When Place to Be Nation sought out a correspondent to watch and write about the new WWE/E! reality show Total Divas each week, they initially wanted a “female voice.” Unfortunately for them, lifelong wrestling fan Ben Morse also happens to count Melrose Place among his all-time favorite shows and already has every other E! show on in the background via his lovely wife Megan, so he whined until they let him do it.
Jen Engle doesn’t watch wrestling or E!, but the Powers at PTB roped her into this anyway.
Find out what happens when one overly enthusiastic dude and a lady who has no idea what’s going on talk about a weekly “reality” show focusing on the female side of WWE.
Ben: Jen, I want to get right into things this week, because based on the burgeoning viewpoints and allegiances we’ve had thus far, I think this may be the episode that divides us and forces a Total Divas civil war.
Jen: I’m not really sure how divided we are this week! Nattie is still a favorite of mine, but I have to say I don’t like how she’s being portrayed.
Ben: But first, the before-credits bumper, aka the place Eva Marie and JoJo get relegated to! Seriously, remember back lo those three weeks ago when this show practically centered around Eva Marie? Now she gets 30 seconds to put on self-tanner and hit on a disinterested Roman Reigns while we forget that she got engaged that one time. I want her to show a bit more personality, because everything about her seems cardboard right now, but I also want them to give JoJo more to do again, which, fortunately, it seems we’ll get next week.
Jen: Eva Marie is one of those girls that puts on makeup to go to the gym! Well, now this all makes sense. Come on, even the Bellas don’t do that (well, they don’t have on much…they probably wouldn’t have on any if it weren’t for the cameras following them around). I am not sold on Eva Marie. I’m pretty sure she woke up one day, said “I want to be on TV” and thought the WWE was an easier/more parent pleasing route than porn.
Ben: First up this week, and it seems the producers heard your cries the first couple episodes, as after getting a substantial bit of screen time last go-around, Nattie really takes center stage tonight…and I’d argue it’s not the best thing.
I like Nattie well enough, I’ve always been a fan of her in WWE, but I’m just not digging her on this show. I liked her as the sympathetic veteran who seemed genuinely nice and you felt bad for when she got cut from WrestleMania, but apparently somebody decided that role didn’t work, because instead they’re trying to cram her into the soap opera stuff that should be left to the Bellas, and for my money, she just comes off whiny and tiresome. I want to see Nattie being a bad ass in the ring and giving the newbies harsh lessons, not pouting because her fiancé doesn’t pay enough attention to her. I dunno, it’s not working for me; it’s working even less for my wife, who hates Nattie on Total Divas and has made no secret of this the past two weeks.
Jen: I was pretty excited to see that they finally focused on Nattie, but I don’t like the aspect of her life that they keep choosing to focus on. Don’t get me wrong, I still like her as the sympathetic veteran. I just don’t like to see someone that is clearly so strong come off this way. Nattie is clearly spending time with the Newbies, but the producers are choosing not to show it. We get to see enough drama with the other girls, how about showing what it’s really like for someone in her role as a mentor day to day at WWE?
Ben: To get into Nattie’s deal this week, WWE has Raw in Calgary, her hometown, the week of her birthday, so she’s looking forward to celebrating and spending time with her man TJ, aka Tyson Kidd. Unfortunately, TJ’s also from Calgary and turns out to be a bit of a mama’s boy who wants to see his mother and sister, with whom Nattie does not particularly get along with. This leads to a lot of boneheaded awful boyfriend/fiancé behavior where TJ ditches their hotel room to stay with his mom or plans Nattie’s big birthday dinner at his sister’s. Like I said last week, unlike with the Bellas or Funkadactyls where you get some fun out of their over-the-top antics, with Nattie and TJ it’s somewhat uncomfortable to see two wholesome people who have been together over a decade acting like duds.
Jen: TJ knows Nattie’s stance on his family and he made so many bad decisions this week that I’m surprised we didn’t see a lot of screaming matches. If I were in her situation, and my future mother-in-law expected me to sleep in HER bed while visiting her, I would stay at a hotel too. Why in the world would TJ ever think that this was normal, or agree to it? His mother and sister sure do love the drama, huh? I was pretty appalled when they brought up having kids at dinner and on camera like that. I don’t think I would have had as much composure as Nattie did.
Ben: Also, Nattie says TJ’s name a lot. Seriously. Keep count next time. My wife noticed it first and pointed it out and then I couldn’t not hear it every time.
Jen: I never noticed how much she said TJ, but now I’m going to notice it and it’s going to drive me crazy!
