These days everybody has something to say about the Bella Twins. Especially in the last few weeks as they’ve returned to wrestling, since Brie has been wildin’ and Nikki is challenging Ronda Rousey at the Evolution PPV.
In a rare exception when it comes to Divas, I seem to be the person in the room with the least amount of hot takes about the Bellas. I know right, weird. On the scale between “Worst wrestlers in the world, a danger to others and destroying the Women’s Revolution!” and “Nikkisawa and Strong Style Brie are the real shooters!” I come down… somewhere in the middle.
Mostly I just think everyone needs to calm down about one kick.
But anyway, as always this column isn’t about current events, it’s about the Divas Era, and that is where we head once again. The Bellas have been around for a very long time; they debuted in WWE over a DECADE ago.
Yep, after bombing out of the 2006 Diva Search they were signed up, and first appeared on SmackDown all the way back in August 2008. Well, Brie first appeared. She came out to face Victoria by herself like any other singles wrestler. Only when she got into trouble late in the match, for some reason she sought refuge under the ring. Victoria pulled her back out, but a suddenly refreshed looking “Brie” quickly rolled her up and won. Hmm.
This sparked a fantastic and super fun angle where every week Victoria would try to unravel the mystery of Brie going under the ring, only to be foiled every time. Victoria, as you can imagine, is the world’s greatest Wil E. Coyote, and the Bellas kept finding new and inventive ways to pull off this secret version of Twin Magic without getting caught. This was a confirmed hoot every time, until finally Victoria and Nattie cornered her, grabbed her hands and feet from under the apron and pulled, and “Brie” stretched and streeeeeetched, and finally they yanked them BOTH out and all was revealed: just like in Star Wars, she had a twin sister all along.
And the rest is history.
Unlike in Star Wars, these siblings had already broken up and started feuding six months after they debuted. Welcome to WWE.
Thankfully even these morons realised that there’s no point in having a twins gimmick if they’re not actually together, so that was quickly rectified, and we officially entered the era of Twin Magic. This time everyone knows what’s going on, which eventually made it kind of weird that the babyfaces were blatantly switching with each other and cheating to win literally every one of their matches. But hey, wrestling has a long standing tradition of the good guys acting like lowkey assholes.
The fun part about Twin Magic was when they messed with the formula. I already mentioned the amazing moment when Maryse just laughed and completely no sold the switcheroo. Another fun time was the mini feud they had with Jillian Hall on Superstars.
This was in the summer of 2010. Jillian faced Brie and Nikki on the C Show a couple times and had been completely bamboozled by the whole Twin Magic thing. Much like Victoria before her, Jillian played the role of Wil E. Coyote, thinking she’d caught them only for them to switch it up, outsmart her and win, infuriating the poor bugger.
But don’t worry! She’s a woman with a plan! She recruited known Twin Magic saboteur Maryse for a tag team match, and set the wheels in motion. We should have known something was afoot when Jillian copied Maryse’s hair flipping pose. So the match gets underway and soon enough, Brie makes a hot tag and Maryse is in trouble. So Jillian pulls her out, jumps in the ring in her place and TRIES THE OL’ SWITCHEROO!
She was SO SURE this would work.
This does not work.
Master plan thus foiled, the match continues and of course, the Bellas end up successfully nailing Twin Magic and pinning poor Jillian again. Maryse flails helplessly on the apron about how cartoon stupid this woman is. But then she feels bad and starts consoling Jillian and telling her they DO SO look like twins!
So Twin Magic made for some fun gaga whenever they put some thought into it. But as a rote finish it quickly became wearisome, and the Bellas’ heel turn in early 2011 was a welcome relief. From their characters to their promos to their ‘cheating to win every match’ gimmick, they were much better suited to walk on the dark side, and this is when the company started to get serious about the Bella Twins.
