I gotta say, fam: this was a jam packed episode. I was a little worried about reviewing this last half of the season. With Nikki’s newly announced breather for her neck (and likely to hang out with her new niece Birdie Jo who is coming ANY DAY YOU GUYS) and all of Paige’s current woes and continuing MIA status, I was frankly stressed out at the concept of committing to watching the show. As a smark, an empath, a shameless Bella stan… I expected to die. But man, ain’t tea worth ANYTHING?
Total Divas wastes no time reminding us who the Big Bad of the season is: THE DRAFT. Mark Carrano, the world’s greatest stepdad, is firm but friendly, just like not your real dad should be. “Sometimes business is more important than personal lives,” he says dadly. Do they hate him? Maybe, but they respect him, ya feel? I sincerely hope that the tantrum that Naomi and Renee throw, going so far as to say they’d consider working elsewhere (honey, where?!), is purely for the benefit of E! because if it was genuine I’m dangerously close to having no respect for them. And you know, guys, isn’t great media supposed to teach us something about ourselves? I think so. I would probably have a boyfriend if he was well muscled and a smart ass and I didn’t necessarily have to see him more than two days a week and our favorite times of year were Summerslam and WrestleMania because then we’d be lit together ALL WEEK. One woman’s E! Exclusive drama is another woman’s treasure?
My only issue with draft coverage is that we clearly asked Maryse and Lana to pretend to be worried about it. I’ve seen both ladies take bumps, and in the past Maryse has done the bidness, but you’re valets. OF COURSE you’re getting drafted with Miz and Rusev. What?
Paige continues to be edited like an episode of Degrassi: Next Generation. She’s still worried about her neck. Even finding out that they don’t think surgery is necessary doesn’t seem to alleviate her stress. The doc recommends physical therapy, which would have been a cool thing for TD to cover, but maybe Paige never went? We find out that things “aren’t going well” with Alberto Del Rio, who is nowhere, ever, not in the background at catering, not in a match. If I watched Total Divas as a complete outsider to professional wrestling I would think she made him up.
Nikki continues her climb back to the top, training hard to prove to the WWE that she’s ready, having been medically cleared by her surgeon before our mid-season hiatus. Some of the best work on this show is montages of Nikki training and working out. Honestly I feel empowered, I feel like I can do anything. Instead of starting my day with coffee I want to wake up in a house that drops screens from the ceiling and projects Nikki going hard all around me until I feel whole. There are no dates with John Cena, no worry about marriage or babies or even menial housekeeping. AND I LOVED IT. She tells Brie and trainer Mark Shane, “I love being a villain.” I know currently she’s taking it easy so nothing serious happens to her neck, but man, I want her to go home a heel. We never deserved her, y’all.
Eva Marie has somehow gotten more out of touch with reality. It’s almost more fascinating than it is disrespectful to the entire history of women’s wrestling. Almost. She says things like, “the last year and a half in NXT has been extremely tough.” You guys, Eva had to go and make part-time appearances at a once a week show and also train to be a professional wrestler for a year and a half. I don’t know how she’s still standing. SO BRAVE! She later has lunch with her shitty, mean family and creatine husbandger, who are surprisingly not mean to her for once. They’re even proud for her. My half a moment of being happy for Eva is ruined by Eva herself who says, with zero self awareness, “Talk about a journey right there. Eight months. I don’t think anybody else has gone through the ringer as much as I have.”
Meanwhile, Nikki Bella, who regrew a human neck and presumably pointed and laughed at a spine for being a nerd after nearly a decade in this company, tells a worried Nattie and an onlooking Brian Duncan, head athletic trainer, “Bones fuse; it’s not going anywhere.” She brings in Shayna Baszler, who has overcome her own frightening injuries, to help work her neck with a little in ring practice. Nattie continues to worry over Nikki’s neck. She doesn’t want to work her, she’s scared she’ll hurt her, as a fellow athlete and as a friend, that terrifies her. And you know, this is maybe one of the more brilliant angles on Total Divas to date. Wrestling is hard, wrestling is tough, wrestling is scary.
