Last year, I wrote a story on this blog, “Why AJ Lee is WWE’s It Girl,” where I gave my opinion on what made AJ such a captivating character. If 2012 was the year AJ entered into the collective conscience of the WWE Universe, 2013 is the year that she rightly solidified her standing as one of the biggest female stars in company history.
AJ began 2013 in the midst of a heated feud between Dolph Ziggler and John Cena. Though she was an active wrestler, most of her time was spent accompanying Ziggler and new charge Big E. Langston to their various battles.
A few months later AJ would lock her sights onto former best friend and Divas Champion Kaitlyn. She realized her lifelong dream of becoming champion when she beat Kaitlyn at the 6/16 Payback PPV in Chicago. The occasion was so momentous that AJ tattooed the date of her win on the back of her neck. Their match was also critically acclaimed as being the best women’s contest the company had in quite some time.
The following night on Raw she officially severed ties with Ziggler. This would lead to a forgettable mixed tag team match at SummerSlam where AJ and Langston lost to Ziggler and Kaitlyn.
It was around this time that another big development occurred –Total Divas. The reality series starring the Bella Twins was a huge hit for the E! Network, garnering some of its highest ratings. The show drew criticism in some circles for perpetuating the longstanding belief that women in WWE are regarded as little more than eye candy.
This did not sit well with AJ. The Bellas represented everything that she felt was wrong with the Divas locker room. They were both recruited into WWE based on their looks and not for what they could produce inside the ring. AJ grew up as a wrestling fan and cut her teeth on the independent circuit before being signed by WWE.
AJ vented her frustration on the 8/26 Raw in what has since become known as the “AJ Lee Pipebomb.” Even though it was designed to be a heel promo, her words struck a chord with the audience as she received a thunderous ovation.
Not until recently did I discover that AJ was originally contacted to be a cast member of Total Divas. She declined on the basis that appearing on the show would not be in the best interest of her character.
AJ is a direct contrast to a Total Divas. She’s naturally attractive, but doesn’t possess the manufactured Maxim-centerfold look that WWE craves of its women. Her life is dominated by a love of wrestling, comics and video games. In many ways AJ is the most attainable and relatable woman to ever compete in WWE.
Over the last couple of months, AJ has aligned herself with Tamina Snuka. Together, they have run roughshod over the entire Diva’s division. This past Sunday at the TLC PPV, AJ successfully defended her championship against Natalya in a match that was lauded by wrestling critics. AJ has held the title for six months.
As a pure worker, AJ is probably right behind Natalya as being the best of the current crop. At times I don’t feel she gets the credit she deserves for her ability between the ropes. It’s no coincidence that she was involved in WWE’s best received women’s matches this year. But AJ’s charisma and verbal ability is what puts her into an entirely different stratosphere than the rest. I believe it’s the reason why she has held the championship for so long. They could’ve easily put it on one of the Bellas, but WWE recognizes that AJ is the complete package—looks, ability and a killer personality. No other woman on the roster can touch her, which has really been the case since last year.
Last week, the Bellas won the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year. The result was generally dismissed by everyone in the profession and the Seattle crowd booed them out of the building as they made their acceptance speech (the same crowd that went nuts for every mention of Brie Bella’s boyfriend Daniel Bryan). The only justifiable explanation for their win is because of their increased profile from being on Total Divas. While their exposure on E! have made them bigger stars to the general public, there is little question as to who the real Diva of the Year is.