AEW wrestler Saraya's life story inspired "Fighting with My Family," which starred Florence Pugh.
Saraya previously went by the ring name "Paige" in WWE. She now wrestles under her real name.
Saraya spoke to Insider about a follow-up, and her return to the ring after a career-ending injury.
For All Elite Wrestling star Saraya, it turns out that "Fighting with My Family" was just the beginning of her story.
The 2019 film, produced by Dwayne Johnson and starring Florence Pugh as Saraya (formerly known as Paige in WWE), was a storybook retelling of how a young girl from a small city in England went into the family business — professional wrestling — and ended up one of WWE's brightest young stars.
As depicted in the movie's climax, Saraya won the WWE Divas Championship on her first night on USA Network's "Monday Night Raw" back in 2014.
It's what happened to Saraya after the fairytale ending of the biopic that tells an even grittier story of tenacity, survival, and, ultimately, redemption.
When "Fighting with My Family" opened in theaters in February 2019, it was a bittersweet time for Saraya.
After having neck surgery to repair years of wear and tear in the ring, Saraya reaggravated the injury in December 2017 after taking a kick to the back at a WWE live event. Footage posted on social media at the time shows the star lying motionless in the ring as medics attended to her. Months later, in April 2018, she announced her retirement.
She tells Insider that doctors told her she could be paralyzed if she ever wrestled again.
But after five years of inactivity, Saraya is not only back in the ring, but she is set to compete in front of 80,000 fans at London's famed Wembley Stadium on Sunday, in a "Rocky"-esque comeback story that lends itself perfectly to a potential "Fighting with My Family" sequel.
"I would love to do a sequel. That would be amazing. And I feel like it should be PG-13 because of all the shit I did, and the stuff I was involved in," Saraya says. (Saraya had a volatile relationship with fellow WWE star Alberto Del Rio in 2017, and was twice suspended for failing WWE's drug-testing policy in 2016.)
Saraya teases that there could be a follow-up to her story in the works, whether that "be another movie or something entirely different."
"Keep your eyes peeled for something special that's going to happen," she adds.
How Saraya returned to wrestling after a career-ending injury
A lot has changed for Saraya in the last year. After years out of the ring, she says that WWE allowed her contract to lapse in July 2022, and opted not to renew it.
A few months later, however, things changed again: Both WWE and AEW came calling, she says.
WWE had by then had a leadership change: longtime CEO Vince McMahon was out, to be replaced by chief creative officer Paul Levesque, better known by his ring names Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Triple H.
As Saraya tells it, she had conversations with both Triple H and Tony Khan, the CEO and president of AEW, about her next move. (Representatives for WWE did not respond to a request for comment on negotiations with Saraya.)
And it was then that she began thinking about stepping into the ring again.
"Hunter was talking to me, and Tony was talking to me, and I had a big decision to make," she recalls. "Hunter did say, 'You always have that coin in your back pocket if you did want to wrestle again.'"
Ultimately, Saraya decided to go with AEW, in part because of the freedom the company would allow her.
"The contracts in WWE, as much as you get wonderful platform and all that kind of stuff, you're restricted in what you can and can't do," she says.
On the other hand, Khan allowed her to pursue work outside of AEW, and gave her the opportunity to make an in-ring comeback.
"Tony had offered me to potentially wrestle again — only if my neck was able to," Saraya says, adding that Khan agreed to cover expenses for medical appointments to determine whether her neck injury had healed.
"I went there Halloween 2022, and I got X-rays, and the X-rays looked good," she explains. This was followed by MRI and CT scans.
Saraya says she walked out of the doctor's office with news she never thought she'd hear.
"He was like, 'Your neck is perfectly fine,'" she says. "I was like, 'Will I be paralyzed if I ever wrestle again?' and he was like, 'No, you've got the fluid back around your spinal cord now, which is the most important thing. That's the thing that would've paralyzed you — because that's the cushion to protect your spinal cord.'"
"It was definitely a magical moment. I called my family and we cried our eyes out, because wrestling is everything to my family," Saraya adds.
Five years after her second neck injury, in November last year, Saraya returned to the ring at AEW's "Full Gear" pay-per-view, and defeated her opponent, Britt Baker.
"I'm 31 now, and I've been out for five years," she says of the match. "I lost a lot of my confidence because I never thought I'd wrestle again. That match was probably the most terrified I'd been in my whole career."
'All In London' is the UK's biggest wrestling show in over 30 years
"I have a lot more confidence in myself now," Saraya says.
That's a good thing, because she is about to perform at the biggest wrestling show the UK has seen in over 30 years.
Over 80,000 tickets have been distributed for AEW's "All In London" pay-per-view at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The last show of that size was WWE's "SummerSlam" at the same venue in 1992.
Saraya will compete in one of the marquee matches, facing off against Britt Baker, Hikaru Shida, and Toni Storm — one of her teammates in a group called The Outcasts — in a four-way match for the AEW Women's World Championship, currently held by Shida.
"I never expected any of this," she says. "To come back from a career-ending injury to then wrestle in front of 90,000 people in my home country, it's freaking crazy."
Saraya is also aware that she is the only woman in the match who hasn't held AEW gold.
"It'd be rude not to walk away with the championship," she says. "I hope I can make the country proud."
AEW presents "All In London" at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Tickets are on sale now. The event will air on pay-per-view at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Read the original article on Insider