A shameful admission: Total Divas has me hooked
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
It has taken me seven weeks to be able to admit this, with the knowledge that the initial eight-episode run is about to end -- I love WWE's Total Divas. Or at least it has me hooked and turning in every week, which is more than Raw or Smackdown do.
There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and they deserve exploring.
For one, I've been a fan of Nattie Neidhart's ever since I hung out with her for a day years and years ago at a fan fest in Oshawa, Ontario, and learned first-hand what a quality individual she is. That shows through on the show. And with SLAM! Wrestling along for the ride as Nattie, TJ Wilson and Harry Smith all got signed by WWE, it feels like they are part of the website in some ways. Plus, TJ as Tyson Kidd has been a great sort-of villain on the show, though we know it ends in a wedding anyway.
But that's hardly the only reason to keep tuning in.
It's a little bit of the glimpse behind the curtain that is intriguing, and we see the Mighty Oz behind the scenes, whether it's instructing the Divas on their matches or the seamstress, Sandra Gray, who steals every scene she's in.
We always knew these people were there, pulling the levers behind the WWE superstars, but it is really neat to get to see them in action.
The fact that most of the Divas are dating men from the roster definitely helps. John Cena's house, wow, but not unexpected. And Daniel Bryan, er, Bryan Danielson, is as genuine as he has always seemed on the indy circuit.
I find myself rooting for Jimmy Uso, who has gotten more mic time on Total Divas than he ever has on WWE TV. Think about that for a second -- on Monday Night Raw, they have THREE hours to fill every week, and I know so little about him. Yet on Total Divas, through his up-and-down relationship with Naomi, I feel like I not only know the guy, but that we could go for a beer and talk about woman problems. (Not that I have any, dear.)
Compare the WWE guys to the non-wrestlers who have been brought in as wrestlers, and you can see their comfort level with a camera and performing.
Note I said performing.
I am perfectly aware that Total Divas is scripted, as is most reality TV. And I DON'T watch reality TV, unless you count rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Cleveland Browns during their respective seasons.
So it leaves me wondering, can Nikki Bella really be that way? Could Jo-Jo really think a relationship with Justin Gabriel was going to work? Does Eva look as smoking hot in person?
When I got into pro wrestling, it was the 1980s and the WWF was really cartoonish and the NWA delivered action ... and the AWA seemed like a befuddled uncle. But promotions always gave you a little insight into a person, vignettes away from the arena. There was Magnum T.A. making the women swoon, or hunting for Kamala in the jungle (Jerry Jarrett's backyard, apparently). They were hokey and fun.
Today, we get professionally shot, polished, screen-ready vignettes with the Wyatts or the Matadors. That's all well and good, but it doesn't click with me, which means I'm not clicking in, except as a job.
So, in a way, Total Divas is taking me back to the past -- except now I have a PVR and can watch it at my leisure, and will continue to do so when the next version comes up on E!
I'd love for its success to find its way into the regular programming, even if it's a shortened version of MTV's Cribs, where we see where a wrestler trained, or meet his or her family, or talk to a trainer. The NFL does this great on its pregame shows, and with so much TV time available, WWE should too.
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Greg Oliver is the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow him on Twitter @gregmep.