There’s something refreshingly different about WWE profiling Paige (now wrestling under her real name Saraya in AEW) on A&E’s Biography, because the WWE hasn’t always been known to treat its former employees with due respect.
While the Biography series has already ran episodes on Jake Roberts (another former star who has appeared on AEW), as well as Bret Hart and The Ultimate Warrior who both had acrimonious, up-and-down histories with the WWE, the split between Paige and WWE, and her resurgence in AEW, is a much more recent development.
First up, as Biography likes to do, we go back to the beginning of Saraya’s life in wrestling, which began in Norwich, England.
Her whole family, the Bevises, were better known to fans as the Knights. Ricky, her father, with his accented dialogue subtitled for those who can’t break through his dialect, explains that he took on wrestling as a lark on the suggestion of his brother Jimmy, but that within two years he and Jimmy were tag champions and never looked back.
Ricky met his future wife Julia, with them marrying not long afterwards and working in the ring together (with Julia as his manager under the name Sweet Saraya). They founded their own federation called the World Association of Wrestling in 1994, and their family also expanded with the births of Saraya and Zak, adding to Ricky’s children Roy, Asa, and Nicki from a previous marriage.
Saraya relates a well-told story that her first bump was taken in utero, as her mother wrestled without yet knowing she was pregnant. As she grew up with wrestling all around her, and seeing her parents put their whole life into it and suffering injuries, Saraya didn’t want anything to do with wrestling for the longest time.
Fate, though, put her into the ring as her dad needed her to fill a spot and she debuted in 2006 as Britani Knight. Mind you, she was nervous as she only really felt comfortable wrestling with Zak, so her brother put on a pink Power Ranger costume and faced off with her as Pink Lady.
At 15 years old, Britani Knight became a wanted commodity, and Saraya was booking herself all across Europe and completely committing herself to wrestling. A friend of the family, looking to film a documentary on Ricky, decided to broaden it to the whole family when Zak and Saraya earned a try-out with the WWE.
The documentary, titled The Wrestlers: Fighting with my Family, included footage of the brother and sister on their way to their big chance, and Zak proudly describes how Saraya blew them away and was signed on the spot at the age of 18, while he was left out of the mix.
There’s footage of her tearfully parting with her parents at the airport on her way to Florida Championship Wrestling, arriving and thinking she’s made a mistake. Norman Smiley, trainer at the time, recalls how Saraya wasn’t on friendly terms with many of the other students, though she notes that Summer Rae was memorably nice to her.
Describing herself as an anti-diva even in the early days, she wins over the crowd and management on her way to winning the NXT Women’s Championship in 2013, and also hearing from Dwayne Johnson who wanted to chat with the young star about the documentary she had been featured in.
He told her he wanted to turn the doc into a movie, and also slipped to her that she was about to make her Raw debut after WrestleMania in 2014. On Raw, she beats AJ Lee to win the Divas Championship, becoming a dual champ until she relinquished the NXT title. The whirlwind of being champion is compounded by being featured on TV’s Total Divas, and all of this exposure is accompanied by attention online, where Saraya felt the sting of criticism followed by injury in 2016.
In a match on Raw in June, Saraya took a kick from Charlotte that injured her neck, with her diagnosis and treatment featured on Total Divas, and Saraya points to this time as the beginning of a downward spiral. She says being in an awful relationship (presumably referring to José Chucuan, AKA Alberto Del Rio, though he isn’t named) and the injury led to drinking problems, which then led to drugs.
Renee Paquette says she was very worried for her friend, and after an old sex tape featuring Saraya was released around the same time as multiple suspensions from WWE, Saraya was spiraling, inflicting wounds on herself and thinking about suicide.
In 2017, Saraya returned to Monday Night Raw, nervous about her reception from her co-workers and fans, only to find nothing but positives in both respects. Later that year, though, she takes a kick to the back at a house show and, although she manages to walk out of the ring, she learns that she can’t risk getting in the ring again.
In April of 2018, she announces retirement due to her injuries at the same arena where she debuted on Raw four years prior. The episode finishes with Saraya in a healthy place with Johnson’s version of Fighting with my Family being released, just short of her return to the ring in AEW.
As Biography offers more of these shorter, one-hour shows, there’s naturally less time for in-depth storytelling, and this episode falls into trap of largely being a timeline of her greatest in-ring achievements. Her candour in her struggles helps to elevate the show, however, and even if the WWE understandably won’t include her in-ring return, she’s still given an inspirational treatment that is a pleasure to watch unfold.
Slam Wrestling’s Paige, Saraya Knight, & Family story archive
July 15th, 2019: ‘Fighting with my Family’ funny and realistic enough
Slam Wrestling’s WWE/A&E review archive