Total Divas returned this week, just in time to help fill that awkward “what now?” gap that falls between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Appropriately enough, the women of the E! Network’s unscripted sports entertainment docuseries have plenty to be thankful for AND scared about, as the season kicks off with Shane McMahon’s announcement of the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
This bit of news is followed up by clip after clip of various no-longer-Divas talking about how groundbreaking and important it is, both so non-wrestling fans of the show will understand that giving women a ladder match is Kind Of A Big Deal and so the rest of us will appreciate how woke WWE has gotten.
Loudly and clearly at the “terrified” end of the spectrum is Natalya, who cops to being “kind of” scared of heights.
“I don’t do any daring, death-defying moves in the ring,” Nattie says. “I don’t want to fall off a ladder and break my leg.” (“Have you ever seen me come off the second rope?” she asks Dolph Ziggler later in the episode, answering for him: “No.”)
Nattie being Nattie, in addition to being apparently the sole member of the WWE roster who takes OSHA regulations under consideration when planning her matches she also is the Angel of Potential Career Death, and the episode is punctuated with her refrains of “If you guys don’t do well, they’re never gonna do this again” and “our performances determine the future of the WWE Women’s Division.”
Heeding her own advice to take the match seriously, Nattie seeks the counsel of her dad, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, who has one or two ladder matches under his belt and is also not exactly the poster child for great decision-making. As a reminder, his exploits on Total Divas include facilitating a situation in which Lana heaved a shot through Nattie’s windshield.
Jim advises Nattie to go up on the roof and practice falling into the grass, which is what he says his brother-in-law Bret told him to do.
Nixing the roof idea, Nattie instead takes her parents ladder shopping. In the hardware store, she finds a ladder that looks about 14 feet long and bumps her dad in the chest with it.
“Did that hurt?” she asks.
“Yeah, it hurt,” he answers.
“OK, we’ll take this one.”
Because Nattie’s parents are involved, one of the three ladders strapped to the SUV falls off en route back to the house, and then no one can get out of the car to retrieve it because they are trapped inside by tie-down straps.
“This is why I’m disowning my family,” Nattie says, dragging a ladder down the road.
Back at the house, there’s extended discussion of how to climb the ladder (including with former WWE valet and wrestler Cherry, who has materialized for some unexplained reason) until Nattie, standing on a ladder in the middle of her kitchen, declares to her parents that she’s done listening to them and will just have to get over her fear of ladders on her own:
“You both have been nothing but useless today.”
Up the road in Pensacola, Trinity/Naomi and Jimmy Uso/Jon Fatu have a minor storyline about trying to reintroduce romance into their marriage. This thread is mostly throwaway Fatu family hijinks, but we do learn a couple of important things:
1. There is a drive-thru in Pensacola where you can get spaghetti.
2. Trinity and Jon apparently settle arguments by bringing out their titles and saying things like “I’m the champ, honey. I don’t need to cook.” Which is probably more effective when both spouses aren’t current titleholders.
Also freaking out about Money in the Bank is Lana, who for some reason has been given a title match against Naomi, and who is semi-absent for parts of the episode because she has recently discovered protein and is trying to build muscle. (At one point Alexa Bliss says that in NXT Lana used to say that peanut M&Ms were a good source of protein, a story that Rusev confirms.)
Lana meets up with Nattie and Nikki to train for her match, and Rusev tags along to lounge outside the ring and shout unhelpful things like “You’re gonna hurt yourself” and “Now you’re just embarrassing yourself” until Lana actually slaps Nattie in frustration.
Later, Nikki has everyone over for a pre-Money in the Bank pool party, where Rusev admits he’s just worried for Lana’s safety because she’s small (lots of discussion about her size, but incredibly no one uses the terms “untrained” or “profoundly inexperienced” or “dangerously outmatched”). Nikki convinces him that Lana is an adult who can make her own decisions about her personal safety, and then Lana shows up and says she just broke her deadlift PR and they all celebrate by making Rusev take a bunch of Instagram photos.
Meanwhile, the Bella twins are swallowing their jealousy over missing out on the ladder match due to their combination of retirement and injury and the fact that Brie just had a baby. Nikki wants to fill in as SmackDown GM so Bryan Daniel Bryan Danielson Bella (yeah, “Bryan and John are Bellas now,” Nikki says) can extend his paternity leave, but the company doesn’t go for it and Bryan gets called back on the road.
Brie is nervous about being home alone with the baby, Birdie, and that’s as much air time as the Bella family gets this week, probably because they just wrapped up eight weeks of Total Bellas, for which I promised Rich one big recap that I swear I’m going to write as soon as I can steel myself to watch John Cena’s WrestleMania proposal for the first time since it happened live on global television.
When Bryan gets back to work, there are two people he won’t be seeing much of: Maryse and The Miz, who have just transferred to Monday Night Raw and are getting to know some of their new coworkers, including new additions Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax (who introduces herself to the Total Divas audience by explaining that she has “family that come from WWE” before finally name-dropping The Rock). Maryse already isn’t loving Nia because of some remarks she made about how Maryse must hate missing out on reaping the fruits of the Divas Revolution, so when Nia later asks Maryse if she’s ever been in a gauntlet match, Maryse loses her mind screaming that the business is “built on respect” and Nia has insulted her 12 years of experience by asking the question (which, by the way, she never answers). Nia, for her part, warns Maryse that she’s “the wrong person to come hot at.” So I assume we can expect some more heat between these two this season.
In true Total Divas style, the episode ends on a cliffhanger, with the women warming up for Money in the Bank. Will Nattie get on the ladder? Will the not-Divas collectively ruin women’s ladder match opportunities for future generations of WWE superstars? Will Naomi actually literally kill Lana to death in the ring?
Tune in next week.