411's Total Divas Report 12.15.13
Posted by Ryan Byers on 12.16.2013
Daniel Bryan gets engaged! John Cena refuses to have children! Natalya propositions Stephanie McMcMahon (I think)! All this and more on the merciful season finale of Total Divas.
Do you like Ryan's exasperated ranting about Total Divas? If so, check out his exasperated ranting about numerous other wrestling-related topics on Twitter.
Well, here we are. Believe it or not, this is the season one finale Total Divas. Oddly, part of me feels like we've been here before.
We kick it off in New Orleans with the Bella Twins, who are on their way to catering at a WWE show and talking about their periods, which they say are usually synced up. I guess that's what they mean by "Twin Magic." Nikki is late, so she's concerned about being pregnant. They head to the can to do a home pregnancy test, and Nikki is appalled that Brie doesn't know how to properly use the thing. Only on this show is the woman who hasn't had to take an emergency pregnancy test before the one who gets judged. Anyway, the test is immediately revealed to be negative. You know, a Bella pregnancy scare could've been something they milked for an entire episode, so I'm surprised they threw the concept away in a one minute cold open. Hell, they could even have gotten a second episode out of it by having the test come out positive, with the girls then running out for emergency contraception. I've even got the perfect title for it: "Plan B for Bella."
Nattie Neidhart and TJ Wilson wake up in their New Orleans hotel room to find Nattie has a text from Stephanie McMahon, saying they will talk about Nattie's voicemails at Raw today. Nattie does not remember calling Steph, so she calls Brie Bella (why that was her first instinct is anybody's guess), who explains that Nattie got PLASTERED last night.
Creepy Underboss Mark pulls Nattie aside when he gets to the taping, and he mentions that calling a McMahon drunk is not a good career move. I'm beginning to think this character was based on Gary Cole's performance in Office Space. Nattie decides that she's going to avoid Stephanie for as long as she can, which I'm sure will not exacerbate the situation in any way, shape, or form.
We go to match footage of Nattie, Eva Marie, and JoJo wrestling a six person tag against some regular members of the roster. The Funkadactyls look on backstage, and, though they don't comment verbally, the looks on their faces seem to indicate Total Disgust. I'm right there with them, since Eva hit the slowest-motion schoolgirl that I've ever seen. Fortunately, she does admit in a post-match confessional that she knows she's got a lot of work to do.
From there, we throw immediately to Eva driving with her fiancée Jonathan. Remember him? Yeah, he was on one episode for about fifteen seconds six months ago, when he flew into town, proposed to Eva, ate a donut, and then flew out of town eight hours later. They're off to meet Eva's parents, where John will retroactively ask for permission to marry Eva Marie. Also, Jonathan is apparently wearing a hoodie with nothing underneath it, immediately making him a heel in my book. (To the credit of Eva Marie's family, later in the episode, they also note that this is a completely ridiculous look.)
Over in Tampa, a bunch of nameless, faceless women show up at John Cena's fortress of solitude. They are, according to Nikki, all of her girlfriends from college and from her former job at Hooters, who Cena flew in so they could see Nikki's new digs. One of them stands next to a fountain and pretends that she's peeing. Well, I can see how these women get along with Nikki so well. They all lounge around in the hot tub and talk about how John Cena will never want to have children with Nikki. In other words, John only wants a one child household.
Back at Eva Marie's home, Jonathan meets Barry and Neal, the girl's father and brother, respectively. Barry is on camera for all of three seconds before he refers to Eva as "Natalie." SHOOT NAMES~! This guy also speaks loudly with oddly fluctuating tones, coming off as an old white man doing the world's worst Bill Cosby impression. The family quizzes Jonathan on his nose ring and his tattoos, one of which he says is Arabic for "Eva." So, wait, you got her FAKE name tattooed on you? The family gets a little bit judgmental, as this man has never met them but is apparently in a hot and heavy relationship with one of their own. Shouldn't they really be criticizing her for that and not him, since it would be her choice as to when he was brought around to meet them?
After a commercial, BrieBry arrive in Big Sur, California for a "romantic getaway." They talk about pooping for a split second, then it's back to Tampa.
Cena takes Nikki and her ten best friends out to dinner in a stretch hummer. They also talk about pooping. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS SHOW AND DEFECATION?!
Cena refers to Nikki's friends as a word that cannot be said on television. Justified.
From there, things get even more awkward, as Nikki's friends begin quizzing Cena en masse about why he doesn't want to have children. Having ten women conducting a uterine inquisition of you while you just want to enjoy your dinner is probably very unnerving, but Cena remains poised and immediately rattles off three very good reasons that he has for not having children, and he also explains that he told Nikki all of this about halfway through their first date. He goes on to rationally explain why he will never get married again. Nikki talks about how she is "defeated" and doesn't want to talk about it anymore, though, honestly, it's hard not to be in Cena's corner here. You can disagree with his conclusions, but he has obviously thought this through and has reasons that back up his positions, plus he was completely upfront with Nikki about where he stood.
