Nikki Bella: Evolution is about more than beating Ronda Rousey
Nikki Bella knows exactly how she would end Evolution — her standing victorious over Ronda Rousey with the Raw women’s title in hand. The champagne is on ice.
“I will be popping so many bottles. I’ll be like the Dodgers heading to the World Series backstage. I will be very happy and it would be a massive accomplishment,” Bella said in a phone interview when asked what a victory on WWE’s first all-women’s pay-per-view would mean for her career.
“I almost feel spoiled thinking about it and I have chills all over my body, like OK, Evolution main event. That’s historic, two historic things. I’ve never been in the main event of a pay-per-view, I beat [undefeated] Ronda Rousey, extremely historic, and then I become the Raw women’s champion. For me, it means more than you can imagine.”
That’s because for Bella, Sunday’s match at NYCB Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is about more than her versus Rousey. It’s a chance to represent the women in WWE who were known as Divas, a word that has started to be looked upon less favorably as the division evolved. She said she tries to remind people “Divas” is not a bad word, but “we’ve made it a bad word.”
“These women who speak so badly about it, they weren’t there for it,” Bella said. “I saw firsthand the women that cried when they had something to fight for [when the Divas championship was introduced for SmackDown in 2008], the women that cried out of frustration because they wanted more time on TV and they were sick of being sex symbols and they wanted more. I saw women fight for that change and want to fight for that change.”
That experience is why Bella, the longest-reigning Divas champion, feels so lucky to be a part of Evolution. Her more than decade with the WWE has spanned matches with Victoria and Gail Kim to now Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. Bella said she hopes Evolution can move the talk from which era was better to just appreciating each woman’s journey to get to this point.
“I want that to evolve and for every women to appreciate where every other women has come from to make this one day so special and magical,” she said.
Bella and her sister, Brie, have enjoyed the opportunity to step into the ring with the women of this era — something that was not always a given.
Bella missed nearly a year from fall 2015 to summer 2016 because of a neck injury that required surgery, which threatened her career. She took another 10 months away from the ring after her WrestleMania 33 match in 2017 to fully heal from surgery. It has Bella fulling enjoying her time back with WWE.
“It’s fun being around this young blood,” she said. “I loved working with the Riott Squad. They’re three amazing women who have just these huge careers ahead of them. … They almost give you that kick of youth. Where you’re like, ‘Yeah, this is so fun!’ and it’s like awesome. They’re like my little energy drinks.”
Bella’s next opponent is Rousey. The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion has become the new face of where the women’s evolution is going in WWE — attracting professional fighters and Division I athletes, among others, to the division.
The build for the match has been done in a very personal way. Rousey has gone after Bella by saying she knocked on former fiance John Cena’s bedroom door to get ahead. Bella, in the most recent promo on “Monday Night Raw,” rattled off Rousey’s career failures and how disappointed her mother must be in her.
The two have used social media to fan the flames, responding to each other’s Instagram and Twitter posts. Flair and Becky Lynch have taken a similar approach to their last-women-standing match at Evolution for the SmackDown women’s championship. It’s been an effective way to supplement their television time.
“Not everyone is stalking our Instagrams and seeing what going to happen next, but I do think it can help elevate it a next level,” Bella said. “As you see, before we come out for our segments on Raw, they’re showing whatever you had posted in that week.”
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported last week that WWE was considering approaching Rousey about joining the cast of “Total Divas”, which Bella both stars in and is an executive producer. The shows’ ratings have continued to drop this season, reaching a historical low for the program, and Bella said she would welcome Rousey as a cast member. Adding her could help shift the focus of the show back to where it was for its early seasons.
“If Ronda and anyone else wants to come on the show, I would like that because what I always tried to fight for is ‘Total Divas’ needs to go back to being more focused on wrestling,” Bella said. “That’s something that no reality show out there has and that’s something we can do.”
She blames the dip in ratings this season on competing with other WWE content. “Total Divas” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m., which comes after NXT has aired and during the Mae Young Classic on the the WWE Network. She also said the show hasn’t gotten enough promotion and “no one knows ‘Total Divas’ is on.”
With the more negative feeling growing around the word Diva, Bella would also like to change the show’s name at some point.
“I feel there’s a disconnect, we are in this evolution saying what a terrible word ‘Diva’ is, and we have a reality show called ‘Total Divas,’ and it’s not fair to the women because the women on that cast work, I can’t tell you how hard,” she said. “When you are wrestling and you have to film, you have no life and you get no sleep and you are everywhere.”
Where Bella wants to be next is standing in the ring victorious at Evolution, an event she said she’s worked her whole time in WWE for and called being a part of the “biggest accomplishment” of her career. She wants to show women that “you can be from that old era and do what we did there and do it in this era.”
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve experienced three beautiful big eras of the women of WWE,” Bella said. “I’m just so fortunate. I’ve seen this evolution happen, and it’s just amazing.”