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Nikki Bella’s dominant and legendary WWE career spans more than a decade. Even after her in-ring retirement, she’s still managing to send shockwaves through the entertainment industry. The multitalented star is a WWE Hall of Famer, a model, businesswoman, and television star. But how did she become the recognizable star that she is today?
Nikki’s WWE career was much more than celebrity appearances and looking good for the camera. She dominated the Women's division and helped inspire a new generation of females in wrestling that put more emphasis on talent than looks. It's no surprise that Nikki and her twin sister, Brie, best known as the Bella Twins, were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
In August of 2008 on an episode of "Smackdown," Brie debuted in a winning effort against Victoria. Over the course of the next few weeks, Brie would have a series of matches against both Victoria and Natalya. During those matches, Brie would roll underneath the ring when she was in danger of losing and seemed to reemerge as a totally healthy and recharged version of herself.
Fans didn’t have to wonder how this was possible for long. During an October episode of "Smackdown," both Nikki and Brie were pulled out from under the ring proving that there were indeed two identical Bella Twins. The duo attacked Natalya and Victoria and were triumphant in their debut tag-team match against them.
Throughout the next few years, the Bellas were involved in various on-screen romance storylines with the likes of the Colons, John Morrison, The Miz, and Daniel Bryan. The Bellas were an established and credible tag team duo in the WWE Women’s division and held their own on every show they were moved to, including the WWE reboot of ECW and the early days of NXT.
In February of 2011, Nikki picked up her first major win when she won a Battle Royale to become the number one contender for the Divas Championship. Although she went on to lose the match to Eve Torres the following month, she helped her sister win the Championship the next week. Brie’s reign lasted 70 days before she eventually lost the title to Kelly Kelly.
The twins continued to hold their own in the Women’s division for the next year. Then in April of 2012, Nikki defeated Beth Phoenix in a Lumberjill match to win her first WWE title. Nikki’s reign lasted only one week when Brie was pinned messing up their signature “Twin Magic” switch.
The twins left WWE for a year before returning in 2013. Around that time, the Total Divas reality TV show was debuting on E!. The series gave fans unprecedented access into the lives of WWE’s top female performers outside the ring and the Bellas were widely considered the stars of the show.
In 2014, Brie became involved in her husband Daniel Bryan’s on-screen storyline. During this feud, Brie slapped Stephanie McMahon in the face and quit the company to avoid being fired for helping her husband try to keep the WWE Championship. Stephanie proceeded to put Nikki in a series of handicap matches as punishment for her sister leaving. Later that month, a match was set up between Brie and McMahon.
In a shocking turn of events, Nikki would turn on her own sister, which allowed McMahon to pick up the win against Brie at Summerslam that year. The two sisters would feud for a few months before eventually making up. Nikki would go on to receive a title match against then-current Divas champion AJ Lee at Survivor Series. Nikki would win that match to become a two-time Divas Champion. This reign would end up becoming the longest of all Divas Champions in WWE history with successful title defenses against the likes of Charlotte Flair, Paige and Naomi.
At Hell in a Cell in 2015, Nikki would finally lose the title to Charlotte Flair, ending her legendary reign at 301 days.
Nikki then made appearances as often as she could in the WWE but was eventually sidelined with a serious neck injury. Although she returned a few times since then, most matches have been one-off opportunities. For example, she placed second in the inaugural Woman’s Royal Rumble in 2018.
However, Nikki's true legacy as a Superstar is her determination and toughness in and out of the ring. She didn’t let her injuries limit or stop her career and she was able to accomplish legendary feats while inspiring young women everywhere. She also helped craft the WWE into a place more welcoming of female Superstars.
Although we haven’t seen the last of Nikki in the WWE, she is also focused on her multiple business ventures outside the ring like her clothing brand, her wine brand and, of course, her television appearances. Next up, the longest reigning Divas Champion in WWE history is joining the USA Network to host the upcoming game show, "Barmageddon." The series features celebrities competing against each other in variations of classic bar games like cornhole and darts with Carson Daly playing bartender at Blake Shelton's Ole Red restaurant and live music venue in Nashville.
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