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NIKKI, BRIE BELLA RETIRE

By Mike Johnson on 2019-03-24 23:54:00

During the season finale of Total Bellas, Nikki Bella announced to her family that she was retiring from professional wrestling as an active competitor.  Bella stated on the show that she made the decision during a post-WWE Evolution PPV European tour, citing that she was getting older, she wasn't physically feeling well (Bella had returned to in-ring action following a previous neck surgery) and that she was away from the other businesses that she has been building:

Last week on Total Bellas, Brie Bella indicated that she was done with professional wrestling as she and her husband, WWE Champion Daniel Bryan wanted to work on having a second child.  The series also captured Brie's issues with returning to the ring after having her first daughter and how emotionally torn she was after accidentally injuring Liv Morgan during an episode of Raw, as well as the backlash from fans on social media.

Neither Bella is scheduled for the forthcoming season of Total Divas but they will remain associated with WWE.  PWInsider.com has confirmed the Bellas are slated to be in the NYC area for Wrestlemania 35 weekend.

If there is a legacy for the Bellas in the industry, it's being one of the core female performers who opened up the door for WWE to see they could focus and promote female performers and appeal to a different demographic and getting them engaged in the WWE product.  The women's evolution within World Wrestling Entertainment has been an interesting story to follow over the last several years as the company has evolved how it presents female competitors and how those changes fit into the overall landscape of WWE's weekly TV series, PPVs and storylines.    While a great portion of the credit for the way those women are showcased is deservedly given to talents who have migrated to the main WWE roster from WWE NXT, where the women's division was treated as a serious, athletic division, far less attention is given to the Bellas, who were the nucleus of the Total Divas reality series.

 Nikki Bella (who has grown from just being a cast member to an Executive Producer of Divas) has told PWInsider.com in the past that she felt the reality franchise has received the credit it deserves for helping to cultivate and grow the female WWE fan demographic.

"Absolutely not, I don't think it does at all," Bella told PWInsider.com over Summerslam 2017 weekend.

"What is unfortunate is that when Total Divas was succeeding and we became a hit reality show, they let people with a mic in the ring just bash it and us Total Divas never got a response.   So, with the fans, it began to give Total Divas a bad name, 'Oh, they are just reality stars.'  Actually, while the girls who aren't on the reality show are just wrestling, us girls on the reality show are wrestling, are filming, are never sleeping, going to appearances, making sure that the world knows how amazing women wrestlers are.  So, I don't feel Total Divas gets enough credit because the words 'reality show' has ruined it for people.  I think certain people also, characters for the company, have ruined it as well out of pure jealousy.  I'll admit that." 

There's no question the female performers who migrated from WWE NXT to the main roster get the lion's share of the credit for evolving the women's division when they came to the main roster and certainly, they have earned that credit.  The popularity of Total Divas (which at one point, hit an overnight viewership of 1.67 million) should never be discounted.  By intriguing a female audience that had previously ignored pro wrestling via the reality exploits of the cast, WWE and E! funneled a demographic that traditionally had ignored professional wrestling and turned them into fans for the first time, sort-of a yin to the yang of the former WWE NXT crew's exploits that created a perfect storm, leading to the much talked about "women's revolution" on WWE's main roster.

"I think [Total Divas] helped start the women's revolution, " Bella said, "Total Divas [led to] more women started coming to our show, like,  'I gotta check this out.'  I remember when Brie was fighting Stephanie McMahon, so many women showed up because they were like, 'I can't believe she's fighting her boss, Oh My Gosh!'  It was crazy for them to even imagine, like, 'She's gonna hit her?  Like, This is nuts!' and so I think Total Divas has done so much for women's wrestling.  It was the first time that we got an hour of TV to ourselves, to really showcase what women do."

The influx of newer fans and their rapid support for the stars of the series shocked even Bella.

"It happened so quickly and so fast," admitted Bella.  "I want to say that when seasons one and two came out, both of which we were lucky in that they had 16 episodes each, after that season two....Bam!  Everyone wanted to know Natalya, Brie Bella, Naomi, Ariane.  Everyone was like, 'Who are these girls?' and when we go to events, there would be women wrestlers who weren't on the show and were getting more TV time than us and [the fans] wouldn't care about them.  They would be, 'I want to see those Total Divas girls.  Can you bring them back?'

While time will tell whether the Bellas ever return to the ring, with the sisters officially moving on from being active in-ring performers, it should be interesting to see what direction future potential seasons of Total Bellas take, especially since the audience numbers were down this past season without the continued John Cena-Nikki Bella romance.  It should be noted that there was initially talk coming out of Evolution internally that the Bellas would face Trish Stratus and Lita at Wrestlemania 35, but obviously that won't be happening.

 

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