For me, Total Divas makes for fun, mindless entertainment. Like most reality television shows, a lot of the drama seems manufactured. In addition, sometimes the timeline of events seems to have been reshuffled in order to create stories within the show. However, as the WWE characters themselves are interesting to diehard fans, it can be fun to see the people playing the characters in a different context.
Total Bellas is a spin-off of Total Divas, also airing on the E! Network. It is centered around Nikki and Brie Bella. When the first episode has begun, Nikki is fresh off of neck surgery, which many people had expected to keep her from ever returning to the ring. Brie’s husband Daniel Bryan has just retired after WWE officials have refused to clear him for in-ring return. Nikki, who lives with John Cena, asks for Brie and Daniel to move into their Tampa mansion to help care for her. Nikki’s mother Kathy, her then-fiancee John — Mr. People Power himself, John Laurinaitis — and brother JJ also join in. As does Josie, Brie and Daniel’s dog.
Within the first episode, John Cena establishes the ground rules of the house. If we are to take things at face value, we are to believe that Cena is extremely O.C.D., as he is constantly making demands of other people to do what he thinks is right. This goes in sync with the backstage rumors of John Cena playing politics to get to where he is today. The show also displays the luxury that Cena lives in and around, as he demands a weekly dress-up dinner party. This image of Cena goes against the smiley, jorts-wearing “Hustle Loyalty Respect” nature of the on-screen character.
Shortly after retiring as an in-ring competitor, Daniel Bryan became the on-screen General Manager of Smackdown Live. Bryan’s character as a GM is not too different from how he acted within his last WWE run. He comes across as a hard-working underdog that is fighting for what is right. On Total Divas, Bryan was portrayed as an anti-materialistic, environmentally-conscious individual, which is sort of in-line with that character. Within this first episode of Total Bellas, he appears to be living with that same mind-set, only now he is living within the lap of luxury. Whether or not that is intended to be a (manufactured) storyline to be discussed later, it shatters the image of the “good guy” Daniel Bryan that everyone has gotten behind.
Nikki Bella’s tagline is that she is “fearless.” In Total Bellas, she is understandably seen crying in fear within the first episode, as her neck surgery has her and everyone around her scared. She is worried that she will not be able to wrestle again. That is called fear, yes.
The first episode of Total Bellas also focused on Brie’s interest in getting pregnant, but that she and Bryan had not been intimate much lately. Within a week of the show’s premiere, it was announced that Brie was pregnant with her first child.
So on one hand, we have a program that is intended to be entertaining to both WWE die-hards and general fans of reality television. It moves fast, has drama, and follows the typical E! format of a reality show. On the other hand, you have storylines that contradict what WWE weekly programming is showing and miscalculated attempts at showing how WWE personnel “really” live.
Another reason for concern is that with Total Bellas being a spin-off of Total Divas is now without its two biggest stars. The current cast for Total Divas is reportedly Natayla, Paige, Naomi, Lana, Renee Young and Maryse. Paige is currently on the outs with WWE, Natalya’s husband is supposedly not going to be appearing on-camera this season, Lana always performs on-camera with a fake accent and overall persona, Maryse is not an active wrestler, and Renee Young generally is not part of house shows. Thus, you have a limited cast with limited organic content to focus upon. Furthermore, female talent in WWE is no longer called “Divas,” even making the show’s title feel outdated.
I think it is wonderful that WWE Superstars have additional outlets to perform even when not part of storylines, but for shows like Total Bellas and Total Divas to be worthwhile, some creative changes would be useful. Otherwise, these shows are not good for long-term or effective usage of WWE talent.