Passing of wrestling icon Joanie Laurer a tremendous loss

One of the original and most influential WWE Divas, Joanie Laurer revolutionized the role of women in wrestling, combining strength, beauty and empowerment in an intrigued package. Although her muscular physique and intense physical power were intimidating at first, she would quickly become the focus of many wrestling fan’s crushes, mesmerized by her personality. Known affectionately as the “Ninth Wonder of the World”, she paved the way for the WWE Divas of today while shattering the glass ceiling for female wrestlers of all shapes and sizes.

The news of her passing at her home in Redondo Beach, California has shaken the world of wrestling. Although the cause of her death is still under investigation by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s department, the spectre of disenchantment certainly lingers. For most of the 2000s, the news of wrestlers passing away before the age of 50 was one of the most controversial in all sport. The idea that Joanie Laurer is now part of this group is nothing short of tragic.

Of note, the overwhelming majority of wrestlers that passed on were men. Except for Miss Elizabeth, who was the manager to Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Sensational Sherri (a member of the WWE Hall of Fame), women in wrestling were all but immune to this tragic chapter of wrestling history. Suddenly, Laurer’s passing is a sobering reality.

While she was first introduced to the WWE Universe under the sobriquet Chyna, known as the bodyguard of the game changing D-Generation X, which ushered in the WWE’s Attitude Era, Laurer would become one of the most popular personalities in the promotion, subsequently becoming a pop culture icon, gracing the covers of popular mainstream magazines such as Newsweek and TV Guide. Appearing on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards and on TV in a guest spot on the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun, while receiving countless offers to appear in mainstream movies, she had crossed over into a showbiz realm traditionally occupied by male counterparts such as Hulk Hogan.

Early in Laurer’s tenure in WWE, two career defining moments would embody the spirit of the WWE Attitude. It had become evident that she had underwent a breast enhancement surgical procedure, one that fellow D-Generation X members discussed during one of their sophomoric yet entertaining monologues. Although such enhancements are a stereotype among women in wrestling, there was a unique symbolism, setting the stage for her growing sex appeal, which in turn would make her a fan favorite among both male and female wrestling fans.

The other involved the first time Laurer actually spoke behind the mic. For over a year, her role as Chyna involved a menacing stare and arms crossed, symbolizing that she meant business. The moment that wall crumbled and she began to speak, it added a whole new dimension to her own image while simultaneously increasing the popularity of D-Generation X.

At a time when wrestling’s Monday Night Wars were still being contested, and the wrestling dirt sheets were grist for the ever intriguing rumor mill, it had become commonly known that Laurer was in a relationship with D-Generation X member Triple H. Further reports would suggest that he was the force who enabled her to be hired by WWE.

Their relationship certainly took on a moment of reality in the WWE Universe as distraught wrestlers were visibly shaken by the in-ring passing of Owen Hart. With Laurer at his side, Triple H admirably showed himself at his most vulnerable during his career, tearful during his commentary at the Owen Hart Tribute Show.

Laurer’s popularity would soon propel her into wrestling history on two separate occasions. In 1999, she would become the first female competitor to particiapte in the Royal Rumble. Defeating Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship, she would become the first (and only) woman to hold the title, a remarkable achievement, which helped increase the drawing power of women in wrestling. During that time, many women in wrestling were valets to male wrestlers, an eye candy that usually helped increase the profile of a male wrestler. One could argue that Chyna’s rise to the Intercontinental Championship helped add new credibility to the role of women in wrestling, eventually leading to the WWE establishing a Divas division, one that has flourished in the last decade and a half.

Sadly, Laurer’s wrestling career would plunge into a downward spiral following a highly popular magazine pictorial. Appearing in a complete state of undress, fully frontal in the pages of the iconic Playboy, Laurer redefined what sexy means. She would even acknowledge in an interview with Michael Landsberg on his popular TSN talk show Off The Record that she received positive feedback from women about her pictorial. Taking into account that many women in general experience issues with body image, Laurer was a revelation, exuding confidence and proud of her amazing physique, proving that women of all shapes and sizes deserved to be comfortable in their own skin.

