WWE: Why Total Divas Hurt Natalya’s Wrestling Career


Natalya could have been far more successful in her WWE career had she not been the victim of contradictory presentation.

Natalya Neidhart is one of the best women’s wrestlers in WWE at this time. She has been with WWE for a decade, having debuted back in 2007. During that entire time, Natalya was the one shining example of what people wanted out of women’s wrestling during a period when women were ‘Divas’ and were treated in terrible fashion.

Natalya was a women’s wrestler while virtually everyone else was simply a pretty face on a TV show. She has been one of the few shining lights on WWE programming, which has led to many people wanting to see Natalya succeed. However, WWE’s booking has caused her to suffer as a character, especially vis-à-vis their heavily-promoted reality show, Total Divas.

Natalya has been a regular on Total Divas since the very first episode. The program, which tries to blend scripted drama with reality, presents its cast in something of a different light from what’s seen on WWE’s main shows. Because of this, the cast of Total Divas, including Natalya, are different from their on-screen characters.

On Total Divas, Natalya comes across as a genuinely good person. She has a lot of pride in her family, is loyal to her husband TJ ‘Tyson Kidd’ Wilson, and seems very down to earth. It’s no wonder, then, that Natalya’s one of the most popular characters on that show.

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But this is causing Natalya problems in terms of her booking as part of SmackDown Live. On the Apr. 25, 2017 edition, Natalya led a group of heel women to attack the babyfaces, Naomi and presumably Charlotte.

The obvious implication here is that Natalya is once again a heel character whose job going forward will be to make life difficult for the obvious face characters. However, this will prove to be nearly impossible for Natalya and WWE.

In presenting her in this manner, WWE have created contradicting narratives for Natalya. On one hand, she’s being presented on-screen as a heel, someone whom the fans are supposed to boo. On the other hand, Natalya’s one of the only genuinely likable characters on Total Divas, one that the fans like because of her real-life personality, and not because of some scripted personality traits like those of some of her co-stars.

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Thus, the WWE Universe is presented with two different viewpoints of Natalya, one in which she’s a good person and another in which she’s a heel. Because of these opposing narratives, Natalya will have a very hard time becoming a convincing heel on SmackDown.

Natalya’s one of the few people in WWE that have managed to get over with the audience organically. She has obtained a huge level of fan popularity due to her own personality and the realistic storyline that has played itself out on Total Divas and through her social media accounts.

On the latter, Natalya’s out-of-character most of the time, and the people that have followed her like her for how she speaks and the things she posts about. On Total Divas, Natalya’s real-life struggles have made her into the most relatable character on the show.

She and her husband have had to put down their beloved cat. Natalya’s had to struggle with TJ’s injuries and how these will impact their future together. But most importantly, Natalya’s had to watch new people come into the company after her, most of whom were pushed far ahead of her, while she was left to watch from the sidelines.

Nowhere was this truer than during the opening episode of Total Divas. Natalya had to spent WrestleMania weekend essentially babysitting Eva Marie and Jojo, instead of wrestling on the most important show of the year.

This, coupled with the gradual introduction of new characters and her being stuck in the same place on the card in WWE, have led her to become a realistic and believable underdog that people want to see succeed.

This was proven earlier this year when Natalya had a brief mini-feud with Nikki Bella. This feud was, naturally, centered on Total Divas storylines, and the idea that Nikki achieved so much success because of her relationship with John Cena.

The problem here was that Natalya wasn’t being booed that much, despite being the obvious heel character in the storyline. Many people saw her promos and her justifications as at least partially realistic. Natalya had spent years training to be a wrestler, while Nikki had (allegedly) sucked up to the most powerful wrestler in WWE.

By the time this feud started, Natalya was the veteran wrestler that seemed to be overlooked constantly, while Nikki was in one high-profile match after another. It’s no wonder that Natalya could hardly be booed by the audience; her actions were those of an underdog and workhorse that was tired of being overlooked in favor of a prettier face, not those of a bully.

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This Total Divas-centric storyline had an adverse impact on Natalya’s career. She was meant to be booed but was instead cheered. This was partly due to this above narrative of Natalya’s, and partly because Bella wasn’t truly part of the so-called Women’s Revolution. Either way, Natalya was meant to be a heel but came across as a face instead.

Natalya’s short-term future as a heel isn’t likely to be very successful. When she first turned heel last year in her feud against Charlotte, she barely got any heat from the crowd. Now that she’s on SmackDown, that isn’t likely to change much, either. No matter how much she tries to get hated, that will be a virtual impossibility for Natalya.

Her perpetual struggle to be recognized by WWE for her hard work, both on Total Divas and on regular weekly programming, has made her into an almost Daniel Bryan-like babyface. Because of this, any storyline showcasing Natalya as a heel won’t succeed going forward.

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If WWE wanted to turn her heel, maybe they shouldn’t have put her on that show in the first place. Because by presenting a more ‘realistic’ aspect of Natalya as a person, they’ve made her into someone more likable and relatable than 95 percent of the current roster of women.