I have fallen in love with Paige. I think I might want to BE Paige, which means I’m either having a mid-life crisis, or Paige is just that cool. On a Raw that saw so many big moments, the fact that Paige’s title win looked a bit awkward took nothing away from her simply being there. After months of fans begging for Paige to be called up to the big leagues, our prayers were finally answered. She was given a high profile introduction on the most important Raw of the year. The wrestling may not have been representative of what Paige can do, but I have it on good authority (from someone who was there live) that Paige got a big reaction when she came down the ramp. Such has been the affect she’s had on fans, despite only appearing on NXT thus far.
William Regal has called her “Hell in boots”, which should be a t-shirt that I would buy. Paige practically glides down the aisle. Not in the manner of a princess or a pageant contestant, but more like a lithe, efficient creature. She punctuates her ring entrance with a simple war cry. She exhibits a cool confidence, enhanced by an almost ethereal appearance: pale skin, dark hair, and kohl-rimmed doe eyes. She’s graceful and beautiful, but brutally, decidedly different.
At the age of 21, she’s an old soul with a veteran’s experience. She comes from a wrestling family, and wrestled her first match at age 13. She calls herself the Anti-Diva, a woman who’s come to wrestle in a division that struggles with its wrestling identity. This same division has chewed up and spit out the likes of other wrestling women such as Beth Phoenix and Mickie James. They squandered the potential of Kaitlyn, and have failed to properly showcase the wrestling skills of the remaining women on their roster. AJ Lee boasted a record-setting Divas title reign, but it was starting to look like she only still held the title because no one in the back was paying attention. This past Monday night, attention was finally paid.
Please, please let them follow through. May the WWE storytellers decide that it’s time to focus on women’s wrestling, with Paige as their hook. Let the re-match play out with AJ, but then let Paige’s mandate as the Anti-Diva come to fruition: let her loose on the others. You know who I mean. Paige may not have the physical stature of a Glamazon, but she fights like one: truly hard-hitting strikes and a broad range of throws and holds. She uses the whole ring, ropes and all, to embellish her attack. She is fierce, and she is so much fun to watch.
Have you seen her NXT match against Natalya? It made the rounds on social media because it was a remarkable wrestling match. While I was watching it, my husband stopped in front of the screen. Being my gauge for wrestling quality, as he does not bear the burden of fan bias, his stopping during a women’s match meant one of two things. “Hey, they’re really wrestling,” he said, “And they look like athletes.” (The second of two things would have been: She’s really cute, but this is awful.)
When the cuteness is secondary to the wrestling, you’ve found your perfect storm of a Diva. Paige’s technical repertoire puts her in a different category altogether. On top of that, she moves with a certainty that is rare in the women’s division. And then we have Natalya! Not the Natalya of the fart gags, soap-opera face slaps, and gimmicky triple sharpshooters. But the Natalya who is likely happier in this small, dark arena than she’s been under the Total Divas regime.
This match is just one example of what the Divas can do. Winning a match against Natalya means something - when it’s a match like that. It was a competitive bout, with both women making it seem possible that either could win. Have you ever seen Natalya sweat before? She’s never been given the chance! When it’s all over, the women shake hands and embrace. You can see the mutual respect between them, and how wondrous and uplifted they feel after having the opportunity to wrestle that match together.
I love that Paige isn’t painted as strictly good or bad. She’s intense, and relatively serious, but hasn’t been pegged as either conniving or angelic. She quickly earned the allegiance of NXT fans, with the arena chanting PAIGE! PAIGE! PAIGE! PAIGE! She doesn’t take time to flounce her hair or blow kisses back at anyone. When that bell rings, Paige goes to work.
After her Divas Championship win on Raw, Paige is now a dual-title holder (as the NXT Women’s Champion). This little crossover between two worlds poses a strange dilemma. Case in point: on Tuesday morning, I gleefully clicked on Paige’s profile on WWE.com. It was time to review her archive of matches and grab some photos for this article!
So according to WWE, she doesn’t have any other matches. I reasoned that she is likely still filed under NXT. When I tried to get to her through Shows > NXT, it required a password, because they have NXT filed under the WWE Network (which I do not have). Trying to get photos of Paige garnered the same results.
History begins now, then! In a fabricated universe where the fans remember everything, but management only seems to care about what you’ve done in the last 3 seconds, I am curious and hopeful for Paige. She is so young, and so incredibly talented. When she recently told an interviewer, “I want to be the most dominant Diva to ever work for WWE,” I felt in my fan’s heart that she could be the heir to a vacant throne.
It doesn’t take an expert to know the recipe for a great Divas division: put talented women in the ring together (the fewer at a time, the better), and give them more than 2 minutes to wrestle us a story. Triple H has decreed this the Reality Era, which for the women, has translated to nothing beyond Total Divas. As is the case with the “reality TV” genre, when a camera is on, it’s less reality, more TV. Total Divas is as representative of backstage life as Survivor is representative of life on a tropical island. The contrived drama feels about as natural as Eva Marie’s hair, but this is where we are today. AJ Lee has been a lone light for a long time, being both charismatic and apt to wrestle. After winning the Divas title on Monday, Paige’s reaction stood out, raw and appealing, amidst the other theatrics:
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Diva ugly-cry before. As a woman I can tell you, the ugly-cry means it’s real. Paige let her guard down, not because it was scripted, but because she is in WWE for all the best reasons. I’m so happy that she’s here. History begins!