The story of The Bella Twins' infighting is a train on its side, its wheels spinning, the track somewhere far behind it.
WWE has flubbed the Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella feud by relying on a hackneyed plot and confusing the line between hero and villain. Beyond the decision to highlight the wrong women in the Divas division, the company has continually misfired with the latest WWE sibling rivalry.
Nikki was a central figure on Monday's Raw, one of the worst episodes in recent memory.
In a number of "Growing Up Bella" segments, she reflected on her past relationship with her twin sister. Nikki talked about how Brie had stolen her prom date, crashed her car and asked her to take a test for her.
The segments were trite and ineffective.
As much as pro wrestling sometimes deserves its "male soap opera" reputation, this was beyond that. This was General Hospital-type stuff.
Richard Gray of Wrestling News World chuckled at the segments, via Twitter:
Haha these Nikki Bella vignettes are cracking me up. It's like a bad sitcom. "But I never told anyone" #Raw— Richard Gray (@wnwdotcom) September 2, 2014
He was by no means the only one to do so. Fans made Nikki's "but I never told anyone" line into a running joke. At MemeGene.net, fans have already created a treasure trove of memes making fun of Nikki's confessions.
This is not the reaction WWE was hoping for.
It's not surprising that this was how the audience responded, though. Nikki's motivation, along with her acting, wasn't the least bit convincing.
The segments felt too far removed from the basic motivations that usually power a wrestling feud. Bret Hart didn't need to bring up tales of old girlfriends in his battles with Owen Hart. Terry Funk would never bring standardized testing into his promos before a match against Dory Jr.
There are times when a narrative risk makes the crowd glad WWE went outside the box. Then, there are times that remind us of why there is a box in the first place.
Just because they are women doesn't mean these rivals have to fight over petty things one would see featured in a high school drama.
Besides, WWE is unwisely working hard to make the villain garner sympathy. As Lance Storm pointed out on Twitter, there is little logic to Nikki making Brie look so untrustworthy:
So if Nikki is telling the truth Brie is unlikable. If she's lying there is no motivation for the turn. Spock would not like this feud— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) September 2, 2014
Storm is absolutely right. The story has not made Brie look like a hero at all. On the other hand, WWE is asking Nikki to play a victim role of sorts.
The strange narrative choice leads one to question what direction this is all going. As Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net wrote, "At what point does Nikki start acting like a heel rather than a borderline sympathetic figure?"
When Nikki and Brie came face to face, the result wasn't any better.
Stephanie McMahon announced that Nikki would get a Divas title shot against Paige. That led to Brie, AJ Lee and Paige climbing into the ring to complain.
Nikki demanded that her sister quit to prove she loves her.
Considering the recent displays of bad acting between the Bellas, the low-quality product that ensued was no surprise. It didn't help that the script was so shoddy.
Nikki's chief complaint was that Brie had quit the WWE a few months back, abandoning her in the process. Now, she will only forgive her for that act if she quits again. That's baffling logic.
There were some intriguing bits of foreshadowing, including Lee and McMahon staring each other down, but this was still a painful segment. The Pro Wrestling Illustrated Twitter account summed it up perfectly:
#Raw crowd rightfully chanting "boring" during Steph-Nikki segment. This Bellas storyline is just downright unpleasant and not fun at all.— PWI (@OfficialPWI) September 2, 2014
WWE is investing more time into this story than it has for any other Divas story in a long time.
Unfortunately, that has led to some of the most grating moments of the year. Last week, for example, Nikki put emphasis in all the wrong places when she told Brie, "I wish you died in the womb." That was just a slice of the large bad-acting pie that night.
It was the kind of embarrassing performance that would seemingly compel WWE to slide the spotlight away from the sisters.
The Bella Twins' rivalry is still prominent, regardless of how putrid it has been. WWE has charged ahead blindly with one of its least appealing offerings. How the writers handled the feud on Monday's Raw was bewilderingly bad.
It's not as if the company can bank on this all leading to a great match, either.