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Fighting with My Family

Fighting with My Family is a movie produced by Stephen Merchant and WWE/Hollywood legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which tells the real-life story of Saraya Bevis – more commonly known by her WWE ring name ‘Paige’ – and her journey from a reluctant sister and daughter helping out her family’s wrestling promotion, the World Association of Wrestling (WAW), to becoming the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history.

As well as documenting Saraya’s journey towards becoming a WWE Superstar, the movie portrays her brother Zak Zodiac’s struggle as an outsider watching the growth of his sister’s career with both pride and envy.

Fighting with My Family gives wrestling fans an insider look at the harsh realities of reaching success within the wrestling industry and compares the differences between the “glamorous” life of wrestlers as seen on TV, to the hard work required to reach that point. The movie is a dramatisation of Channel 4 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, originally broadcast in 2012, which followed the real Saraya and Zak as they hoped to find fame and fortune by signing with WWE. Clips of the 2012 documentary were also used in the end credits of the film

Fighting with My Family

Is Fighting with My Family a true story?

To summarise it briefly, yes (mostly).

Fighting with My Family is based on a 2012 documentary commissioned for Channel 4 and directed by Max Fisher, The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family. The film is a dramatisation of the events covered by the documentary. The documentary follows the Knight Family as both Zak and Saraya undertake trials in their pursuit of signing with WWE, and the impact of Saraya’s departure on both the family, as well as WAW itself. Saraya herself confirmed that the film adaptation of Fighting with My Family was “like 95 percent accurate, although there were little twists for Hollywood”. 

Dwayne Johnson, producer of Fighting with My Family, first stumbled across the documentary while filming Fast & Furious 6 in London. Johnson returned to his hotel room after a filming session and saw the documentary as it aired on Channel 4. He was apparently drawn to the family element of the documentary, which “grabbed his attention” and fuelled the idea of producing a movie about Saraya’s journey.

Fighting with My Family
Director Stephen Merchant and Producer Dwayne Johnson on-set.

The film also depicts several real-life events in Zak’s life following the conclusion of the documentary it was based on. After failing to reach WWE alongside his sister, Zak suffered with mental health issues for many years before turning his life around by dedicating his time to developing the WAW Academy, WAW’s wrestling training school. It was through this role that Zak first met James Chilvers, the blind wrestling trainee whose story inspired a similar character in the film itself. Chilvers is achieved his goal of becoming a wrestler with Zak’s support, a story that BBC documentary series Step Into The Ring delves deeper into.

Some scenes were created solely for the film’s narrative, such as Paige and Zak’s encounter with Dwayne Johnson prior to their WWE trial, as well as Paige’s return to WAW after experiencing difficulties adapting to her new life in the US.

Fighting with My Family
Lena Headey, Florence Pugh, and Nick Frost in Fighting with My Family.Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Who stars in Fighting with My Family?

Fighting with my Family features a predominantly British cast, reflecting the fact that many scenes were filmed in the United Kingdom. Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden star as Saraya Knight (aka Paige) and Zak “Zodiac” Knight, while Lena Headey and Nick Frost support as Julia Knight (aka Sweet Saraya) and “Rowdy” Ricky Knight, respectively. Vince Vaughn plays the role of fictional WWE head trainer Hutch Morgan, the man responsible for signing Paige in Fighting With My Family. 

Several current and former WWE Superstars make cameo appearances, John Cena, The Miz, Sheamus, and Big Show (Paul Wight) briefly appear as themselves, while Zelina Vega plays AJ Lee – the wrestler Paige beat to win the WWE Divas Championship.

Producer Dwayne Johnson and director Stephen Merchant also appear in cameo roles, with Johnson playing himself and Merchant portraying Hugh, Zak’s father-in-law.

Many WAW wrestlers and staff, as well as British wrestlers from throughout the industry, appear as background characters. The real Zak Knight appears as a gang leader who has a dispute with his film counterpart. Roy Knight cameos as a cage fighter competing against the film version of Zak. Their sister, Nikki Knight, briefly appears as the midwife helping Zak’s partner Courtney give birth.

Despite inspiring major characters, the real-life Ricky and Saraya Knight do not make appearances in the film in any capacity. Similarly, the real Paige is not seen until clips from the original documentary are played during the credits.

Here’s a list of cameos to look out for, can you spot them all?

Fighting with My Family
Dwayne Johnson and Vince Vaughn in Fighting with My Family. Photo courtesy of Sundance Film Institute.
Fighting with My Family
Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden in Fighting with My Family.

Where was Fighting with My Family filmed?

Norwich Market and Mousehold Heath both served as backdrops for early scenes taking place in Norwich. Locations in Bracknell and London served as representations of other areas of Norwich, including the house where Paige and Zak grew up, and Grappler’s Gym – one of WAW’s past training facilities.

Several scenes were filmed in Great Yarmouth, a nearby seaside town where WAW often holds live events. Paige and Zak attended WWE trials filmed and set in and around the O2 Arena in London, a venue which regularly hosts WWE’s live events in the UK.

In-ring scenes at the end of the movie were filmed at a live taping of WWE Raw, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in February 2017.

Fighting with My Family
Filming on location at Norwich Market. Photo credit: Martin Pearce

How To Watch Fighting with My Family

Fighting with My Family is available to buy or rent on several popular streaming platforms around the world*. This includes Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Netflix, Sky Store, and YouTube.

*Available platforms may vary based on your location.

If Fighting with My Family inspires you to give professional wrestling a go, check out our wrestling training page for information on the WAW Academy.

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