Third season of Total Divas premieres with marriage woes and new rivalries

As the Divas of World Wrestling Entertainment return for their third season of Total Divas on the E! Channel, the emphasis was focused more on their personal lives than on the drama that makes life in the squared circle one of the most unique in all of sports entertainment. From three Divas each coping with marriage in their own unique way, it was a key focus in the season opener.

The Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie, are both on opposite sides of the marriage spectrum. Brie is engaged to fellow colleague Bryan Danielson (known in the ring as Daniel Bryan), while Nikki’s relationship with WWE champion John Cena is one defined by struggle. After walking out on her sister Brie and future brother-in-law Bryan during their wedding registry, the tension between Nikki and Cena is worse than any in the ring.

Fellow diva Eva Marie is also coping with her own struggles. In the final episode of Season 2, her father flat out refused to provide his blessing to Eva Marie’s fiance. Despite the tension that emanated, Season 3 begins with Eva Marie flaunting her wedding ring.

As one of the rising stars in the entire promotion, Eva Marie (who has also appeared in Maxim Magazine) is certainly breaking a lot of hearts with her marriage. Whether it affects her status as a fan favorite will be sure to follow. In the dying minutes of the season opener, Eva Marie’s father discovers her marriage secret and throws a tantrum worthy of the best heel in WWE.

Added to the mix is the newest Diva on the roster, Summer Rae. A former competitor (under a different name) with the Chicago Bliss of the Legends Football League, Rae is ambitious and not afraid to get what she wants. With a desire to be the top diva in the promotion, signs of an early rivalry with fellow blonde-haired wrestler Naddie Niedhart are rising to the surface.
When Mark Carrano, member of the Talent Relations department introduces Rae to the group of Divas, a suggestion of having Eva Marie as Rae’s tag team partner is discussed. As Carrano suggests a possible program with the Bella Twins for the newly formed tag team, the claws quickly come out. Niedhart takes a jab at Rae by discussing her lack of talent.

Considering that Rae began in the WWE as a valet to wrestler Fandango (the two were a spoof of ballroom dancers), resentment stems on the part of Niedhart as she sees her getting a chance to compete in the ring. Promotional material for the program indicates that later in the season, Rae would actually slap Niedhart. Considering Niedhart’s grandfather is the legendary Stu Hart, she can probably stretch and torture the headstrong Rae in ways she could not imagine. Fans can only hope that such a rivalry carries over into a great in-ring program.

Oddly, this is not the only wrestler that Niedhart displays tensions with. From Eva Marie stating to Rae that Niedhart has trouble getting along with others, controversy follows Niedhart at an event featuring other wrestlers.

With the Bella Twins celebrating their 30th birthday party in Austin, Texas (where several wrestlers are attending Wizard World for an autograph session), an inebriated Niedhart begins to gyrate with Vincent, one of the other Divas’ boyfriends.

After a slight pushing match and the F-word, tensions follow outside the bar. Confronting each other in the street, a police officer prevents what may have been an impromptu street fight.

Ironically, Niedhart’s father, former WWE tag team champion Jim the Anvil had a reputation as a partyer. While Niedhart considers herself wholesome, the reality of television is that it can sometimes portray another picture, even if it is not a fair perception.

Wizard World does nothing to alleviate tensions between Nikki and John Cena. Despite Cena not in attendance at her birthday party, he takes a break from his autograph session to visit them. Unfortunately for Nikki, the tension dates back to Season
Two when Cena was adamant about his refusal to marry or have children. Having moved back to San Diego, it has forced Nikki into some soul searching. Just like the ending of Season Two, the tensions between the couple provide the cliffhanger for the end of the third season opener.

Flying into Nikki’s current residence at San Diego, Cena offers to meet her at a designated spot and if she does not meet him, he knows that the relationship is over. The scene evokes memories of Sex and the City when Miranda meets her lover at the Brooklyn Bridge. In true dramatic fashion, Nikki is seen walking towards Cena when the screen fades to black with the infamous To Be Continued flashing onto the screen.

Shannon Szabados follows momentum of gold medal triumph by practicing with Edmonton Oilers

In reflecting on Shannon Szabados becoming the third female goaltender to practice with an NHL franchise (the others being Manon Rheaume with Tampa Bay and Kim St. Pierre for Montreal), the reality is that this was truly a missed opportunity. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that it has happened twice to Szabados.

After leading the Canadian national women’s team to the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (its first on home soil), there was an opportunity for the Edmonton Oilers to step up and do the right thing. Szabados, who lives near Edmonton, deserved to become the first woman to actually suit up for an NHL regular season game.

Considering that the Edmonton Oilers were one of the worst franchises during the 2009-10 season, the inclusion of Szabados as an emergency goaltender would have been a defining moment in franchise history, let along female hockey history. With Oilers backstop Devan Dubnyk forced to sit out a game in March 2010 due to a case of the flu, the club required an emergency goaltender.

Rather than give the opportunity to a deserving Szabados, the franchise called on Nathan Deobald, a goaltender competing in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) play with the University of Calgary. Serving as the backup for Jeff Deslauriers, it provided Deobald with a unique hockey experience, although he does not deserve to be blamed for the Oilers not making the decision to call hometown hero Szabados. Afterwards, a piece was written online in support of Szabados.

Sadly, history repeated itself twice in the most ironic fashion. Fast forward four years later; Szabados has come off a second consecutive gold medal with the Canadian team. A key contributor to the squad’s success at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, it raised the profile of Szabados as the world’s finest female goaltender.

Having made a trade for Anaheim goaltender Viktor Fasth, the Oilers were in need of an emergency backstop for its contest on March 4. With the opportunity to redeem themselves for its grievous error of 2010, the hapless franchise maintained its streak of ineptitude by calling on another goaltender from the CIS (competing with the University of Alberta) to fill its goaltending vacancy.

An outpouring of support for Szabados from social media forced the Oilers to see the error of their ways. On the website Twitter, the hashtag #SzabadosForBackup became a hot trend. The following day, the Oilers called on Szabados to serve as a goaltender at practice. While it may be compensation, it is far from being admittance.

While Oilers captain Andrew Ference had nothing for praise for Szabados on social media, even insisting that she be allowed to use the team’s locker room to change, officials could have emulated his leadership. After practice, Oilers officials stated that due to the NHL Trade Deadline, they were too busy to address Szabados. The writing was definitely on the wall with that statement.

As the first female goaltender to compete in the Western Hockey League (ironically, Carey Price, the goalie of the men’s gold medal winning team in Sochi was her teammate in the WHL), Szabados deserved the chance to be the Oilers emergency goalie. Based on the great hockey legacy she has carved in Western Canada, it would have been her crowning achievement. Although it is not the job of the Oilers players to stick up for her, it would be a kind gesture if some of the veteran players recommended her again in future.

Although it would not be fair comment to accuse the NHL of not supporting women’s hockey, the reality is that a lot more can be done. Not only is it a moral issue, but it is about serving as a responsible corporate citizen. Considering that the NFL has a task force to ensure that visible minorities are given equitable treatment, especially in coaching opportunities, the NHL must employ the same approach with opportunities for women in hockey.

From coaching and management perspectives, women have been sadly neglected in hockey. Despite the great steps taken in broadcasting, it is not enough. If the Oilers were to employ Szabados as a practice goalie year-round (perhaps an extreme concept for some fans), it would be a positive step in the right direction. Considering that the American Hockey League has always been used as a proving ground for rule changes, which may prove to be the most ideal way to give more women a chance to shatter the glass ceiling of equality in hockey.

The use of Szabados as a goaltender at Oilers practice on March 5 must set a precedent for such a movement. While women’s hockey players and fans rejoiced in her opportunity, the truth is that it is but a small victory which had the potential to be much larger. Going forward, there is an opportunity to build on that victory.

Considering that the NFL is starting to market its game and products towards female fans, the NHL must realize that it must to do the same in order to not only maintain its fan base, but promote positive growth. The dedication and professionalism of women in hockey, such as Szabados, would help to inject new life into a sport where the presence of its female stars shall only continue to increase.