Asuka has been a WWE Superstar for more than four years now, but she’s already made plenty of history. Her 523-day reign as NXT Champion is among the longest in WWE history, while her undefeated streak, dubbed by WWE as the longest in the company's history, lasted a whopping 914 days before she lost to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34.
While fans know everything there is to know about “The Empress of Tomorrow” inside the WWE ring, we hardly know anything about the person, real name Kanako Urai, behind the popular character. With that in mind, take a look at five lesser-known facts about the Japanese sensation that you might not have heard before.
#5 Asuka was a graphic designer
Asuka had a backup career if wrestling didn't work out for her. The Empress of WWE used to design graphics, and a few of her designs were selected by Nintendo. The fact that Nintendo accepted Asuka's designs during the Nintendo DS era is proof of the former RAW Women's Champion's design skills.
#4 She is a massive gamer
The WWE locker room is full of gamers, as proven by the number of Superstars who have appeared on Xavier Woods’ Up Up Down Down YouTube channel. But there’s a good chance that none of them loves gaming quite as much as Asuka.
A graduate of Osaka University of Arts Junior College, the former NXT champion has her own graphic design agency and has written for the Japanese version of Xbox Magazine, leading to her being sponsored by Microsoft.
For the die-hard gamers out there, here are the consoles she owns: Famicom (NES), Disk System, Super Famicom (SNES), Sega Mega Drive, Mega CD, GameGear, PC Engine, CD-ROM 2, GameBoy, GB Advance, Nintendo 64, 64DD, WonderSwan, Nintendo DS, DSLL, DSi, 3DSLL, Wii, Wii U, Xbox, Xbox360, PlayStation, PS2, PS3 and PS4.
#3 She retired from wrestling in 2006
Asuka, known as Kana before her WWE days, began her career in 2004 wrestling for the all-female promotion AtoZ in Japan. However, due to chronic nephritis (an inflammation of the kidneys), she was forced to retire from the ring in March 2006.
For English-speaking fans, there’s only a handful of interviews out there with “The Empress of Tomorrow." For this reason, the full story behind her retirement and her return to the ring 18 months later has never been fully explained.
All we know is that she went on to work for various promotions around the world, including Ice Ribbon, Pro Wrestling Wave, SHIMMER and SMASH, before signing with WWE in August 2015.
#2 Triple H once said NXT would be ‘doomed’ if she left early
Many fans thought the glory days of NXT’s women division were over when Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were called up to WWE’s main roster in 2015. But in hindsight, as the saying goes, nobody was ready for Asuka.
The 36-year-old was one of NXT’s biggest stars during her two years with the brand, as she held the Women’s Championship for a record 523 days while she remained undefeated the entire time.
Her importance was outlined when Triple H, the patriarch of NXT, told USA Today back in August 2017 that Asuka was the only person he would not allow Vince McMahon to call up to WWE’s main roster whenever he wanted.
HHH added that NXT couldn’t afford to lose her as the “anchor” of the women’s division and said he would be “doomed” if she moved up to Raw or SmackDown Live too early.
#1 She owns a hair salon
You only need to have watched a few of Asuka’s matches to notice that she changes her hair color more often than anybody else in NXT or WWE. The reason why? Well, she’s a bit of an expert when it comes to hairstyles – alternative hairstyles, specifically – as she owns a Yokohama-based hair salon called Another Heaven.
She has mentioned the business before on social media and even tweeted to thank AEW star Kenny Omega for visiting her salon in December 2016.