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Cafe Puro (10/5/15): Sekai no Kana—The Five Things to Know About NXT's Asuka

This week, the tradition of embarassing the WWE main roster continues as NXT delivers its next WWE Network special, NXT TakeOver: Respect, headlined by a historic 30-minute Iron Man (or Woman) match between Bayley and Sasha Banks for the NXT Women's Championship. It the first time that a special featured women wrestlers in the main event. That, alone, is worth the price of admission and your time.
And then you have the much anticipated in-ring debut of the world renowned Kana, since renamed Asuka, as she faces Dana Brooke in a singles match.

With Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks now officially part of the main roster, the women's division in NXT needed a huge boost to compensate for the loss of talent. And with Bayley being the only megastar there, it's only appropriate that she deserves to have a more-than-competent dance partner to help build the division. And let's face it, it's not like Eva Marie or Dana Brooke are going to become the faces of the division in the near future. 

So it came as a huge surprise when she showed up in NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn alongside Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter, with the announcement that she's officially signed with WWE under NXT some time later. Since then, the interest surrounding Asuka has been high. And surely, people have searched online to see her matches in Japan and why she's such a big deal. (Spoiler alert: she's as impressive as her reputation has implied.)

So to celebrate Asuka's first ever WWE match, here are 5 interesting points about former joshi star known as Sekai no Kana (roughly translated as "Kana of the World," or also known as "World Famous Kana"):

1. Her Gaming Roots

For a woman as badass as Kana, making her mark in the professional wrestling world for more than a decade, it seemed very interesting to note that she was also involved in the world of video games. Particularly, she made a living as a graphics designer and writer, sometimes writing for XBox Magazine. and making designs for Nintendo games. In the same vein as Prince Devitt having Armani Exchange as his sponsor back in the day, Kana also had a sponsor in Microsoft, even putting their logos on her wrestling gear. As a matter of fact, her theme song back in the day was the theme music of much renowned PlayStation game, Okami!

2. Kana's Fascination on Mixed Matches

You'd think that with the reputation that Kana has garnered over the years, she would probably just retire knowing she practically owned a lot of joshi wrestlers during her stay in Japan. Well, that's where you're wrong.

Throughout her entire career, she made it a point to mix it up against various male pro wrestlers. And not just any Tom, Dick, and Harry pro wrestlers, mind you. We're talking about pretty much a lot of badasses that has come through the world wrestling scene. From the big guns like Minoru Suzuki, TAJIRI, Finlay, and Akira to the likes of Fight Club Finland's Jessica Love, Dragon Gate's Masaaki Mochizuki, DDT's Antonio Honda and Ken Ohka, and even SmackDown's No. 1 Announcer, Funaki, she showed the world that she has no problem kicking off the heads of her male counterparts. Heck, she even won DDT's Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship at one point, which made her a marked woman by anyone in DDT's roster. 

While we'll most likely never see this kind of interaction in today's WWE, it is a good thing to know that to her, genders don't matter.

3. As Freelance as Minoru Suzuki

Minoru Suzuki may have been one of Kana's inspirations in becoming a pro wrestler, but in an interesting twist of fate, Suzuki and Kana may have a few things in common after all (besides their in-ring style, of course). Suzuki may have been a product of NJPW in the 80's, but for most of his career, he remained freelance, working in companies that deem him to be in demand in the market. In the same way, Kana has also preferred to work as an independent wrestler, save for her previous affiliations with AtoZ (her first promotion when she debuted) and Wrestling New Classic (SMASH's successor which was led by TAJIRI, with Kana providing support for this new company until she left the company due to financial issues). Her third home in her career? That's right, WWE.

For a wrestler who showed up in many promotions over the years (Shimmer, Wave, JWP, among others), for her to be in demand despite being a freelancer speaks volumes about her value in the pro wrestling market. No wonder WWE came calling to her by the end of the day.

4. Triple Tails

Whenever we speak of Kana's career, that would also forever be associated to the faction known as Triple Tails, formed in 2010 and composing of Kana and the Shirai Sisters, Mio and Io Shirai. The three were a force in various joshi promotions (and even had their own self-produced events). While the faction may have been over for a while now, the impact that the faction garnered would forever be resonated through the Shirai Sisters.

Io Shirai would go on to Stardom and make it her new promotion, winning different championships and MVP awards in the process. Mio, on the other hand, would be the first wrestler in history to be contractually affiliated to four (yes, FOUR) different companies, Union Pro, Ice Ribbon, Oz Academy, and Wave. Think of it this way: imagine if a wrestler was legally affiliated to WWE, TNA, ROH, and for the hell of it, CHIKARA. So in essence, it's a big deal. Sadly, Mio recently retired some weeks ago, which means only 2 members of Triple Tails are still active.

While Triple Tails is no more, all three women have gone on to reach greater heights, with the most recent being Kana's impending WWE in-ring debut.

5. A Certain Filipino Connection

Back in January 25, 2014, there was an event known as Joshi+Jam which took place in Pasig City, with the main event being Syuri, the half Japanese, half Filipino joshi star, versus Mia Yim (now known today as TNA's Jade of the Dollhouse faction). Interestingly, it can be said that it was Syuri's rivalry with Kana in SMASH that finally made the Filipino wrestler into the star that she is today.

While Syuri made her pro wrestling debut in HUSTLE, which is essentially a comedy promotion TAJIRI was also affiliated with, she would later shine as a legitimate contender when TAJIRI announced the formation of SMASH following HUSTLE's demise. And since being repackaged as Syuri (from "Karate Girl" or "KG" in HUSTLE), she had to suffer 3 consecutive losses in the first 3 SMASH events. That was, until Kana came into the picture, 

After Kana began ripping a new one on Syuri verbally, it practically lit a fire on the latter and began going after Kana backstage, which led to the main event of SMASH 4, the first time a women's match main evented SMASH (sounds familiar?). In a fantastic main event, Syuri defeated the experienced Kana, finally validating Syuri's place in the world of joshi puroresu. Funny enough, Kana got a revenge win on Syuri by making her submit within 3 minutes of action. And safe to say, they became rivals through both SMASH and WNC (even involving the top women's title of SMASH at one point).

Syuri would eventually hold on to various women's championships during her career, which includes titles in SMASH, WNC, and REINA. If you think about it, who knows what would have happened without the involvement of Kana in Syuri's career?

Kana is a true gem in the world of joshi puroresu, having been known as a top star with as much appeal as she has wrestling ability. And no doubt, fans all over the world will finally know why Kana, or these days, Asuka, has so much hype surrounding her when she makes her WWE debut against fellow NXT diva (and sacrificial lamb), Dana Brooke.

Don't be surprised if she gets immediately involved in a title program against Bayley in the very near future.

Do you expect Asuka to make it big in the WWE? Sound off in the comments!


Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.

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