FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY [Review]: Breaking Kayfabe.

Destiny “Evangelical” Edwards

WWE Studios’ latest venture, Fighting With My Family is a very fictionalized depiction of Paige’s rise in the WWE. As a film, it’s very well-made. Florence Pugh (Outlaw King) is excellent as Paige/Saraya Knight and captures the emotions “Anti-Diva” and her struggles being far from home and her clashes with NXT coach Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) in a way that has you rooting for her, even though you already know the story.

But the real star of this film is Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) as Paige’s older brother Zak. His story is the more interesting of the siblings — and, sadly, more realistic. He was the one that had always wanted to be a wrestler (the film indicates Paige was forced into the business and learned to love it). And when his sister is selected to go to Florida and he isn’t, he begins a downward spiral that nearly ruins his life followed by a redemption that ends in a not-quite happily ever after.

As a wrestling fan, though, I was internally screaming “THAT’S NOT RIGHT!” The bulk of the story takes place during NXT, but it’s barely recognizable outside of the Performance Center and cameos. The other women of NXT, models who Paige learns how to get along with, didn’t exist– not even as possible amalgams of other wrestlers at the time. But, most annoying, Paige’s actual accomplishments in NXT were completely skipped over. For example, we’re supposed to be proud she can flip over a tire and teach a model how to not a botch a suicide dive. Yet being the first NXT Women’s champion and carrying the title with her to the main roster warrants not a single mention.

“…easiest gig I ever had.”

Thea Trinidad/Zelina Vega‘s portrayal of then-longest reigning Diva’s champ AJ Lee was basically Zelina Vega with slightly more skipping. There was no recreation of AJ’s trademark gear or Tamina as AJ’s enforcer, which I would’ve been fine with if Trinidad had incorporated AJ’s nuances into her performance, but she didn’t (aside from skipping to the ring). I remember how hot the crowd was chanting Paige’s name and her effortless back-and-forth banter with AJ when she showed up at Raw; Paige got the kind of reaction NXT call-ups today dream about. The movie version of this scene — the moment FWMF has been building up to — sees her make her main roster debut to crickets and completely forgetting how to cut a promo.

Fighting With My Family manipulates your emotions and tries to make you forget that you know most of it is a lie. But it’s a pretty, well-acted lie. 4/5 RamPaiges.

-Destiny Edwards

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