Fighting with My Family follows the true story of professional wrestler and WWE Superstar Paige.
Saraya-Jade Bevis, better known to the world as Paige, was born with wrestling in her blood. Her father is the legendary Ricky Knight, and her mother is Sweet Saraya Knight, the owners of the infamous Norwich wrestling promotion WAW—the World Association of Wrestling.
Paige began wrestling for her father’s promotion at the young age of 13, with her brother Zak (who wrestled under the name Zak Zodiac). From the moment she stepped in the ring with her older brother, she knew that she wanted to be a professional wrestler alongside him. And that meant that both of them wanted to wrestle for the WWE.
The WWE (once known as the WWF) is the pinnacle wrestling organization that brought the world icons such as Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock. It’s a company with a budget of millions and international acclaim.
The WWE contacted both Paige and her brother Zak in 2010 for try-outs—Paige was selected, but her brother was not.
The above journey is what Fighting with My Family is about.
Writer and director Stephen Merchant was influenced by the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, which followed Paige’s transition from “indie” wrestler to the big leagues. However, the filmmaker tells it by way of the sports underdog story—imagine Rocky for professional wrestling, only it’s not as great as Rocky.
At times, Fighting with My Family feels like the generic underdog story mixed with the generic mean girls story—but it has unique attributes. The movie succeeds because it brings one of the most controversial forms of entertainment into the spotlight, allowing non-wrestling fans to look at the sport from a different perspective.
It allows them to dump the “wrestling is fake” mentality and shows the mainstream audience just how the world of professional wrestling works—at least to a degree. In the movie, actor Nick Frost (playing Ricky Knight) explains, “It’s not fake; it’s fixed.”
But the biggest reason the movie works is because of its tremendous amount of heart. The film is a perfect story for any young girl or boy who feels like an outsider, who doesn’t believe in themselves, or who want to chase a dream.
While Paige is an accomplished wrestler, part of her fame and connection to the audience is based on her past. She on many occasions has spoken out about her real-life experiences with bullies and having body-image issues—and young wrestling fans connect to that.
Her wrestling persona embraces her weirdness and marches to the beat of her own drum toward her childhood dream, and that is the central message of Fighting with My Family. And Florence Pugh—the young actress who plays the former Diva’s Champion—does a great job at bringing that message to light through her performance.
While a touching and upbeat film, Fighting with My Family is not flawless even with the few scenes with the film’s producer and former WWE champion, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Merchant’s movie falls victims to multiple clichés and some underdeveloped characters. There is the unoriginal life coach (played by Vaughn) who sees what Paige has to give even when she doesn’t. The character of her brother is quite flat beside the fact he’s angry his sister made it, and he didn’t. And, overall the movie produces a formula that audiences have seen over and over again.
However, even with the surface characters, clichés, and generic formula, Fighting with My Family’s wholesome tale tag-teamed with its huge heart makes it championship material.