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  3. REVIEW: “WWE ‘Total Divas’ begins with WrestleMania rhubarb, plus John Cena romancing Nikki Bella” by Josh Stewart of Newsday.com

Total Divas 3Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Newsday.com and was written by Josh Stewart:

WWE “Total Divas” debuted on E! Sunday night with a clear advantage over its reality show counterparts.

For those tired of producer-driven “staged reality,” WWE starts with a lower threshold for success than Kardashian kin or “Storage Wars” combatants. Amazingly, there’s still a level of disappointment when folks find out half of what their favorite reality show features is smoke and mirrors.

But this is the wrestling business — where the goal is to suspend reality through intricate storylines. If 20 percent of what WWE presents in its new show about its female combatants offers anything approaching reality, it’s a hearty reveal, not a deflating farce.

To that end, Sunday’s initial episode scored in offering viewers something to make them at least feel that they weren’t completely being, as they say in the wrestling business, “worked.”

A promoted eight-person mixed tag match was nixed from April 7’s WrestleMania, the victim of time constraints. I covered WrestleMania at MetLife Stadium, and was shocked that the company ran the three main event matches consecutively with no lighter bout to give the fans a breather.

As it turns out, a longer-than-expected Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar bout bounced the tag match between the Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie, and “Team Rhodes Scholars” versus the pom-pom wielding “Funkadactyls,” aka Ariane and Trinity, along with Tons of Funk.

Unless WWE promoted a WrestleMania match just to kill it so they’d have drama for a side project — and I don’t buy that — then we saw something real as Ariane and Trinity (ring names Cameron and Naomi) sat deflated on the locker room floor commiserating over how there may be just a few years to chase these dreams before other goals like becoming a mom take over.

As for the rest of the show, the jury is still out on where WWE’s machinations begin and end, largely because much of that cattiness that was shown Sunday fit too neatly with what we see every week on “Monday Night Raw.”

* Nikki and Brie are the sexy sirens who irritate dutiful second-generation grappler Natalya by leaving the company for nearly a year, then reappearing to steal Nattie’s thunder. (Nikki won line of the night with, “If I wasn’t a Bella Twin, I’d want to be a Bella twin.” What in the world could be irritating about that?)

* Nattie, instead of getting a WrestleMania match, gets stuck babysitting Divas-in-training Eva Marie and Jojo and fusses about her position. (“I actually taught them [the Bellas] how to wrestle… They’re throwing their weight around,” Nattie fumes.)

* Eva Marie challenges WWE brass by dying her hair beet red when she was supposed to
become a blonde. She gets a grudging approval and a warning at the same time, cementing what could be a predetermined “rebel” role on the show.

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