|AJ Lee, celebrating her second title victory.|
Judging solely by what occurred on RAW it looks as though AJ is going to be booked as a face. That would make sense. The reaction her return got shows that people are keen to cheer her, mostly because of how talented she is and because she carried the Divas scene for so long. Paige’s response to AJ’s return and the loss she suffered in their match was to look dejected and whimper a bit. It would seem fair to assume that she’ll try being nice about AJ’s entitled mean girl attitude for a few weeks before snapping and going heel, probably after failing to regain the gold.
Although Paige is a great technical wrestler she hasn’t managed to connect with audiences in her time on the main roster. She proved she could connect with crowds before her RAW debut (pretty much everywhere she worked, from SHIMMER to NXT). The reason she’s not managed the same in WWE is almost entirely attributable to her being given nothing to do but be a champion and work short title defences against challengers of the month.
A heel turn would suit Paige, basically. And an official face run would give AJ fresh things to do. Although the gulf between them is vast Paige and AJ are WWE’s most prominent and able female performers. They are the natural choice for the Divas division’s top feud.
But AJ Lee and ‘The Anti-Diva’ are not the only two ladies that are currently giving the division hope. Although they haven’t been the most exciting things to ever hit a wrestling show there are two other rivalries involving women in WWE at the mo: Summer Rae versus Layla and the (heart-breaking) splintering of much-loved institution The Funkadactyls.
The former was over the affections of love rat Fandango so it was hardly a great achievement for feminism but, on the plus side, it did at least see WWE’s writing team dedicating time to female wrestlers that weren’t involved in a title feud. That’s a step in the right direction (with either gender). Meanwhile the split of Cameron and Naomi is still in the early stages but every indication is that it will be awful. Though, again, it’s encouraging to see the writers doing something with female performers without the title being used as the impetus.
In addition to this recent booking has hinted at a showdown between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella sometime in the future. Perhaps it’s been decided that Triple H will sit SummerSlam out and Steph will represent the family in the ring. It’s unlikely to be a technical clinic but Steph v Brie has potential thanks to the heat Steph will bring. Plus I maintain that Brie is underrated as a worker.
|This is not the best use of Emma.|
These rivalries display a cast of Divas that is deceptively well-developed in terms of character. And they don’t include Alicia Fox, who has been cast as an overly excitable poor sport and shown herself to be a far better wrestler than she’d previously been credit for. It also discounts Emma who, brush with the law and multi-hour unemployment stint aside, still has the potential to overcome being saddled with Santino, get her NXT dance moves over and establish herself as a perennial contender to the butterfly belt and someone who can always be relied upon to churn out a solid bout.
Meanwhile in NXT Natalya’s reinventing herself on a developmental roster that includes captivating cheerleader cum fairy Alexa Bliss, the almost-certainly-not best friends forever Beautiful Fierce Females unit of Sasha Banks and Charlotte, the starstruck and naturally likeable Bayley, and the disappointingly stereotypical Becky Lynch. All of them are ready for the main roster in terms of wrestling ability. There are just a few wrinkles to be worked out in terms of gimmicks and characters in some cases. Considering the drought WWE’s women’s league has been in pretty much since Trish Stratus left in 2006 that’s a welcome sign.
With AJ and Paige on top wrestling for the championship, time being dedicated to non-title programmes, and a nice number of names waiting on the developmental roster the Divas division could very well be poised to become must-see wrestling viewing. That’s not something I would have expected to write six months ago. It’s a nice surprise.