Hey hey, folks! Two episodes didn’t actually kill me, so we’re back for two more! Be sure to read the most recent recap here before diving in. We killed two episodes with one write-up, Nattie let a dominatrix tie up her mom, and Daniel Bryan had a wank into a cup while a camera crew listened. Yeah, you missed a lot.
Pre-Episode Total Divas Power Rankings
1) Cameron – She wasn’t on the show last week. Helllooooooo default!
2) Paige – Pale nice girls who like good wrestling and are sweet to fans yes good.
3) Alicia Fox – I wonder if she got her sh*t done.
4) Naomi – Middle of the pack. Doesn’t want drama, but instigates… a lot of it.
5) Nikki – Because someone’s gotta be better than Brie.
6) Eva Marie – Because multiple people have to be better than Brie.
7) Brie – The worst not named Natalya.
8) Nattie – I am still uncomfortable with literally everything she does.
First up on Total Divas: It’s WrestleMania weekend, which means mega drama, mega sperm counts, and motherf*cking Alundra Blayze.
Hey, you know what I remember about WrestleMania weekend? Taking more over-the-counter cold meds than any one person should take because I was sick nearly to the point of delirium, and TERMINATOR SKULLS. This episode has neither of those things. The Bella Twins are split over how to solve a problem like Eva Marie. Brie still hates Eva because she wants to be famous and wrestling is secondary to that, which we only hear about when she’s talking about how much she wants to make babies with Daniel Bryan because wrestling comes second. Nikki decides that she’s going to step up and try to mend things with Eva, and it goes about as well as you think. Don’t forget, everyone is still mad over an Instagram post, so things are really serious. Eva criticizes Nikki’s locker room leadership, and intimates that she’s coming for the championship and to change the atmosphere in the locker room that she’s never actually in because she’s been spirited away to Brian Kendrick’s School For Those Who Can’t Wrestle Good (And Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too).
I’m super happy WWE provided a clip of this so I don’t have to struggle to explain why I’m not sure Eva Marie is a fully-functioning human being. Like, she gets a lot of slack because ‘model who wants to wrestle’ immediately draws the kind of vitriol only reserved for um… attractive women in one field who want to do stuff in another, but dang. You wanna give her all the credit in the world for working hard and training, but you put her in front of a camera and ask her to say a few sentences like they’re her real feelings, and it kinda uses up all that good will, you know?
Brie certainly doesn’t have any good will left either, and gets the opportunity to go into full-on SMUG MODE. Watch her struggle to both a) remember a previous Divas Champion she’s allowed to talk about on the show, b) remember that she herself is a former Divas Champion, and then c) admit that Nikki might be a better one than she was.
Speaking of The Worst, it’s time to catch up with Natalya’s b-story! Nattie’s been asked to induct the amazing Alundra Blayze into the Hall of Fame because they’re ‘both wrestlers.’ She’s been stressing out over her speech, and now on top of everything, her dad can’t find a pink tie.
Oh, okay, well that’s settled then. But oh no, her speech! A mysterious figure seen only from the waist down (like if the Muppet Babies were cared for by a soulless corporate executive) tells her that the story she’s included in the speech has got to be cut. It’s… odd. I mean, if you remember the induction speech it was mostly an awkward, rambling bit of nonsense that also happened to feature lots of close-ups of Arn Anderson laughing, automatically making it the best one. However, the motivation behind forcing her to take it out is super confusing. Did they think they would insult Arn by saying he was intimidated by a woman? Were they worried about going over their time? Is Nattie really bad at speeches? Do they hate the idea of a woman seeming more powerful than a man? Do they just hate Nattie? Or does WWE just kinda secretly hate women? I GUESS WE’LL NEVER KNOW.
She goes ahead and tells the story anyways, and in doing so inadvertently reveals the underlying problem with Natalya. She’s a mess. On a ‘reality’ show where the drama’s made up and the wrestling doesn’t matter, she’s realistically not a very interesting or likable character, so she ends up with all of this manufactured drama that you can’t really invest in because it’s mostly her own fault. They tell her the dominatrix gimmick isn’t very PG, and yet responds to an off-handed comment from her father asking where her whip is by saying that she needs to find a whip. She’s asked to take out a story about Arn Anderson, and she leaves it in. Her husband is uncomfortable with pretending to be a sexy kitty, so she gets a dominatrix to bind her mom (sorry, I just wanted to live in that ridiculous moment again). Yes, let’s all sit around with our wine and toast to my father’s addiction problems! She comes close to these moments of eliciting genuine sympathy, and then everything gets lost in these boneheaded reactions. Even though Brie acts like the worst, most hypocritical person ever, at least you can kind of see where she’s coming from, even if that place is entirely selfish and awful. With Nattie you just shake your head and pray some cats show up soon.
