Hello! And welcome back to a mini-series which started last week. I have still yet to answer the question in the title, and I don’t plan on doing so today. Instead, I’m going to continue with my plan, which is to feature Asuka’s (AKA Kana) career by creating three volumes which touch on different aspects of it.
The first volume (link) was created for casual WWE fans who don’t watch NXT, and who become curious enough to see how she fared as the undefeated NXT Women’s Champion. It created discussion and divided opinions. However .. that’s just one part of her career. To find her best & hard-hitting matches? You have to go back to Japan.
However .. it’s not all about brawls and competition, you get to see her character evolve. I researched this (as well as asking fans from Disqus), as I never saw her matches in Japan. She was new to me the moment she debuted on NXT. I’d heard of her, but I’d never watched any of her matches til she came to WWE, so my research served as entertainment as I thought about what I should feature.
The first volume’s videos spoke for themselves, so I didn’t need to expand on them too much. It was more of a history lesson, like something you’d see on WWE’s website. But this volume can’t be the same. Also, I know I can’t feature too many matches. I could literally post .. dozens of Kana matches (and they’d all be great), but what would be the point? Would you watch them all? I know I wouldn’t.
So I’m finding it necessary to keep it to five matches, three of which are highlights. The last video will be a full length contest, so overall we’re looking at roughly 55 minutes of Kana spread out across 5 matches. Is that reasonable enough? I like to think it is, for those who don’t usually watch puroresu, or are short on time.
The point of this is to show her potential outside the WWE environment. As we know, WWE likes to micro-manage, so it’s clear ever since NXT that Asuka is not running at full capacity. There’s more she could do, but in the WWE you need to stick to the rules, and matches don’t last anywhere near as long.
The advantage of being in Japan though .. is she could speak in her mother tongue. She’s clearly more comfortable speaking Japanese on the microphone, but through it all .. you get to see her character. You may be able to figure out what she’s saying by her body language and facial expressions; even if you don’t know a single word of her language.
1. Tajiri Mercilessly Mocks Kana.
By 2010, Kana had already been a pro for six years. In the summer, she wrote a manifesto in the Weekly Pro-Wrestling magazine which blasted joshi puroresu (female wrestlers) for having no personality, and for working in an unrealistic manner. This was meant to get her villainous heat so she could feud with a rival companies talent, but nothing came of it in the short-term.
It did affect her career, as later that year she was thrust in to a feud with Smash founder and former WWE/ECW talent Yoshihiro Tajiri. She was mistreated by the cruel and merciless veteran she’d previously looked up too. He’d provoke, and openly mock Kana by wearing her glasses. She was furious and did everything in her power to defeat Tajiri in their match. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it’s pretty brutal. After this, she didn’t stop challenging men to intergender matches. (11:27)
2. Kana Faces Her Big Rival Once More.
She’s not just a pretty face with a mean streak, she also promoted her own shows titled Kana Pro. On the first-ever Kana Pro, she fought former WCW & current CHIKARA talent Meiko Satomura; losing in the main event. She came across Satomura a few more times down the road, but today I chose to look solely at their 2011 encounter.
Kana kicked a handshake away before the bout, showing blatant disrespect. The elation in her face after coming away from this brutal fight showed how much it meant to defeat her stronger and more experienced rival. It was the beginning of the rise of Kana in Joshi. (3:48)
3. Arisa Nakajima Defends The Honour Of Joshi.
In 2013, Kana was brought in to JWP by Arisa Nakajima (in the story) despite the promoter’s dislike of her 2010 manifesto. It didn’t take long til Kana & Nakajima came to blows after a match, which led to a feud where Nakajima would defend the honour of Joshi, while Kana played the cocky, villainous outsider. By the following year, they’d gained mutual respect for one another, even going as far as winning tag team championships together.
Kana’s character was becoming more defined, and her 2010 manifesto was still seen as controversial by some talent and promoters. Despite this, her drawing power was enough to get work and deliver main event caliber matches with many other women trying to prove they were better. She wasn’t afraid to push the envelope in everything she did and said, in a culture which naturally embraces tradition and respect. (3:15)
4. Syuri + Kana = Fight Forever
Arguably Kana’s biggest rival in her career is Syuri. From 2010 to 2015, they kept running in to each other, as it was Syuri who she defeated in under three minutes before writing the infamous manifesto. And do you know what Syuri does now? She’s a kickboxing and MMA athlete, with 13 wins and 1 loss in kickboxing, and 6 wins from 6 in Pancrase and the UFC. All of that, and she’s 28 years old .. which means she was only 21 when she first came across Kana in a wrestling ring.
