Will Paige’s Return to WWE be Successful?


Will Paige’s return to the WWE be marked by long-term success or another immature end?

Rumors had been swirling for weeks that Paige is on the cusp of returning to the WWE and it was confirmed when she made an appearance during this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw. It’s no secret she had been training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and now we have an answer as to which brand she will represent. Personally, I believe SmackDown would have benefitted more from her presence since Asuka will (and should be) the main focus of the Raw women’s picture for the forseeable future.

So how will Paige fare this time around? My issues with Paige have never been about her talent, rather it’s always been about her immature attitude. She was suspended twice from the WWE for illegal drug use in August and October of 2016. Paige denied the allegations and cited “procedural issues” and the use of medication she claimed to have been given by doctors in the wake of neck injury. In response to her excuse, WWE released a statement saying Paige had “tested positive for an illegal substance, not a prescription drug”.

Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, Paige took to social media and wrote a condescending post directed towards the WWE where she stated, “Same s— different day. Kids..Please don’t get prescriptions or doctors notes. Not acceptable.” She then added, “Rules apply depending on your status” but failed to provide any examples of where these rules had been unfairly enforced.

Simply put, Paige’s actions before and after leaving WWE in the summer of 2016 proved she doesn’t understand the business aspect of her profession. This is arguably more important than the entertainment side. As I said several months ago:

"“The rise and fall of Paige is something anyone who has gone through puberty can relate to, especially if you’re old enough to have teenagers of your own. Teenagers tend to do reckless and rebellious things and as a parent, your job is to be there even after they’ve realized how idiotic they have acted.”"

The other factor was (and likely still is) her on again/off again relationship with Alberto Del Rio. A recent Snapchat clip featured Paige stating “this is why I’m single” after witnessing a couple kissing at a bar, but such a declaration is hardly concrete evidence that she and Alberto have parted ways for good. Literally everyone who has ever broken up with someone can attest to how fragile and short-lived these separations tend to be so time will tell whether or not this separation is permanent. For her sake, it should be.

I have no doubt Paige’s association with Del Rio is a large part of what led to her extended absence from the WWE in the first place. Anyone who has followed his tumultuous career knows that Del Rio is “that guy” and his propensity to both speak and act without thinking has caused more than his share of headaches for wrestling promoters. Paige was sucked into this maelstrom that included a public spat at the Orlando International Airport in the summer of 2017 where she called Del Rio “abusive”.

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During the draft in 2016, Paige and Del Rio (who was still employed by WWE) were sent to separate brands due to their toxic relationship. In April 2017, well after his release from the company, Del Rio released a series of intoxicated, profanity-laden online rants in which he insulted both the WWE and specifically Triple H who he called a “p—y” who “married well”. During these videos, Paige is sitting by his side while Del Rio verbally berates the company and its inevitable CEO.

It’s clear that Del Rio wanted a Bonnie for his Clyde and the last thing he cared about was how these actions would affect Paige’s standing with the WWE. In his mind, they were both too good for the world’s largest sports entertainment company so if they were fired it would be the company’s loss. The problem here is that while Del Rio may be financially and emotionally comfortable with such a split, the same cannot be said for Paige.

Clearly the fans are excited to see her back in WWE as she enjoyed a huge pop when her music hit. Superstars who come back into the ring from an extended absence tend to receive favorable responses from the crowd because it’s akin to seeing an old friend, even one who once slammed a door in your face. We forget how much we missed seeing them on a regular basis and are elated at the idea of a “new” face on TV each week.

The flip side is that along with this temporary adulation comes added pressure. Any superstar who spends significant time away from competition can’t simply rest on their laurels and rely on the same gimmick from before to carry them forward. This return is a chance to start fresh, to wipe the slate clean and craft an entirely new persona that simultaneously pleases old fans and creates new ones. As for Paige, we should be optimistic about her return but cautious because of her past.

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I am honestly not sure why WWE keeps Paige around, but Forbes suspects it has something to do with the $17.5 million movie The Rock wants to make about Paige’s life. I want to see Paige succeed, but she has to leave the past behind and recognize what it means to be successful in the business of professional wrestling. She is 25 years old and can have a bright and lengthy future with the WWE, but she has to grow up first. Taking the attitude of “I do things my way” works great for a fictional character but is a recipe for disaster as a professional. All that being said, I am prepared to handle the next scandal involving Paige because that’s what a good parent does.