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: Ok, so I found this to be a perfect mix if you’re trying to hook/create a hybrid audience of WWE fans with the typical E! crowd because it balanced elements each would enjoy nicely. For the wrestling diehards, you’ve got a neat look at the behind the scenes of how the business works—albeit with a focus on the Divas aspect, but general stuff to—as well as the idea that besides having John Cena, Daniel Bryan, etc. as the supporting cast you could also get cameos from anybody from Brodus Clay to Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. On the flipside, I’ve watched enough Kardashian series with my wife to know for sure that all the cattiness, relationship drama, and clearly staged-but-let’s-pretend-they’re-not moments will hook that demographic. If anything there might be too much of the latter stuff for the wrestling fans to get into, but I think the reality show junkies will find the WWE angle intriguing. This is all from the perspective of a wrestling diehard who also happens to enjoy trash TV, so take it with a spoonful of salt.
Jen: I don’t generally watch the E! brand of reality TV, and I’m probably the only person that contributes to this site that doesn’t actually watch wrestling. However, I’m always up for an adventure so I tuned into WWE Divas this weekend, hoping to give the perspective of a novice.
I can tell that E! had their expert reality series hands in this straight from the beginning, and I actually didn’t mind it. It’s quite obvious these Divas were each cast for a reason. The Bella Twins are clearly the favorites here, and I already find the Funkadactyls incredibly annoying. I almost wonder if the Bella Twins had tried to sell their own reality series, but the network wanted more drama, so they included other Divas and hired the newbies.
Ben: Hmm, interesting thought. I think it’s more likely WWE sold the show on the strength of the Bellas’ personas and then got more of their talent looped in, but you never know.
The Bella Twins were the perfect people to center this show around. To start, Nikki Bella was born to be on E!, both as far as her look and her attitude; she could be the fourth Kardashian sister easily. What I really dug though is how different she and Brie seem to be. They’re not only twins, their whole professional lives are predicated on being twins, yet when it comes to personalities and even their looks to a degree they’re such contrasts. Nikki is outspoken and flashy while Brie comes off more humble and down to earth, but watching how easily they slip into “character” and become “identical” is intriguing. Nikki gets all the best one-liners, but having Brie there as a contrast makes them both more interesting.
Jen: The Bella Twins were made for reality TV. The fact that they are both dating wrestlers makes it even better for the wrestling aspect of the show. Even viewers who don’t watch wrestling will know who John Cena is. Based on their personalities, I felt like the producers totally put Nikki up to that conversation with Cena about marriage. I could understand her being upset her twin might be getting engaged before her, but I don’t think she’s really as worried about it as they played it out to be. Brie seems to put on a pretty good act for wrestling, and she seems much more down to earth than the rest of them. I am interested to see how she is portrayed the rest of the season. Side note, I really want her boyfriend to trim his beard. Doesn’t stuff get caught in there?
Ben: Continuing with the Bellas for a sec, obviously them dating John Cena and Daniel Bryan respectively and those guys being part of the show is WWE’s biggest hail Mary to try and draw in the audience that watches Raw; we’ll see if that works, but each bring something to the table and once more to the twin dynamic. That the larger than life Cena is dating Nikki and we only ever see them alone while the more grounded Bryan is with Brie and hangs around with them and their mom is something that interested me. The whole deal about Nikki wanting to get married and Cena being gun-shy because he’s recently divorced seemed like typical fodder for this kind of show, but I’m looking forward more to seeing how the twins are defined and contrasted by their relationships.
Jen: I’ve already decided that Nattie is my favorite. I felt bad for her when they sat her down to tell her that she wasn’t going to wrestle, and that they’d really prefer she be a babysitter for the week. If I put in all of that hard work, and was demoted to the nanny of a couple of diva brats, I’d be pretty upset. She was pretty graceful, even though she was terribly upset and they clearly set this conversation up just for the cameras. Maybe she’s the best actress out of them all, but deep down I don’t think its acting.
Ben: I feel like the concept of a veteran performer who’s getting constantly passed over by the people they train yet continuing to be the loyal company pro is one you see a lot in reality and fiction, particularly with women in entertainment, but Nattie is very sympathetic here. I don’t know how many of her bits about resenting the Bellas coming back and instantly leapfrogging her for a WrestleMania spot or being glum that she doesn’t get to do red carpet stuff were scripted, but they certainly felt real; her emotion came off genuine. She’s likable and seems real and I felt bad that she got stuck babysitting the new Divas instead of being on the show or stuck out in front of the party instead of being on the inside. Hopefully this gets to be a showcase for her and a chance to vent as well, because I want to hear it.
