The WWE Divas’ Division has always been a sore spot for me as a long time fan of the WWE. When I was in university, Lita and Trish Stratus were blazing trails that would cement their places among the WWE Hall of Fame. During my first solid immersion into the WWE fandom aside from watching matches in the 80s at my cousin’s house, I was taking Women’s Studies courses as part of my undergraduate interdisciplinary studies. I love that ladies are lacing up their boots and strutting into the ring to prove to men everywhere they can stop the shows and wow the crowds. Unfortunately, selling the Diva image requires a larger than life persona and unparalleled looks in addition to solid ring skills to keep the fans hooked. Though I shamelessly DVR Total Divas, the more I watch it, the more I find myself second guessing my fandom.
I’m fairly certain that the purpose of the Total Divas reality TV show on E! is to give the WWE Universe greater exposure to the WWE Divas. Yet, I watch it with a glass of wine waiting for the next Christian Louboutin to unceremoniously drop. I hate myself for watching it, but the optimist in me keeps hoping they would make the show useful by highlighting how the ladies train, what diets they maintain, what killer recipes for smoothies they may imbibe, or even diaries about their lives on the road. Maybe I am waxing poetic, but I was hoping more for a nod to days of Tough Enough, not another Real Housewives. The optimist in me sincerely hoped that this show would give the Divas division a sincere kick in the booty and rally support for the Women of the WWE. Instead, I find it to be a chance to supplement WWE story lines without utilizing valuable airtime during Raw, Smackdown, or other Pay-Per-View events.
Before I tear into my issues with the concept of Total Divas and the WWE Divas Division as a whole, humor my analysis of the current cast of Total Divas. The cast does not include all current divas on the WWE roster, but from time to time some do make appearances during the in ring footage and back stage clips from the live shows.
- Nattie (Natalya) – Of the cast, she is by and large the one who wrestles the best, and it kills me that they refuse to give her a title reign. I’m irked that they are wasting her talent by transforming Nattie into the Ultimate Cat Lady. I want her and TJ to fix things, simply because her wrestling knowledge could make the show somewhat informative.
- Trinity Fatu (Naomi) – Since her fabulous getting married in Maui with Jonathan Fatu (WWE Superstar Jimmy Uso), Trinity has basically fallen off the TD radar. While there was the “art of seduction” class she attended, I feel like TD and WWE has stopped giving her the push she earned. After her eye socket being shattered, she basically lost her slot for a title shot. I feel like Trinity’s injury got complete overshadowed by the popularity of Braniel & Bryan’s more complicated, potentially career-ending injuries.
- Ariane (Cameron) – There were two smart choices that Ariane made in the most recent season: 1) straighten out her little brother who was gravitating toward a dangerous path, and 2) drop back to NXT for training. Honestly, three months in NXT helped her confidence, but staying a little longer may have helped with her in-ring technique. Showing Ariane struggling to be better in some sort of Rocky montage could have boosted her a little. I’m not a fan of “Girl. Bye.” My favorite thing about Ariane? Vinny.
- Brie – As an older fan of the WWE, I appreciate the down-to-earth, shop local, sustainable living angle that Brie shares with her husband, Bryan. While I don’t see the Danielsons pushing any social agendas, I feel like Brie has an opportunity to showcase local places she would recommend while on the road. As a Yes! Girl, I got annoyed with Brie being turned into First World Problems Girl.
- Nikki – A large chunk of the TD spotlight is given to Nikki, not only because of her twin sister Brie, but also because of her relationship with her baby-faced Superstar beau, John Cena. I feel like they keep jerking Team Nena in circles with the marriage-babies-family angle instead of just letting them be happy. Can’t they just be happy?! I like seeing the comedic side of Cena, but I feel like Nikki doesn’t turn her stage persona off at all. I do enjoy their gym dates.
- Summer Rae – Stop. Just stop. I cannot find a redeeming characteristic to SR. Her lack of filter and unapologetic nature just roasts my brain. There isn’t a single situation where she isn’t trying to stir the pot, and having her tinker with Rosa’s emotions could prove to be catastrophic… for Rosa. She plays with fire too much, but tends to be the first one running once it catches. What I would love to see is something redeeming about this girl because she’s worn out her welcome with everyone.
- Rosa – TD newbie, Rosa, is my new favorite. I want Rosa to overcome all the demons she’s struggling with, but I don’t want to see her merely surviving sobriety. Of all the divas who should understand Rosa’s plight with struggling with sobriety, I was disgusted with Eva Marie for basically laughing at Rosa. I want to see her thrive. Pairing her with Nattie was a smart choice, however, with the ever growing rift between. I hope they can give Rosa some solid direction, so she doesn’t implode.
