Months ago, because I’m childless and alone in my mid-30’s, I decided to go out all by myself, have a few margaritas and see Fighting With My Family. This is of course the film about WWE superstar, Paige. Wait, you think this is pathetic and are asking if I have a GoFundMe you can donate to? Not at all.
Going to the movies alone is great. I’m on my own schedule, I do what I want, when I want. I don’t have to sync up with anyone’s schedules. And why am I sitting next to anybody anyway? I can’t talk to my friend’s during the movie. What am I gonna do, have a date and try to “make a move” on her like Zack “Steam Up With The Windows” Morris? No, no. I get my popcorn, put an embarrassing amount of butter topping with nobody there to judge me, sit back and watch. The movie trip was great. The movie itself was not.
I understand as a wrestling geek that we get a bit protective over it. There’s nothing more downright heartwarming than walking into a bar before an NXT Takeover, and greeting somebody who has an Undisputed Era shirt on. There’s a kinship between you two. Of course, then you have the 125 pound hillbilly with about 17 teeth next to us at NXT Takeover XXV wearing a Shayna Bazler shirt and an Intercontinental Title, looking like he wants to literally bite you and wonder what life decisions have put you in the same arena as this person. However, despite this protectiveness over the fake fighting we all love, I went in realistically expecting some Hollywood-ization of the real story. But not too much. I mean, it’s a great story on its own, isn’t it?
With a shockingly high Rotten Tomatoes rating of over 90%, and the blessing of wrestling royalty with The Rock, I decided to give it a go. I always liked Paige. Whether Stephanie McMahon claims so, or Nikki Bella, or whoever else, Paige really ushered in the true new era of women’s wrestling. Gone was the bikini model rolling around for 2 minutes with the playboy bunny and ripping off her evening gown.
As enticing as that is, Paige was the new standard. Gorgeous, athletic, sexy and knew what she was doing in the ring. This was no “diva”. This was a WWE champion.
From the movie…you wouldn’t know that. The movie essentially is a Rocky rip-off where you could’ve copy-pasted professional wrestling with anything.
Woman goes to knitting classes with her family throughout her teen years. Gets invited to the World Knitting Championships. Fails at knitting among the elite knitters from around the world. Eventually perseveres and is selected to be the host of a knitting show on Home & Garden. Credits.
I can accept the blatant lie that The Rock shamelessly invents a weird backstory where he personally lets Paige know she’s headed to Monday Night Raw, but the rest of the film changes the actual story in a bizarre way.
Paige is depicted as not being very good at wrestling once she arrives in the United States. It’s depicted that she was overwhelmed, and not doing anything to stand out. She can’t lift the same amount of weight as the other women. The coach, played by Vince Vaughn, asks her if she can’t lift a tire, how can she lift a woman heavier than that size in the ring? Good question. Never answered.
Paige also absolutely freezes up when on the microphone. She literally can’t speak and freezes up in fear like fucking B-Rabbit in 8 Mile.
Now, of course you have the standard “She’s getting better!” montage, but…not that better. I mean, she pulls off a few moves, but so does the dollar-store Charlotte and dollar-store Summer Rae. She doesn’t touch the mic again.
So at the end, when Rock comes to talk to her during Wrestlemania, of course, as a fan, I know that Paige is heading to Monday Night Raw. But if I were just a regular old normie, I’d say…why?
This woman in the film has done absolutely nothing to warrant the gift of being placed on a billion dollar corporation’s flagship LIVE television show. I know Vince McMahon is a wacky old man who had characters kiss his bare ass on national TV in a weekly segment, but even he would not put a woman on camera who has shown that she is so terrified of speaking in front of live crowds that she can’t even get out a single word.
Also, for some odd reason, they portray the final match as if wrestling is real. They act as if Paige is entering a real competition, and has no idea she is booked to go over. It almost is portrayed as if they are actually, really fighting even though the film has very clearly established that wrestling is scripted throughout. It’s just very strange, odd storytelling choices like this throughout.
The real Paige was so elite at a such a young age that she won the NXT Women’s Title (in this movie universe, NXT is basically a bootcamp and apparently has no storylines or belts). Without even having to drop the belt, she got hotshotted to the main roster on arguably the 2nd most important night of the year for WWE television (the Raw After Mania). She then, in a borderline squash, went out and beat the long-running, well-known Diva’s champ quickly and decisively (AJ Lee).
Why not tell that story? Of a discovered talent in a small part of England so phenomenal that she forced the largest wrestling company in the world to shoot her instantly to the top, as she revolutionized women’s wrestling for all to come ever since?
Or why not wait a year and add in the heartbreaking end to Paige’s career via neck injury? Or even the sex tape? This is real drama. There’s a throwaway documentary on WWE Network where Paige tearfully breaks the news to her parents that she was done forever in the ring, and it carries more emotional weight than anything in the film.
Can’t you imagine a finale where the dollar-store Charlotte has a moment with Paige, thanking her for pushing her to be her best, as Paige gives her words of encouragement. Then Paige must stand behind the curtain and watch dollar-store Charlotte walk out into a packed 80,000 seat stadium to main event Wrestlemania. Essentially walking the path that Paige trailblazed for her.
At least the film gave us the glorious PAIGE HERE meme.
The movie itself is not a crime to humanity or anything. It’s even surprisingly funny in parts. But as a wrestling fan, it’s so fictional that I don’t know why they didn’t just make a new character for it. If anything, instead of celebrating Paige’s life and career, it undermines how good Paige actually was.
It’s a shame that the people who saw this movie saw a film essentially about a decent British wrestler who sort of lucked into a prominent role on television because The Rock kinda liked her. There is a great story to tell with Paige, one that is fit for a legitimate big screen film, even.
We will never get to see it.