Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Raw Redux (June 30th, 2014): AJ Turns the Paige

So… nothing really eventful happened on Raw last night, right?

Just kidding!

Lord, 2014 is really kicking my butt (in the best way possible) when it comes to giving us a lot to talk about on Monday nights, and this week might have been the most Diva related items we’ve had in… ever? I mean… I haven’t even had time to pour a celebratory glass of Mountain Dew at the news Community will live for its sixth season on Yahoo which I didn’t even know made TV shows in the first place. Being that I’m going to have a lot to cover and discuss below, let’s keep the intro short this week and do our best Naomi dive right into the goodness.

Let’s start off this week with the most prominent story… Stephanie McMahon and Triple H opening Raw to discuss John Cena‘s WWE World Heavyweight Title win.

Just kidding.. again. This is the one place out there where that is definitely not the most prominent thing happening right now.

We see Paige walking to the ring backstage and… oh… oh… my heart just skipped a beat because the commentary team alluded that she would be saying something. A promo?! Paige with a real microphone? No headset? Grab your cameraphones guys, this could be good.

Out to the arena we go as Paige makes her grand entrance and gets into the ring. I start fearing maybe Jerry Lawler got too distracted thinking of her gluteus maximus region that he might have botched his wording… but never fear, she’s got a microphone — I repeat: PAIGE has got a MIC. Our champion’s first sentence is that she’s a woman of a few words… you can say that again. She normally lets her actions to the talking for her, but she’s here to address the Divas that didn’t feel she deserved to be champion and should just go back to NXT. She feels that the past three months of bulldozing the Divas down left and right has proven that she’s more than capable of being at the top of the division. Paige says that she has proven she’s here to stay, so with—


“Let’s Light it Up” blasts across the sound system and the crowd explodes like me when I find a useful Pizza Hut coupon. AJ Lee skips out and around the ring, looking like the most in shape potentially pregnant woman I’ve ever seen since 2004 Lita! The crowd erupts in “AJ LEE” chants (which is what I will say from here on out any time this other name pops up), but AJ drowns them out by telling Paige that everything she says is the gospel. This isn’t easy for AJ to say, but Paige did do what no woman in nearly a year could… and that’s prove her wrong. Lee claims she let success go to her head, and while she was the longest reigning Divas champ of all time, she shouldn’t have made as big a deal of it to everyone else as she did. She actually thanks Paige for giving her the slap of reality she needed to realize the error of her past ways, and thanks the champ while also congratulating her.

However… Paige isn’t buying it. She thinks AJ is just doing the same thing she did the night after WrestleMania, in trying to trick her into a rematch because she’s after some kind of poetic justice (note: this is way cooler when said with a British accent than when I type it). There’s one problem with AJ’s wish though… it’s not happening! Paige vows to not make the same mistake that AJ did, and the crowd erupts in a HUGE AJ Lee chant again! These devoted people are so thoughtful. Paige doesn’t think the crowd wants to see her defend her title, but AJ asks them and they all cheer against her! Paige can’t believe the fans aren’t on her side, but it also looks to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back because it makes her realize that she’s in this on her own and if she wants to truly prove she’s no fluke, she’s going to have to do it… so she accepts! Grab your granny’s pearls DD readers, because this title match is on.

The bell sounds as AJ pounces on Paige like a piece of prey! Paige scores with a huge kick after throwing her off, then nailing a few sick headbutts (Note: Heelish Paige is so badass you guys, I might need a sedative because this match is getting me worked up). The crowd breaks out a “Let’s Go AJ” chant now, as Lee scores with a pair of boots to the midsection but runs right into a clothesline. To borrow a phrase from our own Ravishing Russian, Paige ees naught impresst by the fans turning against her, as she proceeds to grab AJ and scream “This is my house now!” in homage to AJ stating that on the night after Mania. The flashbacks I’m getting between this and the use of “Crumpet” are almost too much to handle, but I’m trying to keep it together. AJ fights Paige off and runs forward with a small package! One… Two… THREE!

AJ jumps for joy around the ring and up the ramp while Paige suffers a breakdown in the ring as the roles mirror each other from the night after WrestleMania and I live for it. I live for it hard.

We head backstage to Tom Phillips who introduces his guest… Nikki Bella?! Sorry everyone, I’m a little caught off guard because every single time someone gets an interview on Raw I always think “Hey, what if it’s a Diva or Adam Rose or Fandango… or Tyson Kidd?!?” and then it’s always “Welcome my guest… Triple H… John Cena… Randy Orton“… you know, the people who are in dire need of a minute interview backstage or the fans may not react to them ever again. But it’s Nikki! Tom runs down what happened to Brie last night at Money in the Bank when Stephanie had her escorted out of the building after Nikki brought her as a guest for the night. Nikki didn’t think she was making a mistake… but before she can continue, Stephanie pops in and lets her know that she and Brie will be facing the Funkadactyls tonight! Oh wait, Brie isn’t a Diva anymore so it looks like it’ll be a handicap match… and it’s NEXT.

