Total Divas
“Diva Divide”
Season 4 – Episode 1
Air Date: July 7, 2015

FINALLY – “Total Divas” has come back to television. With just as much drama and just as little clothing as ever.

Where to start with the season premiere of the kayfabiest show in wrestling? Maybe with the moment Paige pretends to shoot herself in the head as brunch conversation turns yet again to the Bellas’ rumored retirement. Maybe when WWE VP and Professional Angel of Death Mark Carrano actually adjusts his necktie, Rodney Dangerfield-style, while having an uncomfortable conversation. Maybe the footage of Brie Bella Bryan trimming husband Daniel Bryan’s beard before a TV taping. Maybe when Nikki Bella reveals she maybe thinks Tonya Harding got taken out with a hockey stick. Or maybe when Mama Bella claims that “don’t burn any bridges” is a well-known saying and Nikki – a woman who has literally insisted on camera that a seal is a kind of fish – makes a face like that’s the dumbest thing she’s ever heard anyone say.

These are all wonderful moments. But let’s begin with the low-hanging fruit: the secret, tawdry backstory of Natalya’s heel turn.

Remember around WrestleMania when Nattie first started wearing elaborate black leather capes to valet Team Brass Ring? Turns out she is going for a “dominatrix cat lady” look (not to be confused with a “crazy cat lady” look), and since Nattie is apparently a Method actor, this means doing a lot of hands-on research, including taking the Fatus – Jimmy Uso and Trinity/Naomi – to a sex shop and having an actual dominatrix come to her house.

“I am gonna research this role until it can’t be researched any more,” Nattie says. Right before she examines a butt plug she’s considering purchasing for her cats. Which is when I pour another glass of wine.

The dominatrix situation makes Tyson Kidd, Nattie’s real-life husband, so uncomfortable that he gets in his car and drives away after just a few minutes of being ordered around with a cat toy.

“Here’s the thing: I’m a tag team champion,” he shouts at Nattie over the phone from the car. “I’m not purring like a cat!”

A moment later, Nattie’s mom walks in the front door as Nattie’s being whipped in the living room by her hired dom (their safe word is “cat”).

“We were just doing some dominatrix stuff,” Nattie explains. As though that were some kind of explanation.

It’s clear by the time the dominatrix leaves the house (after taping up Nattie’s mom and providing some more direction about how to be aggressively kinky) that this is maybe a little more Method than Nattie wanted to get. Ultimately, it’s Yoda-esque advice from Nikki Bella that helps Nattie understand what kind of dom she wants to be.

“Be what you feel like a dominatrix is supposed to be. Just make it your own,” Nikki says. “Make it your own.”

Meanwhile, the real drama is building as the Divas find out that Eva Marie, who (post-breast-implant-splosion surgery) has told everyone she’s gone back to the NXT Performance Center for some remedial training, is actually living at her own cozy home in California and taking private wrestling lessons from WWE superstar Brian Kendrick on the company’s dime. When the truth comes out, resentment abounds among the Divas. A sampling:

  • Nikki: “I gave up my personal life for my WWE Universe. What has she given up?”
  • Paige: “Talk about silver spoon. You’ve had the easiest Diva career I have ever witnessed.”
  • Alicia Fox: “You can’t go to developmental and not still know how to do a headlock.”
  • Brie: “She should thank god that she has a pretty face, because other than that she would have nothing.”

Turns out the other Divas are a bit miffed that they had to actually learn wrestling before getting moved up to the main roster, especially the ones who came along too early to train at the Performance Center (Brie Bella, for example, claims she trained at batting cages and “canned food buildings”). There’s some debate about whether it’s appropriate to hold Eva responsible for the advantages she’s being given by the company. Trinity thinks there’s too much shade being thrown, and she tells everyone so – including Eva. Even Lillian Garcia gets involved, first lecturing Brie about how badly she’s making Eva feel and then, after Brie tells her Eva lied about going back to NXT, venting about how “played” she feels.

For her part, Eva Marie dismisses her detractors as “energy vampires” and throws herself – literally – into her training, although in typical Eva Marie style, she has a breakdown mid-episode that can only be solved by a pep talk from her husband and some inspiration from her Red Nation. And then she does body slam Brian Kendrick, so there’s that.

S**t gets real when Eva shows up at a TV taping and walks into the snakepit locker room to face the other Divas (a walk that is cleverly cut together with footage and JBL commentary from Bray Wyatt’s ring entrance at the same show). It’s the moment when I’m reminded that my husband doesn’t know what it’s like to be a teenage girl – he’s appalled at how “unreasonable” they’re being, but I could have scripted the entire face-off myself, having been involved in near-identical confrontations myself countless times between the ages of 11 and 18 (OK, fine, 11 and 27. I worked at summer camp for a long time).

“They’re bullying her. They’re literally bullying her,” he says, whereas I’m naturally inclined to be Team Everyone Else because Eva is clearly the party who is The Absolute Worst in this situation. Is it her fault that WWE is giving her advantages because she’s pretty? No. But is it her fault if she lied about going back to NXT and then used her pretty face and her cute baby voice to try to get out of it? The rest of the Divas certainly seem to think so.

They insist that she tell them why she’s upset and then refuse to let her talk, and there’s a lot of complaining about what people post on Instagram and who spent how much time in developmental.

“I think it’s ridiculous that you don’t have to go back down to NXT and that you have your own personal trainer in L.A.,” Paige says. “That’s lazy.”

Eva says something about busting her ass, which is when Brie loses it.

“Bust your ass?” Brie shouts. “This is your third WrestleMania. So now you wanna bust your ass? You’ve been up here two and a half years. I’m talking you don’t know how to wrestle, and it’s because you don’t give a s**t.”

Cruelly, Paul Heyman walks into frame at the very last second of this blowup, so we don’t get to see his reaction to the erupting catfight. Come on, E! Network. Throw the wrestling fans a bone. (Actually, I can’t complain too much. The Eva Marie-Wyatt sequence was that well done.)

Oh, and there’s a whole subplot about whether the Bellas are actually going to not renew their contracts. Brie still wants to have babies and Nikki wants to be the female John Cena, and they fight about it, and then they decide Nikki will come back and Brie won’t. Which, OK, maybe they both didn’t re-sign for a full three years – but I just watched Brie beat Paige on Raw, like, two days ago. So.

Aaaaaand apparently there will be a John Cena-Nikki Bella-Dolph Ziggler love triangle this season. So if that’s not worth tuning in for, nothing is.