PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.
Saraya-Jade Bevis, better known as WWE Superstar Paige, has seen her life transformed into the new film “Fighting With My Family,” produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Written and directed by Stephen Merchant (“The Office”), the movie — which began as a short documentary — details Paige’s dream to become a professional wrestler, inviting the viewer into a universal tale of struggle.
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“I never thought it would blow up the way it has,” Paige says of the film. “I like that it opens up doors for other people that aren’t wrestling fans and have no idea who me and my family are, they get to see this young girl and her struggle to get to her dreams. I think it resonates with a lot of people. Everyone in their life has felt like an underdog or felt insecure. Some people have come from humble beginnings and have just been chasing this dream.”
It’s been a bittersweet journey for Paige, though. Early last year the 26-year-old was forced to retire due to an injury that occurred in the ring. After more than a decade of putting her body through the wear and tear of a professional wrestling career, she transitioned to the role of an on-air personality for WWE throughout the rest of 2018 and says she has almost certainly wrestled her last match. So promoting this film has been a touch difficult, she admits.
“Yeah, of course. I look at the movie and I’m looking at this girl and my story and seeing me chasing this dream and then becoming Divas champion,” she says. “And then all of a sudden a [women’s wrestling] revolution is starting — it’s very surreal because it’s like, ‘Well, damn, I’m not doing that anymore.’ If people see a sequel, it would be a pretty interesting sequel, I’ll tell you that! If there was one, they would see I didn’t fail.”
Regarding the women’s revolution in wrestling, the conversation naturally shifts to the squared circle and particularly the current march to WrestleMania 35 in April. The main event is still up in the air but it could very well be Becky Lynch versus Rhonda Rousey, with Charlotte Flair thrown in for good measure. It would mark the first time women have ever headlined WWE’s premier annual showcase. Does that mean it’s mission accomplished or is there still room for improvement with this revolution?
“Nah, I think the girls are killing it,” Paige says. “They’re stealing the show every Raw and SmackDown. You tune in to watch the females at this point, especially Becky. I mean, she is incredible. I’ve known her since I was like 12 years old and she’s really had a spark lit under her butt. She’s doing amazing things … I like the story and dynamic of where they’re going with Charlotte being Vince [McMahon]’s, like, princess who gets anything she wants. Then you have Becky, who is like the Stone Cold [Steve Austin-type], who’s against all authority and does her own thing. And obviously you’ve got Rhonda, who’s the champ. So it’s just a great dynamic with the three.”
For more, including Paige’s thoughts on expanding outside of wrestling and looking up to Johnson, who has established himself as a massive global brand, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link below.
|WWE Superstar Paige photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety