WWE began the women's evolution in 2015 with Stephanie McMahon crediting the fans for starting the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance on social media.
Women were being given more opportunities in NXT and those opportunities eventually made their way to the main roster.
While the credit goes around to many different people and female wrestlers, Freddie Prinze Jr. believes the Bella Twins (Nikki & Brie Bella) laid the groundwork because they asserted themselves. As for the Bellas, they credit Freddie for consistently pitching stories for the women during his time as a writer and producer.
The Bella Twins appeared on Wrestling With Freddie to reflect on their role in the women's evolution.
"We do give you [Freddie] a lot of credit because we were down in FCW for so long and they were like, 'we just don't know what to do with twins.' We're like, 'seems like it writes itself.' It was your ideas that you kept pushing that I think it made people in the company see there was something special. The greatest thing was there was no social media and FCW didn't have television, so we nobody knew Nicole and I. It wasn't Nikki so much as it was me. They kept saying they had no idea, I had a boyfriend at the time who was like, 'you gave up everything for wrestling, at what point do you start to give back to the people who were there for you? You never see your family, I'm here alone.' I was like, 'that's a good point.' I was the one who pushed it. 'Let us know. You told us at Diva Search you weren't looking for two. We begged to tryout again. We drove here, we're getting paid peanuts, if you have no idea what do with twins, we can go somewhere else," said Brie.
Freddie credits the Bella Twins because Vince McMahon credits the Bella Twins. He continued the story, recalling a conversation with Vince before giving the Bellas their flowers.
"That was the reason, I know this for a fact because he said the words, that was the reason the women's matches started getting more time. The foundation that women are wrestling on today and other people have tried to take a lot of credit or maybe put more spotlight on themselves than they deserve. Ronda [Rousey] said some stuff that was weird to me where I was like, 'I don't know if you're as aware of your influence or not.' The reason women's wrestling is at where it's at today is because of what you two built and the other women you brought into that show helped also build. That's why there are women headlining WrestleMania, that's why there was an Iron Woman match in NXT and why all the women are allowed to do so much more with their bodies as far as work. It's 90% because of the concrete ya'll laid down," said Freddie.
The Bellas were regulars on television from 2008 to 2012 with both women winning the Divas Championship during that time. Their contracts were coming up and despite being on TV and winning titles, neither woman was happy.
"When we first signed with WWE and we made it to TV finally. We did a five-year contract," recalled Nikki. "We were on TV for five years and our five years was coming up. I remember at that point, we didn't like how women were treated in WWE. The two minute matches, but we were allowed to have 10 minutes at live events. What we were working on at live events, we could never showcase on TV and our stories didn't have depth. I remember when our contract was coming up and we kept wanting to talk about it. 'Yeah, we need to get to that.' Finally, we got to the point of, 'let's not remind them and see what happens.' Our contract is up after this one Raw and I'm champion. This is when I beat Beth and I'm like, 'I wonder if anyone is going to talk to me about my contract.' Sure enough, the reason why I dropped it to Layla out of nowhere is because I was like, 'I'm not signing.' They were like, 'We'll give you these stories.' 'You couldn't even have a conversation with me.' I was like, 'We're leaving.' I dropped (the belt), they still thought Brie and I were probably going to sign after the show and they kept calling. When we left Raw in Chicago, that was it. Our contracts were up."
Nikki continued, discussing how the twins wanted more for the women in the locker room.
"We needed to find a way to be treated like the men and treated equally. That's what we wanted for the women. We wanted to empower the women. We were about everyone. 'Who are we getting over today? What's the story?' We never worried about getting our shit in. We just wanted everything to be good and for people to be happy. The locker room was becoming so miserable because girls were working so hard on live events and getting to Raw or SmackDown and being so disappointed. They were losing their will and their hope. We were like, 'there needs to be a massive change here, this is not good,'" she said.
Brie picked up the story, explaining Vince's mindset and how they were able to pitch him on giving Diva's a chance through Total Divas.
"Vince is about putting asses in seats. He cares about money. The one thing Total Divas did was it showed Vince that people were coming to the shows to see women. It was more than just men. It started being young girls and women buying tickets just to see the Total Divas," she said.
Nikki noted that they saw the demo start to change.
"That's when Vince was like, 'we have to give them more time because people are actually coming to see them,'" said Brie.
The Bella Twins left WWE in April 2012, but returned in March 2013. "Total Divas" premiered on E! in July 2013.
Nikki explained how the twins were able to regroup during their time off and use "Total Divas" to their advantage in the women's evolution.
"We had 11 months off before we came back with Total Divas. During that time, it was hard, but we got a lot of calls from the girls who were like, 'you guys seem really happy. I want to take the step you did. I'm not going to re-sign.' It was some top women reaching out to us. We were like, 'Look, we miss it every week, but something has to change.' That's when we got the call for Total Divas. We had talked about it for two weeks. 'Do we want to put our personal lives out there? We're pretty wild, I don't know.' I had just started dating John [Cena] and no one knew and I wasn't sure I wanted that out there. We had so much to talk about. What really got us was, 'we can show the world women's wrestling,' because that's the core of the show. That's what ended up making us call them back and say 'we're so in and we're going to give it our all,'" said Nikki.
The first season of "Total Divas" featured The Bella Twins, Cameron, Eva Marie, Naomi, and Natalya. The series would run through December 2019. The Bellas would get their own spin-off entitles Total Bellas.
The Bellas last wrestled in 2018. They were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame 2020 Class.
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