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Monday, April 6, 2020

Ranking Tag Team WrestleMania Matches

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Bobby’s Corner: The Bella Twins – Some Say “Models”, I Say “Wrestlers”

Hola once again everybody! Of course, let me be the first to welcome you to the third edition of “Bobby’s Corner”… which I legitimately just realized is a title that makes me sound like a street working prostitute. Sigh, oh well. What’s done is done and here we are meeting up again for the third time to discuss a topic pertaining to Women’s Wrestling and all the talented female beings that make up this popular sport.

Now before we truly get things underway, I’m going to give you guys a little heads up that I don’t think this edition is going to be as… how can I put it, universally accepted as the first two topics we dissected. Now I’m not trying to say my topics are some sort of spiritual being that you all must agree with and 100% accept or anything like that, but what I mean is that in comparison to Nidia and the Divas of NXT, this month’s is probably a little more on the controversial/debate filled side when it comes to fans of females in wrestling.

Ladies and Gentlemen… if you skipped over the title and largely printed header photo of this article and still don’t know who I’m referring to, it’s none other than Brie and Nikki… The Bella Twins(?)!

I guess when it comes to Brie and Nikki, I should get the obvious out of the way first: I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan. This is probably going to be filled with some reasons as to why I have always enjoyed them as much as I have, but I’m going to do my best to not make it preachy because I know there are some of you who don’t like them and that’s perfectly acceptable. Anytime I write one of these articles, I don’t aim to change your views in the slightest; rather, just give you guys a sense of how I feel and why I feel that way to possibly open up a new perspective that might not have been seen before and start up a discussion.

Reading pieces by others, or even just listening to their thoughts on a certain person or event is something I love to do because we all see things differently. Sometimes it just takes hearing how another person thinks to make you see something in a whole new way, and… oh lord, I’m starting to drift off subject. Sorry guys, but at least I caught myself before we reached the length of my NXT Diva Dissection thesis paper. Small victories!

Onto the Bella Twins, where do I even begin? Perhaps the most controversial Divas on the roster alongside AJ and Eva Marie? Maybe not at this very moment because their heat with fans has seemed to die down a little as their ring work continues to get better, but once upon a time at least, these girls got a ton of backlash amongst the WWE universe. First and foremost, I’m not even going to delve into the whole situation involving a former Diva making endless comments about them as a reason for the hate because honestly, I don’t care to open up that can of worms. Last time I saw anyways, said former Diva had apologized so I like to believe it’s finally over and done with, and everyone can move on.

This article is, instead, going to be focused more on dissecting issues that I’ve seen fans have with the twins, and also why I think labeling them as “models” is something that shouldn’t have been happening in the year 2008, much less 2014. Let’s get started!

Photo: OK Magazine

When it comes to comments regarding the Bellas making their comeback last year, the first is that they only returned to become reality stars on Total Divas and they don’t care about the business or wrestling side of things. My counter argument to that, however, is that if they really did come back just to be reality stars, I don’t personally believe they would be putting on some of the best performances of their entire career. Brie and Nikki have drastically improved over the past few months, and in fact, I would honestly say they’re in the prime of their careers in terms of ring work and being focused on as a set of unique total packages. One of the best things to come from Total Divas is that the two have finally been allowed to differentiate themselves and form their own distinct looks and their own distinct personalities.

The days of seeing “The Bella Twins” are over, as the era of seeing “Brie and Nikki”… two separate entities, are (refreshingly) upon us instead. For that, I am forever grateful because this is my favorite era of their careers and had they not returned, we wouldn’t have gotten to experience it.

Then of course, there’s the issue that with forming relationships alongside two of the top stars in the company, Brie and Nikki are using their men to get them opportunities. What opportunities have they got though? Where are their title reigns? Or their heavily promoted and featured storylines? Honestly outside of Total Divas, they’ve basically been treated the same as any other woman signed. While seeing the entire cast of our E! reality show dominate storylines (if you can even call it that… let’s just call it title feuds instead) during season one wasn’t exactly ideal for anyone, it’s not as if Brie and Nikki were the only ones being spotlighted. Natalya got as many, if not more shots than Brie. Naomi was well on her way to getting her turn before the injury happened. Hell, Cameron even got more chances at the title than Nikki. In fact, I think the only people who haven’t had more opportunities at it than Nikki are Eva Marie and JoJo.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t buy the theory that Brie and Nikki came back to be reality stars, or that they’re using who they date to attain the spotlight… because in the grand scheme of things, they haven’t really gotten any opportunity that hasn’t been given to anyone else (Okay they were in Psych… the power of Daniel Bryan and John Cena!).