Rumors suggested that some of wrestling’s power brokers were not happy with Laurer’s unforeseen level of popularity and success, while a break-up with Triple H did not soothe such tensions. Instead of being with D-Generation X, she was now in a program with Eddie Guerrero, which was not a good fit for either wrestler. From there, her luster would slowly fade, no longer part of the WWE’s main event picture. Less than three years after her first pictorial for Playboy, Laurer would be out of WWE, disappearing as quickly as she came. Despite appearing in New Japan Pro Wrestling and rumors of offers from TNA Wrestling (which was ironically started by Jarrett), she would never recapture the mat magic of her time in WWE.

Suddenly, Laurer was part of D-list events such as Celebrity boxing, later gaining infamy for starring in adult films. Working in a low budget film with Anna Nicole Smith before her own tragic passing, Laurer would appear on Larry King Live discussing the experience of working with her. In looking at Laurer in the interview, it had become evident that she was no longer the same person. Having seen her weight expand and the loss of her smile, one could not help but feel there was a sad foreshadowing to come.

While Laurer becomes another sad footnote in wrestling’s darkest chapter, she held a profound place in the hearts and minds of many in the wrestling industry during an exceptional four year time span. Although future glories were not meant to be, one cannot dispute that her legacy is one highly deserving of posthumous induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

AJ Lee’s retirement from WWE shrouded in controversy

As one of the most successful WWE Divas of the last decade, the retirement of AJ Lee is another black-eye for the world’s leader in sports-entertainment. Leaving after Wrestle Mania 31, it was a significant loss for the Divas division.

Rampant speculation online has led some to assume that the cause of this retirement is attributed to an ongoing legal battle involving her husband, former champion CM Punk. Of note, the legal issues surround frustrations with one of WWE’s corporate physicians and a misdiagnosis, followed by a subsequent distribution of medication.

The matter that truly compounds such Lee’s retirement is the fact that CM Punk was dismissed from the WWE on their wedding day in June 2014. Although this was stated on a podcast as a coincidence, obviously it was not the easiest situation for Lee to endure. Taking into account that she was never a cast member of WWE’s successful television program, Total Divas, this recent development could certainly lead to speculation as to why she was never involved. Considering the almost three years that WWE invested into developing her character (from Florida Championship Wrestling to NXT), there is almost the feeling that talent is treated as disposable.

In many ways, the suffering endured by Lee and her husband bears many similarities to Bret Hart and the sad turn his career took back in 1997. With family working in the company as well, it led to bad blood as some accompanied him to WCW. Sadly, it placed his brother Owen in a difficult situation as he was still contractually obligated to the company.

A tactic also used in mixed martial arts, the use of the word retirement was perceived as the only way to escape from her contract with WWE. Compounding this decision is the fact that she cannot work elsewhere until the remainder of her contract has expired. With very few other promotions offering a viable alternative, the next stage in Lee’s career may be one filled with frustration.

Messages on social media have already indicated that Lee may be engaging in a new career altogether, with a book deal in the works. Regardless, Lee’s wrestling career should not have faced such an abrupt and somewhat malicious ending. A three-time WWE Divas champion, she was also its longest reigning champion. Unfortunately, politics is an ugly reality in wrestling, and one that does not show much mercy.

Wrestling Hall of Famer Trish Stratus part of 2014 Topps release

One of the most accomplished WWE Divas inside and outside of the squared circle, seven-time Trish Stratus is one of the key wrestlers featured in Topps newest wrestling card release, The 2014 WWE Road to WrestleMania. Voted as the Diva of the Decade on Monday Night Raw’s 15th Anniversary Program, Stratus is featured in her own 8-card insert set titled the Queen of WrestleMania.

The odds of finding such cards are 1:12 packs (two per box). Of note, she actually wrote her own copy on the card backs. Other wrestlers that have their own insert card set include the late Jim Hellwig (otherwise known as the Ultiwate Warrior) and the Undertaker. As a side note, the 110 base-card set, which possesses a design similar to the 2013 Topps release titled Best of WWE does not feature Stratus (all of her cards are randomly inserted).

Her first WrestleMania appearance came at WrestleMania 2000 in Anaheim, California. At that time, she was a ring valet for a tag team known as T&A (wrestlers Test and Albert comprised said team). The involvement in that event is featured on the first card of her 8-card insert set.

In terms of singles competition, it was not until WrestleMania X8 in 2002 did Stratus make her in-ring debut. Held in her hometown of Toronto, Stratus wore trunks that bore the Canadian flag. Despite losing the triple threat match for the Divas title, she was certainly one of the most popular performers that night. The following year, Stratus would finally earn a win in WrestleMania. Competing at Safeco Field in Seattle, she would defeat Victoria and Jazz in a triple threat match for the Divas title.

Three other WrestleMania appearances would follow in her career. In 2005, she beat Christy Hemme at WrestleMania XXI but would suffer a loss to Mickie James at the 22nd edition of WrestleMania the following year. Although Stratus would retire in 2006, she made one more WrestleMania appearance. Held in Atlanta, WrestleMania XXVII featured Stratus in a mixed tag team match. Teaming up with John Morrison and reality TV star Snooki, the trio would defeat the team of Dolph Ziggler, Layla and Michelle McCool.

While she first earned the trading card treatment in 2001, as Fleer issued a WWE Divas set, the 2014 Road to WrestleMania offering may be the most extensive offering of Stratus cards. Several relic and autographed cards comprise even rarer issues by Topps which feature her image. There are two different relic cards that feature swatches from pants she has supplied. One relic card features a green swatch, while the other is purple.

Another unique collectible includes an offering that consist of a piece of the actual mat used at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans. Of note, Stratus is one of 16 WWE legends to have signed some of those soon-to-be highly desirable collectibles.

Despite not competing at the event, it still held an emotional component for Stratus. During the week-long festivities at WrestleMania XXIX, Stratus became the youngest individual (at 37 years of age) to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The induction is commemorated on the eight card of her insert set. She would hold the honor of inducting former rival Lita into the Hall prior to WrestleMania XXX.

In addition, she is featured on a dual autographed card with the immortal Hulk Hogan, who was the host of WrestleMania XXX. It marks the first time that the legendary champions (and WWE Hall of Fame members) have been featured on a card together. As a side note, she is also featured on a dual autograph card with WWE Diva Eve.

Third season opener of Total Divas welcomes Rosa Mendes

Drama, the obligatory gossip and relationship tensions proved to be the defining feature in the third season opener of Total Divas. Most of it revolved around the newest cast member to the program, Rosa Mendes. Beginning where WrestleMania XXX left off, the newest chapter in the lives of the WWE Divas features the comeback of the aforementioned Mendes. Having returned from a rehab stint, a new physical look complements her emotional recovery. Nattie Niedhart (the first Diva who welcomes back Mendes) quickly notices that Mendes underwent plastic surgery.

Of note, Mendes was not the only diva to show a sexier side. Eva Marie set hearts racing, adorned in black lingerie and white swimwear, engaging in a series of portraits with her husband. Having been invited to the marriage of Brie Bella, she wants to appease her parents with a wedding ceremony, after eloping. The logic behind her sexy photo shoot is to utilize one of them for a Save the Date invitation.

Showing the fellow divas the finished product, several of them are shocked that she would consider using the photos. Employing great bravura, she proceeds by showing said photos to her family. Despite their own shock, her mother and father are ecstatic that she wants to have her own wedding day.

Sadly, Eva Marie’s jubilation would quickly turn to desolation. With her husband refusing to participate in a ceremony in a Catholic church, it is compounded by the sad discovery that her father may be struggling with cancer. Despite such news, her husband refuses to show any empathy and participate in a Catholic ceremony, adding tension to their marriage.

Relationship woes would emerge as a theme in this episode as Nicole Bella faced her own challenges. As tensions over having children with her partner (and multiple WWE champion) John Cena continue to plague their relationship, Nicole undergoes the decision to have her eggs frozen, in the hopes of giving birth at a later time. With the support of her twin sister Brie, whose wisdom and maturity comes across, Nicole begins the first stage of her treatment.

