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WWE WrestleMania XXX – AJ Lee vs. The World

1959314_618870334854152_1264849231_n-642x320It’s that time of the year again! WrestleMania, and the 30th edition, no less!

Our reward? A 14-woman contest for the Divas Championship! So sit back, relax, and try not to be too outraged by the stupidity of this entire angle as we break down AJ Lee vs. the world!

WWE DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP INVITATIONAL

AJ Lee vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina Snuka

Or, as is more accurate: AJ Lee vs. every other female wrestler on the main WWE roster.

A statistic, for those of you who enjoy them: in this match, there are a potential 169 finishes that could see AJ Lee lose the Divas Championship without any involvement in the pinfall or submission. One hundred and sixty nine.

Boo this woman.

How, though, did it come to this? A 14-woman contest in which any one competitor can pin the other and the champion does not have to be involved for the title to change hands? How is the longest reigning Divas Champion in WWE history and her litany of opponents placed in such a stupefyingly inane ‘wrestling match’?

Let’s find out.

THE STORY

AJ Lee - Divas Champion

As of WrestleMania XXX, AJ Lee will have been Divas Champion for 294 days.

She won the title at Payback last year, in a pulsating contest against friend-turned-main rival Kaitlyn that many labelled the best wrestling match between two women on a WWE show for quite some years.

(Coincidentally, Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell were earning rave reviews for their matches in TNA at the time. An honest-to-God coincidence.)

It was an excellent start to what has become the longest Divas Championship reign ever, and for the first few months, her reign was a decent one, as she successfully retained against Kaitlyn before moving on to new challengers.

New challengers aligned with a certain television show.

Total Divas, an attempt by WWE to delve into reality television on the E! network by showcasing some of its female talents acting catty towards one another and generally behaving in ways that send out a negative, stereotypical message about women.

Not long after Total Divas premiered, something happened on RAW. Something that made many wrestling fans rejoice.

“Obviously the Divas Champion a bit upset with the amount of fame that the stars of Total Divas have received over the past couple of weeks.” – Michael Cole sums up everything wrong with how WWE perceive women in wrestling

Aptly described by the WWE YouTube account as a “scathing tirade”, this was the moment when AJ Lee secured herself as hero to one demographic and villain to another.

To fans of wrestling and fans of women being treated seriously within the wrestling business, AJ became a hero. The promo earned her a lot of attention from former and current wrestling talents who either outright endorsed the quality of the words she delivered or were effected enough to defend those who the words were aimed at.

To WWE, this promo established AJ Lee as the biggest female villain in wrestling history. Because they understand their audience so well, they ran with what the audience were thinking: that AJ was simply jealous of the Total Divas cast, because when she trained to become a professional wrestler she obviously did it with the intention of becoming a reality TV actress.

That WWE. Always with their fingers on the pulse of fans.

Actually, to the company’s credit, they did give the fans what they wanted to some extent by putting AJ over the Total Divas cast on numerous occasions.

But supposedly the aftermath of the promo was set to be more explosive; unfortunately, feelings were hurt by that promo, because apparently some of the Total Divas cast, who act on Total Divas, don’t understand that wrestling involves acting and that a promo like that is designed to be condemning so as to generate interest and conflict.

Never mind. Keep screeching, Brie and Nikki. That’s wrestling, we swear.

As the year turned 2014, though, the biggest crime of WWE booking was inflicted on AJ in the same way it has been on every Intercontinental Champion and United States Champion of this decade.

Lose a non-title match to set up a title match. Win the title match. Rinse and repeat.

As such, AJ has spent 2014 losing matches spectacularly when her title hasn’t been on the line, and then scraped through in the most ineffective manner possible whenever her title is on the line.

Which has led to Vickie Guerrero – a heel – booking her into a match against 13 opponents in which she doesn’t have to be the one pinned or the one made to submit in order to lose her championship.

Because that’s how WWE plans to make fans hate her. Finger. Pulse. Etcetera.

