Monday 9 July 2012

Girl Next Door

Last summer AJ was just another face in the flock of WWE Divas. Her lack of a certain form of enhancement and her down-to-earth, girl-next-door persona helped separate her from her peers a little but, for the most part, she was treated like every other female on the roster by the writing team. The lack of a proper Divas division didn’t help much either.

In short, AJ didn’t stand out and her opportunities for advancement looked extremely limited.

How times have changed.

Since being paired up with Daniel Bryan at the end of last year AJ has developed into WWE’s most interesting and unpredictable character. During the initial stages of the pairing it seemed as though WWE was going to present us with an abusive side of the then-World Heavyweight champion. Instead they had Bryan blame AJ for his infamous eighteen second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII and then kick her to the curb. That was refreshingly novel.

‘The Geek Goddess’ didn’t take her dumping well. She made advances towards CM Punk and Kane (who were involved in a feud with Bryan, natch) in the weeks following her dumping, and revealed that she likes it when men look at her. She flitted from one of the men to another, keeping fans and the men themselves guessing as to who she was most interested in.

Since Kane has been dropped from the storyline AJ has become even more of a focus in the Punk v Bryan rivalry. She will act as the guest referee during their WWE championship bout at Money in the Bank and has received far more screen time than any other female performer this year. That includes Eve, who was the recipient of a pretty impressive push in the first few months of 2012, current Divas champion Layla, and Beth Phoenix, who started the year with the butterfly belt and is arguably the fed’s most accomplished female grappler.

AJ is easily WWE's most successful female performer since Trish Stratus

It has been years since WWE invested this much time and care into a female performer. Not since the days of Trish Stratus and Lita has there been a woman on the WWE roster who is over as an act in her own right. It’s a state of affairs that has come about because AJ seized the chance she was given when originally paired with Bryan, entered compelling, memorable performances and made every moment of screen time she receives count.

If only more WWE contracted performers were afforded such a chance to shine and were rewarded when they took the intiative.

That she’s still tied to the WWE title scene makes sense for now. The storyline still has steam left and has yet to reach its natural conclusion. With SummerSlam a month away I think WWE should be planning to have this programme culminate there, or perhaps at Night of Champions a month later.

But what after that? Whether she screws one or both men (not like that, that’s a whole different kind of pay-per-view) there’s only so long that WWE can string out a title feud with AJ’s involvement, no matter how good it may be. There’s obviously no chance of AJ winning the title herself and so sooner or later WWE are going to have to find some other way to capitalise on her popularity.

The obvious answer is to move AJ over into the Divas division. As the WWE’s most over female performer in years she is a natural choice to headline a revived women’s league. By the time the company’s ready to make the move RAW will be a three hour show. That’s plenty of time to get the women’s scene back on track.

A brief feud between AJ and Layla could be booked to culminate at either Night of Champions in September or Hell in a Cell in October. From there Layla could have her role scaled back and Beth Phoenix and Kharma could be brought in to help construct a worthwhile women’s division in a three-way feud with AJ.

While we’re on the subject of making use of AJ why does she not yet have a T-shirt available? She has gotten into the habit of wearing either a Punk or Bryan shirt (or dressing as Kane). That’s fine to an extent as it makes sense for her character, but some merch of her own would help WWE (and the lady herself) make some extra cash. How about a T-shirt that reads “I dig crazy chicks” for guys and one that says “Do YOU like crazy chicks?” for female fans?

Just a thought.

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