Despite sneaking around to get a blood test with a nurse at her home (while Cena is with an interior decorator is at Cena and Nicole’s home), eventually, Cena discovers some medical supplies. While it was the opening episode’s cliffhanger, it certainly brings into question whether Nicole should consider making a fresh start in order to make her dream of motherhood come true.

Throughout such turmoil, an unlikely working relationship has sprouted. At the request of Mark Carrano, the WWE’s Senior Director of Talent Relations, Nattie has been asked to ensure Rosa Mendes has a smooth transition back to WWE, part of which includes being her roommate on the road. Much to Nattie’s surprise, her first experience on the road was quite the eye opener. Entering a Chicago hotel room, she was surprised to find Mendes in a complete state of undress.

While Mendes stated in the video confessional that she is very comfortable being nude, Nattie did not share such enthusiasm. Although Mendes covered up, such an event clearly establishes them as the new odd couple in the WWE. Taking into account Nattie’s leadership and her reputation as a good worker, she will certainly be engaging in a significant challenge. Mendes certainly has the qualities of a narcissist and her goal of being taken seriously as a wrestler will definitely require the support of Nattie.

Such support was evident in Mendes’ return to the ring as she endured feelings of worthlessness. A pair of Divas was engaging in some backstage gossip about Mendes’ abilities in the ring, stating “Get the popcorn”, a hurtful remark. Wrestling against Nattie in her first match back, it was obvious that there was some ring rust. After the match, Nattie attempted to console Mendes, who could not hold back tears. As Mendes looks to climb back to a position of relevance in the Divas division, her comeback (along with how Nattie can help her) shall certainly be a significant aspect in this new season of Total Divas.

Total Divas third season ends with memorable moments

As the E! Channel reality show Total Divas finished its third season, the path for the Divas of World Wrestling Entertainment culminates with tensions over performances at a historic WrestleMania event and wedding jitters. Despite the development of the Divas division from its perception as eye candy in the late 1990s to strong, athletic women in the 2010s, hardcore fans cannot help but feel that this division still receives second class treatment.

With the entire Divas division earning the opportunity to compete at a unique battle royal for the Divas championship at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, a member of the management team approaches them with an ominous message. Originally slated to appear second on the card (line-up for non-wrestling fans), the announcement is made that the Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational (name of the match) shall be the second-last match. While the Divas confront the member of management, it becomes obvious that he is just a soldier, bearing the bad news despite the potential injustice.

The impact of the decision is one that supplies haunting and saddening feelings to the beleaguered Bella Twins. Undergoing the stress of preparing a wedding and relationship woes, the rescheduling of a match reignites feelings from 2013. During WrestleMania XXIX in New Jersey, the Bella Twins tag-team match was rescheduled to the second last on the card. As other matches on the card lasted longer than their pre-allotted time, the Bella Twins match was sacrificed.

Fearing over another match possibly being cancelled, tensions rise for the Bella Twins and their colleagues. One of the subplots during the second season of Total Divas is the growing tension between Brie Bella and rookie star Summer Rae. While Rae is hurt over not being invited to Brie’s wedding over the fear of potential drama, the two encounter each other in the backstage area. While Summer is cordial enough to provide a wedding gift, it is obvious that their issues remain unresolved. Hopefully, the booking committee (group who stages the matches and determine which athletes wrestle each other) can translate such heat into an in-ring rivalry.

Nikki Bella endures her own relationship woes. Having disclosed to her family the revelation that she was secretly married earlier in her life, it created a rippling event. With her brother approaching John Cena and praising him for how calm he was in hearing the news, little did the brother know that he was truly the first revealing such information to Cena.

Another rookie also endures her shares of tensions. Eva Marie, named to Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 for 2014 is extremely nervous as she has limited wrestling skills. Pacing frantically and expressing her fears to anyone who will lend an ear, she is afraid that she may have a bad performance at the WWE’s signature event. Nattie Neidhart attempts to console her, but it just comes across as a scolding, an example of her intensity.

