asuka. This prompted Asuka to demand to face all three women for her title, with William Regal granting the request. At NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Asuka retained her title against Cross, Kay, and Royce, and in February, she became the longest reigning champion on NXT, male or female. Asuka's next title opponent was the then-undefeated Ember Moon, who she faced at NXT TakeOver: Orlando on April 1. Asuka continued her villainous persona during the match, which included shoving the referee into Moon to avoid Moon's finisher, the Eclipse, en route to successfully defending the title.
On the May 3 episode of NXT, Asuka turned heel and interfered in a number one contender's battle royal by attacking Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot, the last three competitors, causing the match to be ruled a no contest. Afterwards, it was announced that Asuka would defend the NXT Women's Championship in a fatal four-way match against Moon, Cross and Riot at NXT TakeOver: Chicago, though Moon was later pulled from the match due to a legitimate shoulder injury. At the event on May 20, the villainous Asuka defeated Riot and Cross to continue her title reign. On the June 14 NXT, Asuka defended the title in a three-way elimination match, which ended in a no contest when she and Nikki Cross brawled backstage, after Riot had been eliminated. This led to a Last Woman Standing match two weeks later, where Asuka defeated Cross to retain the NXT Women's Championship. Two days later, Asuka defeated Ember Moon at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III to continue her title reign. 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. Due to her injury, Asuka relinquished the NXT Women's Championship at the August 24 NXT tapings, ending her reign at 510 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.
On the September 11 episode of Raw, it was announced that Asuka had been signed to the brand by general manager Kurt Angle.
Urai is a graduate of the Osaka University of Arts Junior College. She is a writer for Xbox Magazine and designs graphics for Nintendo DS and various mobile applications, while also owning a hair salon named Another Heaven in Yokohama. Urai is a fan of American culture and media, including bands such as Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, movies like The Godfather, Gran Torino, Platoon and Dances with Wolves and video games such as the Call of Duty series and games from Rockstar Games. Prior to her career in professional wrestling, Urai had a sports background in badminton and figure skating.
- Finishing moves
- As Asuka
- As Kana
- Signature moves
- "Sekai no Kana" ("The World Famous")
- "The Empress of Tomorrow"
- Entrance themes
- Wrestlers trained
Championships and accomplishments
- JWP Joshi Puroresu
- Pro Wrestling Wave
- WWE NXT
|2016 PWI Top 50 Females|
|Charlotte Flair • Sasha Banks • Asuka • Becky Lynch • Bayley • Jade • Natalya • Gail Kim • Sexy Star • Sienna • Ivelisse • Madison Eagles • Nicole Savoy • Rosemary • Allie • Nicole Matthews • Kimber Lee • Candice LeRae • Paige • Heidi Lovelace • Evie • Cheerleader Melissa • Nia Jax • Santana Garrett • Naomi • Dana Brooke • Madison Rayne • Kay Lee Ray • Alexa Bliss • Lufisto • Amber Gallows • Marti Belle • Emma • Taylor Made • Vanessa Kraven • Su Yung • Ember Moon • Tessa Blanchard • Jessicka Havok • Shayna Baszler • Crazy Mary Dobson • Malia Hosaka • Thunder Rosa • Carmella • KC Spinelli • Veda Scott • Jessica James • Xandra Bale • Kaitlin Diemond • Eva Marie|
|2017 PWI Top 50 Females|
|Asuka • Charlotte Flair • Alexa Bliss • Sasha Banks • Bayley • Io Shirai • Natalya • Sienna • Naomi • Kairi Sane • Mercedes Martinez • Shayna Baszler • Rosemary • LuFisto • Mayu Iwantani • Mia Yim • Allie • Ember Moon • Becky Lynch • Madison Eagles • Nicole Savoy • Nia Jax • Candice LeRae • Toni Storm • Hiroyo Matsumoto • Chelsea Green • Saraya Knight • Shazza McKenzie • Kay Lee Ray • Mickie James • Dakota Kai • Nicole Matthews • Alex Windsor • Deonna Purrazzo • Abbey Laith • Risa Sera • Viper • Carmella • Ruby Riot • Nikki Cross • Vanessa Kraven • Santana Garrett • Tessa Blanchard • Arisa Nakajima • Lady Lory • Shotzi Blackheart • Veda Scott • Alpha Female • Marti Belle • Zoey Skye|