THE COMPETITORS

total divas

Generally, breakdowns of pay-per-view matches also require in-depth analysis of each competitor: their skills, their weaknesses, their momentum heading into their match and their worthiness of winning said match.

But how on earth can that criteria be applied to the majority of these women?

It probably can’t, but let’s try anyway.

Aksana. Alicia Fox. Cameron. Eva Marie. Rosa Mendes.

None of these women have any business on the WrestleMania card. They don’t have a reason to be in this match, and they certainly don’t have the talent or popularity. If you’re so inclined, feel free to swap the phrase “on the WrestleMania card” with the phrase “being employed by WWE”.

Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger and The Usos didn’t make the WrestleMania card. These women did.

Somebody inform The Shield of this injustice.

Emma. Layla. Naomi. Summer Rae.

Four ladies who have talent. They are’t particularly relevant or popular at the moment, but that is because they are victims of inconsistent characterisation, motivation, momentum, etc. The usual fare.

Emma, inimitable in NXT, has been reduced to Santino’s infrequently funny comedy-sidekick since her promotion to RAW and SmackDown.

Summer Rae has fared somewhat better since leaving NXT, given that she fits more with Fandango than Emma does with Santino. Still, neither she nor her dancing compatriot have been given much of a chance to connect with fans, especially since WWE stopped ‘Fandangoing’ in its tracks.

His fault, not theirs. Of course.

Savour Paige while she remains in NXT, because RAW/SmackDown Paige is certain to be a watered-down, vacuous harridan that is only as relevant as the man she is accompanying.

Hurray for female wrestlers that are an extension of their male clients!

Elsewhere, Layla and Naomi are also talented wrestlers, but simply aren’t relevant to anything going on right now at all.

The Bella Twins

Ah, yes. The anomalies in the equation.

Neither talented nor popular enough to justify a position in this or any wrestling match, but too relevant to the overall story of the contest to fairly exclude.

The Bella Twins are the biggest beneficiaries of two things: the positioning of their boyfriends (Bryan, the hot commodity; Cena, the WWE cornerstone), and the Total Divas reality television show that WWE focusses more attention on than the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships.

And given the relevance of Total Divas to this entire story, they are subsequently the biggest rivals to AJ and the ‘villainous’ ideology of working hard and caring about professional wrestling that she exemplifies.

They are reality TV ‘stars’ that care more about the possibility of Hollywood than they do about the profession they are employed in.

Cheer these women.

Natalya. Tamina Snuka.

These two exist in an entirely different section to the rest.

First of all, there is Natalya. Now, Natalya is quite possibly the most overrated wrestler in the world – male or female. She’s good, without doubt, but is posited as an exemplification of the outstanding technical wrestling that the Hart family made its name from; that, quite frankly, is an over-exaggeration of her talents.

Furthermore, she is just as content to turn her personal life into a spectacle as Eva Marie, The Bella Twins, or anyone else participating in Total Divas. Still, that shouldn’t be held against her too much since she is quite obviously good at her actual profession and appears to care about it.

As such, seeing her – a good wrestler who the fans seem to care about at least a small amount (if only because of her heritage) – win the Divas Championship would be palatable, although if that were the direction they intended to go in a singles match would have been far more enjoyable.

Tamina Snuka, meanwhile, exists in a story that is totally independent of the wrestler vs. divas conflict presented in AJ vs. the Total Divas cast.

He story is an unoriginal, but acceptable one. It at least has its roots in traditional pro wrestling storytelling.

It is the question of bodyguard vs. client. Tamina is the large, physically imposing enforcer to AJ, the arrogant, talented-but-susceptible-to-defeat champion.

Alright, so it’s Diesel/HBK. It still works.

In a gratifying world of logical storytelling, this abomination of a 14-woman contest would have elimination rules and result in Tamina eliminating a majority of the competitors before she and AJ are the remaining two opponents.

Tamina wins. The end.

That, however, would make too much sense for WWE.

AJ Lee

She’s complex, this one, as is the story of her career so far.

