WWE's Divas Ready to Face Reality

New series on E! pulls back curtain on WWE as the company looks to grow fan base around its female wrestlers

WWE’s roster of female wrestlers, known as the Divas, haven’t been much in the spotlight lately — their match at this year’s “WrestleMania” was even canceled at the last minute. But the company is looking to change that with “Total Divas,” a new reality show that premieres Sunday on E!.

Series explores life beyond the ring for seven Divas as they compete for ring time, attend events and deal with a grueling travel schedule while juggling their personal lives. Show is the first time WWE has allowed cameras backstage to show its athletes out of character and not playing their on-screen personas.

Produced by WWE and Bunim-Murray Prods (MTV’s “The Real World”), “Total Divas” will revolve around the Bella Twins, Brie (Brianna Garcia-Colace) and Nikki (Nicole Garcia-Colace); Naomi (Trinity McCray) and Cameron (Ariane Nicole Andrew), better known as the Funkadactyls; Natalya (Natalie Katherine Neidhart), a third-generation wrestler with the WWE; and newcomers Eva Marie (Natalie Eva Marie Nelson) and Jo-Jo Offerman.

The “pulling-back-the-curtain” aspect of the show could help E! attract a new kind of audience, while still fitting in with other series the network airs, like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

“With tens of millions of weekly fans at their disposal, these glamorous, entertaining and powerful women prove that behind the glitz of the spotlight, the locker room drama and the jockeying for position within the organization, they are all drawn to one thing: stardom,” said Suzanne Kolb, president of E! of “Total Divas’” cast.

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WWE fans will especially be interested in the first episode, which takes place during “WrestleMania 29” week and reveals how the Bella Twins had their match canceled at the event, held April 7, inside New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, filled with 80,676 fans, and move to the following night on “Raw.”

“You see our reactions to that happening backstage,” Nikki told Variety.

Being on camera isn’t new for WWE’s athletes — the company’s shows air year-round. “We’re characters there,” Nikki said. “But having cameras around and being Nicole and Brie Garcia-Console is different. Every normal human being has certain moments that we don’t want people to see and we have those moments.”

During the eight-week shoot, for example, Nikki rekindles her relationship with her father and develops one with new boyfriend John Cena, WWE’s top star. “There are special and private moments,” she said.

“There are also moments where I don’t want to wear make up and be lazy on the couch,” adds Brie. WWE didn’t feel the need to have to come up with TV-worthy moments. “We’re always on the road,” Brie said. “Everywhere there’s something gong on. There’s so much material.”

Show will also feature the wedding of Natalya to WWE’s Tyson Kidd (T.J. Wilson).

The Bella twins are fans of reality shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Fashion Police” and “Toddlers & Tiaras” and already hope “Total Divas,” which wrapped its first season two weeks ago, comes back for a second.

“At first we were worried it would take the magic away (from the WWE), but where we’re at in today’s world, it’s very important to let our fan base know that we’re not bullies (as their characters are with the WWE) in real life,” Brie said. “Nikki and I have always been believers in being hard workers and role models for young women,” citing that 40% of WWE’s viewership is made up of women.

WWE sees the series as the latest move to not only introduce its Divas to a new audience, but also expand the type of programming it offers fans. Company currently airs four series — “Raw,” on USA Network; “SmackDown,” on Syfy;” “Main Event,” on Ion Network; and “Saturday Morning Slam” on the CW. It also has original weekly shows on YouTube and Hulu, as well as its pay-per-view events.

“We’re looking to engage fans on multiple platforms, which is something both WWE and E! excel at, and build on the WWE fanbase with E!’s core audience,” said Michelle Wilson, chief marketing officer, WWE.

“Total Divas” isn’t WWE’s first reality show. It’s also produced several seasons of competition series “Tough Enough,” and “WWE Legends House,” which has “Mean” Gene Okerlund, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, “The Fink” Howard Finkel, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson, and Tony Atlas living in a house. That show was set to air on the WWE Network but the company is now looking for another home for the show, filmed in 2012.

Jon Murray, Gil Goldshein, Jeff Jenkins and Russell Jay serve as executive producers on “Total Divas” for Bunim-Murray Prods.

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