On the surface, Total Divas is just another reality show. A group of women, including Nikki and Brie Bella, will live, love and work together as a team to achieve their dreams. There will be arguments, romance and probably even a scrap or two. Along the way, we'll learn things aren't always what they seem and that there's a vixen waiting to emerge from every good girl and a heart of gold beneath even the harshest facades.
But Total Divas will offer more than standard template reality television. Wrestling fans, even those who would never be caught dead watching Project Runway or a single show about housewives, no matter the locale, will likely be transfixed by Total Divas. It offers something not found on any other wrestling show out there, not even Raw or SmackDown—a glimpse behind the curtain.
"We're not scripted," Brie Bella told Bleacher Report. "You totally come into our lives. We're an open book. Whatever happens, the cameras are on and we just let go. Raw and SmackDown are scripted shows and we're characters. I think that's one thing that's going to be really cool. You know our characters from Raw, but you'll get to see who are in real life on Total Divas."
Her sister Nikki says fans might be a little surprised by what they see.
"On WWE, we're bad girls. We bully people. We're vicious. In our lives, Brie and I are sweethearts. We are friends with all the girls backstage. The WWE version is a character. We're sweet girls with big hearts," she said. But it wasn't all, however, hugs, laughs and smiles. Things got intense, cameras rolling the whole time.
"There were a few times I wanted to shove the cameras away and say 'Don't get that,'" Nikki continued. "Then I'd remember, 'This is what I signed up for.' There are moments you go through in your life that you don't want the world to see. But the cameras are there and they capture that. That's what makes it real and shows that we're real people."
Reality television, in many ways, is a perfect fit for both WWE performers and fans. Like reality TV, there's a thin line between truth and fiction in the wacky world of the WWE. Yes, the action in the ring is predetermined, a hard-hitting acrobatic ballet of violence. But that doesn't mean the competition isn't intense. It's just taking place behind the scenes, where the grappling tends to be for influence, power and money rather than pinfalls and submissions.
"This is a competitive business," Brie said. "We have to embrace that and be competitive. You have to fight for your spot and prove to everyone why you deserve it. You do see some of that because there is some of that."
"You come to work and you have someone that might be getting more TV time than you, but you say 'This is their time and my time is going to happen.' Of course, not everyone is like that and you do have situations with people," Nikki said. "For the most part here at WWE, we're family. We're with each other so much that we literally become brothers and sisters and best friends. When you have brothers and sisters, do you get pissed at times? Of course. But you make up and the show must go on."
This shadowy behind-the-scenes world fascinates wrestling fans. There are glimpses of it in wrestling newsletters and the occasional documentary, like Beyond the Mat. Fans follow every whispered rumor, analyzing and breaking down a single line in the Wrestling Observer with the attention to detail normally reserved for a Zapruder film.
No one ever knows for sure what's real and what's a clever attempt to push the storyline du jour. It makes being a wrestling fan both a challenge and an awful lot of fun. We invent personalities for many of our favorite wrestlers. They become proxies for who we want them to be, avatars for our hopes and dreams.
In Total Divas, not only will we see the women of the WWE behind the scenes and in real-life situations, but we'll also meet their romantic partners. For Nikki and Brie Bella, those gentlemen happen to be John Cena and Daniel Bryan, respectively. That's right—you'll be up close and personal with both the WWE champion and his SummerSlam challenger on this show.
"You will see both John and Bryan on the show. You'll get to see the guys a lot," Brie said. "You will see what we are like in relationships, both from John and Bryan's point of view and our point of view...You'll see how real our relationships are, the struggles we go through just like everyone else."
"You'll get to see what we do on our off days," Nikki revealed. "I think our fans will love that. It's people's real lives, relationships. Most girls on the show are in relationships and you'll get to see that. Passion. Emotion. You have drama with family. You may think we have these perfect lives, but we have the same problems everyone does. You'll learn things you didn't know about us."
While the show began shooting after WrestleMania and is backward rather than forward looking, it will surely add a new dimension to all the angles the stars of the show are involved in. It won't be a promotional tool for SummerSlam, but it will allow fans a deeper understanding of the shows they've been enjoying this spring and summer.
"The cool thing is, for fans of the WWE Universe, you'll get a backstage look into the things we've been doing," Brie said. "You'll see us doing our pre-tapes and creating our characters. You'll see things you remember from Raw and say, 'Oh my gosh, I remember watching that. It's cool to see what happened before they walked out that curtain.'"
Jonathan Snowden is Bleacher Report's Lead Combat Sports Writer and the author of Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling. Total Divas debuts Sunday at 10 PM ET on E!