A lot of fans like to envision her as a single light shining amidst a quagmire of darkness, in the same way they once envisioned CM Punk and perhaps now envision Daniel Bryan.

That’s not the case. She’s good, certainly.

A decent wrestler, and in some instances very good. The best female talker in mainstream wrestling, when given the platform to speak. And an entertaining character with consistent traits, motivations and habits.

But again, her story is complex.

First of all, she, like both Bella twins, has been the beneficiary (and perhaps the collateral) of a boyfriend who is or at least was in a position of influence; the aforementioned CM Punk.

It’s probably no coincidence that she has recently extolled the length of her Championship reign; it’s also probably not a coincidence that she’s been effectively jobbed out since January.

But AJ’s standing, popularity, and relevancy precedes her relationship. As a matter of fact, the height of her popularity and relevancy precedes even competing as a wrestler and boasting the Divas Championship.

AJ was at her most popular when she was a borderline certifiable, unlucky-in-love, jilted girlfriend of Daniel Bryan. The process of her changing affections – from Bryan to Punk, Punk to Kane, Kane to Punk, Punk to Bryan, Bryan to Cena, Cena to Ziggler, Ziggler to Big E Langston – has captivated audiences to varying degrees for months and months, and for better or worse.

Again, this has the unfortunate implication of a female wrestler only being relevant in relation to a relevant male wrestler, but AJ at least tried to be an interesting character in her own right during all this. She was an excellent companion to Bryan and Ziggler, too, accentuating their characters rather than just existing by them.

As a performer in her own right, she has lost a fair amount of that popularity, though fans clearly still cared about her during her singles run opposite Kaitlyn, who they also seemed invested in for a while. One could argue that is because WWE put time and energy into making both women compelling rivals and allowing them to have exciting matches.

That’s just a theory, though.

Will she retain her championship on Sunday? Very little suggests that she will, although the fact she ships a decent level of merchandise (an incredible amount compared to her female compatriots) suggests she won’t be far from the spotlight in the near future.

Overall, though, this story has been heading one way for the past few months, and will probably culminate at WrestleMania with the inevitable conclusion.

Total Divas wins. AJ Lee loses.

And so do we.

SUMMARY

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But who knows? Maybe the powers that be will let AJ Lee win, since she’s the only female wrestler in the company that WWE fans have ever showed any inclination towards cheering. Maybe the powers that be will realise they have in their incompetence managed to make their biggest female heel the only sympathetic woman on the roster, and let her win.

Or maybe Kaitlyn had the right idea by getting out when she did.

Because look at the current state of the Divas division.

These days, AJ is a heel who is jealous of the popularity (except they aren’t popular), fame (except they’re not famous), and beauty (because of course that’s all that matters to women and all that matters about women) of the Total Divas cast.

What’s more, she’s their inferior as a wrestler, too, having won very few matches against any of them in the past several weeks.

For the past few months, AJ Lee has essentially been used as a way for WWE to send a message to their audience:

The women we employ are not meant to be credible athletes or talented professional wrestlers, they exist to be aesthetically pleasing, have vacuous personalities with shallow, stereotypical desires, and feature in a reality television show.

And of course, that show, Total Divasexemplifies the most important thing of all:

Women are only important in relation to men. Learn to live with it.

As for those young girls that dream of being professional wrestlers like AJ Lee (or the other few women allowed to be wrestlers), much like she dreamed of being one while watching talents such as Lita, Molly Holly, Trish Stratus and Victoria?

For them, here’s some advice: look up SHIMMER. Look up TNA.

Don’t waste your time dreaming about WWE.

About Paul McIntyre

From Gaijin Classics to Golden Promos, Paul McIntyre is without a doubt a one of a kind writer. No one possibly displays more passionate and thought-provoking work regarding wrestling than he does. With a love for championship prestige and Everton FC, he remains to be one of the very best writers on the staff.
  • Eric

    I goddamn love you. Fantastic write-up and an excellent job of exposing the problems with this match.

  • Sean L.

