Nikki Bella doesn’t care what you think about her personal life, so feel free to leave those judgments at the door.
This week’s brand-new Total Bellas picked up where the last one left off: At a swanky sushi restaurant in Hollywood, where Nikki was all soft smiles and prolonged hugs during a flirty reunion meal with Artem Chignvintsev. At first, it actually seemed like the chance to make eyes at her former Dancing With The Stars partner over rounds of sake was the Bella twin’s primary reason for inviting him to lunch in the first place. Shortly after they’d both been seated, Nikki asked Artem if he’s dating anybody, to which he quickly replied, “no.”
“You’re around a bunch of hot women,” Nikki pointed out. And while Artem didn’t say too much about that, he did admit people DM him “constantly.”
“I think you were in my DMs,” Nikki joked, flaunting perhaps her coyest grin to date. “Just kidding. I can’t even like your photos on Instagram without getting a crazy amount of hate.”
“Yeah, breakups suck,” Artem said.
Getting the low-down on Artem’s love life wasn’t the only thing Nikki wanted to talk to him about during their meetup.
“Actually, I do have to ask you something about dancing,” she began. “My mom, every time she gets a buzz, she always will text me about wishing she could do a Dancing With The Stars dance or performance.”
Continuing, Nikki said that since she and Artem are “such great friends,” she was hoping he might be able to help her out with the logistics. Plus, Nikki told him it’d be a prime opportunity for her to “get in insane shape again” before returning to the ring for Evolution, so the DWTS training would be a mother-daughter affair.
“I’d love to do it,” said Artem. “Seriously.”
Nikki was thrilled to get back to the dance floor. “For me, dance is truly a moment where everything in the world just turns off,” she said. “I love it.” But when she told twin sis Brie Bella about her plans to make Kathy Colace‘s two-step dreams a reality, Brie urged her to reconsider.
“Who are you guys going to do it with?” she asked.
“Artem,” Nikki replied casually, adding that she hopes her mom has “chemistry” with the DWTS pro.
“Yeah, but I don’t know if I would use him,” Brie warned. “You don’t think the media’s going to blow it out of proportion and make up all this B.S.? What if all of a sudden they make you out as a cheater?”
Unfortunately, Brie’s concerns were born out of more than just ambient paranoia. Back in July, Nikki’s public breakup from John Cena prompted an outpouring of speculation—on social media especially—about whether the split had anything to do with a burgeoning romance between her and Artem, who’d spent the latter part of 2017 turning heads on DWTS‘ 25th season.
“People would always make these comments. They’d write all this stuff on John’s page and then on her page and Artem,” Brie told the confessional camera, referencing those social media trolls who took to Instagram in the wake of Nikki’s DWTS stint and breakup last year.
“Right now, I’m just thinking about the future,” Brie continued. “I want all of our brands to be set. And that’s why I’m on my sister about not ruining our brand and everything we’ve built for the last decade.”
When Nikki relayed the twins’ tense interaction to Kathy later on, she noted the frustrating double standard.
“I’m so sick of people telling me how to live,” she said. “Because I’m a woman, I’m not allowed to go to bars and be seen with guys. But John can do it. He gets praise but everyone comes to me saying, ‘You’re going to ruin our woman empowerment brand.'”
(Brie encouraged more than one family member to be mindful of their personal “brands” this week. Her husband Daniel Bryan did not appreciate it, either.)
Kathy advised her daughter to try her best to “be OK” with herself, even in the face of negativity, and reminded her that what might have sounded like criticism or judgement from Brie was probably rooted in something much less malicious. “Initially, we’re going to try to protect you,” said Kathy. “But we’re gonna support you.”
Due to some scheduling conflicts, Artem couldn’t make it to Nikki and Kathy’s rehearsal in the end, anyway. “He’s in season for Dancing With the Stars,” Nikki explained. So, to make up for his absence, Artem arranged for two of his buddies to train them instead.
Nikki and Kathy both rocked the eventual dance routine, and the fact that doing so seemed to restore Nikki’s self-confidence was definitely a major bonus. “Next time I dance with Artem, if I like it a little too much, well guess what? That’s OK because I’m single and I can like something a little too much,” she told her mom backstage.
“Don’t worry what anyone thinks,” Kathy agreed.
The second time Nikki performed for a crowd during Sunday’s episode, her sister was right there beside her. In a triumphant tag-team match that saw both Bellas in rare fighting form, the twins returned to the WWE ring following what had been a three-year hiatus. Once the match was over, Nikki and Brie reconciled their differences about the Artem thing.
“I have to admit, this whole situation that I was getting upset about with you and Artem and mom and Artem,” Brie told Nikki during a shared confessional, “We don’t need to make a big deal.”
See how everything unfolded in the full recap video above!
Watch a brand new episode of Total Bellas Sunday at 9 p.m., only on E!