Though her in-ring career may be winding down a bit, San Diego native Nikki Bella remains one of the most polarizing figures in the sport of professional wrestling.
The 5-foot-6 brunette has had more than her fair share of backstage heat over the years. Moreover, some fans believe the 33-year-old’s relationship with her fiancée John Cena has helped elevate her standing in WWE, beyond what was warranted.
Despite some these critics, with the help of programs like the E! hit reality series Total Divas, Bella has become a star that transcends the WWE Universe. Furthermore, she has also gone from being an act that was primarily utilized as eye candy, to becoming a competent performer in the ring.
In fact, Nikka Bella and her sister Brie are arguably the top females in the company (when active) in terms of overall star power. The twins are also two of the most beautiful females on a roster full of gorgeous women, which never hurts in the entertainment industry.
Nikka Bella has been inactive in recent months and taking some time off, thus making it the perfect opportunity to sit down and reflect on her career thus far.
With that in mind, here are 8 of her best moments in WWE, along with 7 that she would probably like fans to forget.
15 Does: Twin Magic
Now that Nikki Bella has become something of a household name, it’s likely that she hopes fans remember her relatively humble beginning in WWE. Before winning the Divas Championship and becoming a reality television star, Nikki and her sister Brie were simply the Bella Twins.
Their first feud in the WWE was with Victoria and Natalya. During this period, one twin would hide under the ring when the other wrestled, and the two would switch places at some point in the match, usually without the referee noticing. The announcer would eventually refer to the switch as “Twin Magic.” In the early part of her WWE run, Nikki and her sister Brie were not yet stellar in-ring performers. The best way to see how far they have come, is to look back at the early part of their career as members of the Bella Twins.
14 Doesn’t : Dating Dolph Ziggler
Before Nikki Bella and John Cena officially became an item, the Bella Twin dated another WWE wrestler by the name of Dolph Ziggler. He is a five-time Intercontinental Champion and two-time World Heavyweight Champion. Ziggler and Bella began dating in 2008 when they were both competing in a WWE developmental promotion. While it isn’t clear exactly when the two split up, they appear to have called it quits by 2011.
In a somewhat awkward moment on the hit E! show Total Divas, Ziggler told Bella that he still had feelings for her and could give her things John Cena wasn't willing to, such as marriage and children. It’s possible the show’s producers put Ziggler up to the stunt to spice up the show a bit. Whatever the case, Bella is now happily engaged and likely ready to put her relationship with Ziggler in the past.
13 Does: First Title Reign
Winning a world title, or in this case, the Divas Championship is a career highlight for any wrestler. On an April episode of SmackDown, Nikki Bella defeated then Divas Champion Beth Phoenix (with an assist from Kelly Kelly). This earned Bella a shot at Phoenix’s title on an April 23, 2012, episode of Raw. The two women competed in a lumberjill match, a contest where other wrestlers stand outside the ring and throw either woman back into ring, should either competitor somehow end up outside the squared circle.
Phoenix, who was (kayfabe) competing with an injured leg at the time, lost the match by being rolled up and pinned by Bella. Nikki and her sister Brie (who was serving as a lumberjill) would go on the celebrate the historic victory in the ring.
12 Doesn’t: Losing Title After Only A Week
It’s been said that winning a title is easy; holding on to it is the hard part. While the validity of that particular statement is certainly debatable, it defiantly held true when it came to Nikki Bella’s first reign as Divas Champion. Bella was able to win the belt from Beth Phoenix via a simple roll up, but holding on to the title proved far more difficult. Roughly a week later at the WWE pay-per-view Extreme Rules, Nikki Bella would attempt to defend her title against the challenger Layla.
At Extreme Rules, the Bella Twins pulled off their signature “Twin Magic, ” and Nikki and Brie switched places during the match. However, Layla wound up pinning Brie, which resulsted in her sister losing the title. Kayfabe aside, the decision to end Nikki Bella’s title reign so soon was likely because the twins were preparing to leave the company. Still, it wasn't exactly a title reign for the ages.