This epic meeting was for the REINA Women’s Championship in 2014. Years of working together, and it had finally come down to winning a title, instead of just hating each others guts. To know how much these two women despised each other does wonders for this highlight reel. I’ll let the match speak for itself, and don’t forget to watch what happens afterwards. (7:28)
5. Bottoms Up!
I had to bring this piece to a good ending with a bizarre, yet entertaining, full length intergender match featuring Kana & Kenny Omega, and the team of former ECW talent Masato Tanaka & rival Hikaru Shida. Some of you might be aware of Kenny Omega, so this will be a treat to those who have yet to see his crazy antics on this night. Tanaka initially didn’t want to join in on the fun, but eventually he changed his mind and everyone appreciated it.
Don’t even ask me why .. but there’s an obsession with “rear end” spots. And it’s not your typical Americanized intergender match where the women have to enter the ring when the other does and all that nonsense. No one is safe, and everyone is free game to attack. I do warn you though .. if you don’t like seeing bare backsides in a wrestling ring, you’ll be offended by this. There’s some almighty ass play going on, and not in the way some of you are thinking.
Kana’s character looks almost like Asuka by this point, so I can’t say when the match took place, but it must have been not long before she signed to NXT. There’s no better example of showing her humour and comic timing than this. Of course, Kenny takes a lot of the spotlight, but he does encourage his partner to be vocal as well. It’s a long match which is split by a comedic tone in the first half, and a far more competitive tone in the second. The rear end spots seem to happen less often as the match goes on, so if you’re not in to all that rubbish .. rest assured that a real wrestling match does take place.
If you don’t know Japanese (I don’t either), the post-match promos will be hard to understand, but it’s interesting to see the body language and how the crowd pops to certain comments. Even Kana gets in what seems like some really rude, yet funny comments about her opponents. Everything is done for fun, and it seems clear they all respect each other and wanted to show the audience a good time with this quirky & unique battle of the sexes. (30:47)
Yet To Conclude ..
I’ve yet to answer the question directly on whether I think Asuka is overrated or not. And I don’t plan on it this time .. but in the third volume I do solemnly promise to uphold my side of the deal and put this hotly debated topic to bed. There’s more to cover before I can make a decision, which shows how much of an enigma she is to women’s wrestling.
Talking about this piece though .. wow, I didn’t know any of it before I started writing. I was already under the impression she was pretty great, but things I found out about her impressed me even more so. Like, I didn’t know she promoted her own shows. I didn’t know she led stables with other women, and bigger groups featuring men & women. I didn’t know she had a heated feud with Tajiri, nor who any of her rivals were. I didn’t know the extent of her American Independent exposure (I didn’t have time to cover that .. sorry!). And let’s face it, I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg! There’s way more I could see, and way more I could’ve presented to you.
I noticed an ongoing trend in comments about Asuka’s promo skills. I just want to poke the bear a little and ask whether the same people think Jeff Hardy is overrated? Or someone like Bret Hart who didn’t always cut the best promos (not saying he never had a good one though!). The reason behind wanting to cover Asuka in a few volumes was so we could get a better, overall picture of what she brings to the table. I simply cannot claim someone is overrated because a foreigner can’t speak English as well as someone who grew up with English-speaking parents.
It’s a standard no one should force on anyone trying to make it outside of their home country. English is a very hard language for the Japanese, much like how Germans struggle with “th” sounds .. because German words don’t have “th”. Ever noticed how Germans say, for example, “Ze table”, instead of “The Table”. It doesn’t come naturally. I believe people should listen and respect what others say, and not be putting all the emphasis on the way they talk. It can take a Japanese person years to master the English language; so I give Asuka the benefit of the doubt.
With that said .. I very much hope you enjoyed it. I would be sad if you don’t join me for the third and last volume where I’ll be looking at other aspects of her career, as well as giving my opinion on if she’s overrated or not. Don’t care for my opinion? That’s fine .. at least do us a favour and leave your opinions in the comments section for others to see. I very much appreciate all the comments generated with the first volume, and I’ll be interested to see if this changes anyone’s outlook, or whether it will just further concrete what some believed a millisecond after reading the enticing title. See y’all later!