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WWE Divas Champion Paige: 'I lost my mind when I beat AJ Lee'

21-year-old Divas Champion spoke to the Independent about winning the title

Norwich has seen its fair share of sporting heroes over the years. From Jeremy Goss’s wonder strike against Bayern Munich, to Anthony Ogogo’s heroic bronze medal at London 2012, sport has been as synonymous with the city as Alan Partridge.

For years, the nearest Norwich had to a fighting female was Delia Smith’s memorable halftime outburst at Carrow Road in 2005, but now there is a new icon in town.

The same year that the celebrity cook yelled out “where are you!” to tens of thousands of people, a 13-year-old girl made her debut as a professional wrestler in front of hundreds. Saraya-Jade Bevis, known as Paige in the WWE, was born in 1992, and yet is remarkably entering her ninth year as a professional grappler.

On Monday night, she became the first WWE Superstar - male or female - born in the nineties to win a Championship, becoming the youngest WWE Divas Champion of all time when she defeated long-term title holder AJ Lee on Raw. As if that wasn’t startling enough, it was also her first ever appearance on WWE’s flagship weekly show.

Speaking to The Independent on the phone from America, not even 24 hours after her triumph, the Diva was unsurprisingly on cloud nine, especially when asked about her feelings on becoming champion.

“Oh my gosh, you have no idea. I lost my mind. Firstly just being in the ring with AJ who I’ve always looked up to, she’s an incredible talent and a woman to be around, and then being on Raw is just insane.

“I’ve been working my whole career to get to this point, it’s been nearly nine years now, and it was just incredible. I couldn’t stop crying, I haven’t stopped talking to my family about it, it’s overwhelming especially getting so much support from the fans and backstage. It’s been magical.”

Paige’s beginning in the wrestling business is approaching mythical status, and was showcased superbly in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Fighting with My Family’, which attracted millions of viewers back in July 2012. The Diva was born into a wrestling family, with both her parents, and her two older brothers making a living as professional wrestlers.

Although officially making her debut as a teenager, she could make a case for being the youngest wrestler of all time.

“My whole family are wrestlers; I was brought up in the business. I was wrestling as a foetus believe it or not, because my mum (Sweet Saraya) was pregnant with me and didn’t realise while she was wrestling.”

During her teen years, she began to make a name for herself in the ring, competing all over the world. Despite coming from one of the most famous wrestling families in Britain, it was Paige’s hard work and dedication that got her to the top, a fact she remembers well.

“I started traveling around the world by myself by the time I got to 14, I worked really hard because I knew what my goal was, which was to be in WWE.

“I did everything I could, I made CVs and sent them to promoters all over the world, and managed to get myself out there.”

WWE is the pinnacle of professional wrestling, and as such is a difficult place to achieve employment. Paige had her first try-out with the company, aged 17. For the teenage Diva-in-waiting, it did not quite go as planned.

“I didn’t get signed the first time I had a try-out. I tried to be like what I thought they wanted, I wanted to be tanned, and have light hair and no piercings. I tried to be girly, but it didn’t work out too well.

“I worked really hard, and so I went to the second try-out dressed as myself: pale, black hair, piercings. They loved it, asked me to come over, and I’ve been here for two and a half years now.”

As well as being the new Divas champion, Paige also holds the NXT Women’s Championship, an accolade she earned during her tenure on NXT, WWE’s developmental branch, based in Orlando, Florida. As a double champion, she is keen on defending both titles as best she can.

“The longer I can keep both Championships the better, I’m not just going to give up the NXT Women’s Championship, I worked my booty off to get that in the first place.

“I’m going to try and keep the WWE Divas Championship, I want to try and have a longer streak than AJ Lee’s. I’m going to be defending them both, and retain them constantly.”

Beating AJ on Raw was extra special to Paige due to the unusually large number of Brits in the crowd. WrestleMania traditionally brings fans from all over the world to its events, and the Raw after the big event has attracted a legendary status over the last few years. The hundreds, maybe thousands, of Brits in the crowd instantly cheered and chanted for Paige as soon as her music hit, and the Norwich native was delighted.

“It was incredible with all the British flags in the crowd. What better way to do it than in front of people from your home country. It was fantastic and they were so supportive.

“I didn’t expect them to be as loud as they were, I didn’t know that a lot of people knew me, it was overwhelming, they were so loud and crazy.

“My heart was pounding, I got backstage and I started crying, I was like ‘what is this life!’."

Aged just 21, Paige’s book is only just beginning. Her short term goals however, are simple. Every year, just after WrestleMania, WWE comes over to Europe for live events, including dates in Britain. Appearing on those shows – the WrestleMania Revenge Tour - is an ambition for the Divas Champion.

“It’s a goal to get on the tour because it’s not guaranteed, but fingers crossed that I get on there. If I do it’ll be the best experience in my life.

“I just want to say thank you for all the support, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without all my fans. I’m really happy so keep on supporting me I’ll try and make everyone proud.”