At first glance, E Network’s Total Divas seems like a slap in the face to women’s wrestling. Stars Natalya, Brie and Nikki Bella, Cameron, Naomi, and two new divas, Jo Jo and Eva Marie, are presented as models, actresses, and world class entertainers, but the word wrestling is never mentioned in advertisements for the show. The focus is not on these women’s in-ring accomplishments but on their personal lives. This might not appeal to the typical 18-49 year old male wrestling fan, but it will draw a new demographic to WWE, the female reality show viewer.
The premiere episode introduces us to the Divas. Natalya tells us about her wrestling background, and we learn that she is sidelined even though she’s a veteran. It seems the twins, Nikki and Brie Bella, are the stars of the show. Brie is really laid back while Nikki seems high maintenance. The Bellas are both very competitive, and they will do anything to keep their spots at the top of the company. Cameron and Naomi are a tag team with very different personalities, with Naomi being very focused on her job, but it seems Cameron is not open to criticism and wants to do things her own way. Jo Jo is only 19, and she seems to be a really sweet girl; Eva Marie, however, is a troublemaker. When the boss tells her to go blonde, she defies her in favor of a fiery red do. The risk works out for her this time, but she is quickly told she must toe the company line if she wants to remain employed. In the first episode, the drama unfolds during Wrestlemania week.
Total Divas connects viewers to WWE’s female wrestlers in a new way. Audiences see real life rivalries and jealousy, and they receive an intimate look at the daily lives of this group of women. Women’s wrestling is largely viewed as a sideshow attraction, often being valued more for their looks than their wrestling ability. It is important that fans get to know Divas not just as pretty faces but as people, simply because it is harder to objectify someone if you get to know them as a person. The hope is that Total Divas’ glimpse into the private lives of WWE’s women will humanize them for viewers.
The Divas division currently features a rivalry between Kaitlyn and A.J., but its scope will expand to include stories involving the Bellas, Natalya, and the Funkadactyls, who will see an increase in popularity because viewers will be more familiar with them after watching Total Divas. If some of the reality show drama expands into in-ring conflict, that makes the story lines richer. Wrestling is at its best when it blurs the lines between reality and script.
The show is set on E’s viewing schedule after Keeping up With the Kardashians, one of the network’s most popular shows. The season premiere of Keeping up with the Kardashians drew an audience of over two million people in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic, and 1.5 million of these viewers were women. If Keeping up With the Kardashians remains the lead in show to Total Divas, there is a strong possibility that 1.5 million women could be drawn to WWE.
The Divas division in WWE is floundering, but this show will save it. A new audience will be drawn to WWE because of the show, resulting in an improvement of the product’s quality. More time and effort will be placed on meeting the demands of these new viewers, and that will result in longer matches, more developed story lines, and better character development in the Divas division.