- Eva Marie – I tried. I sincerely tried to hop onto the All Red Everything bandwagon, but despite the extravagant and beautiful Napa Wedding, I cannot bring myself to like EM. I found her engagement photos trashy, her wedding dress too risqué, and her tendency to favor her father over her husband a bit unsettling. The only thing I loved about her wedding to Jonathan, was her wearing a dark brown, natural colored wig when she walked down the aisle. Yes, Brie’s comment on how she could look like another Bella was the catalyst which prompted the radical hair color in season one, but she looked stunning (and less cartoony.)
On October 20, WWE revealed the latest cast additions in the wake of the Total Divas mid-season finale. I am excited as a little more diversity is being added to the cast, but I am concerned because I don’t want to see their potential and abilities limited by this extraneous program.
- Paige – So help me if TD ruins one of the few remaining divas I actually like. As AJ cannot join the cast of TD, the young Anti-Diva, may actually add a little zest to the line up. I really wish they’d bring up Emma, too, as she and Paige are friends.
- Alicia Fox – Unlike many of the other Divas, I am hoping that TD actually changes my opinion of AF. When I saw her interviewed for the WWE Hall of Fame red carpet, it was the one and only time I thought, “wow, she’s actually interesting… and not completely bat shit crazy.” I feel like there is the potential for the Foxy One to gain some momentum.
I do not anticipate seeing AJ Lee on the program unless the WWE managed a Hail Mary-level miracle with their negotiations with Lee’s husband, CM Punk. My curiosity nibbles at me with regard to how life could be in the Lee-Punk Chateau of Nerdvana, but even Superstars are allowed to have their privacy. AJ’s in-ring abilities and reigning status as Divas Champion, in my mind, make a stint on TD irrelevant. It would be nice to get some tricks and tips from AJ as she is a fan favorite, but I wouldn’t want her to sacrifice her quality of life for fan service. I feel like Layla and Emma deserve an opportunity on TD, purely because they are constantly jobbing in the shadows of the TD cast. These ladies are also a little quirky and happy, so I personally feel they could dare-I-say-it, brighten up the damned place. With the advent of TD, I have seen a definitive slant in the favoritism of the roster and I feel like certain talent isn’t being given fair screen time.
Also, there have been attempts at the Announcers’ Table to incorporate events on Total Divas into the current mixup of Divas storylines. The biggest issue with that is footage was shot earlier this year, and those rivalries have been long laid to rest. I applaud Michael Cole for trying to make TD relevant, but it simply falls flat.
Total Divas? Total Distasters?!
The hardest thing about reality TV is the distinct lack of reality. With the double lives lead by the WWE Divas, I find that TD further blurs that line between fantasy and reality. This is troublesome as certain WWE storylines which interwove fact and fiction resulted in the “retirement” of prominent Superstars, including WWE Hall of Famer, Lita. Reality television can be informative, but it also can serve as a saboteur concurrently. As as true wrestling fans know the athletic ability is real, but the rivalries tend to be prepackaged “creative” decisions. Knowing where to draw the lines between fiction and fact is key, but I feel the exposure of the Divas locker room on TD has muddied the water a bit.
Popularity Contest: In a poll conducted by the E! Online, it was decided by the fans that Nattie deserved to win the Divas Championship with 27.9% of the votes. Yet, Nikki Bella (who has a far larger social media presence) came in at #2 with 24.5%, is the one poised to go toe to toe with AJ at Survivor Series in a few weeks. Color me crazy, but I was under the impression she who holds the bling should be the most deserving? Trinity clawed her way into third with 20.5%, and she’s been overshadowed since WrestleMania.
Skewing Beauty Ideals: As a woman struggling with her weight and what society considers “beautiful”, watching the WWE Divas in action is tough. Frustratingly tough. These ladies are fit, athletic, and look great in just about everything. To further showcase how naturally perfect these ladies who roam the earth are, WWE.com has fantastic galleries dedicated to Divas Days Off (Renee Young complete rocks it!). The Divas looks fantastic made under, but there is still a bit of makeup and fab costuming. I want bare faced divas in their beat up gym duds from time to time to help me realize, they are human, too! Earlier last month, they went as far as to assemble The Ultimate Total Diva via fan poll. Notice that not all the Divas are included, and some where given nods twice. If I were left off the list, I might have my confidence a bit shaken by this as my natural beauty was ousted by Nikki’s fake twins and Eva Marie’s Manic Panic Fire Engine Red dye job.