Ben: While TJ goes off to his mom bringing him homemade hot chocolate in is bunk bed, Nattie meets up with her old buddy Jaret, a tanning salon operator who looks like he could not be anything else in life other than a tanning salon operator. He clumsily hits on her when she comes in to tan, noting she doesn’t need to wear anything if she doesn’t want to, and she laughs it off awkwardly. After TJ ditches out on dinner, Jaret rents out a whole restaurant for Nattie where he confesses he has feelings for her and doesn’t think she should marry TJ, shocking her and nobody who watched the first scene.
Jen: Jaret was born to run a tanning salon. He’s got the right amount of creepiness with the ability to pull off a spray tan. I didn’t realize that tanning salon owners made enough money to rent out restaurants on a whim for a girl that’s already engaged.
Ben: So does Nattie accept Jaret’s indecent proposal? We never find out! They end on a cliffhanger in the restaurant but never pick it up and she’s there later at Raw with all the other girls, no mention of if she pulled a Demi Moore. Very frustrating, but I imagine we have not seen the last of Jaret. Then again, a couple weeks back it seemed Daniel Bryan had designs on moving Brie Bella to the island from “Lost” and then the next episode they had bought a place in Arizona, so who knows if it ever gets mentioned again.
Jen: I have to say, my biggest complaint about this program (other than Eva Marie) is that they leave so much unresolved. The producers should have had Nattie explain what happened to the camera later. Yeah, maybe they didn’t catch that conversation on camera, but it makes no sense to make such a huge deal out of something the whole episode and then have it disappear like nothing happened. This all makes me wonder what the timeline is on the show. Are they filming over consecutive weeks? You brought up a good point Ben, about the whole moving to Seattle story line with Brie and Daniel. All of a sudden, they are moving to Phoenix! I feel like a decision and plan like that takes more than a week. At least it would for me, I’m what I call a “super planner.”
Ben: Now the Funkadactyls continue to grow on me, particularly in an episode like this one where they get placed in opposition to one another. Indeed the main thrust this week came from Ariane being the all-sizzle performer, Trinity being the down-to-earth athlete, and how that dynamic can cause tension between the two of them. It’s also a nice continuity throwback to previous installments of the WWE “reality” universe, as Trinity made her debut on the third season of NXT as the girl who wanted to wrestle as opposed to being eye candy while Ariane got kicked off Tough Enough first by Steve Austin for knowing nothing about wrestling.
In perhaps the most unrealistic segment of Total Divas to date, the Funkadactyls—with Jon Uso and creepy Vincent in tow—appear at a Los Angeles boutique opening and get mobbed by paparazzi. I have trouble believing that some boutique—that seemed to have no people in it—contacted WWE and specifically requested the Funkadactyls or that paparazzi had nothing better to do in L.A. than swarm this establishment, but this is the lot we’ve embraced, Jen. Anyhow, Ariane loves it and poses for the cameras; Trinity sulks off to a corner.
Jen: It doesn’t surprise me that Ariane knew nothing about wrestling. I think she’s another one that is wrestling as a way to get somewhere else. I am pretty sure her creepy boyfriend will get kicked to the curb once someone famous takes an interest in her. The trip to the boutique was painful to watch, and so obviously staged by E! Trinity has to know by now what she’s getting into with Ariane, but I’m not surprised she went and sulked off in a corner.
Ben: Later, back in Tampa at the WWE training facility, the Funkadactyls hit an abandoned ring not to work on their wrestling, but rather their dance routine. Trinity, a trained dancer—unlike Eva Marie—busts out a crazy flip move, some splits, and some other rad business. Ariane makes a horrified face, says she can’t do that, then instead just vogues and gets off my favorite line of the night with an affected “You need to work the face, you need to work the cam-er-a!” I have done a complete 180 on Ariane since the pilot and have embraced her ridiculousness entirely.
Jen: I liked Trinity’s dance routine! Her routine showed her athletic ability, which I thought was the point of being a wrestler.
Ben: On their day off, the Funkadactyls pick up the newbies to give them some token screen time and hit up a go kart racing establishment where Ariane notes not to underestimate her even though she “might not look like a go kart racer,” leading me to wonder what a go kart racer looks like. Trinity finishes dead last, JoJo gets third, Eva Marie takes second and Ariane wins it all, and then predictably acts like a brat about it. Trinity has had enough and the Funkadactyls actually get into a little shoving match, seemingly crushing some innocent kid behind them who disappears in between shots over to JoJo and Eva Marie gasping.
Jen: That poor kid at the go kart place, he was probably traumatized by the two loud girls fighting each other while a professional camera crew films every second. I wonder how much E! had to pay his parents to not have to blur him across the screen, which would have ruined their shot?