What I see when I look at Brie and Nikki are not a pair of “models”, but two lifelong athletes (through various sports) that got the itch to get back in the ring, and who likely hated being away from their partners just like anyone in a relationship would. A second chance knocked on their doors and they jumped on it. But they didn’t just jump in like “Oh hey, we’re back and we’re going to take up a spot”… no. They came back with this new fire and this new passion in the ring that I personally hadn’t seen before even if I’ve always thought highly of them, and that can definitely be attributed to getting extra help and knowledge from the likes of Bryan and John.

Sure, the two could have just returned and worked a basic style in the ring, focusing on submissions and rest holds because they were already established characters who didn’t have to be putting on new and exciting matches to gain additional fans, but they aren’t. They are working to define their own specific styles, showing that instead of, as a lot of people are quick to accuse a Diva involved in a wrestling couple of doing, “using who they date to gain opportunities or a top spot”, they instead, were actually gaining knowledge and growing with extra training sessions. Learning to perfect their craft from the likes of Daniel Bryan or John Cena has proven to be far more valuable in the long run than any sort of push or attention could have ever been, and it only makes me like them even more for capitalizing and taking every advantage they could to get better.

Photo: Getty Images

Another big complaint, which has more to do with Nikki than Brie, is that Total Divas itself doesn’t always present her in the best light, and… truthfully, I can kind of see where people are coming from with that. It’s hard because I feel like I have this weird whiplash inducing stance with the Total Divas version of Nikki because I love both her and the show, but I don’t always love the clips and storylines they choose to air of her on it. I prefer the version of her that’s shown on Raw, SmackDown, etc (Seriously, I get crazy excited when she walks out)… but I don’t know, I guess I just want to see a different side of her on Total Divas other than problems with John or nothing at all. It feels like, to me at least, that her only storyline is when they have disagreements or she stresses about something that ends up being fine in the end anyways, and you guys… I know there are other sides of Nikki that can be shown!

It’s just strange because on Raw or SmackDown, she’s powerful and fearless, like a tomboy in some ways, who is getting noticeably better and better every time we see her. But on Total Divas, she has been portrayed as being terrified that a missing tooth (c’mon… not even a front one!) makes her so ugly she’s going to be dumped. The WWE TV version of her should be showing that tooth off to her man like a trophy!

Now while I do have a few minor problems with how Nikki’s storyline always seems to be stuck on marriage and kids issues, do I blame Nikki and John themselves for that? Not really. I get how reality TV is. For all we know, she could just be casually mentioning those issues once or twice a month, but if that’s the only clips making it to the episodes, it seems way more frequent to us. I did catch a bonus clip from last weeks episode though, where she tried to find a man for Summer Rae in a Kroger’s store. Let me tell you, that was both hysterical and exactly the type of Nikki I want to see… yet it didn’t make the actual episode and all her moments were about how John would kick her to the curb and find her ugly because of a missing tooth that you couldn’t even really see. In the words of our dear Layla as she tried to prevent Kaitlyn from ambushing AJ during her heel turn… “Stop!”

Nevertheless, like I said, I can’t argue against the fact that for all of the great things Total Divas has given us when it comes to separating The Bella Twins into Brie and Nicole on WWE TV, it really doesn’t paint her in the best light all the time between the issues with John and some of the other clips they choose to air (I don’t like seeing my Bellas fight in organic bridal registry stores that sell pillows and quilts made of underwear dang it!). Fortunately though, this weeks episode didn’t really show anything too bad, but it also unfortunately didn’t show much of Nikki. There are other adventures she can take!

