In March of 2014, former WWE Women’s Champion Amy Dumas, better known as “Lita”, gave an interview to the Miami Herald, just before being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
During the interview, Dumas had intimated that the Divas Division of the WWE had lost a certain “spark” as it lacked the bite, depth and character that were seen when her and Trish Stratus ruled the ranks.
“Let’s say a generation is seven years. It has been about seven years since Trish and I left,” Dumas lamented. “We left within a few months of each other. The Diva’s division took quite a hit. I don’t feel like it has fully recovered. I would love to see it get that spark again, that involving a deep roster that you could have a bunch of compelling characters — ones you want to go out there and see.”
Dumas’s opinion is not really all that much different from the multitudes of wrestling fans or, perhaps, Divas like AJ Lee, who are becoming frustrated with the WWE’s idea of what a female wrestler should be. Usually relegated to the middle of the show, the Divas are often victims of short-shrift booking which culminates in short matches requiring little to no skill and silly spots where degradation and exploitation is the star of the show.
About seven months ago, AJ Lee appeared in a worked shoot where she openly criticized the cast of Total Divas, writing them off as “cheap” and “interchangeable”. It was a work…wasn’t it? Of course it was. But AJ won over some people that night. Fans and bloggers likened the spot to CM Punk’s infamous “pipe bomb” segment.
It was a surreal moment where AJ had just said everything that had been on fans’ minds for months.
After all, the WWE had brought up the likes of Alicia Fox and Emma only to see Alicia fade into the shadow of the Bella Twins and Emma go from tough girl to ditzy-cutesy, with a stupid dance and a completely unexplainable and philosophically indefensible attraction to Santino Marella, a wrestler who Triple H and Vince McMahon have pretty much wished away to the Jobber to the Stars cornfield.
The big problem nobody saw coming was CM Punk suddenly taking his ball and going home, leaving his fiance AJ Lee in his dust. When AJ decided her time was probably better served with Punk, she elected to drop the Divas title — which forced the WWE Creative staff to go to the minor leagues of NXT to find their new champion due to the lack of depth in the Divas roster.
Enter Saraya Jade-Bevis, known to the wrestling world as “Paige”.
Similar to Divas such as Natalya, who are part of wrestling royalty (Nattie is the niece of Bret Hart and the daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart), Jade-Bevis’s mother, Julia Hamer-Bevis, still wrestles at the age of 42 years old, a 20-plus year pro-wrestling veteran. Hamer-Bevis’s husband is the famous Ricky Knight, the founder and owner of the English wrestling organization, The World Association of Wrestling. Julia runs the Women’s Division.
When Ricky met Julia, their lives were in flux.
“When we met,” Ricky told the UK Channel 4 news crew, “We were both at a crossroads…you know, we could have gone one way or the other. I made some mistakes when I was younger, I got involved with the wrong gangs…I could have gone away for a very long time.”
Julia’s story isn’t much different: “I had some problems…I was very unhappy…lost.” As it turns out, she had left her home in Halifax to become a chef and ended up working at a restaurant. Ricky was passing through.
“She was contemplating suicide,” He said, adding that pro-wrestling united them, brought them together and, ultimately, saved both their lives. Ricky ended up convincing her to be in the league and even had her trained in the art of pro-wrestling at the age of 20 years old. During this time, the couple fell deeply in love.
A year later, Paige was born.
One of two children, both her and her brother, Zak, were scouted and sent to the United States for tryouts with the WWE, fulfilling their parents’ wildest dreams. Both came to the United States with big dreams.
Paige made the cut…but Zak didn’t, having been told that he didn’t have the “look” and needed to put on a lot more muscle before making it with the WWE. After getting cut, Zak revealed that, although he was happy for his sister, it was hard for him express his anger and frustration because he feared he would hurt her feelings.
Paige signed to a WWE contract in fall of 2011 and spent the next three years in WWE Development, starting when it was still Florida Championship Wrestling and using the ring name, “Saraya”, in homage to her mother. She decided to become “Paige” when she made her FCW TV debut. For two years, she was fairly successful and eventually earned a title shot against FCW Champion, Raquel Diaz, a former WWE Diva who hadn’t quite caught on in the big leagues. Unable to grab the title, Paige started to feud with the likes of Audrey Marie which ended in a No-DQ match.
Paige didn’t find true success until WWE re-branded FCW to match the sleek look they had adopted up top. Afte becoming NXT, Paige started to beat bigger stars Emma, Aksana and Alicia Fox and would eventually become NXT Womens Champion, holding it for almost a year before finally being forced to drop it due to the fact that she would win the WWE Divas Championship the very night after Wrestlemania XXX.
Currently, Paige is the youngest WWE Divas Champion at the age of 21 years old.
She has defended the title against Tamina Snuka at Extreme Rules and Alicia Fox at Payback and will defend it one more time at Money in the Bank this Sunday.
There’s been talk that Paige MAY drop the title because fans haven’t attached themselves to Paige the way they grew to like AJ Lee or the Bella Twins. If this is the case, that would be yet another wrongheaded move on top of a wrongheaded move.
Like many of the Divas, the WWE Creative staff has yet to spend more than 30 seconds developing the character beyond telling her to dress in Gothic fetish gear. That’s a shame considering Paige’s incredibly rich wrestling background and her past in FCW and NXT.
Divas like AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka, Natalya, and especially Paige are the Divas that reflect the WWE Womens’ past and they should be building around them for the future.
Anything less shouldn’t be an option.
(Sources: South Florida’s Lita entering WWE’s Hall of Fame – Miami Herald, Exclusive interview: How Paige became the youngest Divas Champion ever in only 7,903 days, The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family: A Channel Four Documentary)