Despite the unfortunate early end to her in-ring career, Paige was undoubtedly a huge factor in Women’s evolution. Her character, image, and style broke down barriers and worked towards creating a new perception when it came to female talent in WWE. She may have only had served a few short years as a WWE Superstar but its clear there were obvious mistakes and missed opportunities during that time and it’s today we are going to be focusing on this topic and discussing what the company should have done with one of the most promising stars of this generation and the flaws in her booking.
The AJ Lee Angle
Before Paige had even made her debut for the main roster fans had been talking about a dream contest between the first ever NXT Women’s Champion Paige and one of the most popular female stars in the history of the WWE, AJ Lee. With both women representing an entirely different kind of female talent in the company, they moved away from the typical image of a WWE Diva and an angle involving the pair was a dream for any wrestling fan. With that being said, Paige’s debut, of course, went down a treat, dethroning Lee the night after Mania was smart and satisfying booking but the rest of the rivalry was highly disappointing. There was a lack of clear direction, we saw heel and face changes happen so often it was difficult to know who to back, the story was weak and lacked depth and neither woman was truly ever used to their full potential in this rivalry. To this day this remains one of the most disappointing angles in recent memory and seriously failed to live up to the hype. What could have been a career-defying rivalry for Paige became her biggest disappointment.
With Paige dominating the women’s division as the new face and Champion, there were multiple storylines and rivalries the WWE could have had her involved in but instead weak booking and short matches failed to show her to be the badass she portrayed herself as over in NXT. On the topic of the black and gold brand, it was here we saw one of the best female rivalries to come from the WWE, Paige vs Emma. With both women on the main roster here, the company had a clear opportunity to make drastic changes within the women’s division. Allowing the pair to collide on the bigger stage would have created an even bigger buzz around the careers of both women, with Emma likely to benefit far more. This was a huge missed opportunity with fans missing out on what could have been another epic matchup and a huge part of Paige’s title reign(s). Not to mention a huge shift in the perception of women’s wrestling in WWE.
The True Anti-Diva
One of the key things that grabbed fans attention when it came to Paige was her anti-diva image and gimmick. She represented something completely different to what we had seen from any other female talent in years and it was both refreshing and needed. Moving over to the main roster and the WWE made several changes to Paige and she no longer felt like the badass anti-diva we had seen over in NXT. It’s clear this was a big mistake. While she still stood out for being completely different to other female talents on the roster the WWE really should have focused in on the anti-diva angle. Within a heel role, this could have been amazing and possibly even better in the role of a babyface. Determined to completely banish the word “Diva” and targeting the women within the division she believed sent the wrong and outdated message is a storyline I know I would have had an interest in and while this kind of touches on the angle the company focused on during Paige’s rivalry with Nikki Bella, it’s clear many mistakes were made there and had differences. The anti-Diva gimmick and the go-ahead button pressed earlier would have secured a stronger all-around image.
It’s in Their Blood
One of the most underrated matches of Paige’s career is her one on one bout against Natalya during an episode of NXT. The match showcased just how brilliant both women are in the ring and the fantastic experience they have behind them. Once up in the main roster, we did see the pair collide again, but nothing touched what they had provided during that particular NXT contest. What we should have seen on the bigger stage was a full-on rivalry and considering the story really does write itself this wasn’t a difficult angle to push forward with. Here we have two very skilled and experienced superstars coming from wrestling families, focusing in on the legacies of those families and the youth of the newcomer in Paige. It means segments and promos would have made for easy work and the matches provided could have shaped both careers massively!
A frustrating factor to Paige’s early retirement clearly is how much she is missing out on being a part of. Women’s wrestling has changed so much in the WWE and there are an array of stipulation matches Paige could have been a part of that I believe would have been epic, to say the least! When we look at her rivalry with the likes of Nikki Bella and Charlotte Flair matches such a steel cage or no DQ would have been very beneficial and fitting to the story. If WWE had moved quicker with their evolution and not held the division back so much, I believe Paige could have stood out on a whole new level in these kinds of stipulation bouts and taken the division to a level it’s still not at today.
Despite her short career, Paige was a massively influential name within the women’s division, and she achieved so much! Of course, it’s a shame her career had to come to such an early and abrupt end but its also disappointing to see so many mistakes made and missed opportunities.