I, like any normal, 10-year-old boy, used to be obsessed with WWE professional wrestling. I adamantly tuned in to every Monday night RAW and Thursday night SmackDown! and asked my parents to buy pay-per-view events, such as WrestleMania, Summerslam and Backlash, so I could stay up-to-date and root on my favorite wrestlers.
At some point, I grew out of that obsession, likely due to my peers’ overwhelming distaste for the programming because of how “fake” it is. But when I started graduate school in 2014, my cohorts had a WWE obsession that hadn’t gone away, and because I like them and want to spend time with them, I found myself tuning into pay-per-views once again, watching Money in the Bank, Fastlane and the Royal Rumble… until finally, I was hooked again.
It was really weird watching myself get so invested in plot lines while still understanding the sheer complexity and unusualness of it all, but I, nonetheless, couldn’t stop watching… no matter how predictable the match outcomes were. I am especially hooked on the Divas Division because of my younger self’s obsession with the Hardy Boyz & Lita (could you really ever resist those mesh tops and Lita’s super exposed thongs?).
As far as anything else, I was bored. Not to say the competition wasn’t stiff, but it all required too much attention to detail in a way that I just didn’t care. By the time Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Roman Reigns to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title, I was still trying to figure out how Seth Rollins lost the title in the first place (FYI: it was vacated after Rollins injured his leg). Meanwhile, I wondered when a real superstar would come back because trying to sympathize with Roman Reigns is like trying to understand what Sarah Palin is saying in her endorsement speech of Donald Trump for president. In my esteemed opinion, the only person worth supporting on the main roster right now is Dean Ambrose.
But the divas are a different story. Paige is the underdog who never seems to actually win, though she comes very close. Naomi is a good-girl-gone-bad teamed up with Tamina, a standard sidekick to a top diva, as they try to play “bad,” but they can’t compare to the real villains in the WWE, Team Bella. You can’t help but love Nikki Bella even though she cheats her way to victory in nearly every title match she has. Her twin sister, Brie, plays a seemingly loyal servant ready to make sure Nikki wins the title no matter what, including using their “Twin Magic” switcheroo where Brie sneaks into the match in replacement of an exhausted Nikki, who would likely lose if she continued. Alicia Fox rounds out the team, giving them numbers in literally every match… until the Divas Revolution of 2015.
After former Diva’s Champion AJ Lee publicly tweeted that the divas generate a lot of sales without getting equal pay or wrestling time and the Bellas continued their overt domination of the Divas Division, minority owner Stephanie McMahon called for a divas revolution, enlisting developmental wrestlers Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks to align with Paige, Naomi and Tamina respectively to even the playing field. After a few short weeks, Charlotte, daughter of hall of famer Ric Flair, dethroned Nikki Bella, the longest reigning Divas Champion in history.
Charlotte made a formidable opponent and champion, and Nikki’s reign seemed to overstay its welcome at times, but the truth was that the Divas Division had hit new heights of story telling, athleticism and credibility. Unfortunately, the WWE rarely gives the divas more than one match per pay-per-view and they’re lucky if they get two matches during weekly live shows. So I had to find a way to get my divas fix without wasting every live show watching anywhere from two to three hours of wrestling to get around 15 minutes of divas action. Enter The E! Network’s Total Divas.
Total Divas follows a select few of the WWE Divas in their every day lives as they navigate their personal and professional problems, and at the center of it all are the Bella Twins. Over the course of five seasons, Nikki struggles to balance her relationship with her sister, her relationship with boyfriend John Cena, and desire to one day have kids all while crafting a career in which she hopes to empower women. Audiences watch as Brie fights with her sister and other divas while maintaining her relationship with her fiancé and eventual husband, Daniel Bryan. What’s most shocking though is when the other divas on the show find themselves fighting, they all look to the Bellas for advice on romantic relationships, maintaining a professional demeanor and ensuring lasting, work friendships. The Bellas, for all intents and purposes, are the stars of Total Divas because of what they stand for as people and businesswomen.
