Paige’s rise to WWE stardom may seem meteoric, and it was. She won the WWE Divas Championship in her main roster debut, stunning AJ Lee and the wrestling world. But her explosion onto the main stage came only after a long, slow burn.
The young starlet from a wrestling family had been flying around the ring for a decade, honing her chops on independent circuits across Europe and North America. She was no stranger to the squared circle. Fans everywhere soon embraced her unique combination of attitude, stage presence and technical prowess.
And now she’s one of WWE’s biggest names. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Paige, the recent (and probably future) Divas Champion.
1. Paige was born as Saraya-Jade Bevis in August of 1992. She grew up in Norwich, England, where her family runs the World Association of Wrestling (WAW). Her parents (Ricky Knight and Sweet Saraya) and two older brothers (Zak Knight and Roy Knight) all wrestle. Bevis’s mother also runs Bellatrix Female Warriors
2. As Bevis tells it, “I was a fetus when I first took my first bump, because my mom was pregnant and she just didn’t know.” She first wrestled at the age of 10 or 11, training in her father’s monthly wrestling training school. Bevis debuted for WAW in 2005 at 13 years old as Britani Knight.
3. By the age of 14, Britani was wrestling in France, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Turkey the United States and other countries for various independent promotions. She often traveled alone. The young wrestler won numerous singles and tag team titles, including the German Stampede Wrestling Ladies title, the Real Deal Wrestling Women’s Championship and the Swiss Championship Wrestling Ladies Championship.
4. Britani teamed up with and feuded against her mother, appearing as Sweet Saraya, both in Europe and America. Her last independent match pitted the two against each other.
5. Bevis first auditioned for WWE in November 2010, but was rejected. Her next time around — in April 2011 — went much better, leading to a signed developmental contract later in the year. Her brother Zak tried out for WWE around the same time, but was not signed.
6. Bevis’s tryout for WWE is the subject of the British documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family. The movie recounts a year in the life of her family, going from a local event to her WWE debut as Paige.
7. Bevis debuted as Saraya for Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in January 2012. She was eliminated second in a six-person battle royal. He television in-ring debut followed a couple months later when she teamed up with Sofia Cortez in a losing effort. She soon changed her name to Paige.
8. Not long after Paige’s debut, FCW was re-branded as NXT. The WWE developmental promotion staged an eight-woman tournament for the inaugural women’s championship. In June of 2013, Paige defeated Tamina Snuka and Alicia Fox en route to a title victory over Emma. She held the belt for 10 months.
9. In April of 2014, Paige defeated AJ Lee to win the WWE Divas title. She became the first WWE champion born in the 1990s and the youngest Divas champion ever. Paige was 21 at the time. She lost the title to AJ Lee in late June of that same year.
10. Paige debuted on Total Divas in January of 2015, partway through season three.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.