In the beginning of 2014, fan-made signs exclaiming “We Want Paige” began appearing at WWE venues all across the United States. It was not long before they became difficult to miss.
Upon her arrival to NXT in 2012, the second-generation English wrestler with pale skin and raven hair quickly become a hot commodity in the developmental branch of WWE. A technically proficient grappler with an undeniable “it” factor, Paige proclaims herself as “The Anti-Diva.” In a WWE Universe chiefly populated with ex-bikini models and bronzed blonde bombshells, Paige stood held and shoulders above the rest.
In NXT, Paige reigned supreme as the developmental league’s inaugural champion, where she turned back challenges from Natalya, Tamina Snuka, Alicia Fox, Emma and Bayley, among others. Viewers of WWE NXT—including those who began watching the show when the WWE Network was launched in February 2014—pined to see how the critically acclaimed second-generation British grappler would fare on Raw and SmackDown.
The night after WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, Louisiana, “The Anti-Diva” from Norwich, Norfolk, England, burst onto the WWE scene in a big way.
Paige made her first appearance on Raw to offer up her congratulations to AJ Lee for winning the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational. The self-proclaimed “Queen of the Divas Division” wasn’t appreciative of this and virtually forced the newcomer into an impromptu title match. Things turned sour very quickly for AJ when Paige reversed the Black Widow into her signature maneuver, the Paige-Turner, to slam the New Jersey native on the mat and claim the butterfly-emblazoned title for herself. With her victory, not only did Paige become the youngest female to ever capture the Divas Championship, but she is also the first to capture it in her WWE debut. Paige also made history as the first Diva to hold both the Divas Championship and NXT Women’s Championship concurrently.
Paige was stripped of the NXT Women’s Championship by NXT General Manager John “Bradshaw” Layfield on the April 24, 2014 episode of WWE NXT, who promptly announced that an NXT Divas Tournament for the vacated title would take place. Overall, “The Diva of Tomorrow” is satisfied with trailblazing ways and has constructed her reputation on the back of a mean streak that only a heel like NXT announcer William Regal could welcome, saying, “She will quite happily kick your head in, so why antagonize her?”
Paige had her first successful defense of the Divas Championship on the April 28, 2014 episode of Raw when her impromptu match against Brie Bella was ruled a No Contest due to interference from Kane. At Extreme Rules on May 4, 2014, Paige met her first true test as Divas Champion, defending the butterfly-emblazoned belt against the menacing Tamina Snuka. “The Anti-Diva” was up to the challenge and successfully retained her title after forcing Snuka to submit to the Scorpion Crosslock.
Paige suffered her first loss as a WWE Diva in a non-title match against Alicia Fox on the May 19, 2014 edition of Raw, with the Florida native pinning the champion in her home country of England. As of the result of the match’s outcome, Fox became the No. 1 Contender to the Divas Championship. Paige, however, successfully defend the title against “Foxy” at WWE Payback on June 1, 2014 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. After defeating Cameron in two non-title matches, the second-generation wrestler suffered a loss to The Funkadactyl’s tag team partner, Naomi. Naomi was therefore granted a title match at Money in the Bank on June 29, 2014, which resulted in Paige coming out on top again. During this time, WWE was criticized online for failing to develop Paige’s character despite being able to do so for her opponents, and for portraying “The Diva of Tomorrow” as a vulnerable Divas Champion while she was proving herself in the WWE Universe.
On the post-Money in the Bank edition of Raw on June 30, 2014, a role reversal occurred when a returning AJ Lee stunned Paige to regain the Divas Championship. “The Diva of Tomorrow” initially refused to put her title on the line, but Lee managed to goad the champion into a match and, thanks to a surprise roll-up, reclaimed the title for her own. Despite the loss, Paige behaved as if she and “The Black Widow” were best friends when they partnered together in tag team contests. At WWE Battleground on July 20, 2014, lost a rematch for the Divas Championship to Lee. Paige firmly established herself as a depraved villain the following night on Raw, assaulting Lee moments after their second unlikely victory as a tag team—over Emma and Natalya. Their “frenemy” status reached an intense peak on August 17, 2014 at SummerSlam, as “The Anti-Diva” earned a monumental victory over “The Black Widow” to claim the Divas Championship for a second time, and on her 22nd birthday no less.
The game of hot potato continued when AJ regained the Divas Championship for a third time on September 21, 2014 at Night of Champions in a Triple Threat Match that also included Nikki Bella. With new ally Alicia Fox in tow, Paige was unable to regain the Divas Championship from Lee the following month at Hell in a Cell, and in a post-match fit of frustration, slapped “Foxy” squarely on the jaw. On November 23, 2014 at Survivor Series, Paige ended up on the losing side of a Divas Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match as Naomi dropped the second-generation performer with a Rear View and capped the bout with a head scissors into a face plant.
On the first Raw of 2015, Paige appeared to turn by babyface by running to Natalya’s aid and saving her Total Divas castmate from an after-the-bell ambush by Divas Champion Nikki Bella. This led to a non-title match between Paige and Nikki on the follow night’s episode of WWE Main Event, which “The Diva of Tomorrow” won. On January 25, 2015 at the Royal Rumble, Paige partnered with “Queen of Hearts” against Divas Champion Nikki and her sister Brie but the newfound alliance was unsuccessful against The Bella Twins.