Last week, WWE Live was in Singapore at the indoor stadium. Fans witnessed 7 matches, 4 of which were title matches featuring some of WWE’s biggest stars like Universal champion Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura, Raw Women’s champion Becky Lynch, US champion Ricochet and the Raw tag team champions The Revival.
One of the youngest WWE tag teams, The Kabuki Warriors, also made an appearance that night as they battled with The IICONICs in an exciting fast-paced match. Before the show, we were fortunate to sit down for an exclusive media interview with The Kabuki Warriors, Asuka and Kairi Sane.
The two Japanese wrestlers started out as separate competitors in WWE, with Asuka making her NXT debut in 2015 and Kairi in 2017. Kairi also took part in the Mae Young Classic tournament which she won, beating the likes of Tessa Blanchard, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, Toni Storm and Shayna Baszler. During the interview, Kairi recalled how tough it was to go through what they did during this experience. For that, she tries to embody “the samurai spirit” as motivation to keep forging ahead towards success.
Asuka too had an impressive run on the developmental brand, with an outstanding record of 510 days as the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion. She recounts the amount of pressure during the transition between NXT and the live main shows on the Smackdown brand. Even though it was tough, she felt that she’s the type to have to feel the nervousness and uncertainty before matches. That always brings her into the enjoyment mode during matches, allowing her to perform well and fight naturally, or as naturally as possible. Win or lose, she always wants to enjoy wrestling.
This year, Asuka and Kairi joined forces as the tag team known as The Kabuki Warriors. When asked about what it’s like to work together, they were both all smiles and had nothing but great things to say about each other.
“I really, really, respect Asuka,” Kairi gushed, “She always gave me advice. I like her passion, her strong style and her smile.” They both cracked up laughing, an infectious laughter that amused everyone else in the room too.
It was heartwarming to see how close they’ve gotten, especially now that they’re both on the Smackdown brand roster together as a tag team. Prior to joining WWE, they were both active in the wrestling scene back home in Japan. Yet, they had never worked together before, let alone met, as they were from different companies.
Kairi first trained in World Wonder Ring Stardom in 2011, where she remained for 5 years and half. Before that, she did some theatre acting where she once performed as a wrestling villain. That’s when she was spotted by Fuka, Stardom’s general manager at the time. Fuka invited her to a Stardom event and she loved it.
Asuka also came from a non-wrestling background where she worked as a graphic designer. Then in 2004 she began training with Yuki Ishikawa before joining AtoZ, an all-female promotion. After two years, she took a break and pursued more graphic design with her own agency. But in 2007, she returned to the ring as a freelancer for various Japanese promotions like Ice Ribbon and NEO Japan Ladies Pro Wrestling.
As the years progressed, she won many championships and worked with notable names like the Shirai sisters, Io and Mio. Io Shirai is now in WWE too on the NXT brand and was formerly Kairi’s tag team partner as The Sky Pirates.
When asked about the differences between performing for Japanese and American audiences, they said that the latter appreciated the identity of individual wrestling personalities and would stand up to cheer when the moment calls for it during shows. Whereas in Japan, the fans are generally more shy and reserved so when they enjoy the show, they would keep it to themselves.
The comparisons don’t stop there. Language can be a barrier as both wrestlers are not too fluent in the English language. They did answer the media’s questions in English at first (they spoke well!), but for most of the interview, they required the help of an interpreter as the session progressed.
Nonetheless, the interview went on smoothly and Kairi pointed out the difficulties in getting used to the American diet. Due to some dietary restrictions, she admitted that she’s still having a hard time with them till now, especially when trying to find ingredients. Asuka agreed, saying how she too felt left out when it comes to her favourite food as Japanese food is barely available there. Then it’s at this point that her face lit up as she quickly enthused about the Singapore culinary scene where Asian food is practically everywhere and how it’s all very delicious. They even asked for recommendations, so we suggested local faves nasi goreng and roti prata! With big smiles, they promised they’d try.
Besides food, Asuka’s biggest challenge in America was driving. Despite having a driver’s licence in Japan, she didn’t need to drive like she does in America. She recalled having trouble travelling to and from the show venue and finding food to eat during one of the first times she started wrestling in America. It was so bad that she even went to sleep hungry because she couldn’t find a supermarket.
Outside of wrestling, Asuka owns a hairdressing salon that she no longer has the time to manage. Yet she continues making her own costumes as she loves it. When asked about whether she’ll return the Kana heel facepaint one day, she gave a mysterious smile and said that there are surprises in store soon. So, fans, keep a lookout for this!
Besides wrestling and creating, Asuka is also known for her love of video games. She’s been working with fellow WWE wrestler and gamer Xavier Woods on his UpUpDownDown YouTube channel, playing the fantasy RPG Monster Hunter. She’s grateful that WWE allows her to explore both her wrestling and gaming passions. Doing so also allows her to meet game developers and other interesting personalities.
A month before the WWE Live in Singapore event, Shinsuke Nakamura made the trip here first to promote the show and meet some lucky fans. One of the questions posed to him was, who would he pick for the Mixed Match Challenge, Asuka or Kairi? His answer: Kairi, because he wouldn’t be able to handle Asuka.
His cheeky response was retold during the media interview with The Kabuki Warriors, which initially shocked them before it got them laughing. Asuka, ever with the fast quips, said no and that it’s the other way around—it’s Kairi that he won’t be able to handle, not her. Then they both laughed again.
Thanks again to WWE for arranging this special interview with Asuka and Kairi, aka the Kabuki Warriors!