I would think you know the expression: when one door closes, another door opens. And, yes, I know, it sounds like a useless truism aimed solely at making someone else feel less miserable. This one especially so, because you’re usually saying it to someone who (or when you yourself) just went through something supremely shitty. It’s exactly the type of thing you’d say to someone who might have been forced out of their job to a potentially deadly injury or someone who is so depressed that they’re considering suicide. In both of those cases, the words probably seem extra trite. But as we saw over Wrestlemania weekend, sometimes, just because something might be a little cliched, doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes true.
Exhibit A is Paige, former WWE Diva and (some would say) the girl behind the start at of the WWE’s women’s revolution. At the age of twenty one, she won the very first NXT women’s championship and followed that up the next year when she debuted on Raw and won the women’s title on her first night. If you were sitting in the crowd at the hilariously named Smoothie King center like I was the night after Wrestlemania 30, you might have thought that you were looking at the start of what might be the greatest career in the history of women’s professional wrestling.
Except, well, this is a piece about dreams being denied and doors being slammed shut, so you can probably guess that wasn’t necessarily the case. Four years later, nearly to the day, after fighting her way back into action through a tumultuous divorce marred by rumors of drug and domestic abuse, Paige would stand in the middle of the ring in the very same building where her promising career had started and announced her retirement due to a serious neck injury.
Sometimes, life is cruel. Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Sometimes, life slams the door in your fucking face and there’s nothing that you can do about it. But luckily, this is also a piece about useless truisms having a grain of truth, but before we get to that, we should look at another person who dealt with another closed door.
Enter Exhibit B: the baddest woman on the planet, Ronda Rousey. If you’ve even been marginally involved in the the western world over the past three years there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of her. An olympic judoka, Rousey’s star rose to meteoric fame in the UFC where she quickly captured not only the Bantamweight women’s championship, but the national spotlight en route to becoming one of the biggest draws in the history of the sport. Her main event fights at UFC 193 and UFC 207 were the 7th and 8th highest buyrate fights of all time and are two of only fifteen cards to generate a million buys. She was nothing short of a sensation, a megastar. She was at the top.
But her fight against Holly Holm at the aforementioned UFC 193 would spell the beginning of the end of her fighting career. She was quickly tapped out by Holm, losing her title. At UFC 207, she was destroyed by Amanda Nunes and, just as quickly as it seemed she had rose to the top, she was suddenly out of the UFC all together. Suddenly, every armchair striker and BJJ white belt was talking about how she was never much of a fighter to begin with. Haters were coming out of the woodwork to pile dirt on her. Wth her spotlight gone in the octagon, her spotlight as one of America’s sweethearts dimmed out as well. Rousey’s door too was closed, and though the reason might have differed from Paige, the fallout was similar. ike Paige, the slamming of the door sent her into a downward spiral. Rousey, according to an interview with ESPN, considered taking measures as extreme as ending her own life after her door was closed on her.
Both women, at different points in their lives, were dealing with the crushing realization that life can totally and utterly destroy you seemingly at will. Both, I’m sure they would admit, didn’t handle it well. But they had something else in common, both of them refused to give up. They both kicked down, ironically enough, the same door – a second chance in the WWE.
While Paige was dealing with doctor’s examinations on her injured neck, Rousey was working to make a stunning arrival to the arena that she’d wanted to be in since she first turned on a TV and became captivated by WWE Hall of Fame performer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. She was working to make her debut in the world of professional wrestling. And in January, at the Royal Rumble, that work came to fruition. She debuted and did the boilerplate WWE in January move of pointing to the Wrestlemania sign, indicating that she would more than likely be making her in-ring debut on the grandest stage of them all in New Orleans. After a few weeks of story building, the table was set for her to step into the ring and show what she had.
As it turns out, she had quite a bit.
Within about a minute of being in the ring, she was over. When she would later square off against HHH, forcing him into the corner after a series of punches and eventually landing him in an armbar, the crowd went absolutely unglued… myself included. I didn’t think I would be leaving the SuperDome as a Rowdy Ronda mark, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly what happened. And the following night on Raw it seemed like I wasn’t alone. The crowd went nuts again after she injured the evil Stephanie McMahon with her signature armbar (in the process, writing her off of TV for a few months). Now, this is definitely a small sample size but, so far, it seems like one door closing might have been a good thing for Ronda.
With Ronda’s arrival in the opening segment of Raw, Paige was forced to watch another female Superstar burst through the door she was supposed to be walking through, which made her aforementioned retirement later that night just the slightest bit more heartbreaking. With the crowd chanting “This is your house” (a reference to her catchphrase, which kind of explains itself), she tearfully exited the ring and closed the door behind her on the way out.
We’ve established that this is a piece about dreams being denied, but we’ve also established that this is a piece about the doors we didn’t expect to open being a blessing in disguise. For a woman as talented as Paige, another door would always open, but she didn’t have to wait long as she was announced as the new General Manager of Smackdown Live the very next night, in the very same stadium. Her rollercoaster of a career now had her replacing the now active Daniel Bryan in the role of a star forced into running the show because of injury. The crowd accepted her immediately and, though it’s a very small sample size, she seems to be adjusting well and looks like she might have finally found, for the first time in a very long time, a little stability in her life.
One woman desperately wanted to be in a wrestling ring, and couldn’t. The other wanted to be in a cage and ended up in a wrestling ring. I think that might be ironic, I’m never sure. I am sure, however, that sometimes in life, doors close.
And that’s okay.
You might not be able to see it at the time, but maybe you were really never supposed to go that way to begin with. Either way, it’s not really important. Making the most of every chance you’re given, that’s what is important. Whether that’s inside of a pro-wrestling ring or outside of it.