WWE TOTAL DIVAS RECAP
Episode 1: “Welcome to the WWE”
Recap by Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) for the Wrestling Observer
WWE's first foray onto E!, Total Divas, began with a ten-minute information dump for new viewers unfamiliar with WWE, Divas or professional wrestling. We're introduced to the Bella Twins – Nikki and Brie – who get into what WWE does and the company's size and reach, noting that “14 million people” watch their programming. They classify WWE as “Broadway with body-slams.” From there we meet Ariane and Trinity, otherwise known as the Funkadactyls. Ariane notes that with the Bella Twins gone, the Funkadactyls have become fan favorites in WWE, also explaining that the competition is “out of control” in terms of fighting for TV time. She explains the Divas hierarchy, which transitions into an introduction of Nattie, who explains a bit about the Hart Family, classifying them as “wrestling royalty.” The Bellas get into how competitive their industry is, but say they love what they do, with Nikki proclaiming “If I wasn't a Bella Twin, I'd wanna be a Bella Twin.”
It's 11 days until WrestleMania. The Bellas train. The Funkadactyls are excited that they're going to wrestle at WrestleMania. We're introduced to Trinity's boyfriend Jon (WWE's Jimmy Uso), who helps them train. Ariane says she brings personality to her team, while Trinity brings experience. Elsewhere, Bill de Mott and Jim Neidhart watch on as Nattie wrestles someone in training – it looks like Ashley Fleihr, but they don't say who it is explicitly. Meanwhile, Nikki goes fishing with her boyfriend, WWE Champion John Cena. They re-enact a scene from The Notebook at Nikki's request. We also meet Brie's boyfriend, Bryan (WWE's Daniel Bryan) and the Bellas' mom, Kathy. Nikki shows off a Range Rover that John bought her as a gift. Everyone makes sandwiches and discuss John's divorce and how it may have made him afraid to get married again. Bryan notes it's a bit odd from a man's perspective “that he gave you a Range Rover before he gave you a ring.”
It's 7 days until WrestleMania. Nattie explains the importance of WrestleMania and WrestleMania Week in NYC. Talent relations head Jane calls Nattie for a chat and tells her that she's not booked at WrestleMania, but gets to chaperone the two new girls from the Los Angeles try-outs around for the week. Nattie admits privately that she's bummed that she taught the Bellas how to wrestle and now they're on the big show and she's not.
The new girls – Eva Marie and Jo-Jo – are introduced. We see some grainy video of them doing some awful, awful wrestling. The girls meet Nattie and Brie at the hotel. Jane from talent relations notes that Eva Marie just got her hair done (with red highlights in her dark hair), but wants to know if she's cool with going blonde. She says it's fine, but notes in a talking head that she's resistant to it. Nattie introduces herself to the new girls and brings up hair problems, which leads to an awkward moment when Jane mentions the hair colour discussion they just had. Nattie jokes about keeping her hair red, as there's already one blonde (her) and laughs. In a talking head, Nattie notes that WWE wants all their girls to look distinct, but that they already have a blonde (her).
It's 5 days to WrestleMania. Ariane's boyfriend (Vincent) is here for WrestleMania. He's not a wrestler and seems like a totally normal guy. We get clips of their relationship. We're taken to WrestleMania's dress rehearsal. Nattie discusses her Mania dreams, but notes she's “babysitting these girls and Ariane's boyfriend.” Ariane brings up Brodus yelling at her for something that went wrong during dress rehearsal – no footage of this incident is ever shown – leading to Vincent getting really mad and suggesting he'll go beat Brodus up for disrespecting his woman. Trinity mentions her career being tied to Ariane's and neither of them being able to mess up without hurting the other. Ariane tries to calm Vincent down, while Jon and Nattie both tell him not to do anything. On the drive back to their hotel, Jon and Trinity discuss what happened and being uneasy with Vincent being backstage and being emotional like he was.
The Bellas are getting ready to meet the new girls. Nikki's “freaking out” about WWE hiring a girl that looks like her, ignoring that she has an identical twin. Eva Marie answers the door and Nikki notes that she's “hot” in a talking head. Nikki jokes that people say they look alike and that she needs Eva Marie to be blonde. Brie jokes that the new girls better not show them up, otherwise the claws come out. Nobody came across well here. Trinity and Ariane go to lunch and discuss what happened at dress rehearsal with Vincent and Brodus. They briefly discuss the two sides of the argument – Trinity thinks Vincent should've handled things better, Ariane thinks he was just trying to protect her – and then the issue is blown off and never spoken of again.