As time seems to drag on for the impatient Divas, concerns grow upon the discovery of the preceding match. This even greater problem surfaces as the sixth match bears a historic impact. The Undertaker, who entered the match with a 21-0 mark in previous WrestleMania events, is facing former UFC champion Brock Lesnar. Not only is the match lasting longer than scheduled, but all signs point to the clash between these two ring gods becoming an instant classic.

Much to the surprise of the Divas, who are watching on monitors backstage, the Undertaker’s streak comes to a shocking end. With fans heartbroken and booing, it may have been better for the Divas if their match was cancelled. Instead, they are given the news that they shall emerge from the backstage area and work their match.

Forced to perform after a historic match, with an ending that will be talked about for years to come, it becomes obvious why the Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational was rescheduled. Coming out to a group of upset, distraught and enraged fans, it becomes clear that said fans have no interest in this match. While nervous rookie Eva Marie (whose outfit alone makes her a fan favorite) attempts to steal the show by blowing a kiss to Tamina Snuka, it gets a roar out of the crowd.

Overall, the match fails to capture the imagination of the fans, still mourning the Undertaker’s biggest loss in his career. The concept of this battle royal is that the first Diva who earns a pinfall is named Divas champion. Adding insult to injury for the distraught Divas (who at this point are just happy to have bene able to perform) is the outcome. Despite every Diva on the roster being involved, the defending champion AJ Lee emerged as the winner, grabbing her belt to a chorus of boos.

Taking into account that the exposure and prestige of such a match could have been used to crown a new champion, it is somewhat surprising that AJ Lee retained her title. Considering the number of Divas featured on Total Divas, it would have only been seen as common sense had a Diva from the program been crowned as champion. With Naomi (whose wedding to Jimmy Uso was another highlight of the second season) having suffered a nearly career-ending injury with her eye injury, she is one of the most talented Divas to have never been champion. In reality, Wrestle Mania XXX should have been her coming-out party, a truly golden opportunity missed by the booking committee.

While the show will return for a third season (debuting on September 7, 2014) as Rosa Mendes joins the cast, it shall certainly represent a bold new chapter. Despite comprising only the final ten minutes of the broadcast, the wedding of Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan (known as Bryan Danielsson in real life) served as a storybook ending for the second season. Held in Sedona, Arizona, everything from the first season truly led to this moment. Loyal fans shall certainly be intrigued as to how their marriage develops in the upcoming season. The highlight of the wedding definitely came after the two exchanged vows, as the wedding guests happily cheered Daniel Bryan’s trademark “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant.

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.

Renee Young continues proud Canadian tradition as member of WWE

Following in the footsteps of fellow Canadians, like Bret Hart and Trish Stratus, who left a mark in the WWE, Renee Young is making an impression. Having signed with the WWE in October 2012, she did not make her on-air debut until a February 2013 fimed segment for WWE Active.


Introduced by Matt Striker as Renee Young, the reality is that Canadian sports fans know her as Renee Paquette. Prior to signing with the Federation, she was a popular sports announcer with the television network The Score (since acquired by Rogers). One of her first hosting duties for the network was an amateur boxing show called Gotta Grudge? The premise was two people looking to settle a dispute (either at work or personal) putting on the gloves and settle their issues through an aggressive display of pugilism.

With that problem establishing her likeability and easy going demeanor, she would host a live program aired after Smack Down with a unique quality to it known as Aftermath. The first of its kind, it broke ground as the first-ever program that featured a rundown of events from a live WWE broadcast.

Along with Arda Ocal and former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas, the three discussed their favorite matches, least favorite matches, which superstars impressed and pay per view predictions. While very few women have made a mark as on-air announcers in wrestling, viewers could tell that Renee was a genuine wrestling fan and that interest just showed episode after episode. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of her tenure with The Score is the way she enjoyed getting her face painted like Goldust.

