Along with her sister Brie, Nikki Bella returned to WWE in the spring of 2013 after nearly a year away. The pair were instrumental in the company’s new reality show that focused on the lives of WWE divas outside the squared circle.
Total Divas was a massive hit, shining a light on the company’s often-underrepresented women’s division and bringing in a new audience of female fans who wanted to see what their favorite reality stars could accomplish inside the ring.
Airing on the E! Network, Total Divas gave fans an unprecedented look at the backstage workings inside the sports entertainment giant, such as when The Bella Twins’ WrestleMania match was cut at the last minute. The show also focused on the relationships between WWE Superstars such as Brie Bella’s partnership with Bryan Danielson, who was known as Daniel Bryan in WWE.
Speaking to Renee Paquette on the latest episode of The Sessions, Nikki Bella opened up about her experience filming the series, saying that she believes the show should have received more praise than it did, both because of the show’s success and the way it got more eyes on women’s wrestling.
“Honestly, Total Divas should have been praised even more, I felt, because what we were doing was we literally were at the point of almost beating the Kardashians in the ratings. We were shaking the world up and like, what a great time. We could have had the industry behind us, but instead they used it to turn it against us. That was really shocking to me because I was like, ‘But wait, we’re making great changes for Women’s Wrestling. Why are you hating on it?’”
“I Truly Believe Total Divas Was The First Thing They Couldn’t Control” – Nikki Bella
Continuing, Nikki Bella spoke about getting in trouble for being so successful and so well-liked as a result of becoming a reality star. According to Bella, the advent of Total Divas took away Vince McMahon’s ability to control every aspect of his programming and choose who fans saw as popular in mainstream culture.
“I think a few, like, as far as the boss, I felt like it was the first time he lost control of what he could make and not make because when Brie and I won Diva of the Year, we got in trouble, and I got yelled at. I remember we came back so happy and it was like, ‘Oh, because you brought in all these new viewers, and the women are now voting for you, and all these new women are here.’
Everyone around was on the floor like, ‘The Bella Twins are getting yelled at for being successful’, because it wasn’t what they wanted because they were the storytellers. They push who they want the crowd to be behind. Perception is reality. That is WWE to a T. Even though the fans think they own it, no, they laugh in the back. ‘No, we own you at the end of the day.’ So I truly believe Total Divas was the first thing they couldn’t control. They couldn’t control the success. They couldn’t control what the mainstream was.”