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Saraya Bevis was known to millions of pro wrestling fans as “Paige” during her memorable run with WWE, but after being forced out of the ring with a serious neck injury, the rebellious star is shining bright once again, thanks to a huge victory at London’s Wembley Stadium that saw her lift the AEW Women’s Championship. M&F were on hand to see Saraya win the gold with her family present and it was a touching new chapter for the girl that inspired the movie “Fighting with my Family.” Still basking in the glow of success, Saraya told us that working out and staying positive kept her from hitting rock bottom.
“I’m not just going to say it, just because he’s sitting right beside me, but you have no idea how much he’s helped me in my comeback, and just believing in me,” said Saraya of AEW’s chief, Tony Khan in a press conference following the record-breaking ALL IN event. “And being like; ‘listen, we’re gonna go look at your neck and we’re gonna see it and if it’s a hundred percent then I’m backing you a hundred percent.’”
Saraya Bevis first signed with WWE in 2011 and soon became one of the company’s most popular stars, holding multiple titles and even earning the top spot in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 50 Female Wrestlers of 2014. She is credited by observers for her role in helping female wrestling to be recognised for its athleticism rather than the lingerie and mud bath matches that were taking place during the WWE ‘Attitude Era,’ but after touring the globe, her body was feeling more than a few signs of wear and tear, and so she underwent neck surgery in 2016. In addition to her physical health, Saraya was also struggling with WWE’s wellness policy, and got suspended on two occasions for reasons that were hotly contested between the two sides.
Fortunately, the gutsy grappler was able to overcome both her personal and physical issues, and soon stepped back into the ring, but in 2017, Saraya suffered a further neck injury and the match had to be stopped as a result. In December of 2017, reluctantly, she announced her retirement but, while Saraya continued to work with WWE on-and-off, in non-wrestling roles, the Brit was still hoping for an eventual return to action. Heartbreakingly, however, in 2022, WWE decided to release her from her contract.
Saraya says that having talked to Tony Khan following her WWE departure, AEW agreed to set up some more recent tests and joyously, they came back giving her a clear bill of health, “It was just wonderful,” she said. But still, the girl from Norwich, England, would have to prove that she could hang with some of the best female pro wrestlers in the world on AEW’s roster of talent. The former NXT and WWE Divas Champion first appeared on AEW television
in September, 2022 before forming a team with Toni Storm and Ruby Soho (known as “The Outcasts.”) Her involvement in a team meant that she could work on her ring-rust and test herself physically without having to face too many singles matches early on. “And it’s the most fun, I’ve ever had,” she said. “Me, Toni, and Ruby together, we have a great time, and we are enjoying it every single week.” That said, the wrestling icon had her own very personal reasons for wanting to climb to the top of AEW, and achieving that goal would be all down to her, and not her teammates.
“I never thought I was ever gonna wrestle again,” she said, recalling how being released from WWE led her to fear that she would no longer be able to do what she loves most. “So, I was kind of in limbo for five years.” Saraya explained that while she never hit ‘Rock Bottom’ during that time, she decided instead to keep herself in a positive mindset. When AEW offered her a genuine possibility of a return, Saraya was finally able to turn the ‘Paige’ and continue with her journey as a pro wrestler.
“I started training more, getting in the gym, I was working out every single day,” she explains. “I started watching AEW, religiously, every single day, I was like; ‘this is so cool!’ and I always wanted to be a part of it, so bad since it started anyway, but yeah, it’s just been a crazy journey. I never thought I’d be here, I never thought I’d be in Wembley Stadium, in the biggest crowd in wrestling history, I mean it’s just a dream come true and I’m so thankful, and thank you Tony, so much.”
ALL IN 2023 was a huge night for many reasons. Not only was this the company’s first show in Europe, but the promotion also managed to set a record for paid attendance at a wrestling show, with some 81,305 exuberant fans packing Wembley Stadium for a gate in excess of $10 million. Of course, with a return to London set for 2024, Saraya Bevis will be hoping to hold on to her World Championship so that she can bring it home to the family once again.