Nia Jax
Nia Jax. Image Credits: Forbes

Born on 29 May 1984, Savelina Faneneis an Australian-born American professional wrestler and model signed in to WWE. Fanene is a former WWE Raw Women’s Champion and goes under the ring name Nia Jax. Meanwhile, she is also related to none other than The Great One – The Rock. Before joining WWE, Fanene has been an established basketball player along with being a plus-sized model.

Apart from this, she has also been the Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was ranked No. 8 out of the 50 female singles wrestlers in the PWI Female 50 in 2018. Meanwhile, she also was the WWE Raw Women’s Championship in February 2019.

Early Life

Savelina Fanene was born in Sydney, Australia, while she was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Fanene is of Samoan and German ancestry. She is a relative of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as her father, Joseph Fanene, was a first cousin of Peter Maivia, Johnson’s grandfather. Fanene attended Carlsbad High school while she lived in San Diego and then went to Palomar College in San Marcos, California, where she played college basketball. Prior to professional wrestling, Fanene was a plus-size model and an established basketball player.

Nia Jax, The Rock
Nia Jax, The Rock. Image Credits: Twitter

Personal life

On August 2, 2014, Fanene and her aunt, Ata Maivia-Johnson (mother of Dwayne Johnson), were hospitalized after being hit head-on by a drunk driver, who was subsequently charged with driving under the influence, in Clermont, Florida. Nia Jax is not married to anyone but was previously in a relationship with the NXT superstar Josh Woods from 2014 to 2016.

Professional Wrestling Career: WWE Career

NXT (2014–2016)

After her performance at the WWE Performance Centre in Florida, Nia Jax was signed by WWE in early 2014 where she was assigned to WWE’s developmental territory NXT. ON 7 May 2015, Fanene made her in-ring debut at an NXT house show. She debuted under the ring name Zada, teaming with Devin Taylor but the two were defeated by Bayley and Carmella in a tag team match. In August, her ring name was changed to Nia Jax.

After a series of introductory vignettes throughout September, Jax made her singles debut on the October 14 episode of NXT, where she defeated Evie in the process. Following her debut, she was gradually portrayed into a villainous character while she went on a winning streak, defeating various enhanced talents and NXT Diva Carmella.

Bayley vs Nia Jax
Bayley vs Nia Jax. Image Credits: WWE

In November, Jax formed an alliance with Eva Marie, starting her first feud with Bayley over the NXT Women’s Championship which further cemented Jax’s heel persona. Following this, she earned a title match on December 16 at NXT TakeOver: London, but was unsuccessful to claim the title.

On the January 27, 2016 episode of NXT, Jax returned to the ring after a month of inactivity due to a storyline injury with a win over Liv Morgan. A few days later, on the 10th February episode of NXT, Jax assisted Marie in an attack on Bayley and Carmella after their championship match until Asuka made the save. This led to a tag team match on the February 24 episode of NXT, where Jax and Marie scored the victory.

On the 25 May episode of NXT, Jax won a triple threat match over Alexa Bliss and Carmella to become the number one contender to Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship. However, on June 8, she lost her title match at NXT TakeOver: The End. And then again, on July 20 episode of NXT, Jax was defeated by Bayley. On December 28 episode of NXT, Jax lost to Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship in what would be her last match in NXT.

Main roster beginnings (2016–2018)

On July 19, 2016, Jax was drafted from NXT to the Raw brand of the 2016 WWE draft. Shortly after this, Jax started a winning streak against threatening opponents. In September, Jax had her first feud with Alicia Fox, leading to a match between the two on the September 12 episode of Raw.

The match ended in a no-contest after Jax performed a spear on Fox through the ringside barricade. In a rematch between the two at the Clash of Champions pre-show on September 25, Jax defeated Fox through pinfall. On November 20 at Survivor Series, Jax was a part of Team Raw in a five-on-five elimination tag team match and was eliminated via submission by Becky Lynch.

Nia Jax vs Alicia Fox
Nia Jax vs Alicia Fox. Image Credits: WWE

In December, Jax started a feud with Sasha Banks, injuring Banks as a part of the storyline. This led to two matches between the two, with Jax winning the first match held at the Royal Rumble pre-show on January 29, 2017. But she was defeated by Banks in the second match held on March 5 at Fastlane.

On April 3 at WrestleMania 33, Jax competed in a fatal four-way elimination match against Banks, Bayley, and Charlotte Flair for the Raw Women’s Championship, getting eliminated first in the game.

On the June 26 episode of Raw, Jax competed in a gauntlet match to determine a number one contender for Alexa Bliss’s Raw Women’s Championship. She eliminated Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke and Emma consecutively before Jax was defeated by Banks.

On September 24 at No Mercy, Jax participated in a fatal five-way match for the Raw Women’s Championship, but she failed to win the title. At the Survivor Series held on November 19, Jax once again participated with the Team Raw in a five-on-five elimination tag team match, getting eliminated by count-out.

Starting from December 4 episode of Raw, Jax was placed in an on-screen relationship with then WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore. The storyline was dropped when Amore was released from the WWE in January 2018. On January 28 at the Royal Rumble, Jax participated in the first women’s royal rumble match, entering at number 22.

