Saraya Will Be the Game-Changer AEW's Women's Division Has Been Waiting For

Philip LindseySeptember 23, 2022

Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling has undergone a bit of a reset following the aftermath of All Out. As such, it needed a big win heading into its second foray into New York City with Dynamite Grand Slam, and it delivered when new signing Saraya garnered an unbelievable reaction and much-needed positive buzz.

Since its inception, AEW has given many established stars a new lease of life. Jon Moxley has become the heart and soul of the company. Chris Jericho reminded us that he could still be a draw as its inaugural champion. Bryan Danielson remolded himself into a violent, technical wrestling savant who could work the style of matches he wanted.

Even more, the relatively new alternative allowed Sting and CM Punk to craft the final chapters of their storied careers. Now, Saraya will have the same opportunity as she looks to conquer her fears and finish her career on her terms.

Bitter Work for a Sweet Payoff

The wrestler formerly known as Paige in WWE has had a tough road back since undergoing neck surgery in 2016. She initially returned on the November 20, 2017 episode of Raw but suffered a second neck injury a month later, which ultimately forced her to retire the following year.

It was a tragic outcome for the young star. If you didn’t sympathize with her, you had to be made of stone. After all, who could forget that heartbreaking episode of WWE Chronicle where she found out she would have to step away from wrestling for good?

Yes, we’ve seen many names prematurely retire from pro wrestling. Nonetheless, it was devastating to see the second-generation prodigy hang up her boots at the age of 25. She seemingly still had so many years ahead of her. She also missed out on many of the advancements in women’s wrestling that her run with NXT helped to set in motion.

It’s still unclear if Saraya is cleared to wrestle again, but she has been working toward this for at least a year. There were even rumors that she was set to compete in the 2022 women’s Royal Rumble match. When her WWE contract expired in June, many speculated that the British wrestler could return to in-ring competition.

At any rate, AEW is lucky to have such a bona fide star with years of experience. If the ovation she received at Arthur Ashe Stadium is anything to go by, she should play a prominent role in its women’s division.

Saraya Must Be a Catalyst for Change

It’s understandable for many of the company’s vocal critics to be skeptical. Its highly criticized use of the women’s division has been a consistent talking point since 2019, and high-profile signings like Ruby Soho or Athena haven’t made a significant impact.

Nevertheless, Saraya brings more notoriety than any of the past acquisitions. One could argue she is the most recognizable female wrestler to join the company to date. Her time on Total Divas made her a household name, and her life was the subject of a biopic starring Florence Pugh called Fighting with My Family.

So, the first NXT women’s champion presents Tony Khan with a unique opportunity to capitalize on her star power. Considering his track record, there is no real excuse this time around. AEW has to invest in Saraya as the company did with male stars of her caliber.

Such a surprise debut seems to imply she plans to wrestle again. If that’s the case, then Khan should use her to highlight lesser-known talent even if she works special-attraction matches as Sting does. Saraya is popular enough to help legitimize the women’s division.

However, consistency and efficient use of her name recognition is key. She should cut in-ring promos as often as possible. It would be a mistake to relegate her to the same backstage segments that have hindered other women on the roster.

If AEW wants to present her as a big deal, the audience in the arenas and at home must see her consistently. That may seem simple, but it’s a part of the approach that helped Britt Baker and The Acclaimed develop into two of the company’s success stories.

Saraya can be a game-changer for a company that has been in search of a marquee name, even though it may seem risky to place so much faith in someone who has struggled with a neck injury that was thought to be career-ending.

Regardless, this is still a major test for AEW. This is Khan’s chance to change a persistent narrative about the company and prove it can be a place that values women’s wrestling. Properly utilizing someone as noteworthy as Saraya could entice other big names to join its ranks and motivate the rest of the roster.