I do feel bad for the guy, though, because it doesn't look like he'll be getting that twelve-some that he was planning for later in the evening.
Now we're back with Eva Marie and family, and they're eating breakfast. Eva steers the conversation towards their pending nuptials, and Jonathan asks for the family's blessing on their marriage. The family is not receptive and brings up the fact that Eva was engaged once before, and they weren't fans of watching that relationship fall apart. Eva mentions she's already got an engagement ring, and everybody starts yelling about how Jonathan has a lot of balls to just show up and tell everybody that the two of them are getting married with no advance notice. I'm not exactly the biggest fan of how this relationship storyline has come together myself, but, ultimately, shouldn't these people realize that it's the twenty-first century and that it's the young lady's call as to who she will marry and when?
The Eva family bickering continues after the commercial break, and Eva's family is now flat out telling her that she won't be getting married anytime soon. Fortunately, they acknowledge that it is her decision, though mom lays down the law and says she won't be back in the house should they divorce . . . and then Eva storms out. I think the show is trying to establish Eva Marie as some sort of sympathetic babyface here, but, frankly, both she and her entire family are coming off as supremely unlikable. They're Neanderthals that are trying to dictate how she lives her life despite the fact that she's a grown woman, but she's reacting to it all like a petulant child. Jonathan and Eva Marie drive off into the sunset, with Eva trying to explain that she had to leave so as not to escalate the situation . . . and then she tells her beau that they should elope so as not to deal with the family.
I know I just say that people shouldn't be dictating others' marriage plans, but . . . RUN AWAY, JONATHAN! RUN THE HELL AWAY!
Back in Big Sur, BriBry go hiking and appreciate nature. Upon reaching a cliff and looking out at the ocean, Bryan gives an exact count, to the day, of how long it has been since the couple first kissed, gets down on one knee, and proposes. Brie seems legitimately surprised and accepts. There's no other way to say it: That was adorable. Good luck to these kids.
The evening continues with Bryan and Brie, where he surprises her again with a three-piece band and an outdoor dinner in a secluded valley . . . with their entire families showing up out of nowhere, including the Bellas' semi-estranged father from earlier in the series and their mother, who I still think might be younger than the twins are. Everybody sits down for dinner, and Nikki starts whining about how she would like a moment like this for herself. Jesus, I realize that this part of the party is probably all for the show, but, even in storyline terms, can't you just let your twin sister have her moment? After some conversation with Mama Bella, Nikki decides that she's going to go back to Cena about the possibility of getting married.
After a break, the newly engaged couple is back to a work at a WWE television taping, but that's just a segue back to Natalya's storyline. Cameron and Nattie have a meeting, with the Funkadactyl filling her in about some more details of the fateful evening where she drunk dialed the Billion Dollar Princess. I like how this storyline has evolved into the Total Divas equivalent of Memento. Nattie eventually runs off to find Stephanie, while Brie shows off her new ring to all of the girls . . . which somehow gives Eva Marie second thoughts about eloping.
Elsewhere backstage, Nikki Bella meets with a WWE physician (not the one that brought Jerry Lawler back from the dead) about whether she can get back into the ring after her stress fracture. One of his tests involves her jumping up and down in front of him, so there's your gratuitous flopping boobs of the week, a Total Divas staple. Ultimately, Nikki is cleared, but, after that jumping jack session, she probably could've gotten the doctor to do anything she wanted.
Nattie runs into Fandango and seeks advice from him about how to handle the Stephanie situation.
We get footage of the angle from several months back in which Randy Orton laid out Daniel Bryan in front of new fiancée Brie. It doesn't really play into anything, but there is still nothing that negates my theory that Bryan is still the WWE Champion in the Total Divas continuity.
Nattie and Steph have their meeting, and Stephanie plays back the drunken voicemails for her. Essentially, they mostly involve Nattie complaining about being underutilized in WWE and then somehow degenerate into Nattie telling Stephanie that she is not wearing any underpants and is "ready to ride." Wait, so was she saying that she would sleep with Stephanie in exchange for a Divas Title run?
After all of this build and all of this fear from Nattie, Stephanie is . . . remarkably understanding. She says they can talk any time, pats Nattie on the head, and sends her on her way. Well, that was a Total Anti-Climax. As bad as Nattie feels about this situation, at least she managed to get through of it all without peeing her pants.
From there, Nikki makes her in-ring return, teaming with Brie and Eva Marie against AJ Lee, Tamina, and Aksana. Eva uses her schoolgirl again - and this time it looks much better - in order to pick up the victory. Interestingly, as Nikki was hitting AJ at one point in the match, I heard her yell out, "THIS ONE IS FOR MICHELLE!" which probably seemed out of place at the time . . . but it all makes sense now.
After the taping, Eva Marie and Jonathan are once again driving . . . and we got to a commercial. Wait a minute; the show has been going for an hour now. Shouldn't we have wrapped this up?