11 Does: The Proposal
One of the most memorable moments in Nikki Bella’s career came at this past years WrestleMania held in Orlando, Florida. That’s when her long time boyfriend and fellow WWE wrestler John Cena finally popped the question and asked the stunning brunette to be his wife. Bella accepted the former World Champion’s proposal, and the two are now happily engaged.
Fans who have followed the couple’s relationship on programs like Total Divas and Total Bellas may have been surprised by the former Doctor Of Thuganomics' proposal. That’s because throughout the course of the shows, the couple hadn’t always been on the same page regarding issues such as marriage and having children. That being said, the former Divas Champion was eventually able to get her longtime boyfriend to put a ring on it.
10 Doesn’t: Leaving WWE In 2012
Based on that fact that she was featured so prominently at WrestleMania 33 back in April and that her reality shows is frequently promoted by the company, it’s fair to say that Nikki Bella is in good standing with World Wrestling Entertainment. However, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, back in 2012, both twins briefly left the company.
Nikki Bella explained her actions in Prowrestling.net interview in May of 2012, “Brie and I just decided that we needed a little bit of a break. When you’ve been on the road for five years, haven’t seen your bed for five days straight, we kind of came to a point like, maybe we can rest our bodies for a little bit.” The comment, while certainly understandable, doesn’t make Nikki Bella sound like the most dedicated employee in this instance.
9 Does: Winning The Title For A Second Time
Nikki Bella’s first title reign as Divas Champion wasn’t a particularly memorable one. Fortunately, for her wrestling legacy at least, she was able to capture the title for a second time. At Survivor Series 2014, Nikki Bella would challenge Divas Champ AJ Lee for the strap. With a little help from her twin sister Brie, Nikki emerged the victor and thus became a two-time Divas Champion.
AJ Lee would unsuccessfully attempt to win back the title at TLC: Tables, Ladders, & Chairs that same year. In fact, Lee would eventually team up with another WWE Diva Paige and take on both Bella Twins in a tag match at WrestleMania 31. While the Bellas would lose the WrestleMania contest, Nikki Bella would remain the champion. Her second reign would prove to be far more successful than her first.
8 Doesn't: Call Up Threat
Former Ring of Honor wrestler and podcast pioneer Colt Cabana made headlines back in 2011 when he claimed the Bella Twins threatened to quit WWE, while in developmental, if they weren’t called up to the main roster. On a 2011 episode of his podcast, The Art of Wrestling which featured Joey Ryan, Cabana stated, “They called up the office and said: ‘Hey if we don’t go on the road we’re quitting.' And the next day, they’re on the road.” If the allegations are true, perhaps the WWE didn’t want the gorgeous twins to get scooped up by rival promotions such as TNA. Cabana would go on to say, "If I call up and say, ‘Put me on the road, or I’m quitting,' I’m gone.”
True or not, Cabana’s tale didn’t exactly portray the twins in the most positive light.
7 Does: Winning The Teen Choice Award
Nikki Bella and her sister have done fairly well for themselves when they have dared to step outside the realm of WWE. In fact, they were even nominated for 2015 Teen Choice Awards, for the category of Choice Athlete: Female. They were up against Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Simone Biles and race car driver Danica Patrick. When the dust settled, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team emerged the victor that year.
The Bellas would once again be nominated for the award in 2016, in a show that was hosted by Nikki Bella’s then-boyfriend (now fiancée) John Cena. They were up against most of the same nominees from the previous year. However, this time the lovely brunettes would win the prestigious award for choice athlete(s) in the female category.
