Nikki Bella and John Cena break up in the first moments of this week’s Total Bellas, and the rest of the episode is dedicated to Nikki figuring out why. The reasons, as we saw last week, are obvious on the surface — Nikki feels as though she’s sacrificing motherhood for marriage — though the real reckoning comes after, when the shockwaves of the breakup force Nikki to take stock of her life and realize she’s somewhat unhappy for reasons that have nothing to do with the man she loves.
Fittingly, there’s very little of Cena in this episode: The two split up in the beginning, and he resurfaces at the end, though the opening scene includes more of their breakup talk than we saw last week and gives Cena some room to process the decision. He is as kind as he could possibly be — he doesn’t see it as Nikki making one choice over another and couldn’t live with himself if he allowed her to think of her decision in that way. He is also impressively pragmatic through his sadness, agreeing to do the heavy lifting in terms of notifying the relevant parties.
After their tearful breakup, Cena leaves the episode and we get our first extended glimpse of what Nikki Bella is like without John Cena in her life. Minor breaks aside, this is the first time we’ve seen Nikki without her man since she first went into reality TV five years ago, and she’s as thrown by the experience as we are. Naturally, the Bella family rallies to her side: Mama Bella tells Nikki she’s made a mature, if difficult, decision, and Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan scout a house in San Diego that will allow Brie to be closer to her sister through the hard times. Despite her loved ones’ proximity, Nikki still feels rather alone and doesn’t know who she is anymore.
The feeling doesn’t have everything to do with being single for the first time in a long time, though that’s a big part of it. As Nikki works through the breakup, she concludes that living in the public eye as the fiancée of a famous man and the star of several TV shows has somewhat dampened her individual expression, to the point she’s recognized more as Cena’s girlfriend than for her own accomplishments. With so many masters to serve and an image to uphold, Nicole, the person with thoughts and feelings of her own, has taken a backseat to Nikki, the people-pleasing celebrity with the movie star boyfriend. None of this is Cena’s fault, of course, but she believes this mentality infiltrated their relationship all the same. The breakup isn’t just difficult because she’s losing the man she loves, but also because she’s expressing her own thoughts and desires for the first time in a long time.
Of course, all this is coming at a terribly inconvenient time, as the Bellas have almost never been busier. Brie is entering the final stages of her return, designing new gear and having her hair done to match the classic style; Bryan is one doctor’s visit away from getting the green light on his own comeback; and, to top it off, Raw 25 is approaching, and with it comes an unavoidable confrontation between Nikki and Cena.
The meeting happens mostly without incident. They clearly miss each other. Cena maintains a respectful distance, but given that most of the WWE community doesn’t know about the breakup, Nikki finds she has to maintain a façade all over again. Having just gone through all that personal growth, that’s one favor too many to ask of her. So, after the Bellas have their moment on stage and pose with WWE’s female veterans and Legends, Nikki maintains control in the only way left available to her: She leaves.
Watch all-new episodes of Total Bellas Sunday nights at 9/8 C on E!.