I didn’t experience the WWE Divas era live, which feels simultaneously like a blessing and a curse. Women’s wrestling has come a long, long way in WWE even just in the past 5 years — if we’re being honest, they have much further to go. But there was never a lack of talent in the Divas, and there’s something extra exciting about seeing these overlooked legends receive their flowers when making welcome returns during Rumble season.
This year, we already know many of the women’s Royal Rumble competitors, including star of The Marine 4: Moving Target, Summer Rae. Summer hasn’t appeared in a WWE ring in five years, so that alone is a monumental occasion, but this return has given us another gift; a continuation of her iconic Total Divas feud with Natalya.
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If you didn’t obsessively watch E! in 2014, both Rae and Natalya were regular cast members with regular screaming matches. They also feuded a bit on Raw, but Total Divas was always the better written show. At the time, Summer was the fresh faced diva, dancing alongside Fandango in a banger entrance. Nattie was already playing her vet card as a graduate of the Hart Dungeon (she may have mentioned this before), which meant she got to deliver the most talking heads on the show.
One of the best moments came when Summer came to Natalya’s house unannounced to tell her that her time would be better spent working on wrestling instead of gossiping about Summer’s attitude. Never one to stop talking shit about her coworkers, Natalya called Summer a stripper and a single 30-year-old, which earned her a slap in the face. That’s right — Summer came to Nattie’s house, insulted her craft, and knocked her silly. This was the best show on television at the time, and I’m not exaggerating.
Summer‘s last WWE match was in 2016, and she was released from her contract in 2017. She also sadly never joined another season of Total Divas, even though I would have watched at least 8 hours more of her scream-whispering at people. But Natalya knows how to hold a grudge; immediately after Summer declared she was Rumble ready for this year, the BOAT tweeted that she couldn’t wait to “slap the shit out of her.”
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) January 8, 2022
As things tend to do when wrestlers get on Twitter, the situation only escalated. Summer and Natalya have traded insults for the past two weeks, including an admittedly good bit where Natalya dictate responses to her personal assistant, complete with formal letterhead. Like all wrestler beef on social media, both women took every comment personally, and eventually, things had to go IRL.
When Things Go IRL
Nattie faced Aliyah on Friday night, after Aliyah somehow earned a four second victory the previous week, despite absolutely everything about her as a performer. Summer was there to stare daggers and flip her hair, which is honestly a better build for a feud than anything they’ve given Bianca Belair lately. Natalya controlled the match, but refused to listen to the ref telling her to stop, and got herself DQ-ed. In an effort to bring E! level drama back to the Fox Sports Network, Natalya continued attacking Aliyah to show Summer what it meant to almost be a Guinness World Record Holder. She was eventually fought off by Xia Li, as Summer presumably wants to save her energy for this weekend, and, along with the rest of the world, has zero feelings towards Aliyah.
It was a five minute segment that came sandwiched between more Rumble declarations and Johnny Knoxville trying to kill Sami Zayn, but I gotta say, I’m into this version of Natalya. These days, I’ve got to take what I can get from WWE, and their building any kind of women’s midcard feud feels like a breath of fresh air. Nattie is at her best when she simply doesn’t give a shit, and seeing Summer sit in the crowd has prompted her to return to one of her top talents, which is mouthing curse words on live TV. She’s never been an excellent promo, but her Divas moments always worked better than anything she delivered in the ring. She’s good when she’s messy; trash talking, yelling, getting slapped on her porch. Natalya sells it all like a champ. Following her match on Sunday, Nattie again took to Twitter to remind us all how she taught her uncle (the lesser known Bret Hart) how to do a Sharpshooter, before dunking on Summer some more. As her Twitter bio reminds us, Summer’s her biggest fan.
Look, this is the perfect Divas storyline. It’s campy, it’s soapy, it involves a fake personal assistant, and it’s playing out primarily over social media. My only regret is that we don’t get any car dash footage of them yelling into their phones, because that would really tie it all together. Cocky, imaginary record-breaking Natalya has always been way more interesting than the vague babyface they pushed as tag champ last year. As a fan of being petty online, I can’t wait to see Summer make her own Guinness World Record for fastest Natalya ass-kicking. This angle is significantly better for her as a performer, and it’s a believable way to loop Summer back into WWE relevancy before the Rumble. In fact, it’s way more development than the company typically sinks into returning legends.
The build to the Road to WrestleMania thrives on returning wrestlers. Where would we be if we didn’t get to see Jeff Jarrett swing that guitar to open the Rumble in 2019? Or the Hurricane lasting a solid 30 seconds in 2018? Or even the ill-conceived return of “Santina” two years ago? That one was rough all around, but they did it for the reaction all the same. The Rumble remains a fan favorite for the surprise element; it’s exciting to see old rivals face off, or former tag members find themselves teaming up again. Yet it’s rare to get storylines pre-planned for the Rumble match itself, without milking it for all it’s worth as a one-on-one preshow match. And a feud created specifically for a one-off return appearance, weeks before she even makes a comeback to a WWE screen? Who else but Summer Rae to receive that treatment?