At NXT Arrival, the first ever pay per view broadcast live on the WWE network, the match for the NXT Women’s Championship was Paige vs Emma. Nowadays, this will seem like a nothing match, between a star of the division and a middling Australian diva.
However, the match was anything but. For many
fans, it was the first taste of NXT and a new generation of women’s wrestling. while in Japan, women’s wrestling had been revered and even surpassed the men’s in some respects, especially in the 1990s with the dominance of All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling, in the United States it was anything but.
Women’s wrestling was considered a “p*** break” in the WWE, usually. Fans used the matches to get a beer, go to the toilet or visit the merch stand. This was after years of objectifying the women wrestlers, sticking them in bra and panties matches, making them strip in the ring or even barking like a dog for their boss.
That all changed on February 27th 2014 at Full Sail arena. While some huge matches like Sami Zayn vs Cesaro and Bo Dallas vs Adrian Neville were the selling point for the event, it was the NXT Women’s Championship match that has the fans going away and marvelling at to their friends.
WWE fans had never seen a match like Paige vs Emma. While previous generations were scolded for having too good a match for women and “wrestling like the men”, the new era of women’s wrestling placed no restrictions on how the women could wrestle.
This was evident with Paige vs Emma at NXT Arrival. They had the third longest match of the showing, having over 12 minutes to showcase their skills, which was unheard of in WWE. At TLC 2013, AJ Lee defeated Natayla (considered to be the two best women workers at the time) in 6 minutes, which was unusually long for a women’s match at the time.
Emma and Paige helped create a new style of wrestling for women in WWE. They were more technical and more explosive. They didn’t try to wrestle like the men, who outdid them in strength and speed, but worked to their skillset and put on a fantastic match.
Paige vs Emma ended in a submission victory for Paige, but it was women’s wrestling which was the real winner. The two women laid the foundation for all the female WWE superstars that came after them and were even more influential than the Four Horsewomen of WWE, at least according to one former WWE legend.
Paige vs Emma
In the latest episode of the Gentlemen Villain podcast, former NXT trainer William Regal heaped praise on Paige and Emma for their match in NXT, claiming they “were the foundation” of women’s wrestling in WWE and more important than the likes of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks.
“Paige and Emma were the foundation of whatever came out of the incredible run of ladies that came through NXT and all that the happenings afterwards. They were the two starting ladies that sort of got attention of everybody”.William Regal on the influence of Paige vs Emma in NXT
He later went on to praise the likes of Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, but conceded that Paige vs Emma and their work behind the scenes was the foundation that helped the Four Horsemen succeed in WWE.
He also expressed his shock that Paige was WWE Divas Champion when the first NXT Takeover was broadcast in 2014. She had been a key component to women’s wrestling and was one of the main catalysts of the “Women’s Revolution” in WWE, a movement that will echo through the generations from years to come in WWE.
Paige vs Emma is not a match you hear about often these days. Both women are now out of WWE, with Paige retired from wrestling due to injuries and Emma being released years ago and currently wrestles in Impact wrestling, which garners a fraction of the views WWE does.
However, at the time of their matches, they were blazing the trail for future generations. They were so far ahead of the likes of Alicia Fox and Tamina Snuka on the main roster and were just crying out to be given the opportunity to wrestle. Both superstars started their careers as children (both at age 13) and had over a decade of experience when they showed the world what they could do at NXT Arrival.
While the match may be forgotten to time due to how much women’s wrestling was pushed forward in WWE, thanks to the likes of Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley, there may be no other matches quite as influential as Paige vs Emma from NXT Arrival.