The draft finally comes. Renee and Dean Ambrose both end up on Smackdown, so Renee keeps her job, which I think she was going to do anyway. Lana performs neurotic gymnastics for the talent portion of the evening, worried that all of her best friends, her people, have gone to Smackdown instead of Raw. Rusev, husband of the year, simply says, “I’ll be your people.” Is Rusev my favorite Diva?
No, because The Miz responds to his and Maryse’s draft to Smackdown by shouting, “I made [Daniel Bryan], took you long enough! Took you long enough to get the intercontinental champion on the show!” So Miz is my favorite Diva.
But wait, John Cena upsets Miz’s reign as my favorite Diva by responding to his Smackdown draft with, “as a fourth round pick, I only get a small bonus. I’ll have to rent. I can’t buy anything yet… I’ll work my way to the top, I promise.”
Naomi and Jon remain together, on Smackdown, which means Naomi doesn’t need to dramatically quit her job and Jon can stop worrying about the phone bill, #relatable. Eva Marie is having a small tantrum the entire draft. “Girls from NXT are starting to get drafted,” she says as Nia Jax is assigned to Raw, “and I’m starting to realize, damn, I’m not getting called up,” which says a lot about where Eva thinks she is as a performer, and of what she thinks of NXT, and of other women. Paige, with dirty hair in a messy bun, has been openly weeping in the background. Del Rio is still never on camera, even as his draft is announced. Paige is finally drafted to Raw, not Smackdown with ADR, and she takes it badly. Eva is finally drafted, to Smackdown, but she just decides it was to Raw and cheers about Raw for a long time while everyone around her tells her she’s going to Smackdown.
I loved that Total Divas showed draft picks of people not involved with the show, and did so in pretty even numbers between women and men. I like that perhaps women who watch Total Divas who aren’t 100% sold on tuning in might find themselves intrigued by Sasha, or Dana, or Nia.
Brie and Nattie hang out probably sipping goat’s milk or an organic tea D Bry made up and chat about Nikki. Brie is candid about missing the ring, about being separated from it, and knowing that it’s on an entirely different level for Nikki. She tells Nattie that Nikki trusts her surgeon, her own body, but that if they don’t believe in her, if her confidence is shaken, then that will get her hurt. So Nattie clears the air with Nikki, and then Total Divas shows more awareness than WWE creative, by highlighting Nikki’s true love. Not John Cena. Professional wrestling:
“My past ten years: my love, my passion, my journey… I look at that ring and see everything I’ve overcome. That’s home… that’s where I belong.”
We close the show with Alicia Fox, being the only person to actually grab Paige and try to figure her out. Apparently Paige and Alberto Del Rio have broken up, Del Rio telling Paige that there’s no way they’d ever be together again. Paige is visibly crushed, even more so than usual. And even leading up to the break up we’ve seen her spiraling.
I don’t want to speculate too much outside of what the show has shown us, but clearly they are together now. Clearly them being together coincided with violations and suspicions, with Paige deciding to have the surgery that WWE thought could be unnecessary with commitment to PT, with Paige’s erratic behavior on social media, and transformation into Del Rio’s PR both for wrestling events and for restaurant openings. That could be a whole lot of coincidence.
There could be giant pieces of the puzzle that we’re missing, and of course, the WWE doesn’t have a great track record of treating their talent with the utmost care and respect. That being said, if you ever feel like you’re being handed ultimatums, or that you need to quit your job or change your health care plans or sacrifice any part of yourself to be with someone who told you that there’s no way they’d ever be with you… I want you to know that there are resources out there, if that ever feels scary for you. I want you to know that it’s okay to be careful and cautious and to not change anything about yourself.
Don’t worry, I’ll still end this with our usual fun:
Stepdad Carrano: Beyond worthy of a custom #1 dad mug on Etsy
Look of the Week: Those Power Ranger-esque leggings Nikki was training in
McMahonment: Nattie comparing Shane McMahon to her cats getting in the litter box
Rating: 5/5, but 0 fun
Next Week: Fast cuts featuring heavy gain voiceovers apparently