Monday, April 24, 2017

Ain't Gonna Stop Me Now: Total Divas Season 6, Episodes 11 and 12

Renee Young is the top of the heap for the last two episodes
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When Total Divas returned a couple of weeks back, they did so with the nice dramatic seismic shift of the 2016 WWE Draft. This worked nicely as a narrative device to split up the season because holy shit look at where everyone is going. And said episode seemed to imply a real split in the whole lineup, especially when the following episode involves exclusively folks on the Smackdown Live roster. But it didn't quite work out like that. When you expect Total Divas to get weird, it'll get traditional as hell just to make you wonder just what you were to expect. And also, as you can tell, I've given myself two episodes to power rank because sometimes the combo works (i.e. there wasn't much to write about last week and it's better to combine the two now).

1. Renee Young - It's been obvious for a long time, but Renee Young is made for television. She's a charismatic presence who doesn't feel above the viewer. We all want a friend like her, someone willing to get a little wild but doesn't turn that into her life. So for her to leave this top spot would take some kind of Herculean feat in villainy to make us not like her. And that hasn't happened yet. Her arc in episode 11 is trying and failing to get her partner Dean Ambrose to have a romantic night out with nice clothes and fancy food before realizing "oh dammit, that's right, I'm dating Dean Ambrose" and going to the dive bar and gorging. It's a bit silly because why wouldn't Renee figure that Dean would be going through the motions through the meal, but like, I get it. It's not totally silly to play with what a date could be and that's a healthy thing for couples.

But Renee's finest work on the show and possibly in the whole damn company came in episode 12. For some reason, noted emotionally mature woman Lana decides to take Renee and Trinity on vacation but without mentioning Rusev is coming along. We see shots of bored Renee and Trin in one piece swimsuits and the like and it seems like this is a big pile of nothing. Until Renee and Trin get drunk. Massive props to @totaldivaseps on Twitter for this art in our time. After a spy mission that could best be described as Solid Snake level, Renee and Trin go out to drink some more and Lana calls them up to ask where they are. And here:

It really doesn't get any better than that.

2. Trinity/Naomi - There was a cool moment in the draft episode where we see Trin being concerned about being split from her husband and also generally being worried about her career. This is really only cool with the knowledge that she becomes two-time Smackdown Women's champion and stays on the brand with her husband, but it was nice to see for once on Total Divas a situation where concerns turn into successes. After all, this season is pretty much going to be a case where concerns are not only valid (in the case of Eva Marie and Paige) but pretty much happen the exact way the person fears they would.

Which makes it all the stranger that it worked out for Trinity. Trin had already been more or less shuffled off the show and seen as a tertiary figure in the women's division and it did scarily seem like her days were numbered, which would be quite a shame for someone of her talent and charisma. And yet, everything worked out. The entrance that she's scared about nailing in episode 11? It's the entrance that got fans to embrace her fully. Both Trin and her husband hold titles in the company, hers coming from a triumphant return on the company's biggest show once again against all assumptions to the contrary. And she's a great sidekick to Drunk Renee.

3. Maryse - The great romantic friendship of Maryse and Eva was actually very sweet but also I feel real bad for her seeming dislike of contacts and glasses. But now she has better vision than you and better looks than you. (Note: The writer of the last sentence needs prescription glasses for his wild nearsightedness and got compared to Gabe Newell recently.)

4. Eva Marie - At this point, Total Divas is now a countdown from Eva's fall from Titan and rise into things like this celebrity e-sports competition where she promises to cosplay as Street Fighter V's Laura Matsuda:
It is what it is, you know. Also, I'm definitely covering that e-sports competition for The Holzerman Empire dot com next week.

(Oh, also remember when Eva Marie had the best gimmick in the company? Pepperidge Farm remembers.)

5. Dean Ambrose - Dude stays in character as lover of cheap whiskey and pizza. Total Divas Dean is a delight to witness.

6. Nikki Bella - I think I like Nikki Bella. Like, I don't know if I would be the type of friend Nikki would want to have but I think she'd be fun and she would probably enjoy hanging out with dudes not solely interested in her experience in the dojos of Ohio and Florida. She does make it hard sometimes, though, like when she's telling her sis "you just gotta eat meat or else you aren't getting pregnant, you weirdo". Maybe I'm bad at that stuff, but I also don't know if I can tell someone "change all your values if you want to have a baby." But I'm not a Bella.

7. Brie Bella - I mean, I feel bad before the inevitable ep where they're like "omg I will have baby" and then I will cry because I love idea of baby and then get in my Real Job and remember baby screams and I get sad.

8. Paige - This is when we get into uncomfortable shit so buckle up. In episode 12, Paige finds out about her wellness violation suspension, one she blames on not getting the test done in the proper amount of time. And for as much as Paige has been fairly dramatic throughout her entire run on the show, I'm hard pressed not to believe her. With the treatment, or rather lack thereof, of Mauro Ranallo, even scripted WWE programming has a tough time getting away from the idea that it doesn't understand mental health and stability. Hell, they broke apart Paige and Alberto just two episodes before, if we're just going by TD stuff. So now there's equal parts being uncomfortable because WWE is clearly exploiting the issues of someone whose public dirty laundry only gets more active from here and yet I'm almost impressed that this isn't worse? Like, at least Mark Carrano isn't yelling at her saying "get off this shit" or what-have-you. It seems like they figure this might be too severe a read to try and fail to turn people against Paige. Best I can say is that I'm sorry, because this makes me feel really skeevy.

9. Rusev - I should've put him higher, but there will be more weeks.

No Ranking. Lana - I got a Google alert on my name, too, but you gotta calm it down on the whole sour response to criticism thing. Also, not her fault, but Lana's move to RAW promised me some Nia Jax and that hasn't happened yet. Alas, the trap worked.