WrestleMania, SchmestleSchmania. The REAL biggest WWE event of April arrived days after Wrestler Prom as “Total Divas” returned to the E! Network Wednesday night.
If we love wrestling for the in-ring action and over-the-top storylines, we love “Total Divas” for the backstage action and high school drama (well, that’s why I love it, at least). And this season’s premiere doesn’t disappoint. (Wait, can you call it a premiere if it’s technically the eleventh episode of the previous season but they took a really long break in between? Whatever. I’m the boss of this review.)
“The Draft” opens with a promise to resolve the looming drama of the WWE brand split, which hung over the last few episodes of “Total Divas,” and it kicks off with Daniel Bryan-Danielson’s triumphant return to TV as the general manager of SmackDown, followed by a flashback to the two weeks leading up to the draft.
Unsurprisingly, the drama in this episode is mostly swirling around the working couples featured on the show and their tension over whether they’ll be separated from their significant others. Naomi/Trinity is preemptively upset about being separated from her husband, Jon Fatu/Jimmy Uso. Renee Young is threatening to “start taking some f–king meetings” if she’s assigned to the opposite roster as boyfriend Dean Ambrose. And Lana, who was recently married in a real-life oceanside circus-themed wedding to the Bulgarian Brute, is looking on the bright side. Or trying to.
“I know Rusev and I are going to be together,” she says, pausing: “I’m trying to manifest that.”
Paige, meanwhile, is a bit of a mess on all fronts. She’s sidelined with a neck injury and hinting at troubles in her surprising relationship with Alberto Del Rio. She’s also hearing “rumblings” that she and Del Rio will be assigned to separate rosters.
“It is one thing after another,” Paige says. “I’m not feeling good about any of this right now.”
On the other hand, Paige at least knows she’s going to be drafted. Eva Marie, who is still figuring out her place in WWE after coming back from a voluntary trip down to NXT to learn how to wrestle, isn’t convinced she’s going to end up on either roster. The uncertainty bubbles over during a lunch with her family (and her spectacular hairdresser/friend, who is strobing like nobody’s business), where she tears up as she talks about her journey in wrestling.
“I don’t really think anybody else has gone, you know, through the wringer as much as I have,” Eva says, wiping away tears. It’s a scene that’s supposed to make me feel for her… and dammit, it succeeds. For the first time in “Total Divas” history, I’m actually caring about Eva Marie.
The melting of my icy heart is probably just caused by the burning resentment I feel about this.
Certainty isn’t the best thing in the world, though. Just ask Nikki Bella, who’s certain she won’t be involved in the draft at all, since she got an email during Rusev and Lana’s wedding reception telling her as much. Nikki’s still coming back from her neck injury, although she’s been cleared to train at the Performance Center.
And here’s where “Total Divas” begins an awkward dance with reality. You see, Nikki has asked Nattie to train with her as she starts working toward a return to the ring. Nattie is understandably a little reticent to go hard with Nikki, which leaves Nikki feeling frustrated.
“Your neck is no joke,” Nattie says. “This is not coming back from an ankle, Nicole.”
Of course, the real reason Nattie is touchy about neck injuries is that HER HUSBAND NEARLY DIED FROM ONE. But there is zero mention of Tyson Kidd and the bump that broke his neck and almost certainly ended his career; instead, the casual viewer is led to believe that Nattie cries multiple times about this issue because she has “friends” who have come back from injuries similar to Nikki’s.
After Nattie balks during a training session with MMA fighter Shayna Baszler and Nikki fights with her about it, Brie comes to Florida to have a heart to heart with the Hart.
“I just take injuries very, very seriously,” Nattie says. Because, you know, of all her “friends” who have been injured. After talking it through with Brie, though, she allows that “Every single one of us has a comeback in us.” When Nikki shows up at a TV taping, Nattie apologizes and promises to be more supportive, admitting that the issue is “kind of close to (her) heart.” Just, you know, for no reason. General passion for neck injuries, I guess.
By far the highlight of the episode, though, is the backstage footage shot during the brand split as the entire locker room gathers around a monitor to watch and react to the draft, from Dolph Ziggler celebrating his “big break” after 15 years to The Miz staying in character to Eva Marie celebrating being drafted to Raw as someone off camera shouts at her that she’s actually on SmackDown. (In her relief, all she cared about was being drafted at all, bless her heart.)
All the couples (well, all but one… see below) are relieved to have been kept together, although Lana spends most of the rest of the episode complaining about how all her friends got drafted to the other side.
“I don’t wanna make new friends,” she says before filling in Nia Jax on all the backstage drama drafted to their roster. “I like my old friends.”
(“Is she a good addition to the cast?” my husband aska during my second viewing of the episode. The answer to this question is yes, she is, without a doubt, the best thing happening on “Total Divas” unless the Titus cameos increase tenfold.)
Unsurprisingly unhappy with the results of the draft is Paige, who has, of course, been assigned to SmackDown while Del Rio is off to Raw. Whatever the hinted-at tensions in their relationship, things were apparently dicey enough that the brand split pushes them over the edge, and Paige finishes the episode by breaking down in tears as she tells Alicia Fox that she and Del Rio have split… while standing in front of a truck decorated with a giant photograph of Alberto Del Rio.
On the other hand, El Patron himself Instagrammed last week that he and Paige would be getting married on the very day “Total Divas” returned. So something tells me those crazy kids will manage to work things out…