Growing up, most people watched professional wrestling dazed by stars like The Rock and Hulk Hogan who have become household names. Years on, the pro-wrestling world has changed drastically – particularly in regards to the women. The muscular image of 90s WWF star Chyna changed to the slim and model looks of The Bella Twins, who are the poster girls for E!’s reality show ‘Total Divas’ which revolves around their ‘real’ lives.
Interestingly, British women’s professional wrestler Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis won the WWE Divas Championship earlier this month at the age of 21. With typical British pale skin, a lip piercing and jet black hair, she doesn’t look like your typical model either, but she seems to have strong backing backstage to be given such a big push so quick into her career.
I filmed with some of Bevis’ old training partners Rhia O’Reilly (@rdpixie) and ‘The Amazon’ Ayesha Ray (@amazonayesharay) at This Is Progress Wrestling School, where they talked to me about their work across the globe and working in a male dominated world. From Japan to Canada, this tag team has had international success, but for some professional wrestlers, the glitz and glamour of the WWE seems to be the path many want to go down.
The Amazon stands at 6 feet tall and expressed her interest at wanting to be at WrestleMania, the WWE’s biggest event, wrestling in front of the thousands of fans and being on television every week. Conversely, O’Reilly stated that her ‘love is just for wrestling , … all the other stuff that goes into being a WWE Superstar is too much to me’. Both answers seem to underscore the major differences in this business, between the British Independent Wrestling Scene and the mainstream top American promotions.
To make it into the American promotions, the model look has become a bigger factor when it comes to finding new ‘Divas’, with many coming into the business with very little wrestling experience. The Amazon Ayesha Ray stated, ‘For women I personally think it’s a little bit harder – we have to look good, we have to have the perfect face… you have to have the perfect ring gear, you have to put a little more into how you show yourself and how you present yourself’.
However, Paige’s success in the WWE straight away shows that the times are changing and the downright ability to wrestle and bump as well as the men is what can take women far. Her success opens up the doors for more British female wrestlers to come through, making this an exciting period for British women’s professional wrestling.
To have a look at the lipstick and leg lock world of professional women’s wrestling, watch London 360 this Friday 9pm on Community Channel.