    I can honestly tell you that this was a great attempt to get me somewhat interested in this match, but yeah nope. The show is pretty much 6 hours start of pre show to finish, and this will most certainly be my in-show piss break/snack grab.

    That being said, I hope the Bellas win because honestly, who cares? I’d rather laugh at the IWC cry for a bit than have AJ as champ anyway. She’s probably the most overrated talent in wrestling today. ZOMG she doesn’t wear heels and have boos and at least seems to have some basic knowledge of wrestling and cares about da business a bit! WE LUV HER. It’s b.s and stupid.

  • George Hook

    Excellent analysis. Here’s my current take: AJ’s wrestling skills have been more about power during her reign than some of the high-flying, more acrobatic feats she would accomplish when first entering WWE. She still uses the Shining Wizard, but the finishing Black Widow has been more her trademark lately–to deadly effect. But more than her skills, it is her charisma that holds the interest of fans and that reflects her true beauty, as opposed to surface glitz. Her work as the “crazy chick” endeared her to wrestling fans because she was insanely believable: You can tell that she has not only polished her wrestling skills, but her acting acumen as well. But I’ve never been able to quite fathom what WWE is doing with this talent, and that has turned me off to the product in general (though nobody enjoys The Wyatts as much as I do, not to mention The Shield). After the pipebomb, AJ reverted to a stock heel role, with a sidekick to “rescue” her in perilous plot twists where she was about to lose the title, and she would regularly succumb to Total Diva nonentities in empty tag team matches after she got tossed around like some discarded rag doll (but once again, she showed her talent by selling these women like a pro). So it has been somewhat of a tainted reign, and she deserves better than that. Now, it is time for one of my wild pro wrestling theories: I imagine this Wrestlemania match being the gateway for the return of … get ready for it … CM Punk. Days before the event, we are suddenly seeing closeups of AJ in action with a mysterious ring on her finger … though wrestlers are generally told not to wear jewelry while wrestling. I’m not the only one who’s thinking she’s engaged to Punk, and that would be the prime storyline for his return: AJ in peril after she wins the match because of one of Vickie’s maneuvers (by the way, those two have been working well together ever since AJ’s days in the development league) and who rescues her and then proposes to her? Oh, alright, I know it isn’t going to happen … as I also know that AJ has to lose her title sometime, and if this is the occasion, maybe WWE can come up with something better for her role than some tired heel retread …

  • http://www.iliveforprowrestling.com/ AJ

    You’ve easily put more thought and effort than what will go into the match. I loved how you were both serious and tongue-and-cheek in your approach because you can’t take this match 100% seriously, especially since WWE isn’t. I think AJ retains because if anyone else wins, it won’t mean as much because it is basically AJ vs. everyone else. Doing a Lumberjill match would have solved the problem of wanting the entire Divas roster out there at once.

  • StarNinja99

    BOOOOOOOOOOO ON YOU FOR IMPLYING ALICIA FOX DOESN’T DESERVE HER JOB!
    That being said, you’ve pretty much expressed why this division is so bad to the tee, and why it seems preposterous to me that THIS I the first DIVAS title match to happen at ‘Mania. What it is is an example of how far its fallen. Excellent work here man.

  • Jevonte Marquis Gore

    The old days.

  • Ryan Frye

    Before I comment on the article, it got me thinking. Maybe, just maybe, since this match will be a clusterfuck no matter what… WWE could have all these Total Divas team up on AJ while the other Divas occupy themselves, at least attempting to wrestle. Their beatdown begins to go overboard and gets too brutal, signifying a double turn. Total Divas win, but they’re now heels. AJ Lee is a face. Where this would go, I have no idea, but….

    Yeah, that’s never going to happen. WWE has to have people watch this atrocity of a show. No matter how demeaning and sexist it maybe, it makes money from morons out there stupid enough to continue to watch it. So, who really cares about what maybe right and who cares about women’s wrestling? What they’re doing, currently is somehow making them money.

    Anyway, really enjoyed this, which speaks volumes of you as a writer. Absolutely agree with pretty much everything you said here, and was entertained throughout. Sooo, good job.