“This is just as much my movie as it is my brother’s,” said Paige.
WWE just crowned its first women’s tag team champions in 30 years on Sunday’s pay-per-view. But even if Paige been healthy enough to wrestle on the card, it is unlikely she would have been in that title match. Her tag partner never made it to the WWE.
Fighting with My Family, the film based on Paige’s life written and directed by Stephen Merchant, opens Friday in theaters across the country. It tracks the journey of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (played brilliantly by Florence Pugh) from Norwich, England to WWE. But the story also shines a light on the tag partner who helped Paige achieve her wrestling dreams.
As fascinating as Paige’s journey played out on screen, the same can be said of her older brother Zak’s.
“This is just as much my movie as it is my brother’s,” said Paige. “Zak’s story is so meaningful, and even though this was his dream, his success happened away from WWE when he created a family and taught kids how to wrestle.”
The movie perfectly captures Paige’s debut match, which took place against her brother when she was only 13 years old. It was not designed to be an intergender match, so Zak wore a Pink Power Ranger outfit to make the audience think the match was between two aspiring female wrestlers.
“Paige always wanted to get in the ring, and I’d throw her around and we’d have fun,” said Zak. “Then my dad said to her one day, ‘I’m a lady short, so you’re going to have to go in.’ She didn’t want to, so I said I’d wear the Pink Power Ranger suit so she could work with me.”
The 13-year-old Paige then wrestled against the 15-year-old Zak, perfecting that match for the next two-and-a-half years, honing her craft against her brother.
“She had it, right away, even at 13 years old,” said Zak. “She just shined, she was the star of the show.”
The tough, proud Zak Bevis—who could identify every wrestler on the WWE roster solely from the look of their boots—had no other choice but to embrace his role, though the confines of his Power Ranger gear offered precious little anonymity.
“Imagine being a 15-year-old boy, with your friends coming to watch the show, and you’re the guy in a Pink Power Ranger suit with your balls taped to your backside, wearing your mom’s padded bra with socks stuffed inside?” said Zak. “I did over two years of that, but that’s what I’d do just to get my kid sister through her match.”
Life has not always been easy for Paige and Zak. Like any pair of siblings, the relationship can be competitive and unforgiving. But both know that there is no one else they would rather have in their corner.
“I’ll always be her big brother and protector,” said Zak. “I’ve been a guardian angel to her, and she’s been a rock to me. The only difference is, when my sister’s down, it’s all over the media. When I’m down, it’s not shown.”
Eighteen months ago, Zak was in a wheelchair, suffering a mental breakdown after reading the litany of negative comments about his sister on the Internet.
“I tried to fight them all, but I learned I couldn’t,” admitted Zak. “You know how twins think exactly the same? That’s just like us. We’re only 14 months apart, and she’s my best mate.”
The origin of Fighting With My Family was a 2012 documentary of the same name about the Bevis family’s obsession with pro wrestling.
“I’m used to being in front of the camera because my parents loved to do documentaries,” said Paige. “The story is pretty accurate. The scenes with my family weren’t twisted for Hollywood, they’re just that insane.
“Our director, Stephen Merchant, which blows my mind that someone so accomplished is our writer and director, did an insane job. His timing and writing are just so incredible, and it was so surreal to work with him.”
The movie is especially important for Paige, who looks to transition away from wrestling following a series of neck injuries that forced the 26-year-old to prematurely and permanently remove herself from the ring.
“I love wrestling, don’t get me wrong, and if I could return, I would,” said Paige. “Unfortunately, I can’t. So I choose health.”
Paige now looks to Fighting With My Family executive producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for guidance on the next step in her career.
“Right now, I don’t know what’s going on with WWE,” said Paige. “I work there, of course, but we’re deciding whether I’ll be on screen or behind the scenes. I have a clothing line and a makeup line, and I’d like to transition, like Dwayne did, into more show business.”
The film is a story of sacrifice, and Paige takes immense pride that this story belongs to her and her family. After working in a business where someone else decides your fate, she takes comfort in knowing the film is hers forever.
“I couldn’t stop crying the first time I watched it, literally right from the start,” said Paige. “I balled my eyes out watching the scene when I won the Divas championship, plus the scene at the airport when I said goodbye to my parents. It completely refreshed my feelings. There were also scenes where I was really lonely, and that’s exactly how I felt.”
As one chapter closes, another begins. Paige is optimistic about her future, even without wrestling, and she would like to use her strength to be an advocate for those without a voice.
“Emotionally and health-wise, right now, this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” said Paige. “I’m in a very good place. In order to be successful, you need to be yourself. This movie is all about showing that positive message.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.