Story at a glance
- Aja Smith has signed on with the WWE to become the first black female referee in the league.
- The former wrestler competed across the United States, Japan and Mexico under the name Aja Perera.
- Smith is the second full-time female referee in WWE history, following Jessika Heiser.
On Twitter she's known as @PereraPower. To her fans, the former WWE wrestler is known as Aja Perera. To history, Aja Smith will be known as the first black female referee in the WWE.
Smith, who has held the SHINE Nova and Tag Team Championship in her career, will join NXT, the WWE’s league for up-and-coming wrestlers, as a referee on USA Network.
“This is bigger than me. To follow a dream. TO MAKE HISTORY. And I’m just getting started,” Smith tweeted, adding the hashtag “BlackGirlMagic."
A year ago my life was falling apart, I was at my lowest, and I was about to give up on myself. This morning I wake up to discover I’m featured on CNN! Continue to fight! Bet on yourself because life can change in a instant! I’m so blessed! Who’s excited for this journey?! pic.twitter.com/n8SzCjJHpe— Aja Smith (@PereraPower) February 8, 2020
Smith didn’t expect to be here just a year ago, she revealed on Twitter.
In 2018, her mom fell ill and was in the hospital in the week leading up to the Shine Nova Championship match in Ybor City, Fla. In an emotional video, Smith said she didn’t plan to attend, but that her mom pushed her to go. She won the championship and was able to tell her mom of her historic achievement.
“Having this platform as a female, as a female of color, is really an honor and I’m so thankful to be given this moment,” Smith said in the video.
Only the second female referee in WWE history, Smith follows Jessika Heiser, known in the league as Jessika Carr, who became WWE’s first full-time female official in 2017. Carr left NXT to join Smackdown, the WWE’s Friday night fight brand, in December 2019.