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: Hey gang, Ben going solo this week as Jen has some business to attend to, but she’ll be back full throttle next week.
Here we are, at the last episode of Total Divas before the mid-season finale. I must say, as I will be leaving for a week-long European vacation the Saturday following that, I feel like Total Divas has begun planning their schedule around me, and can’t help but be flattered.
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a tweet I sent out congratulating the Bella Twins on the ratings success of the show got them following me on Twitter. I got to meet Nikki and Brie for the first time at San Diego Comic Con a few years back when I worked with WWE to set up a video thing where my buddy artist Todd Nauck sketched them and then saw them again at the WrestleMania press conference this past year and if they didn’t remember me they at least were polite enough to pretend to. Putting the serious objectivity a Total Divas recapper must have aside for a moment, they were really sweet during our brief interactions and also hilarious on camera with shy Texan Todd. I’ve had exchanges with them a few times on Twitter since, but I think those were just random replies; this signals our arrival as the premiere Total Divas recap on the planet. We’ll probably be on the season finale.
Ok, enough preamble, on with the show. But speaking of preamble, I think we had the worst open of the seven episodes to date thus far this week. For at least the last several it’s been some kind of funny one-off scene, usually involving the Bellas and usually with Nikki saying something instantly quotable. This episode it’s just Eva Marie getting a call in her car that she’s going to do a shoot for Maxim and then screaming a lot. No fun and it also led to an hour of me questioning whether or not they’re really driving during car scenes because they rarely have their hands on the wheel and I may or may not have hallucinated the traffic switching speeds periodically.
That open led to the newbies getting the A-story this week, with Eva Marie being super excited for her photo shoot, JoJo being jealous and doing a terrible job hiding it, and the competition that sprang forth. Eva announced her news at a meal with JoJo, Nattie and Ariane, and then re-announced it at another meal the next day with the same people plus the Bellas. The first time around, Ariane in her drop-in worried about being replaced, which prompted my wife to note, “I don’t think Eva Marie is going to become a new Funkadactyl.” She had many thoughts tonight.
Even though we didn’t get the one storyline for everybody set-up of last week’s Vegas trip, they do seem to be making more of an effort to have all the girls hanging out all the time or in weird pairings, which can at times be great—I’m thinking back to Nikki and Nattie lingerie shopping—but can also feel forced. Currently on WWE television they’re running an angle that has all the Divas not on the show teaming up against the girls on the show, so I don’t know if those two things will eventually feed into one another. WWE does have a variety of interesting Divas beyond the ones utilized here, so it could be cool to see some of them worked into the next run of episodes.
Back to the newbies, Eva Marie does her shoot and it’s pretty routine with her getting really excited and then a montage with camera sound effects and whatnot. I’ve seen the finished product and she definitely seems comfortable doing that sort of thing, so I’m guessing she may have come from a fitness model background but nobody at this site pays me so I’m not going to look it up.
Of more interest, JoJo’s jealousy of Eva Marie’s opportunities leads her to bust out never-before-mentioned vocal chops as she decides she will make her mark on WWE via song. JoJo’s got a nice voice, but I have to say, her line “singing is my passion…but I’ve never had any vocal training, I’ve just studied other singers” made me chuckle. Eva Marie shrugs the whole deal off, thinks JoJo’s acting immature—again, she’s 19—and also questions her wanting to sing when they work for a wrestling company, despite her not having wrestled either and doing a Maxim shoot instead.
While working out with the up-to-this-point MIA Trinity and Jon, JoJo mentions how she wants to sing the national anthem or something before Raw. In one of the shrewdest moves in the under-two-month history of this show, Trinity tries to alleviate JoJo’s nervousness by suggesting they sing together while at the same time, Trinity is explaining to the TD audience that if she can add singing to her repertoire it will improve her worth to WWE; seriously, when one of the girls tries to lie to somebody else on the show while telling us she’s lying—see Eva Marie during the Fandango fiasco—it generally comes off super fake, but Trinity had me pretty convinced even as she admitted in multiple cut-ins her true plan. She’s an evil genius! It’s always the one you least suspect.
Also, Jon notes that Trinity and JoJo suck at working out.
Trinity takes JoJo to a recording studio run by her father, who’s a music producer. I greatly enjoyed Papa Trinity, who seemed like a crazy happy dude who loved his daughter and wanted to party; more of him, please. The girls re-record the Funkadactyls’ theme song after struggling to harmonize at first and send it off to WWE; a couple scenes later, talent relations lady Jane—helpfully identified on JoJo’s iPhone as “Jane WWE”—calls to say she liked it and she’ll give them a shot on TV.
Ariane—who had her own stuff going on this episode, but we’ll get there—joins Trinity and JoJo at TV to warm up their new routine and set up an AMAZING cameo from Vince McMahon in a hideous/glorious mustard blazer who shakes all their hands and says either “Sing it up!” or “Sing it out!” Out of nowhere, Trinity develops a horrible cough she claims to have had for days but more likely came up with once it became clear these three couldn’t get on the same book let alone the same page. They head out to the ring and deliver a performance that has random crowd members covering their ears. When they get backstage, the other Divas tell them it went fine as Eva Marie notes in her cut-in that JoJo “got what she deserved” for not supporting her. This little rivalry will continue into next week’s big episode.