Everyone is getting hyped for the Divas’ WrestleMania match, but no one is more excited than Paige (and She In The Chuck Taylors Who Shall Not Be Named, presumably). Paige shares an emotional moment backstage with Blayze, and It’s actually kind of amazing. Every once in a while something real gets to shine through, and if you aren’t full of feelings watching someone who was literally born to wrestle about to have the biggest moment of her career, and sitting around talking about it with someone who legitimately tried to BLAYZE (ehh?) a trail for women’s equality in wrestling, then I dunno. You might not have any feelings at all.
The tertiary Divas all gather around in the back to watch the match go down. I often say that WWE is the best at selling your feelings back to you, and here’s where you can really see the motivation behind the Total Divas brand. Yes, it is a trashy E!-style reality show that’s mostly fluff and Brie Bella guzzling champagne like a duck trying to choke down a ham hock, but it’s also about humanizing the Divas and making us see them as people. I mean, WWE has worked very hard in the past to make sure we don’t view women as anything more than sexual objects and set pieces, but in its own weird way, Total Divas has these tiny little moments that seem like they’re actively trying to change that. And yes, I do mean the show where they waxed Rosa Mendes’s Wahoo McDaniel.
The WrestleMania highlight portion of the show is actually a stunning portrayal of the existing dichotomy of the current Divas division. You have all of this focus on someone presenting an award to one of the greatest, and yet most maligned female wrestlers in American pro wrestling history, presented by someone they chose because she ‘loves wrestling,’ and literally the very first thing that happens when she walks on stage is Jerry Lawler making a comment about her looks. You have the Bellas, who were previously just pretty girls lost in the mix of more pretty girls who didn’t try very hard and weren’t expected to do more than dress up like a sexy Mrs. Claus each year and then spend 30 seconds (iron man Divas stats) in the ring before getting tossed out of yet another hair-pulling, shambolic Divas battle royal, presented as these sage veterans who have worked their asses off to get where they are, when in reality where they are still isn’t very good. They’re played off against Eva Marie, who represents the idea of the disingenuous starf*cker of yore who just wants to leave and do movies and sh*t like the Bellas left that one time to try to do movies and sh*t.
The Bellas are taken from one box and put into another, with their spot then filled by Eva and 30 pounds of hair extensions with no acknowledgement of the similarities between any of them. Remembering any history is anathema in WWE, but also “Oh man, remember how we also only recently started actually trying to wrestle, maybe we should also cut her some slack” doesn’t make for interesting television. The focus of this main drama plays off of years of setting women up to fail, and then getting a handy from the ‘wrestling community’ for doing something that even touches on ‘progressive,’ when their version of progressive is just how it should be all the time – people who are good at wrestling having good matches. The idea of who ‘deserves’ something vs. who is being handed something is a classic trope in wrestling, with the scrappy face underdogs against the entitled heels (love your guts, EC3!), but there’s a much more sinister tone when WWE interjects that into their storytelling. The trick to actually seeing women as human beings is presenting them as representative of all things – funny, caring, stupid, angry, malicious, innocent, whatever. But women can’t be accepted for being normal people like anyone else when you’ve made one type of girl loathsome for years, then suddenly contrast it with the opposite, pointing out that the other type is better. The women of NXT finally got noticed for all of the right reasons, and lauding the effort and skill of Divas who are really trying is unexpected and heartening and Sasha Banks is the best, but if you spend years valuing looks over skill, you can’t suddenly expect us to also respect the holdovers from the thing you tried to do before. To wit:
Here is Cameron, a four-year veteran, celebrating because she “called” a hot tag after Paige taking almost all of the heat. I know we make fun of her (and rightfully so) for trying to pin Naomi when she was on her stomach, but damn girl, you were in an actual tag team, you can’t tell me you haven’t picked up an ounce of tag psychology when your literal job is to know tag psychology. It’s like meeting kids who say they went to school, but still think that evolution isn’t a real thing and the earth is only a thousand years old. You know they were being taught something while they were there, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that thing was.
Then you have poor Nattie, seen here responding to Paige’s comment that she ‘almost peed a little’ during her ‘Mania match, and then awkwardly stopping mid-sentence in maybe the only moment of prescience she has in the entire show. Natalya’s someone who was always caught in between. Her and Beth Phoenix were supposed to be the REAL WRESTLERS out of the bunch, but they were never quite the look WWE wanted for one side, and never quite the wrestling juggernauts people like to pretend that they were. Now she’s stuck watching all of these girls get proper training and focus and attention while she tries to chime in and identify with an experience she didn’t get to have even though she also was literally born to do this, while operating in a Total Divas universe that she doesn’t fit into at all. She’s a square peg, and all the holes are the wrong shape.
Oh man, now we have to look at NATTIE like she’s people? I’m so sorry, guys. I promise I just wanted to make jokes about how nobody on this show understands very common idioms and screencap Eva Marie fisting lettuce into her mouth while her husbanager insists that the other girls really are sheep because lions would read Eva’s Instagram posts and be like “Dope, I love that quote” then eat two steaks to himself.
Anyways, someone caught the ghost of Bret Hart dragging his chains around backstage:
JUST LIKE BRIE’S PERIOD, HAHA AMIRITE
Speaking of what’s going on in the undercard of Brie’s body, today’s the day Brie and Daniel Bryan find out whether or not they’re fertile enough to – as she put it during the very touching tribute to a child who died of brain cancer – have a million babies with each other. As it turns out, Daniel Bryan is an overachiever in everything (except not being allergic to soy, I guess), and is totally fertile. We mean like SUPER fertile. If being fertile were an Olympic sport, this would be his sperm compared to others:
I know D-Bry’s epididymis is the body part we’ve all been worried sick over, so thank god we can all just CALM DOWN.
That got a little heavy, so let’s take a break between episodes and look at this amazing screencap that never made it into the last recap:
To be totally honest, if we replaced all of Brie’s segments with Nattie’s cats and people ugly-eating it would probably be the best show on television.
On the next episode of Total Divas, Titus O’Neil can’t stop farting, Paige and Alicia Fox get into a fight, and Nattie shakes hands with some friendly sex workers because she’s the most awkward human being alive. Oh, and all of the other stuff that happens next in this report!
Sometimes it’s really hard to shut off that critical part of my brain that overthinks everything in wrestling and how it relates to everything else. The key to embracing this show is to just surrender fully to its kayfabe nonsense. No, really! One minute my brain is filled with thoughts about how much Natalya’s always been set up to fail and the subhuman treatment of her wrestling character, and the next I’m watching this clip thinking “Ooo, Nikki’s hair is so shiny I wonder what kind of conditioner she uses!” Years of watching TNA and terrible indie wrestling has left me susceptible to entertainment Stockholm Syndrome, so I guess this is just my life now. Anyways, Daniel Bryan is a total jerk to Nikki and puts her clothes in his barn because he thinks she lives like an animal. OH NO I hope this isn’t giving Nikki some kind of complex that’s going to come out in a dramatic fashion! (I’m lying I totally want that give it to me).
Nattie needs a thing this episode, so it starts out with her agreeing to foster some rescue cats for a while. 18 rescue cats. Her and TJ are about to hit the road, so of course she commits to letting live animals who need constant care live in her home. In the most infuriating Nattie things yet, instead of actually going to look for one of the cats as it escapes out of her pool cage, she talks about it, then calls her parents, and then they all stand around talking about it some more without anyone looking for the f*cking cat. Remember when I said Nattie makes you shake your head and pray some cats show up? I take it back. No more cats. This is a disaster.