Lack of Sisterhood: Total Divas tends to serve as an opportunity for the girls to vent their frustrations with one another and the job. Unlike the scripted storylines used for the ring, it also shows a disparagingly fragile semblance of sisterhood in the ladies’ locker room. When new Divas are introduced (Paige) or others return from a leave of absence (Rosa), there isn’t any shred of excitement. There is no optimistic “let’s kick ass together” attitude or “I can’t wait to see what we achieve” outlook at all. All I could hear was the sharpening of claws with gratuitous eye rolling. When opportunities are offered to represent the brand, I feel like the delivery to the cast is intentionally secretive so as to delierbately ruffle feathers behind the scenes. There is no solidarity, as one more Diva means one more person to prove them wrong. Perhaps that is the one bitterly true and pitifully sad reality of the divas division: a distinct lack of Girl Power.
Mean & Crazy: For a company to staunchly support anti-bullying campaigns like Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect), I find it counter productive to have a Women’s Division wrought with nothing but backstabbers, cat fights, and an ever evolving list of crazy chicks. One of the biggest current story lines is the “heel turn” (good person gone bad) of Nikki Bella against her twin, Brie. This painfully long and heartbreaking uneventful thread has dragged on since August 17 at SummerSlam, and it’s most recent development includes the “personal assistant” (indentured servitude and bullying) of her own sister. The promotional cameos of Nikki stating her case of why she hates her twin sister, made my stomach turn. For the sake of pushing this angle, some of the things she said went too far. One of the selling points of the Bellas is their Twin Magic, but unfortunately, that now belongs to the Uso Brothers, who still work as a tag team.
The other is the Twisted Frenemies of AJ and Paige (my beloved Pai-J). From Paige’s arrival, I sincerely hoped for a semblance of anti-diva solidarity to come shining forth, but it just turned into “Crazy Comic Book Chick” versus “Screaming Goth Chick” squabbling over the highly coveted Butterfly Belt. There was a certain amount of fan service with hints of possible closeted girl-on-girl crushes being harbored. Since both girls can’t hold the belt, they were pitted against one another with revolving doors of “replacement” besties for Paige. Recently, Alicia Fox has been thrown into the mix with Paige, and thankfully that helped to curb some of the random craziness she’d dole out in a desperate attempt for attention. Color me crazy, but can’t I just assemble the WWE Stable of the Spice Girls involving Emma, Paige, Alicia Fox, Bayley, AJ, and Rosa? It could be fun. Honest!
“Nattie’s Husband”: I feel for Tyson Kidd. I truly do. His long term romance with Natalya came to a head on TD, including finally getting married after a very long courtship. From my viewing of TD, I am fairly certain, that the pressure from the show execs to keep things interesting has potentially destroyed a very happy relationship for House Louis (everyone knows Nattie’s cat runs the place). Unfortunately, the exposure on TD revealed a very viable struggle for a male performer in the WWE. What happens when the man in the relationship is trapped in the shadow of a powerful woman? With Nattie’s family ties (third generation) in the wrestling business and her shouldering the legacy of the Hart Family Dungeon, it’s very clear why a gent in Tyson’s position could not only be intimidated but emasculated by his wife. Unfortunately, the fans in the WWE Universe are largely to blame for adding fuel to the fire with their chants for “Nattie’s Husband” in lieu of his own stage name: Tyson Kidd. This unfortunately development has resulted in Natalya being sidelined as her husband’s valet, as the company is now trying to push him over her. Her talent is being wasted as the company is now trying to push them forward as a fledgling power couple.
As a female fan in a very male dominated sport, I know I have to take my soapbox with a grain of salt. The outcries of one little feminist won’t make any semblance of a dent with the creative direction of the WWE, but from a corporate brand stand point, I truly wish Stephanie McMahon would take a step back and look at the images the WWE are providing. Girls are constantly looking for positive role models and with the social media presents of the WWE and the footprints of the Divas, I honestly believe there is a genuine opportunity to curb some of the girl hate. Younger girls, especially teens, are being taught that to be accepted you have to be fit and sexy, and that it’s okay to be mean, or to ostracize girls for being different if you want to be popular and the Queen Bee. All I ask is for the Divas to be more cognizant of what they are actually selling to their impressionable audience. Be aware of what type of role model you export. I’m issuing my throw down now: prove me wrong.
When October rolls around, the WWE rallies behind Susan G. Komen, Breast Cancer Research, and all the women fighting hard to come out on top. The Divas and Superstars all wear their pink, but often it feels like just another push to sell merchandise. Having Hulk Hogan around to run wild in the name of cancer research, is nothing short of fantastic, but I would be remiss if I turned a blind eye to tensions and toxicity the women division. In the remaining eleven months of the year, the Divas division tends to be one giant, fluffy cat fight.
That’s when I get up to get another beer.