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.
If you missed it – Total Divas Watching Total Divas: Week One
Ben: Ok, my excitement about the initial installment somewhat subdued, I was curious to see how this show would perform with a lot of the exposition and opening bombast out of the way and the weight more on the little shoulders of the Divas and their antics. It would have been tough to keep up the novelty of the premiere since at this point we’ve already seen stuff like WWE backstage and the girls interacting plus WrestleMania on top of that, but they eased the transition well in my estimation by further balancing the work/home storylines. This week, the WWE-centric storyline fell mostly on Eva Marie—which makes sense, as the newer Divas would be the ones most concerned with their rising careers—while Nikki and Brie got full-on personal life exposure (there was also a Funkadactyls thing, but as we’ll get to, I could take or leave it). However, both sides managed to get a smidge of the other sprinkled in as we met Eva’s non-wrestler boyfriend while WWE big shots John Cena and Daniel Bryan figured heavily into what was going on with the Bellas as their significant others.
As a personal aside, my wife and I are staying a few days at a La Quinta in the area we’re thinking of moving next year as a trial run for me to do the commute and whatnot, and I can’t tell if watching Total Divas in a hotel that smelled a bit like smoke with weird noises coming from down the hall made for a more or less ideal setting than my living room. More authentic, maybe? I did at time feel like Eva Marie and JoJo’s scenes could be taking place three rooms over.
Jen: I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Divas this week, but I think the second episode was a decent transition from the pilot. We definitely learned a lot more about each Diva this week…well except for poor Nattie. I hope she wasn’t banking on being the star on this show, because it’s quite clear that E! just wants her to be in the background. The network is doing an excellent job at turning it into the Nikki and Brie show, just as predicted.
Ben: Like you said last week, Jen, I wonder at times if this was initially meant to be purely a Bellas show and then either E! or WWE made the call for more girls. Based on this episode, I could do with the Bellas getting the whole hour—they more or less dominate anyways, the others are clearly supporting characters—as they’re far and away the most interesting and have the most compelling stuff going on. Again, as I stated during our initial column, their contrasts fascinate me and were on full display once more this week. Brie continues to seem super down to earth and likable while Nikki made me crack up multiple times with her forthrightness. My wife was in hysterics when they were walking through goose crap in a Washington state park and Nikki is just aghast; she could carry a reality show on her own. As different as they seem to be though, I also dig how much you can tell they care about and look out for each other.
So the story this week with the Bellas was that they and their boyfriends went on a sort of split vacation together, with Brie and Bryan coming to stay at John’s palatial Florida estate for a day or two, then John and Nikki heading up to Bryan’s rustic childhood home in Aberdeen, Washington. The whole deal made for great moments throughout, with both the girls and the guys, and allowed all four to let their natures and personalities shine through.
Jen: The first half of the show should be called “Cribs: The John Cena Edition” because his house was made to be on Cribs. It screams Cribs. I actually would not be surprised if he bought that house just to be ON Cribs (I just did a quick search and it appears he didn’t quite make the cut, it must have been cancelled before he had the chance). I think that this whole episode had to be orchestrated just to show off his amazing closet.
Ben: Cena’s house is ridiculous, with an elevator, a full-on “dressing room” (or as Bryan calls it “a really big closet”), and a pool that had a really dangerous looking slide that seems like it should have a full-time lifeguard attached to it. I have no idea how John lives there alone and doesn’t end up like Nicholson in The Shining, but I guess he has both Nikki and is on the road a lot. This portion of the trip was highlighted mostly by Bryan looking completely out of place and Nikki reveling in the luxury she now lives in.
It’s a huge 180 when the quartet flies north (in John’s private jet, I presume) to hunker down in rainy Washington. The girls vs. guys log chopping contest that the dudes lost because Bryan tried to make it a tie and screwed himself over was fun, but there was some more serious stuff going on as both John and Nikki expressed concern over California girl Brie being able to make a home there and she wasn’t too quick to disagree. It seemed a little douchey when John brought his concerns up in front of the girls while Bryan was outside, but one, he raised pretty good points, and two, he probably got fed that cue off-camera anyhow. Ultimately, it was interesting that they showed Brie talking about the situation with everybody except Bryan, who seems like the easiest going dude in the world and based on what they’ve shown at least would probably not freak out at the prospect of not living on the set of The Killing for the rest of his life.
Jen: The split vacation was the focal point of the episode and the part I enjoyed the most. Nikki is very comfortable living that lifestyle. You could tell that Brie was slightly envious of it, but she and Daniel Bryan were so uncomfortable! It was awkward to see Bryan give the tour around his home afterwards, and then have Nikki bash it. Nikki freaking out over goose poop was hilarious, although I can’t say I wouldn’t have behaved similarly. I think Brie was perfectly fine with moving to that house until the show, producers and her sister got involved. Maybe she wouldn’t have been in the long run, but I guess it was a good opportunity to play for the cameras. She and her boyfriend both seem so laid back, I can’t imagine they couldn’t come to some sort of compromise. I bet neither of them would even raise their voice, or cry. Bryan would probably just shrug his shoulders, say “Ok” and be done with it. Not because he’s a pushover, because he would just want to be with her, no matter where.
Ben: Also worth noting is that John Cena seems to have an insatiable appetite for sex and wine, not necessarily in that order.