On the other side of the break, Eva tells Jonathan that WWE has forced her to work for the next forty days straight, so they can't elope . . . but then she immediately changes her tune before he has a chance to say anything and claims that she can't disrespect or disappoint her family by not having a formal wedding. Wait, are you lying to him and telling him you can't elope because of your work schedule or are you being honest and saying you don't want to get married immediately because of your family situation? This makes no sense. Jonathan, much like Stephanie McMahon, takes this all in stride and says that he will marry Eva Marie at any place, anytime, whether it's immediately or in several months. So their engagement is kind of like the Hardcore Title in the 24/7 rules era, I guess. Here's to a wedding at Fun Time USA with the Headbangers as groomsmen!
Now we're back at the fortress of solitude, where Nikki is making Cena some dinner, which she's now allowed to do after breaking him down two episodes ago. She admits that she does want children and, once again, Cena is perfectly honest and upfront with her and says that it's not going to happen. Once again, he explains that he said this to her on DATE ONE. Nikki tries to give him some B.S. about how she makes all of the sacrifices in their relationship and he makes none. Hey now, this man let you put candles and pictures in his house AND let you cook in his kitchen. If that's not a sacrifice, what is? Anyway, Nikki's guilt trip doesn't work and Cena is still steadfast in his position, stating unequivocally for the one billionth time that he will not get married again or have children. Nikki says that, in that case, she feels like it was a mistake to move into his place, and . . . all of a sudden we're in some random living room with some other crew of reality show tarts.
Overall: What in the holy hell was that ending? We just cut away in the middle of a shot of Nikki Bella placing her head in her hands and immediately jumped into the next show on the schedule with no buffer whatsoever. I understand the idea of doing a cliffhanger between seasons, but this was so poorly done. There was no final bit of dialogue from Nikki or Cena for the show to go out on, there was no "Next season on Total Divas . . ." trailer, and there wasn't even a "To Be Continued" graphic. We were just in the middle of a scene one second and in a completely different television show the next second. I can't believe that I'm getting ready to make this comparison, but it almost felt like the series finale of The Sopranos in that the show set you up and then delivered absolutely nothing, not even minimal closure sufficient to give you some indication that the story that was just dropped in the middle will be picked up again at some later date and time. Part of me can't believe that I'm claiming that I didn't get more of Total Divas, but this whole thing was so poorly and oddly structured that I was just left confused as opposed to having any real emotional reaction to the characters or the storylines, which is the exact opposite of what you want as a television producer, particularly one trying to structure a cliffhanger.
Also, given how this show has structured its storylines historically, only the dumbest of fans would fall for a cliffhanger anyway, given that, any time that the show has attempted to build up any kind of dramatic tension, it just builds up to a point where one of the characters flips a switch and immediately relieves it all by saying something that is the functional equivalent of, "Gee, don't worry! It's all OK!" In fact, that entire scheme was on display one last time this evening with Stephanie McMahon and Nattie Neidhart's confrontation. If there are never any consequences resulting from a conflict between characters on this show, why should we invest in any future conflict between the various characters?
Speaking of structural oddities in this episode, I have no idea whatsoever why it ran ten minutes over its normal allotment of time. It would be one thing if they had a story or stories that required the extra time to be told, but there were no such stories here. You really didn't need the whole bit with Nikki Bella's friends coming to visit her in order to get to the final point of her childbearing dispute with John Cena. The Bryan/Brie engagement on its own could have set up that storyline. Even putting that aside, there was plenty of match footage in here and also Nattie's odd conversation with Fandango which really didn't serve to advance any storylines and could have been cut. Maybe they felt they needed the extra time as some sort of marketing gimmick for the season finale (though I never saw it marketed anywhere), but I can't imagine why ten extra minutes would be a huge selling point.
As far as other aspects of the program are concerned, I do have to say that, though it wasn't really its own freestanding storyline, I did enjoy watching the bits of the show involving the Danielson/Bella engagement. Since there is a genuine relationship between the two and, as far as I know, this was in fact their legitimate engagement, it came off very well. Despite what reality television and pro wrestling executives seem to think, sometimes it is just nice to watch likable people being put into situations in which they are happy . . . and that's exactly what this was.
So, that brings us to the end of the first season of Total Divas. I would give some overall thoughts about the season, but, frankly, if you've read these reviews from week-to-week, there's nothing that I can say now that you haven't already read. The show has some real systemic flaws in terms of producing characters that you want to see and in terms of editing, pacing, and storytelling, but the people producing it either do not see those things as flaws or just flat-out don't care, as there's been little to nothing done to correct any of them, going all the way back to the first episode. I watch maybe five television shows outside of wrestling these days, so I don't know what the current TV landscape looks like. However, if Total Divas is indicative of what's out there, I feel bad for those who derive the majority of their entertainment from this box.
Do you like Ryan's exasperated ranting about Total Divas? If so, check out his exasperated ranting about numerous other wrestling-related topics on Twitter.