The two lights of my life not named Titus O’Neil on this show are in for some major drama of their own this week. Paige is in the midst of some pretty big life changes that include a new boyfriend from a band that, to cranky old person ears, is virtually indistinguishable from like seven similar bands whose names I will also never remember. Young Kevin tells Paige that since she’s always at his place anyways, she might as well just move her stuff in. I’d make a joke about the romance of the situation, but hey, that’s the exact talk that led me to living in a city I hated for five years, so that may actually be as real as this show gets. Paige doesn’t know how to break the news to Fox, so she kind of mumbles that she’s going to move in with her new boyfriend instead and then runs away saying ‘YOU CAN’T SHOUT IN CATERING!’ because even when they’re being dramatic they’re still the best. OH NO I hope this doesn’t cause anything dramatic to happen later in the episode (I’m telling the truth they’re my faves don’t let this happen).
I refuse to give this context.
Paige and her new boyfriend head over to Foxy’s new place for a house-warming party. Foxy’s already pretty sloshed by the time they get there, so aside from the glorious screencap above, she mostly just titters and points out that Kevin looks like her old, also guitarist, also bearded boyfriend Bradley. She calls him Bradley Junior, and everyone else sits around awkwardly like any good house party being filmed for the benefit of a reality show.
Here’s when things really start going south. Everyone’s piled into separate cars to get back on the road after a show, so we get a lot of frenetic cuts between each one. Nattie, who just can’t say no, has kindly offered to let Heath Slater, Adam Rose, and Titus O’Neil ride with her and TJ after something or other happened to their car. TJ is put out because of course he is, but also because Titus had beans for lunch and is smoking out the entire car. Heath Slater suggests that they all stop and grab something to eat at a place his buddy owns. Of course the place happens to be a strip club, which makes TJ go hide in the car because he’s so desperately uncomfortable. Nattie thanks the lady dancers by shaking their hand, because that’s just what you do I guess. Titus points out that they’re just doing their job, but if I may, that is a super Canadian thing to do. If I were one of three patrons in a strip joint, and had just gotten up and danced on stage with them while my curmudgeon boyfriend played with his phone in the car, I would totally say thank you. It’s just the polite thing to do. They make up later in the hotel room after Nattie’s mom calls to say that one of the (now somehow 20??) cats threw up on the porch. Nobody mentions the missing cat, because they’re still the worst ones.
Emma tags along with Paige and Fox, and if you’ve paid any attention to Emma’s turn on NXT of late, this is probably where her disillusionment actually began. Paige bails and switches cars to ride with Naomi and Mr. Naomi, and it appears that my favourite friendship is busting up. But lo! It’s okay! Everything turns out fine because Alicia was actually just sad that she’s alone and still craving taxation without representation from King Barrett. They haven’t dated in two years, but no amount of covering his face with napkins when he’s on TV can keep from dredging those feelings back up. No, really:
Aw, honey, we’ve all been there. I mean, maybe not this very specific instance of still wanting to hook up with your wrestler ex who wears a crown to work, but everyone’s got that itch you can’t ever seem to want to stop scratching. One minute you’re talking about something completely innocuous and the next minute both of you are super naked and it is a problem. It totally happens to everyone and no, my love life is always extremely uncomplicated and I’m not speaking from experience, thanks for asking.
After saying the words “I don’t think it’s fair for you to ask Brian to change just so you can feel comfortable being around us” in response to Nikki feeling bad about constantly being belittled, Brie calls him so he can assure Nikki that he doesn’t hate her. He says he doesn’t, and he’ll stop making fun of her. Brie tells him that she ‘wishes I could give you nose-ies right now,’ and I go back to wondering about Nikki’s hair care regiment so I don’t throw up in my mouth a little. Everyone is nice to everyone else, and everything gets a nice, neat little bow on it at the end.
Well, except Fox and Wade Barrett. OH NO I sure do hope that doesn’t become a central point of conten-oh, f*ck it. whatever. I’m gonna watch this show either way.
Post-Episodes Total Divas Power Rankings
1) Alicia Fox – I also own a sailor hat and have complicated relationships with boys are we best friends yet.
2) Paige – Even when she’s screaming about something, she was pretty justified in being mad, and is still kinda the best one.
3) Naomi – Pretty much the voice of reason, still pretty likable.
4) Nikki – It sucks being made fun of all the time, and that screencap is the gift that keeps on giving.
5) Cameron – Maybe next week she’ll learn what an ankle lock is.
6) Eva Marie – Gains points for eating style, loses points for literally everything else.
7) Brie – “Nose-ies.”
8) Nattie – LOOK FOR THE F*CKING CAT NATALYA.