Natalya Neidhart deserves another shot at the WWE Divas Championship. However, given the state of the Divas Division now, that is unlikely to happen.
That is a shame, too. From a pure wrestling standpoint, “Nattie” is the best out there.
Some of it has to do with her bloodline, with dad Jim Neidhart, uncles Bret Hart and Owen Hart, and grandfather Stu Hart. Most of it, however, comes from her training, as she is one of the few women to survive the famous Hart Dungeon.
But in a division where eye candy rules and “crazy” is the word of the day, wrestling talent plus $1 will get you a cup of coffee.
And that is too bad for performers like Natalya. Two years removed from her first WWE Divas title, she has been reduced to an afterthought.
It’s almost as if she has become the Divas Division version of Sheamus—not physically but in terms of character. Like Sheamus, Natalya smiles a lot and has a good time playing to the fans. But her character also has lost a bit of the Hart-like edge she had shortly after debuting in WWE.
Instead of competing day in and day out at house shows and television tapings, the best wrestler in the division gets thrown into stupid storylines. While the Bella twins, Kaitlyn and AJ Lee are in the title picture, the best overall performer is reduced to passing gas backstage and accompanying WWE sideshows The Great Khali and Hornswoggle to the ring.
She even seems to be getting the shaft in the Total Divas reality show. We all know that show is primarily a star-making vehicle for Nikki and Brie Bella. But it also has shown Natalya in a series of vignettes that make it appear as if she is falling further into the background.
She has been the subject of some catty comments from the Bellas about her appearance. Natalya is not an unattractive woman, but the Bellas have been calling her “ugly duckling” and saying she is not as pretty as they are.
It’s mostly storyline, but I could sense a bit of frustration in Natalya recently when she slapped the mess out of Brie Bella in a Raw backstage segment.
Natalya also is serving as a babysitter for some of the next round of Divas talent. Inevitably she will be called upon by WWE to get in the ring with the newbies and do everything she can to get them over with WWE fans.
Something deep inside me keeps pointing to the history between Vince McMahon and Natalya’s uncle. Publicly, McMahon and Bret Hart seem to have kissed and made up, but privately, I wonder if there still are some below-the-surface hard feelings. Hart has never been shy about hiding his opinions about pro wrestling, and his niece could be feeling the aftershock of those opinions.
While I am in favor of being proud of one’s heritage, perhaps it is time for her to break away from the Harts and cement her own identity. That could be something as simple as changing her entrance music from the old Hart Foundation theme to a tune all her own.
There also is nothing wrong with mentoring young talent because she has a lot to offer in that area. But it should not come at the expense of her career. She is only 31, so she still has many more wrestling years ahead of her.
Her road back to prominence could start with a good feud with the Bellas.
First, she needs a total break from Khali and Hornswoggle. Second, she needs to redefine the edge she had early in her WWE career.
Third, she needs to channel it all into an all-out fight with the Bellas. It does not have to be a long program, but it needs to drive home the point that two years is too long to be out of the Divas title picture.
With Kaitlyn now focused on a feud with former friend Layla, Natalya could springboard from that Bella feud straight into AJ Lee’s championship path. Given her training and background, Natalya could show AJ just what crazy really looks like.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.