Professional wrestling has ingrained itself in cultures around the world. Strong independent circuits exist in countless countries, but all are yet to rival World Wrestling Entertainment in terms of impact and success. Though the WWE hasn’t always been the most forward-thinking organization, it’s grown and evolved at a rapid pace over the last 5 years. While some of that growth is long overdue, it’s better late than never. Also better late than never is the upcoming Fighting with My Family, the dramedy based on WWE superstar Paige’s rise to stardom in the ring. When it hits theaters next month, it’s set to show the growth of both Paige and the WWE in parallel.
The biggest facet of that growth has been what the WWE refers to as the Women’s Evolution. Gone are the ring girls and the thirty-second matches between scantily-clad women, thank the wrestling gods. Instead, they’ve been replaced with a diverse, vibrant women’s wrestling division. The dream of the Women’s Evolution was a long, arduous road. But, the women of the WWE believed in what their division could become. Thankfully, the fans of the WWE Universe were on board, as well.
Prior to 2016, the entirety of the women’s division was referred to as “Divas.” So, what changed? The short answer is that fans were fed up. After the Divas got the opportunity to headline the WWE pay-per-view Fastlane with nothing but a thirty-second match, the WWE Universe decided enough was enough. Their irritation with the match (and the overall treatment of the women of the WWE) led to the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance trending for three days straight. All of that ultimately led us to where we are today, with the women headlining events the way they always should have been. But all that’s just the short version of how the evolution began – and who began it.
Each member of the Divas division played a part in WWE’s evolution, but on the frontlines of that mission was Saraya-Jade Bevis. Saraya’s better known to her fans by her ring name: Paige. Those who haven’t followed the Glampire’s career are going to become familiar with her story through Fighting with My Family. Paige’s journey to become one of the most well-known female wrestlers of the modern era is a fascinating story, even to non-wrestling fans, and its telling on the big screen is long overdue.
Though it’s in her blood and has now become her life’s work, Paige didn’t always want to be a wrestler. In her younger years, Saraya was actually hesitant to follow in her parents’ footsteps because of all of the injuries she’d seen them sustain in the ring. Folks are quick to tell you that wrestling’s fake, but those are usually the same people who have never seen a match. There’s a scripted element, sure, but you jump off a twenty-foot ladder and tell me it was fake. There’s stunt coordination in movies, too, but you never see people questioning that stunt people can be injured when filming those stunts. It’s the same with wrestling.
But Paige’s hesitance was short-lived. She was in the ring by age thirteen and racked up several Indy belts before her career in the Independent circuit ended and she moved on to the WWE. When she was finally bumped up to the main roster in 2014, Paige almost immediately won the Divas championship to become the youngest champ in history at the age of 21. In the trailer for Fighting with My Family, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tells her, “Don’t try to become the next me. Be the first you.” Paige did just that in her historic career.
Even before she started breaking records, Paige always looked a little different. The whole point of creating an in-ring persona is to stand out, but there was a long period of time where the majority of the Divas, despite having their own backstories, all had the same brand of pretty going on – bottled blonde and bronzed. Then along came Paige, the dark-haired, pale-skinned Glampire that spray-tan gun mommies told their spray-tan gun children horror stories about. The goth-styled stunner raised some eyebrows at first, with her jet-black hair and dark edge, but that was just how she liked it. Her opponents could make cracks about her appearance all they wanted. Fact of the matter was, she was still gonna whoop their asses when that bell rang.
Unfortunately, even trailblazers are susceptible to injuries. In 2016, Paige went on hiatus due to a neck injury. That hiatus would be filled with unnecessary drama from the WWE, which suspended the wrestler twice despite her off-duty status due to failed drug tests. Paige and her family continued to insist that the drugs were prescribed to manage her pain but, as mentioned, the WWE hasn’t always been the most forward-thinking organization. After a year, some management drama, and a successful neck surgery, Paige returned to the ring in 2017, right on the heels of the Women’s Evolution.
When she returned, Paige was joined by two of NXT’s (WWE’s developmental brand) finest: Sonya DeVille and Mandy Rose. The three would form the heel stable Absolution, fighting with the notion that Paige was the real cause of the Evolution, and that other members of the roster were either with or against them. The Absolution team was received with open arms by the WWE Universe, but Paige’s in-ring return was criminally short-lived thanks to more injuries.
In the end, it turns out the fears that a young Saraya had over becoming a professional wrestler weren’t unfounded, but Paige wouldn’t have traded a second of it. In April of 2018, at the young age of 26, Paige retired from in-ring performance after repeated neck issues. Despite her retirement, her meteoric rise was not met with an equal fall. Instead, she put her head down and kept her momentum going by stepping in as the SmackDown brand’s general manager. WWE recently restructured, getting rid of the General Manager title as a whole so the McMahon family could step into a stronger on-camera presence with RAW and SmackDown brands, but Paige still remains heavily involved in the company and invested in its success to this day.
Fighting with My Family will be wrestling its way into theaters February 19th. With the pace at which Paige’s career has moved, she will undoubtedly have already accomplished several other milestones in the short time between now and then. It might not be in a WWE ring, and it might not be in a management position, but history has shown us that no matter what Saraya-Jade Bevis sets out to accomplish, she does.
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