Previously on Total Divas, everybody arrived in New Orleans for WrestleMania Weekend. Paige was upset because she has to retire from in-ring competition, and she was turning to magic in her time of need, much to Naomi’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Natalya made a bunch of promises on behalf of the Bella’s in her attempt to help market Birdie Bee.
But enough living in the past, let’s look at the biggest matchups on Season 8 Episode 2 of Total Divas:
Paige Versus Retirement
I structured the format of this column around the often petty or exaggerated conflicts that happen between the people on this show, because that’s usually its main mechanism for entertainment, and it’s fun to look for the parallels between reality television and pro wrestling, two strikingly similar storytelling forms that are smushed together like never before by Total Divas. So of course here in the second episode of the season, we got swerved by a storyline that digs a little deeper.
Last week saw Paige creating conflicts with her friends because she was upset about having to retire from the ring. In this episode she’s moved past that, and her conflict here isn’t with any of her fellow wrestlers. It’s not even with the company that won’t let her wrestle anymore, because her recent experiences have shown her that they’re right. Her real conflict is with herself: with how much of her life she’s given to wrestling and how much of her identity is tied up in something she has to leave behind.
She seeks advice from Daniel Bryan, who’s already given the speech she’s about to give (and now finds himself returning from a retirement everyone expected to be permanent). Their conversation might be the best Total Divas Daniel Bryan moment of all time. As likable as Bryan is on the wrestling shows, he can often seem insincere and condescending in a reality TV (or just “hanging out with his wife”) context. Here though, his advice makes sense and his compassion is palpable. Also it’s heartbreaking seeing Brie’s face fall when she hears that Paige has to give a retirement speech.
I was wrong last week when I predicted that this episode would also cover Paige starting her new job on SmackDown. The focus here is entirely on her leaving the wrestling ring behind, and ultimately that makes a lot of sense for the structure of the story. Paige gives her speech, which is that much more emotionally affecting in this context than it was when we first saw it on Raw, and steps into the unknown of her future. For all that this show can be over-the-top and silly (which is usually why I like it), they handled this serious story perfectly. They let it be dramatic without ever veering into anything that rang false or felt disrespectful of Paige.
Winner: Paige, by trusting her friends and focusing on the positive.