The announcement two weeks ago that WWE and the E! Network would be working together to produce Total Divas, a reality series based around a group of female wrestling personalities, called to mind that other WWE documentary series: Tough Enough.
Launched in 2001, Tough Enough—in its various incarnations—offered wrestling fans their first real glimpse into behind-the-scenes looks into the inner workings of WWE and how it groomed young and upcoming talent.
It also churned out several memorable moments that still get talked about today.
Remember Hardcore Holly’s unprovoked and very brutal beat down of Matt Cappotelli during a match? (It was apparently meant to toughen the young man up, or some nonsense like that).
Or Daniel Puder embarrassing Kurt Angle live on SmackDown by almost breaking his arm in a shoot fight?
Or how about the wickedly hilarious moment in which newcomer Ariane Andrew—now WWE Diva Cameron—astounded coach Steve Austin by declaring Alicia Fox vs. Melina to be her favorite match of all time?
Granted, Tough Enough had a patchy record when it came to finding new talent—only The Miz, John Morrison, Cameron and Ryback ever truly went anywhere in WWE—everyone else pretty much faded into obscurity. But it’s hard to argue that it was still a watchable, compelling show for much of its run.
But can Total Divas, due to air this July, match it?
Well, first we have to consider that Total Divas is likely being aimed at a different sort of audience than Tough Enough was. It’s on the female-targeted E! Network, after all. Both WWE and E! must be hoping that the same people who tune into the antics of The Kardashians will also give Total Divas a shot.
This means the show will, in all likelihood, be crammed with crying, cattiness, yelling and gorgeous women melodramatically throwing things into mirrors.
Reports have already emerged that indicate this is the direction the show will take. As Dave Meltzer noted on Tuesday’s F4Wonline’s Daily Update, the series is going to focus heavily on the love lives of the Divas, even if it does expose kayfabe:
The WWE Total Divas show is going to highlight the dating life of all the girls, including the Bellas (one of whom is dating Daniel Bryan and one of whom dated at least for a period John Cena) and Nattie Neidhart (dating Tyson Kidd, which kills off the TV angle of her dating Khali). Whole thing is weird because they're also doing storylines on the show involving storylines on TV.
And as for where actual in-ring competition falls into the equation? Well, one suspects that’s way down the list of priorities for WWE and E! Network executives.
Not that the likes of the Bellas or Cameron, who are starring in the show, are going to become great wrestlers any time soon, anyway. And while fellow cast member Natalya Neidhart remains a solid wrestler, if the company were going to focus on this and push her as a master in-ring technician they would have surely done so by now.
As it is, we’ll no doubt end up hearing more about her long-lasting relationship with Kidd than we will about her wrestling pedigree.
Summarily, it’s too early to say whether Total Divas will be a good series. It has enough quality and talented people working on it to presume it will at least be well-together and produced—Tough Enough also looked better and more high-quality than your average reality TV shtick —but anyone expecting it to be an actual wrestling show with crucial insight and information about the business is probably setting themselves up for a real disappointment.
If that’s what you are really after, you might just be better digging out some of your old Tough Enough tapes and re-watching them instead.