365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Let me tell you about the time that Asuka came to my small hometown in East Tennessee about 10 years ago.
She was known as Kana at the time, and was working a weekend of shows in the Southeastern U.S. for CHIKARA. They had been in North Carolina the night before coming here.
That CHIKARA card remains one of the most entertaining wrestling events, from start to finish, that I’ve seen in person. Kana headlined that night, facing Sara Del Rey in a main event back before women in main events became cool or acceptable across wrestling. What I remember most about that match (other than its general excellence) is that Kana, who, up until she signed with WWE, wrestled barefoot with kickpads on, delivered a kick to Del Rey that broke the kickpad off her shin.
That was the same trip where, according to a story told a few times by Sugar Dunkerton, Kana and the rest of her traveling party from Japan got their first experience at a buffet restaurant when Suge and friends took them to the Shoney’s just up the road from my house.
And since has closed.
And been leveled.
With a car wash being built in its place.
Depressing, isn’t it?
Anyway, in this entry in the 365 Wrestling project, we see Kana — about nine months prior to her American foray and Shoney’s experience — in action against Meiko Satumora from February 13, 2011, in Osaka.
You can watch this match on YouTube, or embedded below:
First came the Triple Tails stable, a faction that consisted of Kana, Io Shirai (who followed Kana to WWE where she has been a two-time NXT champion), and Mio Shirai (who retired from wrestling in 2015 due to concussions). Then, these three started running their own events from time to time — including this one, held in Osaka. The Kana-Satomura match was the main event.
This is the fifth time Kana and Satomura have been in the ring as opponents but just the second time in a singles match. Satomura won that prior meeting, which happened on April 29, 2010.
Satomura has the huge experience advantage here, with about 15 years’ experience as a pro at the time of this bout. Kana started wrestling in 2004, then stepped away from the squared circle only to return in 2007.
The topic of how surroundings add to the entertainment value of a match has come up before in the project and does so again here. Unlike other recent entries, where a raucous crowd or a unique setting like Penn Station helped elevate the fare inside the ring, the crowd here for Kana vs. Satomura is quiet for much of the bout, watching with silent intensity. In this case, it augments the action in the ring to a great deal. You can clearly hear the pops and smacks as strikes land, as well as the screams of pain and effort from either side of the several submission holds that are applied during the match.
From beginning to end, Kana seems driven to prove herself against her more experienced foe. She spurns Satomura’s attempt at a handshake before the bell, kicking away her hand and blasting Meiko with a forearm to promptly initiate the action. Shortly thereafter. Satomura hooks Kana in a belly-down armbar, and while Kana makes it to the ropes, the hold was applied to an extent where there’s a prolonged break while the referee checks Kana outside the ring to make sure she can continue.
There are a ton of wicked strikes in this match, especially kicks, and you can hear every single one of them. Speaking of strikes, Satomura seemingly gets annoyed with her less experienced rival midway through the match, uncorking an array of big forearms and elbows, punctuated by a back kick to the face of a kneeling Kana. This last kick, captured from mat level by a ringside camera, looks absolutely murderous in its delivery.
All this seems to do is further anger Kana. Every time Satomura gets the upper hand, no matter what punishment she exacts, Kana comes back with increasing amounts of fire. After several more minutes and several more head kicks, when Satomura goes back to the already-weakened right arm of Kana, it seems to be more out of desperation than it is a focused strategy. Even delivering her death valley driver — one of Satomura’s finishers — on two occasions isn’t enough to seal the deal.
Once again, Kana rallies, unloading more kicks before ensnaring Meiko in her chickenwing with a bodyscissors (now known as the Asuka Lock for WWE fans). Kana screams in rage and emotion as she applies the hold, sending Satomura into oblivion. The crowd responds to the victory over the more established Satomora with arguably its biggest reaction of the entire match.
Final Rating: 7.8
I’m stingy when it comes to declaring a match to be “great” but I honestly don’t know how else to classify this match. It succeeds as a classic example of what makes Satomura so outstanding. It succeeds as an example of Kana’s scintillating potential that led to her signing with WWE. It succeeds as a pro wrestling match, and a fine example of the joshi style. If you’ve only seen Asuka in WWE, this match represents a different side of her wrestling ability.
The next match is a suggestion from ACTION promoter Matt Griffin, who brings to the table a “big moment match” from arguably the most important wrestling feud of the 1990s.
Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.