Plot: The E! reality series returns to follow the lives and times of WWE Divas: Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Natalya Neidhart, Eva Marie, Naomi Uso, Cameron, Rosa Mendes (making her series debut) and Summer Rae (unseen in the premiere).
Upon finishing my first-ever viewing of E!’s Total Divas and all I could think was, “Wow, that was the biggest worked shoot I’ve ever seen.”
Worked-shoot is the term for any occurrence that is scripted by the creative team to come off as unscripted and therefore appear as though it were a real life happening but is, in fact, still part of the show. This can be seen as an example of the writers breaking the fourth wall and attempting to court the fans who are interested in shoots (e.g. events outside of the traditional in-ring wrestling matchups). Notable characteristics of a worked-shoot includes the mentioning of terms and information generally privy only to industry insiders and “smart” fans. This community of “smart” pro-wrestling fans are sometimes referred to as “smarks.”
Historically, it is unclear when the first occurrence of a worked-shoot took place, however it is generally attributed to the public feud between comedian Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler in 1982. (Thank you, Wikipedia)
Simply put, E!’s Total Divas, is run-of-the-mill “scripted but not scripted” reality television set behind-the-scenes and (barely) in the ring with the WWE’s female performers.
The show is paint-by-numbers reality: a group of women bound together by some professional or some association interact, have issues with each other, quarrel with their significant others, they cry, they yell, they double-talk, they betray, they experience loss, they experience joy and in the end…no one cares. Here it just so happens they are professional wrestlers…well except Eva Marie, stop trying to convince me this actress/model is a wrestler.
What’s mind boggling about the series is that they try and weave wrestling story lines into the “reality” of the show. Now on paper it makes sense, you want some synergy between the WWE product and this series, right? The problem is the E! series portrays these storylines as reality; as if what you see on Monday Night RAW is actually an extension of real life.
Okay, just stop it.
I understand wrestling isn’t real. I’ve known this for 25 plus years now, so to try and convince me otherwise is an insult to my intelligence. Don’t tell me (as trailers for the season showed) that The Funkadactyls (Naomi & Cameron) split up because the two got into an argument and Cameron said “It’s over!” No, it’s because the WWE Creative Team made that decision. Don’t try and sell me that The Bella Twins feud on television is actually how they’re going to be acting towards each other in real life either especially after they talked about how much they love each other in the premiere.
Basically, don’t try and tell me my fake wrestling is all of a sudden real. If this were 30 plus years ago and the wrestling industry was still trying to portray itself a legitimate sport where the results weren’t pre-determined and the feuds were real, this show would make perfect sense. The rabbit is out of the hat here and the WWE pulled it out for all to see — they can’t try and stuff it back in for the sake of trying to sell a reality show.
However, there is one storyline that actually kept my attention and that was Rosa Mendes’ return to WWE and Natalya being assigned to be her mentor/babysitter. Now this is real life, this is something we can sink our teeth into. Rosa Mendes was indeed gone from WWE for quite some time and it was due to personal issues. Let’s dive into that, let’s watch her fight back to become a major player, to earn respect from her peers, let’s see her work hard. We get a hint of that in the premiere episode, but sadly it looks like they’re going to focus on Rosa being horny and trying to have sex with anyone – male or female. Sigh. The potential here was pretty high.
All and all, Total Divas isn’t terrible. It’s reality television and it’s in my nature to dislike it. However, I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse and when they take a few seconds to focus on the wrestling or being part of the WWE and not relationships and breast implants, the show is actually pretty decent. Frankly, give us more Titus O’Neil, Daniel Bryan and dare I say, John Cena and let them yuck it up…and give guys a reason to tune in.
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom