How Fighting With My Family Changed Paige's WWE Debut
Fighting With My Family made some significant changes to - but also improved aspects of - Paige's WWE debut match. Paige made her main roster debut on April 7, 2014, in New Orleans in an "impromptu match" against WWE Divas Champion A.J. Lee. In the real-life match, Paige was the reigning NXT Women's Champion and was acknowledged as such by the announcers, though she came to the ring without the NXT Title belt. The match with A.J. lasted roughly 120 seconds where Paige reversed Lee's "Black Widow" submission hold, hit her finisher, the "Paige Turner", and pinned Lee to win the Divas Championship. At 21 years old, Paige was the youngest-ever Divas Champion and the first woman to be NXT Women's Champion and WWE Divas Champion simultaneously. However, in Merchant's film, Paige was never NXT Women's Champion as the director felt it would lessen the impact of her winning WWE's biggest prize if she already had a belt of her own.
In the film, Paige comes to the ring wearing different ring gear (as does A.J. Lee, who is pitch-perfectly played by Thea Trinidad, a.k.a. Zelina Vega in WWE). Missing from the film is Tamina Snuka, the daughter of WWE legend "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, who was Lee's bodyguard at the time - the film cut Snuka to eliminate having to explain why A.J. Lee had a bodyguard to begin with. The storyline reason for the match was the same in the film as it was in real-life: Lee had just defeated 13 women at WrestleMania and was boasting that she was unbeatable; but in the film, Paige came out to outright challenge A.J. whereas the storyline in the actual match was Paige coming out to "congratulate" the champion. Either way, A.J. puts her championship on the line to make an example out of the young NXT upstart. The film also plays it so that the audience doesn't seem to know who Paige is whereas the real WWE audience at RAW that night knew exactly who Paige was and were thrilled to see her debut.
Stephen Merchant's creative choices actually made Fighting With My Family's A.J. vs. Paige match better, both narratively and in terms of action. To add drama, he made the match longer and a more even, back-and-forth affair. The actual match was entirely one-sided; Lee took advantage of Paige being "unprepared" and dominated her, trying to win the match early with her submission hold finisher. Merchant made the match more exciting by adding more offensive maneuvers: Paige hit A.J. with a fallaway slam while the champion rocked the challenger with a superplex off the top rope. The finish of the match was the same, but the film improves upon real-life by having Paige properly execute the Paige Turner to pin the champion, whereas the real Paige and A.J. infamously botched the finishing move. Fighting With My Family makes no bones about the scripted nature of pro-wrestling, but the finale match builds tension by making it seem like Paige didn't know she would win; in actuality, the real wrestlers knew by the time RAW started that the title was switching owners.
After she won in real-life, Paige immediately took the butterfly-shaped Divas Championship and posed with it on the rampway, in total shock at her accomplishment, while Tamina and A.J. were upset in the ring. Instead, Merchant gives Paige her Rocky moment by having her cut a victorious promo with the championship in the ring, which pays off her earlier difficulty cutting promos during her NXT training. Paige ends the film by proclaiming "This is my house now!"; the real Paige made "This Is My House" her catchphrase because A.J. mocked her by saying it before their impromptu match. "This Is My House" signified the passing of the torch to Paige becoming the star of the WWE Divas division and it became her T-shirt's slogan too.
What Happened Next To Paige In WWE
After only 3 years on the main WWE roster, Paige was forced to retire in December 2017 due to a serious neck injury, the result of taking bumps in the ring since she was 13-years-old (Paige suffers from scoliosis, a fact she was unaware of until after she signed with WWE). After the film ends, the real Paige and A.J. Lee feuded over the WWE Divas Championship throughout 2014 (Paige also won the title a second time). A.J. and Paige later become allies and teamed to defeat the Bella Twins at WrestleMania 31. After A.J. Lee retired from WWE in 2015, Paige went on to become a major player in the WWE Women's Revolution; in summer 2015, WWE called up several of the top NXT female wrestlers to bolster their Women's Division, and Paige formed a faction called Team PCB with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. Because of her years of experience, Paige also became the youngest judge on WWE Tough Enough, a reality series searching for the next WWE Superstars.
However, in August 2016, Paige was suspended for 30 days for violating WWE's Wellness Policy, which was followed by a 60-day suspension after she failed it a second time. Paige was gone from WWE from August 2016 to November 2017; during that time, she underwent neck surgery and had a tumultuous engagement with former WWE wrestler Alberto Del Rio. Unfortunately, numerous X-rated private videos Paige made with her then-boyfriend Brad Maddox when she was younger were stolen and published on the Internet. After overcoming that embarrassment, Paige made her return to WWE on Monday Night RAW, this time leading a new group called Absolution made up of herself and NXT upstarts Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, whom she mentored on Tough Enough.
Tragically, Paige suffered a freak accident during a non-televised match on December 27, 2017, only a few weeks into her comeback. WWE's doctors forbade her to wrestle again or else she risks paralysis. On April 9, 2018, Paige formally retired from in-ring competition on the RAW after WrestleMania 34, fittingly in the same New Orleans arena where she debuted and beat A.J. Lee to become Divas Champion four years prior. Afterward, Paige became the hugely popular General Manager of Smackdown Live; this time, Paige made matches and ran the show in-storyline until a change in creative direction ended her tenure as GM in December 2o18.
Even though her wrestling career was sadly cut short, Paige can proudly claim to have elevated the quality of women's wrestling in WWE and was a bridge from the Divas era to the current revolution of the Women's Division, which she helped start. Today, Paige remains a vital part of WWE and she is currently on hiatus promoting Fighting With My Family. At only 26, Paige has literally done it all in wrestling and she awaits whatever new role WWE has for her.