6 Doesn’t: Heat With Maria Kanellis
Apparently, Nikki Bella and recent SmackDown returnee Maria Kanellis may still have some heat from back in the day. According to a quote from Bleacher Report, the two had a bit of incident over Nikki Bellas ex-boyfriend Dolph Ziggler. Kanellis had the following to say in the quote:
“So we were all hanging out, having fun and dancing. I was dancing with him (Dolph). I was dancing with the girls. I was dancing with the other people that were there. So all of a sudden when I'm dancing with Dolph I get a tap on the shoulder and it's Nikki Bella going, 'what are you doing?' And I said, 'uh, dancing with my friend?' And she's like, 'oh, he's with me.' I said 'okaaaay, sure.'”
The role of jealous girlfriend is always unbecoming and probably not how Bella wants fans to think of her.
5 Does: Longest Reigning Divas Champ
When wrestling historians discuss Nikki Bella’s career in the future, they will likely agree that her second reign as Divas Champion was the highlight of the brunette’s illustrious career. Her second run with the strap lasted an impressive 301 days, which is the longest in the discontinued title’s history.
Bella captured the belt at Survivor Series 2014. Interestingly enough, the person she defeated for the title, AJ Lee, had previously held the record for the longest title reign. In fact, there was some speculation that WWE allowed Bella to hold on to the title and break the record, primarily because Lee (and especially her husband, CM Punk) parted ways with WWE under controversial circumstances. Whatever the reason, Bella will go down in the record books as the longest title holder, which will be an important part of her legacy.
4 Doesn’t: Beef With AJ Lee
On a 2014 episode of Raw, former Divas Champion AJ Lee raised some eyebrows when she said on air (during a segment with the Bellas), “talented is not sexually transmitted.” This was clearly a dig at Nikki and Brie who were involved in relationships with John Cena and Daniel Bryan respectively. Lee’s character had always been a bit edgy and appealed to a large portion of WWE’s internet fan base. Conversely, Bella was seen by some fans, as being a wrestler who got by on her looks.
In all likelihood, the comment was just part of the show. However, given the fact that Nikki Bella was the one who broke Lee’s record as the longest Divas Champion, you have to wonder if Bella didn’t see the kayfabe accomplishment as an opportunity for revenge. In any case, Lee’s famous comment didn’t portray the Bellas in a very positive way.
3 Does: Acting Career
Nikki Bella has made numerous television appearances outside of the WWE, a fact she is likely quite proud of. Most folks are aware that the Bellas have been featured prominently on E! reality television shows, such as Total Divas. However, they have also appeared on programs like the USA Network’s Psych back in 2014; they were featured in the episode “A Nightmare on State Street.” Nikki Bella also appeared as a celebrity at the 2013 Miss USA pageant. The longest reigning champ, along with her sister Brie were also presenters at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards. The stunning brunettes even have their own YouTube channel, “The Bella Twins,” which discusses topics like fashion, beauty, and health.
It’s clear that Nikki Bella is a WWE star with a great deal of crossover appeal.
2 Doesn’t: Battling Injuries
Nikki Bella, like so many other wrestlers, has battled the injury bug in recent years. After her historic run as Divas Champion ended, Bella took some time off to address a serious neck injury. She ended up having successful surgery and made a surprise return at SummerSlam 2016, having been out for a little less than a year.
However, she told People.com that she had a hard time getting other females to work with her following her recovery. She told People, “All the girls would be like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to re-injure you. That kind of took me by surprise because I was like, ‘Wait, what? I just had the toughest journey of my life, I came back in record time, and now people don’t want to get in the ring with me?” This was certainly a frustrating period for the former women’s champ.
1 Does: Getting A Spin-Off Show
Nikki and Brie Bella were featured prominently in the early seasons of the E! reality television show, Total Divas. In fact, one could even argue they were the stars on the show in the early going. Their popularity helped them land their own spin-off series known as Total Bellas. Total Bellas focuses primarily on the twins' relationships with their famous significant others, John Cena and Daniel Bryan.
The first episode of the show aired on October 5, 2016, and can be seen on the WWE Network for those who might have missed it on E! when it originally aired. Apparently, the series did well, as E! opted to renew it for a second season.
For those who are waiting on pins and needles for the second season of Total Bellas, it will air on September 6, 2017.