And now we're off to the salon, so they can make Eva Marie's hair blonde. She says it's kind of scary to change her hair. Half-way through she says she doesn't want to change her hair, saying that blonde doesn't work for her. “So you're just going against them?” asks Jo-Jo. “Yes,” says Eva Marie. After a commercial break, Eva Marie says she's gonna go “Rhianna” red instead of blonde. Jo-Jo notes that “considering this could possibly cost you your job, that's kinda scary...” And thus, her hair is now bright red instead of blonde. Well, she looks different from the other girls. All Jo-Jo can say is a bemused “oh my God,” as if she's trying to think of what she's going to tell her friends when she gets cut from WWE for what Eva Marie just did. Later on, the new girls meet again with talent relations. Jane says “Wow. What happened to blonde?” Eva Marie says blonde doesn't work for her persona. Jane sighs and admits she likes the hair, but notes in the future that if they say to do something, they mean it. Bullet dodged! Eva Marie promises to “rock the shit” out of her hair.
WrestleMania kick-off party: The girls are all in dresses. Nikki is taken aback by Eva Marie's hair. Meanwhile, Nattie is doing pre-tapes, noting her superiors feel that “Nattie is a good kid, let's have her work” instead of walking the red carpet. She notes she never gets to have “those Diva moments.” The Bellas note to the owner of the New York Giants – handily identified as such on-screen – that the new girls seem so comfortable already, and jokingly ask if there's any secret rooms in MetLife Stadium to lock them in. Later, the Bellas send the new girls for drinks for them, leading to everyone acting catty and Eva Marie glowering at them in an interview. The next day, the Bellas go for food. Brie notes that she and Bryan are going ring shopping soon. Nikki wishes she could go ring shopping, but is happy for Brie. They discuss if John would ever want to get married again, and Nikki wonders what her “walk-away” point is with him.
Trinity and Ariane bicker about whether Ariane's spoken to her boyfriend about his backstage freak-out. Elsewhere, Nikki and John go to dinner. They discuss their relationship and its future. John notes he tried it once and that “marriage and family” are difficult obstacles for him. But then he says how great Nikki is and how he enjoys being with her and that she makes him enjoy life. Five-star performance by the champ here. They toast to “one day a time.”
It's WrestleMania Sunday! The Bellas are getting ready backstage. They watch the tag team title match and Brie cheers on her boyfriend, high-fiving her sister when Bryan wins the match. After the match, the Bellas walk backstage in their fancy entrance costumes – their regular red gear with red top hats and canes. Meanwhile, the Funkadactyls stress behind the seamstresses as they scramble to finish their gear for their match. Wait, didn't they have a dress rehearsal a few days before? What was the point of that if they didn't have costumes? The Bellas walk by and act catty and Ariane tells them to keep walking.
After a commercial break, we see that Undertaker and CM Punk are in the ring. The girls are up next and the Funkadactyls costumes are finally ready. Up in a skybox, Nattie tells the new girls that the Bellas are up next. We see the girls rush through the curtain towards ringside...and...John Cena's entrance music plays. Nattie makes a face, noting that Cena is headed to the ring but the girls are supposed to be up. She leads the girls downstairs to find out what's going on. Nattie finds the Bellas and the Funkadactyls backstage and finds out their match got cut.
After another break, the Bellas explain that the match before them (Punk and the Undertaker) went over, so they got cut. Nattie notes how much can change in a live TV environment, so now the match they had planned and put work into isn't happening. Trinity is sad and is comforted by Ariane. Trinity notes how much the girls put into their careers, and what they want out of that effort is WrestleMania, and how “devastating” it is to not get it. WWE's Layla makes an appearance comforting Trinity with Ariane. Ariane says she'll talk to her boyfriend about his behavior, and notes no matter what she and Trinity have each other. They vow to go get a drink, “or three or four.”
The premiere episode ends with a preview of the rest of the season, presented in the form of a series of dramatic moments taken completely out of context. This season on Total Divas, people will yell at each other and Fandango will appear at some point.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I'll admit, I really thought I'd hate this show. I kind of liked it, but the main problem with the show is that it feels like two different shows. On one hand, the look behind the curtain at WWE's backstage politics and how the Divas prepared for the biggest show of the year is fascinating. The relationships aspect of the show isn't that bad either – John Cena has never been more sympathetic as a babyface than when he's staring down Nikki Bella at dinner – but every few segments some manufactured drama appears that derails the show a bit, such as Vincent freaking out over an incident that we never got to see. Considering that we're given a behind the scenes blow-by-blow of how the Divas match fell apart, it's curious that we didn't get to see Brodus' outburst at all.
On the whole, there were more segments that I liked than segments that I hated, so this was a successful first edition of Total Divas.