While her workload with the WWE has shifted from NXT, pre-shows on pay per view and programming for international territories, there have been particular avenues in which she has shined. Of note, she had the opportunity to interview The Big Show at the WrestleMania XXIX post-show. Along with WWE Hall of Famer Mean Gene Okerlund, she co-hosts WWE Vintage Collection, which broadcast matches from wrestling’s golden age in the 1980’s along with memorable moments from the 1990’s.

The other was her hosting duties on the reunion of Total Divas, a reality show on E! Television. Broadcast immediately after their mid-season cliffhanger, Young did her best version of Andy Cohen with a roomful of Divas. Clearly the glue that held the reunion show together, her effervescence was the most redeeming part of the program. Young kept prompting the Divas for replies while keeping things light with the discussion regarding Nattie Neidhart’s wedding.

One can only hope that the WWE does not tarnish her golden image. Her charm, fun-loving and energetic side needs to be preserved. During Lillian Garcia’s first run with WWE, there was a segment where she had (supposedly) hot coffee thrown on her by Stephanie McMahon. Then, she was in a relationship with wrestler Viscera. Sadly, many female on-air personalities have been looked upon as either airheads or bimbos (of which Renee is certainly neither). Such things only demean and add no value to the on-air product.

With a star that is shining brightly and on the rise, Renee Young is a gem for the WWE. When Topps Trading Cards releases their 2014 series of WWE cards, hopefully Young’s image shall grace one of those cardboard collectibles. Perhaps one day she will get to be part of the announce team for a WrestleMania or a flag ship program like Raw. While the potential to break ground and shatter the glass ceiling is strong, Young’s wrestling fans in Canada are proud to see a local girl done good.

Total Divas mid-season finale leaves fans wanting more

With the WWE reality show Total Divas reaching its mid-season finale, there has been no shortage of drama. A glimpse into the world of women’s professional wrestling brings with it the interest to see more of the goings-on in what is hardly a glamorous career.

Although women have been part of the squared circle since the Great Depression, (Mildred Burke was its biggest star), the recent years have brought with it an element of sex that is not for all wrestling fans. Considering that several female wrestlers had posed fully nude in men’s magazines, there was a time when speculation rose as to whether a newly hired wrestler would follow suit.

These new women of wrestling are about the in-ring work and it shows. Their commitment to training (which is also featured in several episodes) is testament to the effort of bringing true credibility to women’s wrestling. Although visual appeal will always have a factor for both male and female wrestlers, those that have the talent tend to eventually get noticed.

While many women from the 1990’s and the 2000’s were eye candy (overshadowing the female wrestlers that truly had talent), there is a certain legitimacy that has returned to women’s wrestling. Such an element only adds to the excitement of the Total Divas program.

As Nattie Niedhart prepared to tie the knot to fellow wrestler Tyson Kidd in the mid-season finale, themes such as jealousy, betrayal and conflict dominated most of the episode. All three were definitely part of Nattie’s journey towards marriage.

From the outset, her plans for an outdoor ceremony did not come to fruition as the elements played a role, causing her to hold the ceremony indoors. Unbeknowst to her fiancée, her male friend and former training partner from Calgary (known only as Jaret) arrived for the wedding.
The confrontation over the invitation increased tensions. Added to the mix was the fact that best friend Nikki Bella could not attend the ceremony.

Although there was a happy ending, it was a surprise that the wedding still took place.
On the topic of relationships, the reason for Nikki’s absence was attributed to the fact that her boyfriend, WWE superstar John Cena, invited her to the Boston area to visit with his family. A rare side that is hardly seen from Cena, the opportunity to see his family showed a softer side to the bruising grappler.

One of the legacies in pro wrestling (male or female) is the politics and the “push” that some wrestlers get. This played itself out during the episode as tensions over the push (an effort to make a wrestler more popular) ran strongly between WWE newbies Jojo and Eva Marie.

As Eva Marie had the opportunity to appear on Monday Night Raw, Jojo was naturally jealous and resentful. While the two have trained together and even shared a residence, the tension over the push was only natural. From a bikini-clad Eva Marie being featured in Maxim Magazine (which was part of a previous episode), Jojo felt that her colleague was being pushed partly because of her looks.