By the time I caught up with Total Divas, I was so enthralled and obsessed with the Bella Twins, but that came at a time far after their WWE domination. Team Bella, the once commanding force, couldn’t survive without Nikki, who suffered a neck injury shortly after she lost the title. Following Team Bella’s demise, Paige turned against Charlotte and Becky, Charlotte then turned on Becky, and Sasha Banks attacked them both to get her name thrown around for a title shot. Meanwhile, Team Bella was lost in translation.
Then, suddenly, Team Bella was back in the mix. After the Royal Rumble, Sasha Banks broke ties with Naomi and Tamina, the Charlotte and Becky feud continued, and Team Bella remained united in their belief that they were still the face of the WWE. Following a successful neck surgery for Nikki Bella, Charlotte confronted Brie, taking credit for nearly ending Nikki’s career, solidifying her heel turn. Later that night, Brie Bella, instead of playing the villain with the aid of Nikki, turned heroic and earned her second victory against the Divas Champion, earning a shot at the title as the current, #1 contender. With Daniel Bryan’s sudden retirement after months of inactivity, the Brie Bella Divas contender plotline thickened, and she earned a shot at the title at Fastlane.
As a massive Team Bella fan, I used the WWE Network to do some research on Brie to see if she could stand a chance in hopes that Team Bella’s domination days weren’t over. Here’s what I found:
Brie Bella is arguably just as great an athlete as her twin sister. Her finisher, the Bella Buster, is far more punishing than Nikki’s Rack Attack, and the infusion of husband, and fan favorite, Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” kicks and mantra into her ring attire and combat make her far more compelling of a character than any other diva in the division (except for maybe Sasha, whose sass rivals the meanest of girls). She’s on a recent win streak, having beat Charlotte twice in last few months. What Brie lacks is a consistent display of her talent. She spent over a year making sure Nikki won the Divas title and maintained her reign that the only time she ever made ring appearances was to boost the credibility of the other divas when she lost; her losses made it so that competitors could say they beat the dominating Team Bella.
Brie eventually, unjustly lost at Fastlane to Charlotte, who’s showing more and more similar, heel characteristics to former champ Nikki Bella. The three week plotline between the two shows that Brie functions so much better as a face than she does a heel. And while the WWE, right now, seems to favor a Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte match-up at WrestleMania, the Divas division could benefit from developing Brie’s character separate from Nikki’s. Allowing the two to function as a face/heel duo could change how we view athleticism and competition in the entire WWE.
Brie becoming Diva’s Champion without the help of Nikki, and without the help of cheating, would vindicate her sister’s legacy and validate her husband’s abruptly ended career, even if she only carried the title for a week or two. Allowing Brie to win the title not only gives Team Bella a chance to survive without Nikki (and to become stronger upon her return), but it also gives the Bella Twins the opportunity to abandon their predominantly villainous ring attitude in favor of a heroic storyline similar to that of their lives on Total Divas, which is what true fans have come to know them as. It would allow the Diva’s Champion to finally be a worthy adversary instead of a villain afraid to lose.
The truth is, Total Divas is a phenomenal show worth watching, and the WWE’s Diva Division is at its highest level of competition in women’s wrestling history. Unfortunately, the two just don’t mix well. The WWE has a history of taking strong female wrestlers and making them weak by the end of their careers. It also has a history of taking the strongest wrestlers, make them Diva’s Champion and then make them villains. It happened with Team Bella member Alicia Fox, former Divas Champion Natalya, Brie Bella until as of late, and even iconic wrestler Chyna. While WWE live events promote a scripted plot line with characters filling specific tropes and roles, Total Divas breaks the barrier that RAW, SmackDown! and pay-per-views give the wrestlers who don’t star on the show. With that, there comes a major problem. How do you justify villainizing two women known for their caring nature in real life, especially when that real life is shown once a week on a major cable network? It just doesn’t seem like the WWE can afford to do that anymore.
At this point, Total Divas outshines the Divas Division, and makes me want to avoid it at all costs, especially when my favorite divas are made to seem weaker than they actually are.