Total Divas debuted in 2013 on E!, capitalising on a more realistic age for WWE in terms of social relevance and mainstream media. This was their take on reality television, featuring the top divas from WWE. Your favourites divas from the Bellas to Natalya had their personal lives brought to our television screens.
There were a fair amount of wrestling fans (including wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler) who were against the reality show with the show focusing a lot more on the entertainment than the sports in sports entertainment. It was soap opera storylines that never seemed to sit right with hardcore wrestling fans.
For female viewers however, it was completely new territory. Coming after the Kardashians on E!, they could seize an opportunity to attract casual viewers on E! to their main WWE product. Whether it worked is still up for debate, considering RAW ratings are at their all-time lowest. And no, I’m not blaming Total Divas for the reasons RAW ratings have went down!
I’m just saying that the chances of many E! viewers suddenly becoming interested in RAW and SmackDown! after watching this are extremely unlikely when looking at the numbers.
With that being said, the show is still on the air as of 2017 and even a Total Bellas spin-off has been premiered. So it seems E! are happy with the ratings of this show!
Reality shows aren’t really something I’d ever watch and I’d been hugely disappointed by the reality shows I’ve seen before this. However, could this female-tailored reality show about the women of wrestling turn me around?
I’ve finished watching the full first season of this show and will provide a follow-up in-depth review of the season after this article. In the mean time, I wanted to produce a blog post basically looking at the characters of the show.
There were seven divas cast as the leads for this series – Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie and JoJo. One by one, we will break down each female’s involvement on the show, their likeability factor and whether they are actually good television characters for this show. SPOILERS for season 1 of Total Divas are to be expected…
The “star” of the show as well as the then-boyfriend to John Cena. Most of Nikki’s storylines revolve around John Cena as well as certain episodes where she fights with Brie and, to an extent, Eva Marie. Nikki is the centre of the majority of episodes, with the Bella hoping to take things with John to the next level. It’s very easy for me to see how a character like this would be interesting to a female viewer, with typical soap-opera storylines about love and marriage. Everyone has a storyline like this on the show but Nikki’s relationship with John is the biggest.
I, as a man, personally do not connect with Nikki’s storyline. It comes off as an extreme negative with Nikki’s almost dead-pan delivery of subjects that your average dude is not going to be interested in. Visually, she comes off appealing to men which I guess is a fine way to garner some interest from that audience. The issue overall with Nikki is the superficial nature of her character that makes her seem just like any other E! reality show lead like Kim Kardashian. I could see why an E! viewer may find that attractive but from a narrative standpoint, it puts her in a tough writer’s block with her character. Are we just going to keep to doing the same storyline with her and Cena going into the 2018 episodes where Cena actually proposes?
I personally really like Brie Bella. Maybe it’s down to Daniel Bryan’s affect on her or how bad Nikki looks in comparison but this is the type of girl that, if I met in real life, I could see myself having a positive conversation with her. Brie is one of the more mature women on the show, even in her “Brie Mode” state. In one particular episode, she has a heart-to-heart with Natalya when they’re all drinking in Vegas and Brie comes off extremely composed.
In the rare times that she comes off unlikable, it mostly feels extremely forced like with Natalya (which I’ll get to later) and therefore, doesn’t strike me as real. I’d like to think that Brie on this show is exactly like Brie would be in real life. Maybe that’s me giving the show the benefit of the doubt but whatever… as long as I have characters that I can find likeable!
I mentioned that some of the unlikablity factors on this show feels extremely forced upon. Natalya is the biggest victim of this. Natalya never struck me as an unlikable person whenever I’ve seen her on RAW, SmackDown! or in any other setting, prior to watching this show. Watching this show however, Natalya strikes me as having more “bitchy” storylines than anyone else.
She constantly complains about other women taking her spot on television, not getting enough attention for her husband TJ Wilson (Tyson Kidd) and the work of other women in general. She comes off as irrational in a lot of cases, like when she sees TJ working with Eva Marie and then decides to feel up Fandango to get TJ jealous. TJ and Eva act all professional just training while Natalya overreacts.
Again, it’s hard to believe that Natalya is actually this awful in real life which is an issue. In this show, Natalya is the “veteran” out of everyone and you’d think would be the voice of wisdom to the younger talent. Instead, she outright complains about them. We hardly get to she her in an advisory role which would make for better storylines, particularly for the newbies.
Naomi doesn’t particular strike me as interesting character but at least she comes off somewhat as a fun character. Naomi basically buckles down and works hard, trying to work her way onto television the old fashion way. She is a witness to her partner’s shenanigans on the road while in a relationship with Jonathan Fatu (Jimmy Uso).