Jen: The Funkadactyls are the epitome of everything I dislike about reality TV. I understand they need some confrontation and drama to keep the audience engaged, but I’d rather just not listen to them. When Ariane whined to her boyfriend because she didn’t like the way someone talked to her, she instantly discredited herself to me. Isn’t she supposed to be this tough wrestler? Diva or not, she is part of an act and her boyfriend’s actions are going to affect Trinity too. If I worked for WWE, I’d be pretty worried about her behavior. How did she even get this far if she can’t handle criticism? Maybe it wasn’t delivered in the best manner, but come on! It’s wrestling. Toughen up. You are supposed to be in the ring in 24 hours.
Ben: At first I wasn’t too interest in the Funkadactyls, mostly because their squabbling seemed like a forced B-plot, but I got more invested simply because Cameron/Ariane seems like a train wreck waiting to happen. She’s dramatic, she has a hair trigger and her boyfriend is nuts. I would have loved to have seen whatshisname get thumped by Brodus Clay this episode, but hopefully they’re saving that for later in the season. When the Bellas walked by and taunted her because her outfit wasn’t ready and she freaked out while they smugly kept going that was one of the best moments of the show to me. Naomi/Trinity didn’t get to do much other than be Ariane’s sounding board/therapist, but hopefully she gets to show off some more personality in the coming weeks; if nothing else, that upcoming clip of the Uso she’s dating/engaged to flipping out and throwing a glass at a wall shows promise.
On a related note, are they all engaged? Half the upcoming clips seemed to center around engagement rings but I can’t remember who’s engaged. I need a checklist.
Jen: I agree, is everyone on this show engaged? Maybe this was a really messed up way of getting people to watch the wrestling world’s version of Bridezillas?
Ben: Finally, we’ve got newbie Divas Jojo and Eva Marie, who seem to have been hired just so the show could have “newbie Divas,” but I’m fine with that. Jojo got even less to work with than Trinity this week, but it seems like she’s got a torrid affair upcoming with 10-years-older Justin Gabriel, so I’ll sit tight for that. Eva Marie came off as a grade A you-know-what—rhymes with witch—which would be awful if I had to hang out with her, but is fantastic for this reality show! I don’t buy for a second that she genuinely dyed her hair a color other than what WWE asked her to, but her in-window promos during the whole thing were great, exceeded only by the ones she gave when Nikki Bella was hazing her (and oh what a showdown that should be). I also like how they tried to make it seem like her getting the red dye job was a huge secret when it was plastered all over the promos and even the opening. Oh well.
Jen: The newbie divas are definitely here to add more drama to the show. Based on what is yet to come, Jojo has a relationship with someone much older than her (is she really of age? She looks 13). And the other one, Eva Marie is sure to ruffle some feathers. I thought her hair looked terrible when it was dyed blonde, but I really think it was all a stunt for the cameras. Personally, I’m not really a fan of the red either, but she looks so much like Nikki she has to set herself apart somehow. She’s already the Regina George of the group to me, and I don’t think this show really needed one with the drama the Funkadactyls have.
Ben: To finish off, the big plot of the episode was WrestleMania and the Bellas and Funkadactyls having their match cut. I’m genuinely intrigued if this was done just for the show and there was never any intention to have the match, but I was also there live, and I remember everything seeming off, down to John Cena and The Rock not getting big entrances (as I write this, the idea that in my box seats I had any sense “something was off” seems ridiculous, but I’m rolling). If nothing else, it provided a not-at-all organic way to get the whole cast in one room. I also like how Layla worked her way into the background of Trinity crying in the locker room and hope that she does that every episode as a kind of “Where’s Waldo?” moment. I will say that Trinity’s mini speech about only wanting to do this a couple more years because she wants to have a family kind of laid out the difference when it comes to women as opposed to men in wrestling and one reason this show is interesting.
Jen: I found myself enjoying some parts of the show and I didn’t really get any of the cameos other than John Cena and Stephanie McMahon, but I did like that the show didn’t just concentrate on the drama. We got to see what goes on behind the scenes, including the training that goes into a show like WrestleMania. I’d rather learn more about that than see why Eva Marie took off her engagement ring for a work meeting.
Ben: Overall, I’m totally in the tank for this show. If I were to objectively pull away I’m sure I could go on for three times as long as how much I just wrote about everything that was ridiculous, fake and tasteless about this show, but I’d prefer to revel in it. I love wrestling, I love so-bad-it’s-good TV and a mash-up of the two is the highest possible intake of empty viewing calories I could ever hope for. It’s a fun cast, the production values are up to WWE’s high par and I can watch this with my wife with neither of us going on our computer; I love this show already.