After quite a long moment of silence for Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan by Bo Dallas, Nikki Bella makes her way out to the ring… as JBL says this could be the first handicap Divas match we’ve ever had. Now I know a lot of you instantly know that’s false considering we just had Alicia Fox and Aksana face Nikki weeks ago… but HELLO… Shaniqua vs. Nidia and Torrie Wilson anyone? Don’t tell me not only can Nidia not get an alumni profile, but now this? Smh. Nonetheless, out dances Naomi and Cameron rocking their finest banana yellow colored gear as some of my favorite members of the crowd get down and shown on camera.

Ha! Heck yes at the “Slayomi” sign in the front row. Nikki and Cameron start things off as Cameron gets the early advantage with some catty tactics until Nikki fights back some a few shots to the face and an elbow square in the jaw. Nikki hits her awesome snapping jawbreaker to the knee, then slamming Cameron down until she fights Nikki B off and Naomi tags in while Michael Cole references The Bashams, thus further taunting me about the forgotten Shaniqua handicap match. Sigh…

Naomi gets a kick to the face and leaps off with a crossbody, then hitting the reverse DDT on Nikki for the three count as she looks upset about the victory over her fellow Total Divas friend. Cameron, on the other hand, looks PISSED at Naomi. The Funkadactyls are standing toe to toe and now engage in a shoving match as the fans start getting into it! The ref tries to separate them, but Cameron decides to walk off and leave Naomi high and dry to a chorus of boos, ugh, but WWE cuts the segment off. BO… LEAVE.

As Fandango vs. Dolph Ziggler is in progress, with Layla standing ringside, mind you, Summer Rae pops onto the ring apron in a hot pink dress… Dolph’s favorite color. She enters the ring and struts over to Ziggles, then proceeding to kiss him as Fandango looks on in horror! The crowd, however, loves it. Yesss Summer! Fandango begs with Summer to stop, but Dolph grabs her and locks his lips right on her mouth as Layla looks on semi-not bothered for the most part. Fandango asks Summer what she’s doing, but she walks out of the ring long enough to distract him for Dolph to hit the Zig Zag for the win! Layla continues looking kind of angry, but her face doesn’t seem to be mad at Summer so much as disappointed in Fandango for showing remorse when he caught his ex turning the tables on him. I approve. I approve so much.

Also, check out our weekly dose of Ravishing Russian, Lana, who cuts a great promo as usual but always manages to switch it up and fully entertain me like the shining star she is:

And in other doses of Stephanie McMahon this week, first up, she and Triple H open the show to discuss John Cena’s win at Money in the Bank the night before:

Also, later on, she makes her presence felt after Damien Sandow mocks her father, Vince, and basically tears him a new one:

And finally, my honorary Diva, Adam Rose, has… been given the task of promoting some sort of tea with Santino Marella and I want to cry but it gets Emma namedropped and goddess warrior, Thea Trinidad fka Rosita shown on screen dressed up as a bumblebee so I can accept it despite the lemon-y depression:

You guys… I have so much good about AJ Lee and Paige tonight I’m giving them their own category because it’s a special perk I granted myself the ability to go for.

The Good About AJ Lee vs. Paige:

Double Turn – During AJ Lee’s entire run as Divas Champion, I wanted her babyface. The crowd WANTS to cheer her, but the problem was that she and Tamina were basically the only heels at the time who weren’t considered to be Divas that just put the faces over so they couldn’t turn her. During Paige’s reign, I wanted her heel because she has the perfect look, moveset, and promo ability to be an incredible bad girl that wants to change the game of Divas in WWE. Tonight, they managed to (apparently) do both of those things and I’m just so happy about it. It really is all about the execution because if you had told me that AJ Lee was winning the title back off Paige two months down the road, I’d have been pretty unhappy knowing Paige wasn’t going to be getting a longer reign. But because of how fantastic the execution came off, with AJ providing a real reason behind her heelish actions and in turn, making Paige come off as the heel who fell right into the very trap she laid back in April, it makes me excited all over again.

We’ve been wanting to experience that same feeling of hope for the Divas Title picture that we had the night Paige debuted, and I haven’t felt it until tonight. AJ Lee as a babyface could be huge for the division considering the crowd will now be encouraged to will her on, plus the difference now is that we have so many other girls who have been built up as legitimate threats compared to her last reign. Outside of Rosa Mendes, Emma and Eva Marie (two of which will likely be rectified once Total Divas returns), each of the Divas has a legit role on TV right now that it makes me excited to see who she could feud with because the possibilities are endless.

