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#MustWatchMonday: Paige vs. Emma, NXT Arrival


It's been a long three months, but #MustWatchMonday is back... here, on Smark Henry! *cheap pop*

Most fans these days credit the resurgence of women's wrestling in WWE to the Four Horsewomen, and in some respects, these fans are right. Charlotte, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks tore the house down on NXT and made the NXT Women's Championship a highly coveted and prestigious title, especially when you compared it to its former counterpart on the main roster, the Divas Championship.

But despite everything these four have done to bring women's wrestling in WWE to prominence and respectability, it didn't quite start with them.

Today's match is a bit of an oldie. Back before NXT specials were called TakeOver and back when Bo Dallas was NXT champion, the women's division of the WWE was in dire straits. This was a time before the Divas' Revolution, and before the Four Horsewomen. Women's matches, especially on the main roster, were considered to be nothing but time fillers and toilet breaks. But in the newly rebranded NXT, dating back to 2013, the revolution was starting to come together. Instead of being led by the Horsewomen however, this revival was initially being championed by Paige and Emma.

In 2013, the NXT Women's Championship was established, and a tournament was held to crown its inaugural titleholder. The participants were Tamina Snuka, Paige, Summer Rae, Alicia Fox, Emma, Aksana, Bayley without a fully fleshed out personality, and a very green Sasha Banks. Paige won that tournament, becoming the first champion. At the time, Emma's personality was the complete antithesis of Paige. Emma was the happy-go-lucky, cheery Aussie who came out dancing a goofy dance accompanied by bubbles, while Paige was the darker Anti-Diva who came out to a screaming, heavier entrance.

Paige would then defend the title twice against other challengers on the episodic NXT show before encountering Emma again at NXT's first special event: NXT Arrival.


Now the rivalry between these two had been building up in the months preceding the event, so by the time the bell rang, all bets were off. The two exchange their moves as the match progresses: Emma with the EMMALock, the DilEMMA and the Emma Sandwich. Paige takes it all however, slaps Emma in the face, and eventually gets a Paige Turner in. In the end, Paige gets the upper hand, debuting the PTO (which at the time, was a very innovative submission), and gets the win.

The match doesn't quite reach the highs of a Bayley/Banks from Takeover: Brooklyn, nor is it as vicious as the Asuka defenses. However, it definitely represented a shift from the days where WWE women's wrestlers were simply models exchanging headlocks and it was the spark that gave fans hope that one day, this company would take women's wrestling seriously.

The first women's Royal Rumble Match is quickly approaching, and one might wonder how they would fill out a field of thirty. If only things went a little differently in their main roster careers, Paige and Emma could have been among the contenders to win. Emma could have been something big on the main roster, but they started her off with Santino Marella, and that's not quite the way to get yourself taken seriously. They overestimated the amount of people that watched NXT at the time, and she debuted to almost zero reaction. She eventually floundered on the main roster, reinvented herself in NXT, and had to suffer through the Emmalina vignettes because Vince found them funny. She has since left the company.

Of course, Paige has had her problems, too. Her privacy was compromised, her destructive relationship with Alberto El Patron was well documented, and of course, she has an injury that is threatening to end her career at the young age of 25. Despite their absence in the current iteration of the women's roster, there will always be fans who will remember that what started it all wasn't the Four Horsewomen, and it definitely wasn't Stephanie McMahon. It was these two, leaving it all in the ring for and being that spark that would start the flame.

Even though WWE has at least seven or eight spots that they still need to fill for the first ever Women's Rumble, it's highly likely that neither Paige nor Emma will be among the field. Emma's just waiting out her no-compete clause, while Paige's fate is unknown at this point. For the two women who were the catalysts of the Women's Evolution—of the level of women's wrestling we expect and demand from WWE today—to not even be part of that historic moment this January, it's a damn shame. They deserved that moment, and we can only hope history remembers them for the right reasons down the road.

What did you think of the match? Do you think the women's revolution really started here? Leave a comment!

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Brandon Sy is a PhD student in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics currently based in Sydney. Since he wasn't allowed to watch wrestling as a kid, he's been overcompensating ever since. Despite being a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, he still holds a soft spot in his heart for WWE's Kane. He's good for recommending matches from pretty much anywhere, whether it be Japan, Europe, the US or Mexico. He'd be ecstatic if you watched Dragon Gate though.

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