Tracing Paige's Journey from Norwich, England, to WWE

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Tracing Paige's Journey from Norwich, England, to WWE
Credit: WWE.com

In a wrestling ring before she was even born, Paige had a head start on her trek from her hometown of Norwich, England to being WWE's most promising female star.

Looking back at her as a magnetic teenager who wrestled men, ring veterans and even her own mother in gyms, one can see greatness ready to blossom. She has always been ahead of schedule, a rocket ahead of the countdown, wrestling professionally at just 13, competing on a WWE pay-per-view at just 21.

Credit: WWE.com
Paige before her match with Alicia Fox at WWE Payback 2014

Before she was Paige in WWE (real name: Saraya-Jade Bevis), she performed as Britani Knight. Before she became the first-ever NXT's women's champ or celebrated the day after WrestleMania 30 by becoming the youngest Divas titleholder ever, she was a kid, comfortable in the arena with all the other gladiators.

England was just the starting point of a journey that saw her sweep across Europe and eventually to the brightest lights the pro wrestling world has to offer—WWE.

Paige grew up in a home where wrestling boots were as common as house slippers. Wrestling was and is the Knight family business.

Her father Ricky Knight eventually moved to the promoting and training side of the business, but he toiled in the ring for years. He wrestled in packed halls as one half of The SuperFlys with Jimmy Ocean and once faced off against Hall of Famer The Dynamite Kid. 

Paige's mother fell in love with the circus that is pro wrestling after falling in love with her husband. Julia Hamer-Bevis (known as Sweet Saraya in the ring) began wrestling in England before eventually moving to Shimmer Women Athletes in the Midwest and SHINE Wrestling in Florida.

Recap of Sweet Saraya and Cheerleader Melissa's Shimmer feud

Like so many children of wrestlers, Paige eventually followed her parents into the ring. 

Strangely enough, she had done so even before she decided to. Talking with Byron Saxton for WWE.com, Paige said, "My mum was seven months pregnant with me before she realized it so she kept wrestling like normal up to that point."

Early on, Paige hesitated to do what her family did. In an interview with James Wortman on WWE.com, Paige said of her family's connection to the squared circle, "I knew it was what my parents did, and they fought people. It scared the crap out of me."

Her fans have to be thankful that her fear dissipated.

She found her calling in the violent theater of pro wrestling, carrying on and extending her family's legacy. She's now atop the WWE's Divas division, possessing a glut of potential. It took an absentee wrestler and a father in need to compel her to take her first major step to get to that point.

 

The Early Days

At her dad's wrestling school, Paige used to climb into the ring with her brothers and horse around. Spandex-clad bruisers and snarling giants occupied it otherwise.

The mat wasn't her home yet. 

That began to change when a wrestler no-showed one of her father's events. It was to be a huge tag match, but it was missing one performer. At just 13, Paige filled in.

Performing that night must have been like when a bird can first use its wings and begins to cautiously fly from its nest. Up in the air, it says to itself, "This is where I belong."

Paige told Wortman about that first experience, "I got hooked straight away. And then my dad couldn't keep me away. I knew this was what I wanted to do."

She was wrestling a year later for her father's promotion World Association of Wrestling on a more frequent basis. On April 2, 2006, she teamed with her mother in a Triple Threat tag team match against Destiny and The Pink Lady and Kharisma and Pixie in Wymondham, England.

Beyond the genes she passed onto her and the wrestling-rich environment she raised her in, Sweet Saraya aided her daughter's career by being her ally and her enemy.

Paige's first singles bout came against her mother. She lost. Wrestlers have to pay their dues, even against their parents, it seems.

She then began to tag with Melodi (Sammi Baynz), calling themselves, "The Norfolk Dolls."

The duo worked in Norfolk, Essex, Lincolnshire and for Norwich-based promotion Bellatrix. At times, Paige's brother, who wrestled as Zak Zodiac, would join them in mixed-tag team contests.

Not surprisingly, Paige was raw then. 

Paige in tag team action early in her career

She held back too much with her strikes. She overacted at times. Still, her athletic ability was clear and beyond that, there were flashes of what she would later become—a compelling warrior.

Her mother saw that. In the documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family (NSFW language), Paige's mother said of her, "She's got the grace. She's got the poise. She's got everything that you need. She is a star."

The young, emerging talent developed quickly.

By Oct. 25, 2009, she impressed in a defense of the British Ladies Championship. Her mother served as her opponent.

Watching mother and daughter lock horns at October Outrage XI was like watching someone battle their own reflection. Sweet Saraya roared in the ring, much the way Paige does now. She attacked her daughter with a convincing fury, something that has since become Paige's trademark.

Paige battles her mother.

A snarl flashed on Paige's face as she delivered a sideslam. She rolled her ma up, propped her feet on the ring ropes for illegal leverage and stole the win.

The cub was becoming more and more of a lioness. 