It’s funny to consider now, but back in 2011 Brie was still the wrestler of the duo. Nikki had the personality and was much better at being a heel, while Brie carried more of the in-ring workload. And she was a better wrestler than Nikki at that point, at least by a little. So it was Brie who got the title push and on the April 11th Raw, they shenaniganed their way to victory once again and Brie beat Eve Torres for the Divas Title.
I wish there was more to say about her title reign, but it was fairly short and uninteresting. Unfortunately the Bellas spent most of it wrestling Kelly Kelly, whom neither of them had any chemistry with. But still, I don’t begrudge them having a run with the title, particularly if you view it as one of those ‘lifetime service award’ reigns WWE likes to do.
Do y’all remember the Guest Host era of Raw, when they’d have celebrities on every week hosting and the Bellas would always be on their arm, walking them out or doing backstage skits with them? Well being Guest Host liasons wasn’t just their job on TV, it was actually their shoot job as well. Every time there was a celebrity at TV, it was Brie and Nikki who would look after them; introduce them to people, take them around backstage, and help prepare them for their live TV spots. This is one of those things that may not sound that interesting to us workrate fans focused on the in-ring product, but a lot of different things go into producing WWE TV, and the Bellas found a way to play a vital role in that machine.
The Bellas always found a way. In 2012 they did what so many wrestlers are unable to do – left WWE on their own terms. It’s strange to me that they were only gone for about 12 months because in real time it felt longer to me for some reason. But anyway a year later they were back, with a bigger push and a new little reality show called Total Divas in the works.
Total Divas is another one of those things that has little to do with in-ring work, but has a lot to do with modern day WWE. I don’t even think WWE knew how successful this thing would be, but it lowkey blew up and the Bellas were clearly the stars of the show. They garnered a whole new audience of women watching the E! Network, and, inexplicably, became SUPER popular with children as well. Seriously, go to a live event and see how many little kids you see going bonkers for the Bella Twins in their little Bella outfits.
So Total Divas began to dictate the booking of the women’s division on TV, meaning the Bellas were very much the top guys, even when others were fighting over the Divas Title. But they could only keep the Bellas away from the belt for so long.
If their first title reign was short and nothing to write home about, their second was long and… still not much to write home about. Nikki won the title off the back of the Stephanie McMahon-Brie-Nikki feud that spanned the summer and fall of 2014, a series of events filled with such monstrous bullshit that I’m going to tackle the entire thing in a separate piece, Torrie and Dawn style.
Nevertheless, Nikki became Divas Champion, and because for strange and petty reasons only WWE can fathom they wanted to never have to mention AJ Lee’s name on telly ever again, she held the title for approximately 3,000 years (301 days) and became the longest-reigning Divas Champion of ALLLLLLLLLL time.*
* The Divas Title was all of six years old at this point, and Trish had a longer title reign than both of them as recently as 2006. Their whole obsession with this record remains baffling.
The good news about Nikki Bella’s title reign is that this is when she finally became the wrestler of the team. And what a wrestler that was.
After an entire career built on being identical, Nikki and Brie Bella came back from their WWE hiatus and started looking, dressing and wrestling very differently. Nikki developed her signature ring gear with the hats and sneakers, while Brie started wearing her flannel. Nikki had ‘Fearless’, Brie had ‘Brie Mode’. The time when you couldn’t tell the Bellas apart had well and truly passed. In fact, I don’t think there has been another pair of twins in wrestling who are as clearly different as Brie and Nikki are.
In the ring they grew apart as well. Curiously, they both seemed to take wrestling cues from their (at the time) partners. Brie began using a very Bryan-esqe moveset – all dropkicks and running knees and topes and kicks, even borrowing the Yes Lock when required by storyline to be Mrs. Bryan. Nikki, on the other hand, put on some muscle and went for full on power moves – suplexes, spinebusters, clotheslines, the Alabama Slam, and her new Rack Attack finish.
But most important to note is that Nikki Bella also added the FOREARM TO FUCKTOWN.