How about I reward any Total Divas/E! executive with a Red Lobster gift card in exchange for getting a different side of Nikki on the actual episodes? Show me more footage of her rummaging through Kroger’s looking for things out of her $20 price range! Or how about have her create an eHarmony profile for Summer Rae to continue this hunt for a man? What about clips of the hard work she’s obviously putting in to get better in the ring? I will even take gear conversations with Sandra! All of these are welcome changes, but we’ll have to wait and see if Total Divas wants to take us up on any of them (Hint: Please do).

Brie, however, has mostly escaped coming off unlikable on the show. I think a lot of the credit for that (at least to me) is thanks to how light hearted and humorous her relationship with Daniel comes off in comparison to how John and Nikki’s tends to focus on serious issues most of the time. I love watching Braniel together (same goes for Naomi and Jimmy Uso), because their moments on screen always (okay minus the episode where Daniel was debating between working more and making time for Brie, and the one where Jimmy smashed the vase that poor Naomi had to sweep up barefoot) seem like a treat to see instead of drama filled. Drama in a relationship is fine, and to be expected. But with Nikki and John, it feels like that’s the majority of what gets shown, instead of just being the focus of maybe one episode like the other couples. Because of that, it’s not always the story I assume most people look forward to watching due to the seriousness it’s primarily associated with, so maybe mix it up a little in the future and all will be good!

As I said, I can understand the Total Divas likability factor when it comes to how they’re portraying Nikki Bella, but I don’t know, I just can’t let it get in the way of how I see her/them as a whole I guess. I still see two girls who tend to get torn apart sometimes despite the fact they seem to have a great head on their shoulders and do anything the company asks of them. Media tours, charity events, Meet & Greets, Total Divas filming, ring training, Be A Star rallies… you name it, they do it. Hell, they’ve probably visited all 50 states in a span of two weeks with how crazy their schedules seem to be. And yes, I’m not using this to try and paint them as some sort of Mother Teresa figure because I know it comes with the job and any Superstar or Diva would love to do all of that, but with the Bellas, not only have they done all of these press events (whether promoting Total Divas or just the WWE in general), they’ve done it during both of their runs with the company, so over the span of multiple years. Forget wondering when they find the time and energy to do all of this noticeable training… I want to know when these girls have time to even sleep?!

To be honest, like I alluded to earlier, I have always thought The Bella Twins were good wrestlers even when a lot of people didn’t back in 2008-2009. I just never got the criticisms or saw anything wrong with their performances from their first run as a face. As a heel, they did tend to slow their movesets down a bit, but I understood the reasons why so it never bothered me or made me think they were poor ring workers that should be classed as models that don’t deserve to be signed. Regardless, they did always seem to stay fresh, in my opinion, no matter what persona they took over (Yesss… even the dreaded guest host tour guides). Sure they’ve slipped up on moves before, but who hasn’t? Nobody is a perfectionist, and the highest of veterans still learn new things every day. I’m not saying Brie and Nikki are this generations Madusa and Aja Kong or anything ridiculous like that, but these girls have put in the work. It’s showing each and every time they step in the ring, and I love seeing what they’re going to bust out next (just please not a tooth Nikki) because I honestly have no idea.

While my allegiance in this Diva Invitational at WrestleMania lies with Naomi first and foremost due to the 5 year superfan contract I signed back in December 2009 that I will surely be renewing come this Christmas, I will of course be happy seeing either Bella walk out of the Superdome carrying a shiny new butterfly laced title around their waist. They’ve proven (to me at least) that they’re not just treating this second run as a chance to simply be extra faces in tag team matches and spend time with their men, but rather as a way to give fans a fresh new look at what these girls can do now that they’re being coached by the likes of Daniel Bryan or John Cena, as well as actually being treated as individual forces instead of a matching attired unit. And they’re not taking this lightly when it comes to the wrestling aspect because as I said earlier, I feel that this is the best they’ve ever looked when it comes to ring awareness and defining a unique, on point moveset. Put in that work Bellas!