Moving on to the true stars of the show, the Bellas had a bit of a downer storyline this week, but it started off well enough with Nikki at Castle Cena where John had brought in some personal trainers to stretched his body into contortions that looked like they probably would have torn every ligament and tendon of a normal human. Nikki gives it a go, prompting Cena to go into entendre rapid fire mode, delivering gems like saying how he can’t help staring at her…eyes when she’s getting stretched and something I didn’t quite catch but understood it meant he expected to get laid after dinner. No Bryan Danielson this episode, but plenty of Cena to make up for it, which might sound odd to a WWE fan who somehow wandered into this recap, but trust us, in the Total Divas Universe it works.
Things take an abrupt bad turn for Nikki, as she gets knocked off the ring apron during a match and hurts her leg. We learn that she suffered a nasty shin injury during her soccer playing days and her leg has never fully healed; sure enough it turns out she did more damage to her shin as well as her knee. Brie wants her sister to get checked out immediately, but Nikki’s paranoid time off could lead to her losing her spot on the roster, which matches up with pretty much everything you hear about how the wrestling business works, unfortunately. Brie remains insistent, both because she cares about her sister but also, pragmatically, because she knows they’re a duo, and if Nikki gets hurt worse, it affects both of them; she threatens to play the Cena card if Nikki won’t get looked at.
After John signs some lady’s napkin or something at a coffee shop, he and Nikki have a heart to heart where she tells him about her injury and he shifts from nympho Cena to wise Cena, saying he had gleaned the situation, that she needs to take care of her injuries as much as she does every other aspect of her body, and promises if she needs to take time off that he’ll be there to make it go faster. Once again, John Cena comes off as an all-star on Total Divas.
Of course the next time we see Nikki, she’s going to get an MRI—or something—with Brie, not John, which made me laugh a little, but I’m sure he offered to go if she needed him. The scans confirm nothing good and then the Bellas snipe at each other out of mutual frustration during their car ride. My wife, the nurse, points out that despite having had blood drawn and still wearing her hospital bracelet, Nikki drives despite Brie being right there with her, only feeding my burgeoning driving scene conspiracy theory.
Things continue to go downhill as the WWE doctor tells Nikki she needs to take at least three months off from being in the ring and be on crutches the whole time. Jane’s minion piles it on by telling the Bellas that the creative time doesn’t know if they can come up with any way to continue using Nikki if she can’t get physical and that likely means Brie’s out of luck as well. That’s where we leave our favorite twins, but while they don’t feature in the preview for next week, I’ve got to figure something will happen and hope it goes their way. If they can’t wrestle, let E! do a daily show with just them.
Finally, we come to Ariane and her continuing trials and tribulations in dating the insane Vinnie, last seen spilling drinks on her in Vegas and then trying to punch his way into a hotel elevator.
I can’t believe when this show started I had written off Ariane as being merely of train wreck value and now she has easily become my third favorite Diva on the show, sometimes moving into the top spot when the Bellas have a dull storyline. Her ridiculousness has definitely grown on me, whether it’s the random attempts at creating catchphrases—sadly no “the bomb dot com” this week—or carrying around her little rat-like Chihuahua in her purse as she does this entire episode.
Vinnie—who may be a cop?!—whines at Ariane for not bringing him to some red carpet thing and then also says he wants her to come meet his dad; at one point, Ariane says he wanted their entire families to meet, but I guess he scaled down. Also, it took me seven episodes, but I’ve now nailed down that Vinnie looks like the main guy from Despicable Me. If they ever make a live action version, he deserves the job.
After taking Glitty—the Chihuahua—to get her/his nails done, Ariane can no longer ignore Vinnie’s pleas and goes to meet his dad. At Vinnie Sr.’s place, we finally pin down Vinnie’s vague nationality as Armenian and he tries to tell Ariane how he will put a piece of traditional Armenian bread on her shoulder when the two of them get married. Before Ariane even has a chance to recover from the revelation that she’s getting married off to this dude, elder Vinnie starts talking grandkids and how Armenian tradition makes it humiliating for him to have let his son leave the house unmarried and without children; again, I’m tempted to research this claim, but again, we’re not getting paid.
With his girlfriend clearly shell-shocked by the experience, Vinnie takes her to a jewelry store where he essentially proposes by having her look at rings and mentioning that his dad has been pressuring him. Ariane walks right out of the store and on the sidewalk outside tells Vinnie she needs a break. In this instant, Vinnie suddenly became very human—and surprisingly understanding—and I felt really bad for both of them. They’re highly entertaining as a reality TV disaster, but that last scene hammered home their human aspects and I do hope they can both figure out a better situation.
So next week’s big finale will center around the wedding of TJ and Nattie—who barely appeared this week aside from the meals and driving around a bit with Eva Marie—with Jaret in attendance, plus a showdown between JoJo and Eva Marie. We’ll be there!