I have a note from a rando Bellas match I watched in 2009 that says: “Nikki threw the worst forearms of all time (can you believe?)” The reason that I could NOT believe is that in the near future Nikki would start throwing the BEST forearms of all time.
I’m pretty sure the first one was at SummerSlam, fittingly, when she turned on her own sister and BLAMMO! Brie got FOREARMED TO FUCKTOWN. From there, nobody was safe and Nikki just started obliterating dudes with this thing. She started leaning into all her shit at this point, and frankly even now there aren’t many women in the company who will stiff someone in the face as hard as Nikki Bella. I could watch her forearm people to Fucktown all day.
She backed it up by having the best matches of their combined career at that point as well. She had a triple threat vs. Paige and AJ at Night of Champions 2014 that was a rollicking good time. Once she won the belt she had good defenses vs. AJ, Paige and Naomi. Paige in particular – they had a positively BANGING match on the March 23rd Raw. This was Nikki’s crowning achievement so far, and also the best match Paige had on the main roster pre-Revolution. Nikki was really starting to put something together in the ring right when the Revolution was about to hit.
That’s why I don’t really understand the vitriol surrounding her upcoming title shot vs. Ronda Rousey. After all this time, and again after all these years of them acting and wrestling VERY differently, people are still treating the Bellas as if they’re the same person. Nikki isn’t Brie; she’s strong and stiff and she can GO. Just you wait until she gets in with Ronda and KAPOW! FOREARM TO FUCKTOWN! I can’t wait.
Once again I’m drifting a little too far past the Divas Era. It’s hard to talk about the women who are still actively wrestling without connecting it to the present day. And people claiming that the Bellas are ruining the Women’s Evolution as if they weren’t a key part of the Evolution drive me crazy. ALL of these women are a part of it. That’s the point. This is what I’m sitting here every week trying to say. They all worked hard, they all did the best with the limited opportunities they were given, and they all had to scratch and claw within the company for everything they got.
Yes, even the Bellas. They put up with their share of bullshit too. The first title shot either Bella ever received was ruined by Michael Cole interrupting the match to verbally abuse the women for sucking during his heel nonsense. The Bellas were a part of that infamous 30 second match that lead to #GiveDivasAChance trending. The best Bellas tag matches are generally from C Shows, the only place where they were given enough time to work. As this series has shown, even the most pushed women at any given time are still pushing against the ocean to try to get any respect or opportunities from the company.
Nikki and Brie Bella legitimately opened a lot of doors for the women in WWE. Them branching out into the entertainment world and driving the success of Total Divas was one of the reasons why WWE started to get behind the women on TV. They also started from the Diva Search, learned how to wrestle and Nikki, at least, became one of the best wrestlers on the roster at her peak. Now she’s come back from a broken neck to headline the first all-women’s PPV, a PPV that she undoubtedly helped to will into existence. That’s badass as hell. Strong Style Bellas indeed.
There we go. I had to put my two bob in on the Bellas. Next week I’m going to touch on another Diva Search alumnus, and one of the more unlikely success stories of the Divas Era.
Check it out:
Brie Bella vs. Victoria (Smackdown, August 29th 2008)
Bella Twins vs. Victoria & Natalya (Smackdown, November 21st 2008)
Bella Twins vs. Jillian & Maryse (Superstars, July 15th 2010)
Bella Twins & Melina vs. Eve, Gail Kim & Natalya (Superstars, March 31st 2011)
Brie Bella vs. Natalya (Main Event, May 27th 2014)
Paige vs. AJ vs. Nikki – Divas Title (Night of Champions 2014)
Nikki Bella vs. AJ Lee – Divas Title (TLC 2014)
Nikki Bella vs. Naomi (Main Event, March 11th 2015)
Nikki Bella vs. Paige – Divas Title (Raw, March 23rd 2015)
Bella Twins & Natalya vs. AJ, Paige & Naomi (Raw, March 30th 2015)