Warning: SPOILERS For Fighting With My Family
In Fighting With My Family, writer-director Stephen Merchant leans into many of the classic tropes of the Rocky films to tell the story of how Paige (Florence Pugh) became a WWE Superstar - and it works! Highlighting the similarities between the 18-year-old pro-wrestler from Norwich, England and the underdog fighter from Philadelphia helped turn Merchant's film into a critically-acclaimed crowd-pleaser, and Paige into a new movie heroine.
It's no surprise that Fighting With My Family evokes the spirit of Rocky Balboa; Sylvester Stallone's creation is arguably the most influential sports film of all-time. The first Rocky won the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture and not only spawned 5 sequels and the Creed soft reboots, but it has also inspired numerous films like The Karate Kid. The Rocky template of an outsider who chases after an impossible goal and overcomes seemingly impossible odds to win is a proven formula that usually leaves audiences cheering. It's also fitting that Fighting With My Family is produced by Dwayne Johnson, who is one of the biggest WWE stars ever as The Rock (and before he took on the moniker of The Rock, Johnson's ring name was Rocky Maivia).
Related: All 8 Rocky And Creed Movies Ranked
Of course, Paige's story is uniquely her own and her rise to the top of WWE is because of her singular charisma, her in-ring prowess, and the fact that she has that "extra spark" that makes a WWE Superstar. However, Fighting With My Family still hits many familiar beats that fans of the Rocky franchise immediately recognize:
- This Page: How Paige And Rocky Both Get Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunities
- Page 2: Fighting With My Family Is A Underog Rags-to-Riches Story
Like Rocky, Paige Gets A Once-In-A-Lifetime Shot At Her Dream
Paige grew up in a family of pro-wrestlers and she dreamed of making it to WWE, the biggest wrestling company in the world. She actually gets two opportunities to realize her dream: the first was when she was the only person to pass her WWE tryout. Unfortunately, her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden) didn't get tapped by Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn), the WWE's talent scout and trainer, but Hutch saw "a spark" in Paige that was missing from all of the other hopefuls, including Zak. Despite her initial hesitation to move to WWE's developmental arm, NXT, in Orlando, Florida without Zak, Paige, of course, takes the golden opportunity to help out her family as well as herself.
Paige's second big opportunity comes after she proves herself in NXT. When she's backstage at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans, The Rock invites her to his private suite specifically to give her the news that would change her life: Paige would not only debut on the WWE main roster live on Monday Night RAW the next night, but would also be winning the WWE Divas Championship from the dominant titleholder, A.J. Lee (Thea Trinidad). Paige even enters the empty arena before her match and takes it all in, just like Rocky did the night before his fight with Apollo. The film ends with Paige's moment of triumph as she wins the championship and proclaims to the WWE fans that "This is my house now!" This was the fulfilment not only of her dream, but also of Zak's and their entire family's as well.
Paige's story can't help but echo Rocky Balboa's, who was a no-name club fighter in South Philadelphia handpicked by Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). The heavyweight champion of the world needed a last-minute opponent for a fight to celebrate America's Bi-Centennial. With no worthy ranked contenders, Creed hatched a plan to give a once-in-a-lifetime shot to a nobody to prove America was still the land of opportunity. Apollo chose Rocky simply because he liked Balboa's nickname "The Italian Stallion". Rocky didn't defeat Apollo in their first fight but the underdog did prove his own self-worth by taking the champion to a 15-round split decision. Balboa was also interviewed after the fight but he screamed for his girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire) instead of answering questions.
It was only in their Rocky II rematch that Rocky beat Apollo to become the heavyweight champion. However, Fighting With My Family doesn't wait for a sequel to give Paige her big win; the film follows Paige's real-life events where she defeated A.J. Lee and became champion in her first night in WWE.
- Fighting With My Family (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019