Naomi’s specific storylines however are pretty hard to enjoy especially when it’s regarding her relationship with Jon. Naomi has to put up with a demanding boyfriend in Jon, who himself is irrational in a lot of different scenarios. He’s upset that Naomi is not wearing her engagement ring, upset when Naomi allows her dad to stay with them for a little bit and upset that Naomi is set to be in a romantic angle on television. Naomi having to put up with this nonsense rubs off badly on her storylines as you mostly want her in a background role more than having her own storylines with Jon. I guess her stuff with Cameron is somewhat tolerable but there’s not too many storylines of the Funkadactyls actually working together.
The Cameron character on Total Divas is a very much welcome part of season one of Total Divas. Why’s that? Well Cameron is the only character on the show who actually strikes me as unique. In professional wrestling itself, you need a wide variety of characters that make people stand out and be recognised. On television, this is even more important. All the other girls are almost interchangeable and similar in terms of their storylines which really kills interest in them.
While Cameron does have similar storylines, her mannerisms on the show are a one-on-a-kind. It’s a person that you’d never believe would actually exist in the real world and that’s what reality television shows should be about. Her casual drops of catchphrases like “thebomb.com” and “girl bye” as well as the outlandish ideas she has for the likes of her boyfriend Vinny just makes her “must-see” TV. She’s so crazy that it’s a change in pace from everyone else and she’s one of those people that you look at and would honestly want to hang out with for a day to see the world from their eyes. She’s tremendous!
The most hated woman on this show for many viewers but NOT as unlikable as you’d think. In fact, there’s actually not a lot wrong that Eva does. Her most “unlikable” traits are just being stupid… that’s it. I don’t know if Eva is actually like this in real life and I’d like to think that she isn’t but her unlikeness comes from just the plain ignorance and laziness she portrays on this show.
Things like pretending to be an experienced dancer so she can be on television and not being able to pronounce future WWE World Champion Jinder Mahal’s name (she, in fact, called him “Ginger Mahal”) doesn’t strike me as things I want to see but I guess, as a rookie, Eva needs to do these things from a narrative standpoint. A “learn from your mistakes” character if you will. Other than that, she actually doesn’t do anything wrong to other people. She does brag a lot about several opportunities but it mostly leads to characters like JoJo getting all jealous and it’s really not Eva’s fault that they get jealous of it. If you consider being an idiot the same as being unlikable, then Eva probably wouldn’t sit well. Otherwise, not TOO much wrong with Eva at this point.
JoJo was clearly a character they gave up on in the middle of the season or possibly early on during the production of the series. JoJo wasn’t particular an interesting character and her particular storyline is mostly an extension’s of Eva’s. They’re both the rookies so either JoJo is watching Eva during these shenanigans or she becomes jealous of Eva’s success. JoJo’s deadpan reactions to Eva’s success with the likes of Maxim does not make JoJo come off well. In fact, she comes off WORSE than Eva in a lot of these episodes.
JoJo seems like a girl that treats these issues by stropping around like a teenager (which she technically is during this season… she was 19) and not being mature enough around the adults. JoJo is essentially every young girl that wanted to hang out with her older sister’s friends but was told she wasn’t old enough. Even during the Vegas episode, she clearly just seemed more of a burden to Eva in particular while being unable to drink. With all this in mind, it’s pretty clear why she would be dropped from the main cast in the next season.
Overall, the casting of women for the show is somewhat disappointing. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these women but there’s not lot of interest for the actual character’s unless you’re REALLY into the Nikki Bella storyline with John Cena for example. If you are, more power to you. These girls don’t really stand out as fun and interesting, giving you hardly any interest in them in the sense that you’re not going to bend over backwards to find out what happens to them next. Cameron is the only character so unique and out-of-this-world that gives you that feeling.
The show’s attempt to make the girls bicker constantly about petty things don’t really strike me as massive selling points for the show, which makes one refuse to rally behind a character like Natalya as she complains about the work of the other women. The Bellas seem the most INTO the show in terms of their “performances” but Nikki’s constant troubles over John Cena and Brie being witness to this isn’t a particular healthy relationship from a narrative storyline. Why should I care about Brie if the show is just to be centred around her sister? Brie’s engagement to Daniel Bryan was suddenly into an arc in the season finale where Nikki wants Cena to marry her.
Then there’s the newbies, who are a little hit and miss in a lot of ways. Eva, I guess, is the closest to Cameron in terms of having a unique character… not a likeable one, but still unique. JoJo, on the other hand, became more of a burden on the show in terms of scrambling to put together storylines for her. This, of course, leads to her removal from the show all together. Nice try JoJo, but it didn’t seem to work.
If you’re watching this show, I guess it’s mostly not for the individual character’s themselves. The writers’ biggest issue is making each of these women stand out in their own right. Each of them have similar storylines with their men, their work in the ring and with each other as spats spill out between the girls. I guess each of them provide at least something to meet all three of those things but it’s gonna take a lot more for me to personal be invested into the storylines of them individually.
Stay tuned to the Armbar Express as a I give you the full review of season one of Total Divas.