Besides, isn’t rewarding hard work and a year’s worth of patience, frustration and effort what WrestleMania moments should be about for the talent? Okay I know it should be about paying off long, drawn out feuds, but we may never get a solid, lengthy feud built up for the women leading up to the show anymore so I kind of exclude that reasoning when it comes to them. With this Invitational though, the fact alone that we’re finally getting the title defended is a huge step in the right direction. No matter what you think of the match itself and whether or not there are too many competitors involved, just like Brie and Nikki, each of these girls has put in a lot of hard work over the past year, and for that I’m very happy they’re all going to be getting a chance to shine on the big stage (provided we don’t see a repeat of last year with 14 girls sitting on a couch saying “We got cut”).

WrestleMania is a big event to us, but you have to imagine it’s an even bigger deal to all of the athletes themselves. Sitting backstage the whole night while you watch your coworkers get new gear made and talk about the rush of getting to walk out in front of 80-90 thousand people must be torture after a years worth of hard work and dedication, so I don’t personally care that the match involves every Diva and could be kind of a mess if it’s treated as a free for all. These girls have all given so much to their careers in the past year with the heightened success of Total Divas that just knowing they’re going to all get to experience the feeling of being on WrestleMania makes me excited. Can you imagine what it must feel like for Emma, who has wanted to be a Diva her entire life, done everything she could in terms of training, diet, fitness, etc. to get hired, and legit just three months ago was still an NXT regular who had no idea her main roster debut was about to happen? She’s getting a title shot at WrestleMania!

Take Summer Rae, a lifelong fan who just missed being a part of the show last year because she got called up to the main roster mere weeks after the big event. Hell even someone like Alicia Fox, who is finally getting a spot on the card despite having clearly deserved to get a Mania moment every year with all she does for them and how she brings out the best in every opponent. What about Layla? Who… well, nobody really knows where she went, but clearly she fought to make it back just in time to be apart of this! Or Tamina, who has never gotten to compete on WrestleMania and is finally being built up as the force we knew she could be heading into it? Then of course, after last years mess, you have The Bellas (Their only match at the event is Miss WrestleMania… take pity on them now!), Naomi (Who almost missed this year as well due to her scary eye injury that almost made me, as a super fan, fear for my life) and Cameron (Who has only continued to get better and better as she puts her Tough Enough past on the back-burner) can finally experience the feeling they should have gotten to last year. It’s like a win-win-win-(+ 11 more wins).

Well we completely just changed subjects from what this was originally supposed to do, but to be honest I’m still glad I focused this more on the Bella Twins instead of the Invitational as a whole because I had been wanting to talk about them for a while now, and lord only knows what could happen with the actual match. Could you imagine if I wrote an article leading up to the Miss WrestleMania battle royal back in 2009, defending the fact all of the girls were going to get their moment? I’d have basically went into witness protection by now because I would have never been able to live that down, and rightfully so.

The fact of the matter is that I think Brie and Nikki have more than proven they don’t deserve to be labeled “models”, like it’s some sort of shameful term. They may never turn that corner to some fans if your mind is already made up (which I do understand because I have people I dislike and no article is going to change that), but I still like to present my side of things and possibly open up a discussion about them. I don’t rely on website news and rumors to determine if I like someone or not, rather I try to form my own opinions based off of what I see firsthand or through performances on TV. And what I see when it comes to Brie and Nikki are two very hard workers that put more of their life to this business than I could ever imagine doing, and have not only found love because of it, but have also worked tirelessly to prove that they’re not simply television stars or models, but wrestlers.

And that… is reality.

Just kidding, I wouldn’t really completely hijack AJ’s pipebombshell to end this.

If you guys think I missed anything in this article, drop a comment! I’m always up for discussion (as long as it doesn’t include insults… wait, who am I kidding? I’ll probably still laugh and like it through Disqus anyways). I know this topic is probably a bit more on the debate heavy side, but I had fun writing it and regret not a thing. Brie and Nikki are never going to be accepted by every wrestling fan out there, and that’s okay. But in my little old opinion, the two of them have more than put in their time and proven that when they do decide to hang it up for good, they can be looked back on as two Divas who became two very good in ring workers, and all of the time they sacrificed from their day to day lives to put into wrestling will have been 100% worth it.

Until next time, stay wild and young!

Bobby

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