This go kart adventure was definitely another pre-fixe pairing on behalf of the show, but a pairing that makes a little more sense. Yes, the newbies should be doing things with the girls that are in the lowest ranks! Go kart racing seemed a little odd, but I have to wonder what else all four of these girls have in common other than wrestling and secret boyfriends/fiancés?
Ben: At Raw during a meeting of the seven Divas from the show—including the two who never wrestle—Trinity says she refuses to tag with Ariane so they want singles matches. The two bicker in front of the talent relations dweebs, leading them to call in big gun Stephanie McMahon for back-up, who plays junior high principal between the warring Funkadactyls. Ariane actually says “the go kart incident” out loud and nearly makes me fall off my couch laughing. Both girls will get their own matches.
Jen: I lost a little respect for Trinity during this meeting, I thought the way she approached the whole issue was completely unprofessional. At this point, I actually agreed with Ariane. This is something you discuss with management behind closed doors, not something you shout out a few hours prior to the show.
Ben: Trinity shows she has lost her mind by mouthing off to seamstress Sandra who literally vows revenge right then and there.
Jen: Sandra has it out for Ariane, she is totally hoping this means she can pass her off to one of the other seamstresses. I just know it.
Ben: You know, a couple months back they started taping a lot of seemingly random Divas matches for WWE TV, and now that they’re all playing out in storylines on this show, I’m glad to see them make sense. Trinity nearly takes Alicia Fox’s head off with a botched crossbody while Ariane and Aksana’s match barely gets shown and Nattie, fresh off her “tanning session,” buries their lack of skills backstage.
Jen: Trinity clearly should have thought about this decision, Nattie was right, Trinity was losing steam because she was used to having a teammate.
Ben: The Funkadactyls ends up reuniting in the trademark Total Divas heartwarming finish where Trinity admits she needs Ariane’s fire and Ariane admits she needs Trinity’s maturity. Awwwww.
Jen: Didn’t that reunion seem a little too quick for real life? Glad they worked it out and all, but I would have liked to see Trinity and Ariane go it alone for a while. I guess they are competing together these days, so we all knew this would happen.
Ben: Ok, so obviously the glaring absence from this recap thus far represents the gaping omission from this week’s episode in general: very little Bella twins action! However, perhaps this came down to quality over quantity, as the sisters had a pretty poignant bit of business to deal with in the form of the father who has been in and out of their lives dating back to their teenage years due to substance abuse issues. Brie has somewhat made her peace and planned to visit him when seeing their grandma and brother, but Nikki wanted none of it.
Jen: I couldn’t believe how little the Bella Twins were on the show this week! They did have a pretty heavy storyline, I thought this would have taken precedence over the Nattie situation for sure.
Ben: John Cena cameo! Nikki hangs around Castle Cena and misidentifies every major figure in a painting of Churchill, Stalin and FDR as John corrects her as a father would his child. They then set down to—of course—drink some win and John imparts sage knowledge of how Nikki needs to give her dad a chance and let the past be the past as there’s no benefit in holding this grudge. I like Wise Old Man John Cena maybe as much as Wine-Drinking Nymphomaniac John Cena; Total Divas John Cena remains the best John Cena you can find on television.
Jen: You can’t help but love John Cena on this show. It’s nice to see that a man with an elevator from his closet to his bedroom is pretty down to earth. He’s definitely the calmer, more logical one in his relationship with Nikki.
Ben: We get to meet various members of the Bella clan, including their not surprisingly attractive brother—my wife noted his “cuteness” and I noted the genetics at play—and awesome Nana who took Brie to task over the sadly-MIA Daniel Bryan’s plan to use his own waste as compost…or something. I would very much like a “Nana Meets the WWE Superstars” spinoff.
Things got deep and touching for a stretch, as the Bellas and brother visited their grandfather’s grave and the girls talked about how he basically raised them after their dad took off and never got to see them make it to WWE, get married, etc. Probably the most genuine stuff on the show to date and Grandpa Bella sounds like a great guy.
The Nikki/Papa Bella confrontation and subsequent reconciliation had both girls dabbing their tears and their father vowing to try harder. Not much to do commentary on here, but hopefully their relationship does improve.
Jen: I loved Nana, I really wish we’d see her more on this show. I think I’d love to see that spin-off. Side note, that whole compost deal made me actually yell “Ewwww!!!” Her husband seemed like an awesome guy, the grandpa I bet a lot of guys hope to one day be.
Hopefully their relationship with their father improves, he seemed like he genuinely wanted it to get better.
Ben: So, not my favorite episode due to too much Nattie, not nearly enough Bellas and an unforgivable complete lack of Daniel Bryan.
Jen: The lack of Daniel Bryan was pretty unforgivable!
Ben: However, Total Divas at 85% still tops most shows at 100%. And next week we’re headed to Vegas!