Nikki Bella made WWE history as the longest reigning diva’s champion in history with 301 days atop the proverbial mountain.
During this period viewers of the hit “Total Divas” reality show got an inside look at the hard work and sacrifice it takes to retain such a high-profile spot. She took her role seriously, even in one episode trying to provide advice to co-workers like Paige.
The 31-year-old’s crowning achievement came in the midst of a Divas Revolution where WWE was bringing in new names from its NXT developmental brand and dedicating more minutes on TV for the ladies to shine.
The captain of Team Bella, which is also made up of twin sister Brie and Alicia Fox, surpassed AJ Lee’s title record on an episode of Raw only to lose the gold days later to Charlotte at the Night of Champions pay-per-view. She was proud of the effort and the daughter of Hall of Famer Ric Flair put forth to get the audience invested in their rivalry.
“I just wanted to give the fans a story instead of just do some match where we do all these moves,” Bella said during an interview heading into the season four finale of “Total Divas” 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, Sept. 29 on the E!.
“I wanted to draw people in behind Charlotte and make sure when she won in the end they were on their feet. It turned out they were, so it made us very, very happy.”
The first time the two squared off on Raw it ended in a controversial decision where Nikki retained because of “Twin Magic,” switching out of the ring with Brie. Since Charlotte didn’t pin the actual champion Stephanie McMahon reversed the decision. This added more fuel to the fire for their rematch, which had the stipulation if Bella got disqualified or counted out she would lose the championship.
“When you think about it we had maybe a week to two weeks to push this,” Bella said.
“So knowing the title change was going to happen I thought, ‘We could give them a really good match, but are they going to be that behind her? Are they going to think maybe she shouldn’t have gotten the title yet?’ I felt what we did that Monday night really got the crowd behind her.
“They really started to believe in her. As a bad guy that can’t get disqualified or if I do get disqualified I lose my title or counted out, I had to work smart [at Night of Champions]. So if I see a body part hurt, I’m going to take advantage of it. Then the good guy overcomes it in the end. That was the story we wanted to tell, and it worked out. We got them behind her. I was really happy with it. Don’t get me wrong. I miss my championship. It was a very lonely evening and in the morning.”
Despite exemplifying her passion for WWE on “Total Divas” and other shows, many online have continued to spew hate in her direction. She tries to keep the blank negativity out or use it as motivation.
“I ignore it,” Bella said.
“Even though I see the hate on social media, and it shocks me. It shocks me the rumors people start, that I have the title because of my boyfriend. If that was the case I would have gotten the title when I came back years ago and still had the title. He has nothing to do with it. He has nothing to do with anyone’s story or anything like that. He has zero pull. We talk about it all the time because it’s funny how people say that.
“I think where it started was for a year AJ had a voice on WWE TV and all of us on ‘Total Divas’ didn’t. Then Vince [McMahon] didn’t want the title on any ‘Total Divas’ member because he didn’t know how it would transition on Sunday night and Monday in case there was a title change and the show was airing.
“So for a year she got her run through all the girls. I was the only one she really didn’t. She got to say these things that weren’t true, but we didn’t get to speak back. So I felt like that is where the perception of Brie and I really started. She said things like we came back for reality show and all this stuff. It was all untrue. While this is happening, I’m working twice as hard to be better and improve my craft to become the next diva’s champion.”
Her goal was accomplished in 2014 at Survivor Series with a second run with the title. Not everyone was excited.
“It’s unfortunate that in this business people get more time to speak on the mic or on commentary and say whatever they want. They can say whatever like they want. They can write it on the internet, and people will believe it,” Bella said.
“There is a part of me where it hurts my heart a little bit. I give these fans everything I have. I give them my personal life. I give them my body. I give them everything I can weekly, and that is what they say back? So it’s sad to me. I hope one day they can look back and say, ‘Wow. She actually did try hard and wasn’t a bad wrestler. She is here for the right reasons, and it has nothing to do with her boyfriend.’
“I get it. When you are on a reality show that is top rated and dating this successful man who is in the same business as you are and you have a twin sister who is married to someone in the business who happens to be successful, I think that is where I get the hate. They say I have it all, but I have worked for every single bit of what I have. It took me almost nine years to have that championship and have a decent run. Not only that but if I didn’t really put my life out there and gave it my all, the [Total Divas’] could have failed. We wouldn’t have gone past season one. I give every day of my life to that show. So hopefully one day they will be grateful that I’m doing it for all of them.”
Bella is excited about the “Divas Revolution” and the women of WWE are being taken more seriously. Although the divas were getting more matches, Bella could see there were some elements missing to make it truly successful.
“It has definitely had its ups and downs,” she said.
“I think having all those tag matches, that’s where our downs are. We had so many girls in teams, why aren’t we having individual matches? I think where we got it up was the Monday of the reversal. It’s funny because I went to Vince [McMahon] saying, ‘I don’t think they are going to buy into this. I don’t know this will get much heat.’ He said, ‘Trust me.’ I was thinking differently, but when we did it we got so much heat. I thought, ‘This man is a genius. That is why he is Vince McMahon.’
“I felt like that turned up the ‘Diva Revolution.’ It got us to the point where fans were like, ‘What just happened? Now I want to see what happens.’ At [Night of Champions] we wanted to keep people hooked. So I think we are now back up and think as long as we keep telling stories each week. I mean these teams can’t be perfect forever. There needs to be something that happens. Charlotte can’t just get out of winning the title clean. Something has to happen. If we can continue to tell stories where fans don’t know what will happen next, I think that will be a plus in this ‘Divas Revolution.’”
The last few months it has been really nine girls in three teams spotlighted on WWE TV each week. Is there room for more in this diva renaissance?
“I definitely want Natalya,” Bella said.
“Why wouldn’t we want her? That is one of the best female wrestlers we have. I definitely want to see her in the mix. I also think before we bring up anyone else from NXT we need to make sure Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks become familiar to the main roster audience. We have people who are fans of NXT always in the crowd. However, there are the casual viewers and millions of fans at home tuning in who don’t watch WWE Network. So I feel we have to get the casual viewer familiar with those three girls and then we can bring in more. It’s so much fun because we can work on all these new stories with these three new girls and get them over. Then all of a sudden we can have another few from NXT come up.”
Moving forward to the close of another drama-filled season of “Total Divas,” Bella is once again at a romantic crossroads.
“When you put your relationship out there and the whole thing about him not wanting marriage or kids, then the exes come out in the woodwork,” she said.
“And it’s an ex the WWE audience knows in Dolph Ziggler. You see that in the season finale that when you date one man for many years, and he doesn’t want to give you certain things, that one wants to step in and be the knight in shining armor. It can get kind of tricky. That is definitely a reason why you want to tune into the season finale. Am I going to get swept off my feet by someone else or am I going to stay with my big, gorgeous, superman man John Cena?”
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Photos Courtesy: WWE/E! Entertainment