 

Crossing Borders

Paige ventured out, traveling far from Norwich. She showed a maturity and drive belying her age.

Still a teenager, she got herself booking in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy and elsewhere. She relayed the experience to Martin Hines of The Independent, saying, "I did everything I could, I made CVs and sent them to promoters all over the world, and managed to get myself out there."

German Stampede Wrestling signed her to battle Blue Nikita. Dansk Pro Wrestling in Denmark welcomed her as well, having her take on Miss Mina.

Paige wrestling in Denmark

Traveling on her own and working in front of a variety of crowds served as her fast-track wrestling school.

After working for a variety of English wrestling companies, from Pro-Wrestling: EVE to All Star Wrestling (where her father once performed), America came calling.

Shimmer Women Athletes has a high concentration of talented female wrestlers. It offered her a proving ground, another step in her development. She started to master the art of showmanship and become comfortable in front of the crowd.

On the way to the ring for a match in 2011 with Rebecca Knox (now Becky Lynch for WWE) and her mother, Paige had a blast gloating.

She danced around the ring, stuck her finger in fans' faces and stretched her arms out dramatically. There was a spark here that made her stand out, just as it would later in her career. When you're having that much fun, it's hard for the audience not to as well.

Paige enters the ring before a Shimmer match.

Beyond goofing around, Paige was also showcasing how much she had grown in the ring.

Her mother was there once more to help catapult her toward her promising future. Sweet Saraya had been berating her daughter after her defeats for weeks. When Paige lost once more on Shimmer Volume 43, the abuse rained down again.

Paige's mother flung more sharp-edged disappointment her way and Paige finally exploded.

Paige and her mother collide.

Attacking her mother, she became a beast with its fangs locked onto its prey. That emotional moment led to a No Disqualification match, a bout that would make Paige look ready for an even bigger stage.

Wrestling veterans often play this role for up-and-comers, using a win over them to launch someone else's career. For that exchange to be between mother and daughter, though, was special. 

Paige would soon find a more permanent home in the U.S., in WWE's version of the minor leagues.

 


WWE Developmental 

Success in joining WWE didn't come on the first try. In November 2010, Paige's tryout with the company didn't lead to a contract. Officials didn't think she was ready, which wasn't an insult considering she was only 18.

Of the experience, Paige told Saxton, "I was grateful for the chance, but I was heartbroken."

In April of 2011, Paige would get her second shot. She was the only female trying out that day. Refusing to be shy, she tagged herself in and started tussling with Goldust.

What she did that day was impressive enough for WWE to sign her to a developmental deal. 

She started wrestling for what was then called Florida Championship Wrestling in January the next year. Promotion to the main roster wasn't guaranteed, though. Women like Audrey Marie and Sofia Cortez competed alongside her, but they never appeared on Raw or SmackDown before getting their walking papers.

As talented as those women were, they didn't have Paige's presence. Embracing her role as a merciless villain, she stomped on her foes and delighted in their pain as she stretched Marie's body with a modified scorpion crosslock.

Paige wrestles in an FCW tag team match.

When FCW transitioned into the sleeker NXT, Paige stood atop the division. Knocking off her peers on a lengthy undefeated streak, she was engrossing. All those years working in England, all those wrestling genes flowing in her veins had created a blue-chip prospect. 

WWE then chose her to be its inaugural women's champ. On the July 24, 2013 edition of NXT, Paige defeated Emma to win the NXT Women's Championship.

The victory was a signal of WWE's confidence in her, its desire to soon have her move up.

Paige continued to thrive while wearing that belt. Her bouts were one of many reasons that fans knew not to miss WWE's up-and-comers in action on NXT

At NXT: ArRIVal, once again tangling with Emma, she delivered a match that was better than most of that the women on Raw and SmackDown were producing. She hit an echoing kick into Emma's gut before finishing her off with what is now called the P.T.O.

A swirl of relief and pride overcame her after the win.

Paige defends her NXT women's title.

Fans would soon see that level of believable emotion when she debuted on the main roster on the Raw after WrestleMania 30, winning the Divas Championship on the same night. It was partly show, of course, for the cameras, for the fans, but it was also borne from the real-life culmination of all her hard work.

She told Hines for The Independent about how she felt after that moment, saying. "My heart was pounding, I got backstage and I started crying, I was like 'what is this life!'"

To an outsider, unfamiliar with how far she's come, it might have seemed like a young, unproven talent was getting an opportunity she didn't deserve. Paige, though, is no ordinary 21-year-old.

Most wrestlers her age haven't been working for as long as she has or traversed Europe either. Not many of them have a talented wrestler as a mother who continually helped her progress.

The amount of growth and improvement she has shown since first strapping on a pair of wrestling boots makes it easy to get excited about the future. Paige's talent, drive and history has her poised to continue to succeed in WWE, to extend her journey ever upward.

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