The Paige Effect: How a WWE icon survived a global sex scandal to become the inspirational subject of a Hollywood blockbuster
As Paige, Pugh will have to demonstrate a lot of aggression in order to give a proper depiction of the person who changed women's wrestling forever.
WWE wrestling champion, Paige, couldn't be happier about her upcoming biopic, 'Fighting With My Family'. Starring Florence Pugh as Paige and Dwayne Johnson as The Rock himself, the film follows Paige's journey into the wrestling world where she goes on to become an NXT Women’s champion and 2-time WWE Divas champ. However, the journey has not been easy for the wrestler whose actual name is Saraya-Jade Bevis, and the film is set to depict the ups and downs in Paige's life which contributed in making her the champion that she is.
Following the trailer release of the Dwayne Johnson-produced movie, Paige herself took to Twitter to share the news with her fans. Retweeting the trailer, she captioned the post as: "Omg I’m definitely crying my eyes out through LAX right now YOU GUYS LOOK AT THIS TRAILER!! My heart! Thank you for believing in mine and my families story @TheRock ." Paige's story has inspired many, even Johnson spoke about her undaunting spirit while posting the trailer on his social media account. The English wrestler had initially attracted followers with her anti-diva appearance of pale skin and goth make-up but she gained a notable reputation when she became the first NXT Women's Champion.
As the daughter to British women’s wrestling legend Sweet Saraya (real name: Julia Hamer-Bevis), Paige participated in her first official match as Britani Knight at just 13 years, and soon began to wrestle in and out of the ring with (and sometimes against) her brother, Zak, who goes by the name Zak Zodiac in the ring. The Norwich-bred second generation wrestler, whose father Patrick Bevis, a.k.a. Ricky Knight founded U.K. promotion World Association of Wrestling, traveled cross-continental as a choreographed combat fighter claiming victory in almost every fight that she got into.
However, she could not get through the first round of WWE try-outs in 2010 but managed to sign a contract with WWE and was assigned to its then-developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), in 2011. There was certainly no turning back for Paige after this. After making her debut as Saraya in the 2012 house show for FCW, she changed her ring name to Paige while making her televised debut on the February 26 episode of FCW TV that same year. Soon after, her anti-diva appearance began to make her popular among fans and along with Sofia Cortez, she started the "Anti-Diva Army".
Although they initially faced defeat against the duo, Audrey Marie and Kaitlyn, Paige and Cortez formed a brief association with Rick Victor following which they won a mixed tag team match against Audrey Marie and Aiden English. However, things were just getting started for Paige and the English wrestler soon went on to make her main roster debut on the April 7, 2014 episode of Raw, where she defeated Divas Champion AJ Lee, thus becoming the youngest Divas Champion in history at the age of 21, the first Diva to win the title in her debut match and the only woman to hold both Divas and NXT Women's Championships at the same time.
However, the star wrestler soon found herself in the middle of a scandal when explicit images and videos of her engaging in sex acts with two separate male wrestlers were leaked online, in 2017. The then 24-year-old wrestler who was blasted "for desecrating WWE property" ( as she was apparently using the belt during the act) went through a traumatizing phase as she seriously considered taking her own life following the incident. "I made a big mistake. Huge. I put trust in the hands of someone that took advantage of a young girl years ago." Fortunately, her marriage with former WWE star Alberto Del Rio turned out to be a success as he constantly defended her.
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Kick started #WWEEvolution today with Hall Of Famer @thebethphoenix and first ever @wwe female commentator and one of my fave people @reneeyoungwwe on the panel. What a beautiful night to be apart of. Very lucky to be here and amongst hard working, inspiring, empowering women from the past, present and future.
However, immediately after the incident, Paige was once again under the radar when she was issued with a 60-day suspension in October in 2017 for her second violation of the wrestling company’s anti-drug Talent Wellness Program. Claiming that she is absolutely clean from drugs, Paige had complained, "WWE posted a statement about me failing the wellness policy. We get drug tested all the time … first of all, I don’t do drugs. Second of all, I did the test and I passed it. They’re only suspending me because I didn’t take it in the allotted time that they gave me.”
The wrestler is currently going through a rough patch and the champion has already declared her retirement from the ring as she fears that her neck might suffer some serious injury. She told fans: "Unfortunately due to neck injuries I can no longer perform as an in-ring competitor. This is one of the hardest things I'll ever have to say in my entire career." However, she has certainly fulfilled the most arduous responsibility in the ring which is pioneering the Women's Revolution that has changed WWE for all. As #GiveDivasAChance trended on Twitter for days, the wrestler said, "I just think the message is not just for female wrestlers, it’s [for] all different genres of sport...It just shows that young women out there don’t give up on their dream."
Paige's story will be told by Pugh who is currently starring as Charlie Ross in BBC One's adaptation of John Le Carre's 1983 novel, 'The Little Drummer Girl'. Pugh has put on Paige's iconic goth make-up, complete with her pierced lips, and being a wrestler herself, Pugh has managed to imitate Paige on the ring quite precisely. The film is set to release on February 14, 2019, and is being directed by Stephen Merchant.
Watch the trailer below: