‘Total Divas,’ totally not very interesting
E! series documents the lives of professional lady wrestlers
July 26, 2013
Given the intertwined nature of TV ownership these days, when we watch a show, we often ask ourselves not only “Do I want to watch this show?” but also “Do I want to watch the other show[s] it’s promoting?”
E!’s new documentary series “Total Divas,” about the lady wrestlers who work for the WWE, is inoffensive but only mildly interesting, and it’s unlikely to bring new viewers to the other WWE programs that air on E!’s corporate partners USA and Syfy. Only people who are curious to know what the Funkadactyls are really like will feel compelled to watch.
Premiering this Sunday, July 28, at 10 p.m., “Total Divas” focuses on seven WWE “Divas.” The twins Nikki and Brie Bella (not their real names) are a tag team that performs as the Bella Twins. Their chief rivals are a tag team called the Funkadactyls, whose stage names are Naomi and Cameron but who are called Trinity and Ariane on this show.
The Bella Twins say that the other women are gunning for them because they took a year off to film “an independent movie” but are coming back at the top.
Every such show needs a veteran; in this case it’s Natalya (real name Natalie Neidhart), the daughter of the wrestler Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and the niece of Bret “Hit Man” Hart. The newbies are JoJo Offerman and Eva Marie, who are being groomed for stardom.
The episode builds up to Wrestlemania, which we are repeatedly told is the biggest event in the WWE calendar. Only one of the matches at the event will be a girls’ match.
Jane, a WWE executive, has to break the news to Natalie that the girls’ match will actually be a double tag team, with the Bella Twins and the Funkadactyls being paired with male teams. This plotline ends surprisingly but disappointingly.
To add insult to insult, Jane also tells Natalie that she wants her to help groom Jojo and Eva Marie. Then Natalie learns that Jane has asked Eva Marie to bleach her hair blond so that she won’t look too much like the Bella Twins. No one seems to care that Natalie is already blond.
We learn a lot about the Divas’ romantic lives. Several of them are involved with WWE wrestlers: Trinity is dating Jimmy Uso; Brie is dating Daniel Bryan; and Nikki is dating John Cena.
Nikki says that John’s divorce makes him reluctant to get married again. On a dinner date, they have one of those awkward reality-TV conversations about their future. One hopes that they’re merely reenacting previous discussions and that they didn’t save this important topic for the TV cameras.
Natalie is engaged to the WWE star Tyson Kidd, who doesn’t appear in the premiere. According to press materials, future episodes will feature her bachelorette party, dress shopping and the ceremony itself. It’s hard to imagine the typical pro-wrestling fan getting excited about all that.
After a rehearsal for Wrestlemania goes badly, one of the Funkadactyls’ male partners tells Ariane that she and Trinity “suck.” Ariane’s boyfriend, a tough-looking noncelebrity named Vincent, starts threatening to go into the locker room and “call him out.”
Although the editing plays up the women’s rivalry, with lots of eye rolling, they never get into any serious disputes. Perhaps the producers figured that if viewers wanted to see heavily made-up women with big chests screaming at each other and pulling hair, they would watch a “Real Housewives” show.
The few shots of the Divas and their boyfriends doing their job in the ring, taken out of context, look silly and, yes, fake.
By either pro-wrestling or reality-TV standards, “Total Divas” feels real-ish. If the stars are doing any damage to their reputations, it’s that they appear to be too nice. That might make their fans happy, but viewers expecting a smackdown can and will go elsewhere.
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