Previously on Total Divas, Nattie dealt with the sudden death of her father, Jim “the Anvil” Niedhart.
But enough living in the past, let’s look at the biggest matches in the hard-hitting Season 9 premiere of Total Divas:
Ronda Rousey Versus The Format Of This Show
I’m not here to make fun of Ronda Rousey. She may not be my favorite WWE Superstar of the past few years, but I’m just here to recap Total Divas, a show that always has some semi-shoot heels around to bring villainy to the Reality TV format. That said, I want you to look at the image above. That’s the most comfortable that Ronda ever looks talking to a Total Divas camera. That’s pretty much as at-ease as she ever gets, at least in this first episode of her first (and if I were guessing, only) season. Here, in fact, is the first image of her that appears at the top of the episode:
The caption should just say “Ronda Rousey: Distrusts the Makeup Girl.” And it’s not just the interview segments. It seems really clear that Ronda doesn’t have much interest in interacting with the rest of the cast. She gives off the cuff takes on the other Divas as the show opens, including a comment about Carmella seeming like a fragile beanie baby that got a real-time reaction from the current WWE 24/7 Champion as the episode aired, but then the rest of the girls have a group storyline for rest of the episode, while Ronda just hangs out on her farm with Travis Brown, goats, donkeys, and various MMA Horsewomen.
I’m curious to see if they eventually manage to get her into a beach house with the rest of the cast before the season is over, but I’m not holding my breath. Nikki and Brie Bella were often pretty isolated during their last couple of Total Divas seasons, but they at least would show up for a girls’ party weekend, something Ronda seems much less up for. I hope I’m wrong, though. I want to see Ronda in the hot tub having drama with Trin and Nattie, otherwise what’s the point in being on Total Divas at all?
Interestingly, this episode sets up on ongoing arc about whether Ronda Rousey wants to stay in WWE or leave to have Travis Brown’s babies. It’s one of those big “Do I stay or do I go?” choices that nobody ever seems to struggle with quite as much as reality TV stars. In fact, it kind of has me wondering if the eventual announcement about whether or not we’ll see Ronda in a WWE ring again will come as part of this season. Considering her presence on the WWE Alumni page, this weird fit of a Total Divas season might well be Rousey’s WWE swan song.
Winner: Ronda Rousey. Say what you want about her, she clearly has the freedom to do whatever she wants, whether it fits the format of this series she’s been heavily promoted as one of the stars of or not.
Nia Jax versus Carmella
Meanwhile, the other women who star on this show are busy actually interacted with each other, the weekend of the 2019 Royal Rumble. Nia comes in with a big push to be the villain here, as she decides to make public the fact that she doesn’t like Carmella because she’s fake and insincere. Carmella, who’s just rejoined the series without the baggage of Big Cass, is aghast at these accusations. “There’s nothing fake about me… except my eyelashes and my tan,” is one of the best lines in the episode.
At first it seems like Nia’s critique of Carmella is a more personal thing, but over the course of the episode it gets redefined to be about her in-ring style, with Nia saying that Mella makes moves look fake because she’s being too careful. Carmella rightly points out (and frankly, it’s wild that this is openly discussed on TV) that Nia’s one to talk given her reputation for hurting people, including Becky Lynch in the run-up to the 2018 Survivor Series. Carmella’s right, of course. Neither Total Divas nor this column should be about the relative in-ring skills of the women involved, but Nia Jax is not the one who should be setting standards for anyone else’s workrate. Even Tamina is noticeably taken aback when she comes at Carmella:
Over the course of this feud, the girls (including welcome guest star Charly Caruso) all meet up for brunch, and much is made of the fact that Nia makes an excuse not to come (but nobody even brings up Ronda’s absence, because nobody expected her to be there). This gives Carmella a chance to say she’s single and then leave the table so the other girls can say they don’t really think she’s single at all. Clips from future episodes make clear that she’s secretly dating Corey Graves at this point, but that’ll be more relevant in future episodes. For now, they just put a special effort into burying Big Cass as a partner (he probably deserves it) and let Sonya flirt with her a little.
Sonya’s also theoretically single, but she’s obviously about to get back together with the girlfriend we already know is going to be on the show. All of this is frankly more interesting that whether or not Nia Jax thinks Carmella can wrestle, which doesn’t really get resolved this episode, except that Carmella does give Nia a hard receipt to the face during the Royal Rumble. She probably deserves that too (which she even admits).
Winner: Carmella, who’s better at not hurting people (unless she wants to) both in and out of the ring.
That’s all for now, Total Divas fans, but join me next week for more outside-the-ring drama, and probably more shots of Ronda Rousey looking uneasy and far away from everyone else.