The 26-year-old Brit's life arrives on the silver screen thanks to WWE star-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson
WWE’s Paige is used to battling it out in the ring. And now her story arrives on the big screen in Fighting with My Family thanks to fellow former WWE star Dwyane Johnson, who produced and appears in the movie.
“It all started with Dwayne,” Paige tells PEOPLE of the film, in which Florence Pugh plays her. “I didn’t know it was going to be made the day of Wrestlemania 2014. I get a text on my phone, ‘Hey, it’s DJ. I would love to talk to you at some point today.’ I didn’t know who D.J. was! I didn’t know he had a nickname. And then I go, I get taken to his room, he comes in, he’s like, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I stumbled across your documentary. And I fell in love with the family. I fell in love with your story and I think it’s so beautiful and so relatable that I want to do a movie on it.’”
Now as her journey from young wrestler in the U.K. to WWE Divas champ hits theaters nationwide, here’s what viewers should know about the 26-year-old.
She’s from a small town outside of London
Paige, born Saraya-Jade Bevis, grew up in Norwich, England, approximately 100 miles northeast of London. “I’m from humble beginnings,” she says. “And now I’m getting fan mail, I’m blowing up on social media [with fans] just saying thank you. It’s really wonderful to see.”
She’s from a wrestling family
Paige’s family adopted the wrestling name of the Knights, as her parents Ricky and Julia (played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey, respectively, in the film) were professional wrestlers and promoters who ran their own gym in the U.K. Paige trained with her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) growing up, but she still felt hesitant to get in the ring at first.
“I always loved wrestling growing up,” Paige says. “I was obsessed with it. But I just scared of getting inside the ring. That wasn’t something that I was willing to do. It was terrifying.”
Her dad, owner of the World Association of Wrestling, asked her to fill in one night — and that’s when Paige had the courage to realize her dreams.
“One of the girls didn’t turn up for a show,” she remembers. “My dad was like, ‘Get in the ring. You have to fill in tonight.’ I was like, ‘Uh, okay.’ And then as soon as I walked out of the curtain and into the ring, I just fell in love with it. I was like, yup, this is what I want to do.”
Paige and her brother Zak both tried out for WWE — but only she made the cut
Paige and Zak both had dreams of wrestling professionally and making it in the WWE. They both didn’t make it after their first tryout, but after their second attempt, Paige got the good news — and Zak didn’t.
“We thought we’d either both make it or we both won’t make it,” Paige says. “We never thought it’d just be one of us. That’s where the problem came in.”
As seen in Fighting with My Family, Paige went off to train in the U.S. both excited about starting her career and bummed about the tension back home.
“It wasn’t because he was jealous of me in any way, but it was that he was upset because he lives and breathes wrestling,” Paige explains. “He’s loved it so much since a young age, and it’s just frustrating to him for his sister to get it. It caused a little bit of a riff in our relationship, but in a couple months he came around.”
She tried to change her appearance to fit in as a Diva
Paige knew she didn’t look like the typical WWE Diva, so she dyed her hair and took out her piercings.
“I did lighten my hair back to my natural color, which is like a dirty blonde/brown color and I got a spray tan,” she says. “I took my piercings out. I tried to conform to what I thought was Diva, but it just didn’t work out for me and I wasn’t comfortable.”
But Zak ultimately convinced her to be true to herself. “I did lighten my hair back to my natural color, which is like a dirty blonde/brown color and I got a spray tan,” she says. “I took my piercings out. I tried to conform to what I thought was Diva, but it just didn’t work out for me and I wasn’t comfortable.”
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Paige made her WWE debut in 2014 and won her first Divas Champion title during that match
In April 2014, Paige made her debut on the main roster during an episode of Raw. She challenged WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee to the title, and won. When Paige earned her first Divas Championship at age 21, she became the youngest WWE Divas Champion in history.
“To get the opportunity to be the Divas Champion, it just soothed my mind because I wasn’t a typical Diva,” Paige says. “I didn’t look like the rest of the Divas. I was the oddball, the misfit. The reception from the fans was amazing. Even when I watch it back now, it’s insane to me.”
She considers Johnson a mentor
“He’s such a good human being and he always makes time to speak to you, even though he as the busiest schedule of anyone in the world,” Paige gushes.
Paige was forced to retire in April 2018 when a neck injury ended her career
After taking a kick to the neck in December 2017, the U.K. native had surgery and remained out of the ring until the following April, when she announced her retirement.
“This is one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to say in my entire career,” she told fans at the time.
Now she reflects, “Being sidelined really did suck. I feel like I missed out on a lot of stuff. I always wanted to continue with my wrestling career, but unfortunately, it was cut short. And now it’s opened doors to a lot of other stuff.”
She’s since turned her attention to her makeup and clothing lines
Though Paige briefly served as SmackDown General Manager, she also took her career outside of WWE.
“I didn’t want to sit there and be sad about something that I couldn’t change,” she says of her forced retirement. “There was nothing I could change about that. I’ve hit rock bottom before and I got depressed about it, and that’s what made me spark to stay positive because I never want to see that again.”
So she launched makeup and clothing lines, got involved with Fighting with My Family and looks forward to doing more movies. “I was like, okay I want to be happy, so I started setting goals to do other stuff,” Paige says.
She’s since moved to Los Angeles and looks forward to “other adventures.”
Fighting with My Family is in theaters now.