With due deference to Jojo, she has a difficult path to endure should she wish to become a WWE star. At only 19 years of age, her impatience and frustration is very evident. Due to her small size, she will have to work twice as hard in order to truly make an impact.

While a hospital scare involving Arianne brought back fears of Brian Pillman, Trinity stood by her and displayed why they are such a strong tag team. Having recovered, she was able to attend Nattie’s wedding with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Vincent (which adds a soap opera element).

The biggest event of the episode may have been the bombshell ending. John Cena asks Nikki Bella to move from San Diego to be with him in Tampa. Having suffered a bad divorce, it is a surprise move from Cena that will be played out in the second half of the Total Divas season.

Total Divas provides window into competitive world of women’s wrestling in WWE

Debuting on July 28, 2013, E! Television offers fans of World Wrestling Entertainment an opportunity into the world of its Divas Division with the new reality series Total Divas. Featuring seven Divas, ranging from veteran performers to several rookies, the pecking order is highly evident.total_divas_h_2013
Airing right after the popular E! series, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it struggled to retain the lead-in audience of 2.8 million viewers who viewed the drama with the Kardashians. While Total Divas featured 885,000 viewers, it still made for the most watched premiere on the network in almost one year.

With the Bella Twins featured in several promotions for the series, there is no denying that they are the true attraction of the show. Along with Natalya (Nattie) Niedhart, they comprise the veterans of the reality series. Cameron and Naomi are members of The Funkadactyls, dancers who help introduce Brodus Clay into the ring. The rookies feature Eva Marie and 19 year-old Jo-Jo Offerman.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode “Welcome to the WWE” is the personal lives of the Bellas. Brie is involved with former champion Daniel Bryan, while Nikki is in a relationship with current WWE champion John Cena (who is divorced from Elizabeth Huberdeau). One scene in the episode shows Nikki in San Diego with a Range Rover that Cena supposedly bought for her.

As the main storyline of the program was the controversy regarding the Bellas getting a match at WrestleMania 29, one cannot help but wonder if their personal relationships with Bryan and Cena did not open doors for the highly desired wrestling spot. With Nattie Niedhart denied her opportunity to wrestle in the biggest event of the year, she cannot help but spout frustration over the fact that the Bellas were gone for a year.

The sad irony is that this marks the second time that a member of the world-famous Hart wrestling family was betrayed on TV. Bret Hart’s documentary Wrestling With Shadows was an unlikely witness to the infamous Montreal Screwjob, which was a blackeye in wrestling.

As the niece of Bret, the anguish and attempt to hold back tears with a brave face is all too evident. This milder screwjob features a meeting with Jane Geddes, the Vice-President of WWE Talent Relations. Featured in the annual Sports Illustrated Where Are They Now? special issue in 2013, the former LPGA golfer discussed her same-sex relationship.

With due deference to Geddes, while it is encouraging and empowering to see a woman as Vice-President in such a male-dominated field as pro wrestling, her position is one that should only be handled by a former wrestler (whether it be male or female), due to the sensitivity of the politics. While she has served as a Senior VP for Tournament Operations and Player Services in the LPGA, she just seems like an odd fit for the job. Having never wrestled, she comes across as cold and distant.

Truly adding insult to injury is the fact that Geddes asks Niedhart to be a chaperone for new arrivals Eva-Marie (whom Geddes asks to dye her hair blonde) and Jo-Jo. While Jo-Jo is a very humble individual who looks like she is willing to learn, Eva-Marie is highly ambitious and is not shy about expressing her desire to climb to the top of the ranks. Her ambitions are to be seen in greater detail in the second episode.

Although Eva Marie’s ambition and the Bella Twins visions of grandeur makes the 1980s rivalry between Cindy Lauper, Wendy Richter and the Fabulous Moolah look pretty tame, there is no question that the claws are out.

With the world of pro wrestling as one that is scripted, there is no telling how much of the content in this reality show truly is real. For now, it is an intriguing insight into a division of the WWE’s wrestling roster that hardly gets enough exposure.