She eliminated Jacqueline, Kelly Kelly, Ruby Riott and Naomi before being eliminated by six women. Throughout January and February, Jax started a feud with the undefeated Asuka, but failed to defeat her first on February 25 at the Elimination Chamber and then again, a week later on Raw.

Raw Women’s Champion and alliance with Tamina (2018–2019)

Jax’s best friend and Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss betrayed Jax while insulting her and body-shaming her, making fun of her personality. Following this, in March 2018, Jax turned face for the first time in her WWE career. This led to a title match between the two on April 8, 2018, at WrestleMania 34, where Jax won the match to capture the Raw Women’s Championship and marked her first title win of her WWE career.

In a rematch between the two, held a month later at Backlash on May 6, Jax retained her title as she defeated Bliss in the process. In May, Jax started a feud with Ronda Rousey, challenging her to a title match at Money in the Bank pay-per-view. At Money in the Bank held on June 17, Jax lost her championship back to Bliss, who interfered in her match, attacking both Jax and Rousey as she cashed in her Money in the Bank contract. A month later, on July 15, Jax invoked her rematch clause at Extreme Rules but was unsuccessful in regaining the title in an extreme rules match.

Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax
Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax. Image Credits: WWE

After a short hiatus because of a minor injury, Jax returned on the September 17 episode of Raw as the mystery tag team partner of Ember Moon. The two of them defeated Alicia Fox and Mickie James in the match. And then a month later, on October 28, at the WWE Evolution pay-per-view, Jax eliminated Moon, winning a battle royal to earn a future women’s championship match.

After defeating Moon in a singles match, Jax once again turned heel on the November 5 episode of Raw, aligning herself with Tamina (with whom she had multiple confrontations prior to this and had formed the Samoan Slaughterhouse) and attacked Moon.

On November 18, at Survivor Series, Jax was the sole survivor for Team Raw against Team SmackDown in an Interbrand women’s traditional five-on-five tag team elimination match. A month later, at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event held on 16th December, Jax failed to regain the Raw Women’s Championship from Rousey.

On January 27, 2019, at the Royal Rumble event, Nia Jax competed in the women’s Royal Rumble match. She entered at number 29 and lasted for over 11 minutes before she was eliminated by the eventual winner Becky Lynch.

Later that night, Nia Jax made history as she became the first person to ever compete in two Royal Rumble matches on the same night and the fourth woman to ever compete in a men’s Royal Rumble match, attacking R-Truth as she took his number 30 spot.

On February 17, 2019, Nia Jax and Tamina competed in a six-team Elimination Chamber match at the namesake pay-per-view to determine the inaugural holders of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. The duo eliminated two teams before they themselves were eliminated. In April, at WrestleMania 35, Nia Nia Jax and Tamina took part of a fatal four-way match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship. However, the match was won by The IIconics – Billie Kay and Peyton Royce.

Following this match, Nia Jax underwent surgery to repair tears on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in both of her knees, which had her sidelined from in-ring competitions for at least nine months.

Return from injury (2020–present)

She returned from her injury on the April 6, 2020 edition of Raw and defeated Deonna Purrazzo in a squash match. On the May 25 episode of Raw, Nia Jax defeated Charlotte Flair and Natalya in a triple threat match to challenge Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship on Backlash.

Asuka vs Nia Jax
Asuka vs Nia Jax. Image Credits: WWE

At Backlash, Asuka and Nia Jax wrestled to a double count-out, where the former retained the title successfully. The next night on Raw, Jax challenged Asuka again for the title. During the match, Nia Jax became upset with the referee and pushed him down. The referee was going to disqualify Jax, but Asuka used the distraction and rolled up the distracted Nia Jax for a fast count, retaining her title in the end.

Professional wrestling style

For much of her career, Jax has used a Samoan drop as a finisher, dubbed “The Annihilator”. After her return from injury in April 2020, Nia Jax began using Cradle DDT, named the Rampage DDT, as a finisher. She was given permission to use the move by former wrestler Paige, who previously used it as her finisher. She also uses the nickname “The Irresistible Force”.

However, Fanene has been constantly criticized by fans for allegedly being unsafe in the ring. An infamous example of this was when she legitimately punched Becky Lynch in the face during an episode of Raw in November 2018. This caused Lynch to suffer a broken nose, a lacerated face and a concussion.

Nia Jax has also been blamed for injuring the likes of wrestlers – Bayley, Kairi Sane, and Ember Moon by apparently being careless while wrestling. Wrestlers and commentators, including Jim Cornette, have also admonished Jax’s unsafe wrestling style and history of causing injures. However, Deonna Purrazzo defended her, saying “I’ve never walked away hurt”.

Championships and accomplishments

Pro Wrestling Illustrated

  • Rookie of the Year (2016)
  • Ranked No. 8 of the top 50 female singles wrestlers in the PWI Female 50 in 2018

Sports Illustrated

  • Ranked No. 12 in the top 30 female wrestlers in 2018

WWE

  • WWE Raw Women’s Championship (1 time)
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