Paige is a spaz, the Bella twins can’t sing and ageism rears its ugly head in this week’s installment of the E! Network’s “Total Divas.”
In her short time on the show, Paige has demonstrated repeatedly that her devil-may-care in-ring persona is much more badass than her actual personality, which appears to be something like that of a well-meaning but chronically misbehaving puppy still growing into its feet and learning not to eat people food off the counter. Except in Paige’s case, “eat people food” means “hurt people’s feelings” and “off the counter” means “by acting without really thinking.”
This time, the victim is her current boyfriend, who still looks exactly like her old boyfriend. He comes to visit her on set in Vancouver, where she’s filming a WWE Christmas movie in which she apparently plays an evil elf who gets into a fight on a ropes course. Her boyfriend is some kind of musician (seriously, he’s basically indistinguishable from the last guy), and she gets jealous when he encounters a pushy fan in a bar.
Egged on by Rosa Mendes, who now is into men (and, although it hasn’t yet happened in this episode, pregnant), leaving unresolved an extended plotline from last season that dealt with Rosa being attracted to women, Paige hatches a plan to test her boyfriend (whose name is somehow not Bradley, but that’s what I want to call him because I keep forgetting he’s not the last guy). She pays another woman to flirt with him in a bar. He passes, Paige and Rosa congratulate him, and an insulted not-Bradley sulks out of the bar as Paige tries to figure out what could possibly have gone wrong. They later reconcile, and he jokes about measuring Paige for an engagement ring, which seems like a truly terrible idea.
Speaking of terrible ideas: Brie Bella has been asked to record a remix of her entrance music. Singing. Which, in case you were wondering, she cannot. She describes it as “a bad version of Kesha,” which is remarkably apt.
The recording session goes as badly as you can possibly imagine, and it’s horribly awkward for every single person involved. Like seriously, so excruciating that I can’t go back and get direct quotes because I can’t relive it. It’s that uncomfortable.
After hearing the mix, competitive Nikki (who claims Brie actually has a really decent singing voice and she’s “disappointed” in her sister’s ersatz-Keshesque performance) announces she’s going to ask WWE to let her record a version of her entrance music.
“I think there’s a Marilyn Monroe deep down inside me,” she tells Brie, R-Truth and John Cena, who seems particularly skeptical. Nikki later tells Brie she thinks her singing is good enough to win “an Emmy,” to which Brie responds by suggesting she get “an education” instead.
Nikki brings Renee Young with her to WWE HQ, where she records with legendary WWE composer Jim Johnston (if you haven’t listened to his appearance on the Stone Cold podcast, it’s worth checking out). Renee asks about his worst recording sessions ever, and Jim describes singing parts of lines one at a time and having them sung back to him.
Guess where Nikki’s recording session ends up? I’ll give you a hint: We get to hear Jim Johnston sing pretty much her whole entrance theme, line by line. Eventually, the man who gave the world the theme music that accompanies the entrances of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker is driven out of the room, murmuring “Oh my god in heaven.”
I repeat: The man behind The Undertaker’s terrifying entrance cannot be in the same room as Nikki Bella singing.
Renee Young, bless her duplicitous heart, records video of the slow-moving musical car accident, and she shares this gem with Brie over wine. Later, to get her revenge, Brie tricks her sister into thinking she’s been asked to sing the national anthem at an Anaheim Ducks game. Brie lets Nikki spend a long, awkward time warming up in a locker room at the arena before she reveals it’s a rib.
“You’re so dumb. Like they’re gonna allow you to sing the national anthem tonight,” Brie says. “They have professionals who can sing.”
“I am a professional!” Nikki shouts. “You turned my joke into something serious.”
“So you just admitted that your singing’s a joke?”
(Notably absent from this storyline? Any mention of Eva Marie and the fact that the other Divas have been giving her a hard time for doing with wrestling exactly what the Bellas are doing in the recording studio — trying to get paid to do something she simply isn’t trained to do.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of “Total Divas” without a visit from corporate hatchet man Mark Carrano, a man next to whom Bad News Barrett is as upbeat as a singing telegram. Carrano’s target this week is Natalya, whom he pulls aside for a Serious Talk about how Nattie should start thinking about the next phase of her career.
“Carrano is basically, like, ‘We want to transition you out to be maybe an ambassador,'” Nattie tells Nikki. “He would not say, like, ‘Hey, we think that you’re like Old Yeller so we want to just get you the hell out of the division.’ But he kept saying, ‘You know, we just want to diversify’ and being really politcally…”
“Ew,” Nikki responds.
The message, as far as Nattie is concerned, seems clear: She’s not young and hot anymore, and WWE thinks she’s past her prime.
“I’m gonna go to the ring and get a gun,” she tells Nikki.
Nattie, for the record, is 33 (32 at the time of taping). For comparison’s sake, the Bella twins are 31. Layla, who retired this year, is 38. So is John Cena. So is Brock Lesnar. Big Show is 43. Goldust is 46. The Undertaker is 50.
Confronted by Nikki Bella, Carrano tries to play it off as a long-range kind of discussion, and who knows what actually happened in their private conversation. Alicia Fox describes it as a “head game,” saying Nattie has a “maturity” but that she doesn’t think it’s the issue Nattie thinks it is. It’s telling, though, that Nattie (part of a multigenerational wrestling legacy and the first woman ever to train in the Hart Dungeon) admits to never having felt good enough for the WWE and always having felt like an “ugly duckling.”
“There is a lot of pressure to look good and to kind of keep up with the Joneses in the beauty department,” she says.
Of course, Nattie being Nattie, she expresses her frustration in the least productive way possible. She begins by putting her coworkers on the spot, one by one, asking them how old they think she is. (The one person to give a satisfactory answer, in case you were wondering, is Eric Rowan, who guesses 31.) She then moves on to a quick study of Urban Dictionary, awkwardly forcing words like “bae” and “fleek” into her conversations, and wraps up with a barroom freakout during which she stands on furniture, forces herself into aggressively friendly interactions with loud strangers, and ultimately melts down in the street as Naomi/Trinity attempts to calm her down and a clearly intoxicated Tamina Snuka picks a fight with an equally belligerent passerby, requiring a producer’s intervention. (Note to drunk bald dudes everywhere: Trying to roundhouse Tamina Snuka is never a good idea.)
Tamina then lays down some well-intentioned, heartfelt truth to Nattie in the way only a drunk woman can:
“Listen. You are worth something. She’s worth something. Doesn’t matter what the f–k, like, how old you are. So don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t f–king do something because of your age. So some, like, bald-headed — I don’t know what the hell that was, like damn … yeah, s–t, man.”
Back at work, Nattie gets a pep talk from Nikki, who discusses having to overcome her own insecurities about being the “thick” Bella twin. (Imagine, for a moment, Jey Uso feeling self-conscious about not being as thin as Jimmy.)
Also, she adds, she thinks Nattie’s never looked better, prompting Nattie to proclaim:
“I am not giving anyone permission to make me feel old ever again.”
Or at least until next week.