Former wrestler Ricky and his wife Julia make a living performing with their children Saraya and Zak. When brother and sister get the chance to audition for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), they learn that becoming a WWE Superstar demands more than they ever imagined possible.
You may have noticed that up until this point there have been only a few wrestling dramas on this list, the inclusions of comedies Nacho Libre and Ready to Rumble hardly having the insight of the harder hitting documentaries that have outranked them, but with Stephen Merchant’s 2019 uplifting Rocky-like story Fighting With My Family, it seems that drama can indeed have a place at the top of the wrestling movie mountain.
This film, co-produced by former WWE Champion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and co-financed by WWE Studios, Film4 and MGM, truly captured the energy and passion that is the bedrock of professional wrestling, its grass-roots approach to potential superstardom managing to capture the very essence of what the sport means to so many, whether they’re from New York or Norwich. The cast, including rising stars Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) as well as established names Lena Headey, Nick Frost and Vince Vaughn, pushed the film along while Merchant’s direction kept the journey honest and relateable, making for perhaps the most uplifting wrestling film to date.
Whether you’re a fan of wrestling or not, Fighting With My Family has something for you.
Paige (real name Saraya-Jade Bevis) is one of the leading stars of WWE’s women’s division. She made her debut in NXT (WWE’s ‘developmental’ brand where rookies and newcomers honed their craft; now stars of independent wrestling put on bouts that outshine the company’s veteran stars) in 2012, and quickly rose up the ranks, becoming the inaugural NXT Women’s Champion.
Her ‘main roster’ debut came the night after Wrestlemania (a night which usually comes with surprise new stars and twists), where she fought AJ Lee in a match for the Diva’s Championship, winning in 1:22 and becoming the youngest ever Diva’s Champion at just 21. She would eventually become a two-time Diva’s Champion in WWE. She was one of the leading figures in WWE’s so-called ‘Women’s Revolution’, which saw the company’s attitude to female wrestlers change.
Where once women with little to no wrestling experience may have been hired for the purposes of ‘eye-candy’ alone, and given extremely short matches with questionable storytelling, now highly talented women regularly headline the company’s pay-per-views in high-calibre matches.The Diva’s Championship is also now the Women’s Championship. Paige – and her dark, “anti-Diva” character – was one of the figures instrumental in appealing for this change.
She unfortunately retired from in-ring competition in April last year, after multiple neck injuries put her ability to perform as a wrestler in jeopardy. She then served a backstage role as the on-screen general manager of the WWE’s Smackdown Live brand of shows until late 2018.
Fighting with My Family charts Paige’s journey from unlikely beginnings wrestling in the social clubs of Norwich, to WWE superstardom.
Part of the city’s Knight family of wrestlers, Paige – real name Saraya-Jade Bevis – begins wrestling for her family’s promotion aged just 13.
Alongside brother Zak Bevis and parents Rick and Julia, the family run the World Association of Wrestling (WAW) promotion, when Paige (wrestling under the name Britani Knight) and Zak eventually receive a try-out from WWE.
Only Paige is successful, and the film follows her struggles to fit into the WWE mould against a backdrop of family tensions sparked by her new found fame.
Here’s how the Fighting With My Family cast compares to the real family of WWE superstar Paige. Rocky has, rightfully, come to be seen as the defining underdog movie, and has provided the template for a lot of the sports movie that followed, from The Karate Kid to The Mighty Ducks and The Fighter. Rocky also looms large with 2019 drama Fighting With My Family, which details the origin story of Paige and her relationship with her family.
The movie is actually based on the 2012 Channel 4 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, which Dwayne Johnson happened to see one night while in the UK filming Fast & Furious 6. Johnson would eventually become a co-producer on the film and plays himself, but while it depicts Paige and her brother Zak meeting the wrestler once during a SmackDown taping, this was invented for the movie. The film was also directed by Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the UK version of The Office, in addition to acting in films like Logan and Jojo Rabbit.
Fighting With My Family invented or condensed certain elements of Paige’s story for dramatic purposes, but the film is still quite accurate to her wrestling journey and relationship with her family. Paige’s real name is Saraya-Jade Bevis, and her parents Ricky Knight and Julia Knight – AKA Sweet Saraya – are co-founders of the UK’s World Association of Wrestling. In Fighting With My Family Ricky is played by Nick Frost while Julia is portrayed by Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones); the real Ricky wanted Ray Winstone for the part but admitted Frost did a great job.
Fighting With My Family provided actress Florence Pugh with her breakthrough role as Paige, which she would soon follow with Midsommar and a lead role in the forthcoming Black Widow. Paige’s brother Zak Zodiac is played by Jack Lowden, with the film depicting Zac’s real feelings of jealousy when Paige was selected following WWE tryouts and he wasn’t. The movie depicts Zak teaching a blind teenager how to wrestle, which is completely true; the real Zak also makes a quick cameo in the film.
James Burrows (Happy Valley) also plays Roy Knight in Fighting With My Family, Paige and Zak’s half-brother who is also a wrestler. The entire clan was said to be happy with Fighting With My Family, with Paige admitting it made her cry. The film was a solid hit too, earning over four times its budget and receiving great reviews.