So here we are, WWE is finally acknowledging Paige. After almost a year of pretending the former Divas Champions doesn’t exist, it seems that her imminent arrival has sparked something of a jolt to life in the company, raising anticipation for her modern return. So much has happened in that time (both good and bad) that it’s easy to wonder just where she’ll fit into the division as a whole. Where exactly does the anti-Diva fit in a post-Diva world?
The wrestling industry never stands still and as Paige will likely discover when she returns, the kingdom she once ruled is no longer her dominion. The division she was apart of in the summer of 2016 was still finding its feet, having been freed from the Divas branding. Her untimely injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as she was set to challenge Charlotte for the WWE Women’s Championship. Her bad luck created an opportunity for others, an opportunity that has gone on to shape the division as a whole. It’s no longer simply a case of Paige returning to her former spot on the roster – she’ll likely have to earn it.
It’s got to be a note that plays out on the mind of the British Superstar as she trains for her return.
When Paige arrived on the main roster, she made an instant impact. Her style, attire, and general antics stood her out from the roster of underwhelming wrestlers. She was brilliant – so much so that WWE couldn’t keep the belt off her for long. But what was once interesting and unique is now the norm. There’s no denying that in the modern WWE women’s roster – things have changed. Paige has to change with them.
But there’s no doubting that Paige has the ability to climb back to the top. As much as WWE loves to downplay Emma’s claims that she and Paige were the instigators of the women’s revolution – there is a point to be made there. Both women arguably helped to create the platform that others like Sasha, Charlotte Bayley, Becky, Alexa, Nia and others would develop on. Without their NXT Arrival match – what state would women’s wrestling be in?
As the treatment of various women shows, WWE is fickle in how it treats those Superstars. On Monday Night Raw, in particular, the women struggle to gain new opportunities against a backdrop of tired booking a terribly short-sighted creative direction. Bayley is arguably the biggest loser of this – having been reduced from internet darling to openly despised face. Sasha Banks’s character has been tainted by horrible booking while Mickie James, an actual living legend, has been reduced to a background character. It’s a shocking indictment of just how poor the women’s division has been handled at its worst.
Another mark against Paige’s name was an unfortunate series of incidents during her absence. Two Wellness Policy hits and an unfortunate hack have practically ruined her reputation. In-ring ability is one thing, but it’s the way that a Superstar carries themselves outside the ring plays just as much into their on-screen success (Just ask Baron Corbin). The problem is that Paige’s seemingly endless run of bad decisions will have lowered management’s opinion of her. Will WWE want to put the title on someone who’s so prone to meltdowns and public displays of anger?
In particular when there are so many new (and less controversial) options on the table. The specter of Asuka, for example, hangs over the division as a whole. Her imminent arrival presents an interesting point of focus for Paige and her fans. Asuka is arguably the most accomplished women’s talent on the WWE roster, bar none. Her ability puts her at the top of the division and, so long as WWE doesn’t mess up the booking, will become one of the company’s biggest stars. It means Paige is likely to remain off the top of the Raw Women’s Division for a long time – if ever to reach that height again. Chances are WWE will choose the Empress of Tomorrow over Paige every time – that’s got to be dealt with in a professional manner by Paige.
She’s sitting in the last chance saloon with WWE – something I’m sure officials will remind her of when she returns to the road. Paige can’t afford to be seen a liability – or else she’ll have worked to return for nothing. Without that ability to be edgy, how far can Paige push the envelope to get noticed in the modern division? It’s an interesting question for sure, not helped by the fact that her off-screen life has attracted more attention than her on-screen persona. In modern WWE, that can’t fly for very long. In modern WWE, that gets you sacked.
That would be the biggest shame of all really. Paige is a wonderful in-ring talent and very worthy of the praise thrown on her by fans. The problem is that she has to prove now that she’s able to handle herself. Her return may not garner the attention that Asuka is drawing right now – but Paige can still play a very important role in the division moving forward.
I’d make a strong argument that Raw needs her now more than ever. Having caused such damage to the roster on the whole, WWE needs fresh blood to keep things interesting. Paige, in the right attitude, could be the kind of counterbalance to the tedious slog that has become Monday Nights women’s division.
Certainly, I hope she’s given the chance to prove her abilities again. A chance to rise through the ranks and become the Superstar WWE needs her to be. For the sake of her fans and for the sake of her career – the time has come for Paige to show just how much she wants this. It’s time for her to reclaim her house by reminding audiences what they’ve been missing.