They’ve had quite a career. The recent season finale of Total Bellas confirmed what we have suspected for quite some time: The Bella Twins are officially retiring from professional wrestling. Since August 29, 2008, The Bella Twins – consisting of Brie and Nikki Bella – have been members of the WWE main roster; working around the world, winning championships and creating headlines. They’ve had reality TV shows – regularly drawing in millions of viewers. They have drawn mainstream attention; John Cena proposing to Nikki Bella was even brought up in Congress and made national news. No matter your view of the Bellas, they have left their mark and have each had impressive, Hall of Fame worthy careers – careers that played a part in the WWE Women’s Division becoming the force that it is today. With all of this being said, let us pay tribute to the careers of the Total Divas, Nikki & Brie Bella. If you are on the side of the fence opposed to the Bella Twins, you might want to look away.
Brie Bella debuted on the August 29th, 2008 edition of Smackdown – where she scored an upset victory over Victoria. This took place just over a year after they were both signed to developmental deals down in FCW – where they worked with the likes of Natalya and Alicia Fox. Not too long after, Brie began the “Twin Magic” gimmick; where she would roll under the ring, when low on stamina and Nikki Bella would switch places with her, creating the illusion (because they were actually identical back then) that Brie had miraculously returned to full health. This wasn’t a health cheat out of a video game, however, and we soon learned that there were two Bellas. This would eventually lead to the twins aligning with the team of Carlito and Primo Colon. The alliance would not last too long, however, as Nikki eventually turned heel and aligned herself with John Morrison and The Miz, whilst Brie remained with the Colons. This would not be the last time a Bella turned on the other – Bella turns would become something of a trademark.
By April of 2009, the Bellas were now on Monday Night RAW. Immediately after being drafted, Nikki returned to being a face and realigned with her twin. This would prove to be a short-lived stint, however, as they were deemed extreme enough to join WWE’s version of ECW. It was around this time that they both entered into a short feud with Katie Lea Burchill, where they returned to using Twin Magic to win matches. Once more, they were again traded back to RAW in the fall of 2009. Nikki earned her first shot at the Divas Championship after winning a “Divas Battle Royal”. Then champion, Eve Torres, pinned Nikki on the 7th March 2011 edition of RAW. It wouldn’t be long before Brie earned her own opportunity to take on Eve. Whereas Nikki failed, Brie succeeded – earning the Bellas the first of many reigns with the title. Brie’s reign would only last 70 days, however, and after losing the Divas Championship to Kelly Kelly – and failing to regain the championship in the subsequent rematch – the Bellas returned to tag team action and backstage segments, where they would often bicker from opposite sides – they even bickered over a certain Daniel Bryan who would, of course, go on to marry Brie Bella. By the end of April in 2012, Brie and Nikki had departed the company and began a brief tenure on the independent circuit, where they mostly worked as valets.
They opted not to become grizzled indie veterans, however, and soon returned to WWE television on March 11, 2013. It was during their second stint in the company where they became the power couple that they are today. Numerous Divas Championships (three in total), great feuds with AJ Lee the “anti-diva” and arguably their greatest rival, and last but not least Total Divas. Brie and Nikki had a pretty noteworthy feud with each other throughout much of 2014 – involving Stephanie McMahon – and it was during this feud that Nikki Bella became the more recognizable of the two; as the top heel in all of women’s wrestling. Nikki’s performance as top heel led to her being ranked No. 1 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Female 50 and Rolling Stone Magazine’s Diva of the Year in 2015. The two of them jointly won Choice Female Athlete at Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards, confirming their appeal to the younger, teen audience. It was also during this second stint that Nikki Bella became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history – a feat which can now, of course, never be surpassed – with the title’s retirement.
With the retirement of the Divas Championship came the end of the Divas era of women’s wrestling in WWE, and with the end of the Divas era came the phasing out of the Bella Twins. They no longer featured regularly on WWE television and have only wrestled a handful of matches in the years since – most notably the WrestleMania match of John Cena and Nikki Bella versus the team of Miz and Maryse, a match which culminated in John Cena’s touching proposal to Nikki (a proposal which didn’t amount to anything other than nationwide exposure). However, The Bellas have become somewhat revered by those within the company. Whereas others perhaps did more to pave the way for women’s wrestling, it is the Bella Twins who gain most of the credit. It is the Bellas who (perhaps most) drew in new, casual female fans. It is the Bellas who feature throughout the world of entertainment, with Nikki having recently been a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Whereas Nikki has chosen the role of public star, Brie is more reserved – happily married (to current WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, no less) and the mother of nearly two-year-old daughter, Birdie Joe Danielson.
As polarising as the Bellas are to WWE and wrestling fans in general, they represent an entire era of women’s wrestling and – with the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, AJ Lee, Victoria, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix and so forth before them – played their part in women’s wrestling becoming more than just two minute long, eye candy matches; matches designed to provide fans with the opportunity to take a toilet break. Both Bellas became good workers with time; each worked hard to improve, both suffered through injuries (Nikki herniated a disc in her neck, for example) and both gave years of their life to try and entertain audiences. They have both earned a happy retirement and will rightfully enter the Hall of Fame one day. So whereas we are in a new era of women’s wrestling – one with longer, more entertaining matches and with more compelling, less reality television driven personas – it is worth remembering the Bellas’ contribution to wrestling. Look back on the years and try to remember what they gave to entertain. Just remember: you can look, but you can’t touch.