Moving onto the “newbies,” this week Eva Marie decides she’s going to get on the full-time TV roster by becoming the dance partner of Fandango, a wrestler whose gimmick is that he’s also a ballroom dancer. For the second episode in a row, JoJo mostly just sits there and comments on what bad decisions Eva Marie is making.
This was the first sort of “breaking the fourth wall” moment of the show for me—on a reality show about a scripted television show that purports to be reality…my head hurts—as everybody from Eva to Fandango to the WWE brass talked about how Fandango “has a different partner every week,” but since I am part of the not-sure-how-big crossover audience between this show and WWE’s regular programming, I know he’s only had two during his whole run. I realize that there’s a pretty dicey definition of “reality” for most reality shows, particularly on E!, and I’m not under any illusions Total Divas is an exception, but given that they had to expect at least a few Raw viewers would tune in, this seemed like a pretty big logic gap.
Anyhow, Eva cozies up to Fandango after he greets her, JoJo and the otherwise-absent-from-this-episode Nattie in catering with European style hug/cheek kiss combos despite a quick Wikipedia search revealing he is from up near our neck of the woods in New England. She then tells the suits from the premiere she wants to be his partner and lies about having a dance background, which interestingly none of the talent relations people knew about or question. Eva makes plans to meet up with Fandango in Tampa—home of WWE’s training facility—and see if they have the right kind of chemistry.
Side note: Every other person on this show gets to use their real name, to the point where they actually cut off the ring announcer using Trinity’s stage name in one segment, but Fandango never gets called anything other than Fandango; I personally love this.
Curve ball: Eva Marie has a boyfriend! And he shows up in Florida despite living in California because his not-mentioned job somehow brought him there! And he proposes! And they’ve only been dating two and a half months! Exclamation points!!
So anyhow, after spending an hour or so with her new fiancé who then presumably flies back to Los Angeles, Eva Marie takes off her new engagement ring for her “business meeting” with Fandango because she knows “how the game is played.” If Eva Marie doesn’t make it in WWE—and she will—she should just get dropped in on every E! show, because she’s gold.
Eva Marie goes out with Fandango, who comes off super sleazy with pretty much everything he says and maintaining his weird long bangs on one side look even when off the clock. They go out to a club and he continues to hit on her as she continues to duck and weave and make up pre-emptive excuses for why she will suck when they dance together at the next Raw. Jen, since you don’t watch wrestling, let me recommend you YouTube any clip of Fandango talking so you can then imagine how this all could have been even creepier if he used his “character” voice during the whole ordeal.
Jen: Fandango is pretty much the creepiest guy I’ve ever seen on a reality show, and I’ve watched a few minutes of the Kardashians when Scott Disick was on. It seems as though girls throw themselves at him, something I do not understand. Ugh, his bangs and greasy hair disgust me and he’s just so…smarmy. That’s really the only word that I can think of to describe him. And what is with the SECRET BOYFRIEND??! I already called Eva Marie the Regina George of the group and now I’m trying to think of something worse. She spent the entire episode lying and scheming! I’m sure there are better, more deserving girls out there WWE.
Ben: So Eva Marie gets to try out with Fandango during the Raw rehearsal—not the show because, again, Fandango has never actually used a random girl during TV—in front of the other six Divas on the show and nobody else and does a terrible job. The male suit reams her out for a sec, though in fairness to Eva, it’s kind of his job to know the girl he hired does not have any dance experience whatsoever. Fandango peaces out of there quick, so that’s likely the last we’ll see of him on Total Divas. The episode wraps with Stephanie McMahon lecturing Eva Marie about how if she does anything like this again she’s fired, but she dyed her hair the wrong color last week and completely fabricated her resume this time with no real consequences, so I imagine she’d probably have to rob a bank on the air to really get let go at this point (and even then WWE would probably bail her out and give her a stern talking to).
Jen: I would have fired her on the spot for lying, especially after the hair stunt. But, this being reality TV she was probably told to do all of this from the producers. Good luck explaining to your new fiancé why you took off your engagement ring for a “business meeting” Eva Marie.
Based on how quickly he ran off, I think it’s safe to say Fandango won’t be back next week (phew!). Poor JoJo. I think she’s starting to realize what a liability Eva could be. JoJo seems sweet and normal, which is a death sentence for camera time on these shows. It was good sort of getting to know you JoJo.
Ben: This was all pretty dumb, but it was fun dumb, so I enjoyed it immensely.
Oh, also Eva Marie tweeted something about wanting to be John Cena’s tag team partner or something, so Nikki still hates her.
Jen: So in the midst of all of this, Ariane thought it would be a good job to go behind their seamstress’ back and have someone else make them outfits for their next bout. I’ve only really seen them in workout clothes or costume, but my god her mother must be proud of how she dresses in real life. Poor Trinity cannot and will not pull off the outfit that was made for her and they have to grovel. Trinity is caught up in all of this and she really had no say in the matter (or so it appears). I’m pretty sure their seamstress fired them for good, and I think Ariane deserves it.
Ben: The only real noteworthy thing was Adriane using the phrase “the bomb dot com” multiple times and her nutjob boyfriend making another cameo.
Jen: Part of me hopes that Eva Marie and Ariane both get fired and JoJo and Trinity to end up partners…anyone who says bomb dot com that many times shouldn’t be allowed on camera.
Ben: Next week it seems we’ll get more on the Bryan/Brie living situation saga, plus JoJo gets in the ring and Trinity has relationship drama with her boyfriend so we can hopefully see another engagement ring. I can’t wait!