Crowd Investment – That crowd! Okay sure they chanted CM Punk, but they also blew the roof off for AJ and made her title win feel like an actual moment just like the crowd did for Paige’s win when it happened to her. The difference though (and what I worried about at the time) is that Paige was an unknown to anyone who didn’t follow her previously, and AJ taking time off did her no favors in getting a legit feud to establish herself out the gate since WWE hadn’t really built anyone else up at the time. In this situation though, AJ Lee is an established Diva that the fans loved even when she was a heel, therefore will likely react to her even louder now that she’s a babyface. In turn, that can help Paige turn into the badass take no prisoners Anti-Diva we all know and have wanted since her debut. It’s just such a win-win for me that I can’t complain.

Paige only having a two month reign also helps her to not grow stale since we didn’t really get many feuds out of her anyways, thus it gives her career a lot of longevity that it might not have had if her reign would’ve went on with her just beating people left and right. The key from here on out though, is whether or not they continue to give these two everything we hope for, and being that (to my knowledge) Paige isn’t going anywhere, I don’t see why we can think anything less this go around.

Effort Given to Divas – Paige got more effort put into her tonight than she has the past two and a half months. It sucks to say that, but it’s true. The best part about this though is that her reign hadn’t gone on long enough to the point of no return. Putting emphasis into Paige now that HER world has been shattered this time instead of AJ’s is exactly what this girl needs. As much as I always felt AJ Lee was the babyface who could be a backbone for the division, I also think Paige is the heel to do that because she’s infinitely more interesting as one and her moveset works way better. I just really want to live in a world with more Diva promos and I hope tonight was the start of that.

AJ’s Return Not Leaking – How cool was it to be genuinely surprised when AJ skipped out? So many returns, even as recent as Chris Jericho‘s, get spoiled and leaked that it can sometimes take the fun out of big moments. AJ was the exact opposite in which various rumors and rumblings going on kept making it seem like her return would actually be pushed farther and farther back! I don’t know how she did it, but you go Ms. Lee.

The Future – And how great is it to have hope for the division again? Not only in this segment, but with The Bellas-Stephanie, Naomi-Cameron and Summer-Layla as well? There’s so much going on and all of it is being built up pretty dang well, but to me, AJ Lee coming back is going to be that extra oomph that really helps the division out in a big way. Say what you will about her winning the title again, but the crowd loves her and anytime you have someone the crowd loves, it helps everyone they compete against to get just as over as they are. With AJ now being a potential babyface, I’m so excited to see how they work out her having to team up with all of the women she ever so prominantly feuded with. Sure, they might ignore it and just give no reason at all, but with her talking about how her time off did her a world of good and actually delving into why she’s a changed woman now, I feel like they have such a grasp on her character that they’ll continue making things intriguing as opposed to days of the past where someone might turn and then just automatically be friends with the Divas they recently got done feuding with. It’s ridiculously exciting and while there’s still a chance it could all blow up in our faces, I like to have positive hopes for the best and there’s no stopping me!

Now that this out of the way, to the rest of the show!~

The Good:

Lana – I’m trying not to repeat myself about Lana, but she’s just… so… good. I think the entire reason these two didn’t go sour with the crowds on the main roster is because of her, and her promo ability is nearly untouched. A feud with Jack Swagger makes perfect sense, and to be honest, their segment tonight was the most I’ve been into Jack Swagger since he was ECW Champion so they clearly did something very right. It’s always the people you least expect to be able to pull off being a face or being a heel that surprise you, so I’m really excited to see how Zeb does in that kind of disposition opposite Lana. If tonight was any indication though, this is going to be extremely fun to watch unfold and I’m ready.

Dolph/Summer/Fandango/Layla – I’m so here for this. I’m not going to lie and say I was happy with how their match went at Money in the Bank because it felt like nothing really moved forward. Tonight, though, it all makes sense in that Fandango left with Layla so that Summer could turn the tables on him and make the guy realize that he doesn’t know what he’s missing until it’s being tongue-wrestled by WWE’s notorious Hollywood playboy. It really sets up an interesting spin that I didn’t think they’d pull the trigger on beyond live events, and god bless Layla for that reaction. If it goes where I think it’s going, into a mixed tag feud with Layla leaving Fandango, then her facial expressions are gold because she completely sold me on the fact she looked to be beyond Summer and more upset that after her huge win at Money in the Bank, he still showed concern for her when she looked to have move on to someone else. If this happens though, I demand one last segment where Summer and Layla whack Fandango with kitty litter and pour rotting milk on him as their last measure of revenge. And then Fandango can bring in my beloved Rosa Mendes as his next partner! To be honest… I would actually be really into that as a pairing.

Stephanie McMahon – Stephanie was Stephanie and I will always love it — no explanation needed.

The Somewhat Good:

Nikki Bella vs. The Funkadactyls – The ONLY problem I have with this is that it deserved way more time. I’m actually a big Bo-liever if you will, but I can’t help but feel like that extended moment of silence he did before them heavily cut into their match. Even when Cameron walked off, it was like all of two seconds before we were rushed into the next segment. Now given what all Diva related goodness we got afterwards, I’m okay with this now, but I still would’ve liked things to be a little longer here. Other than that though, I have no problems at all with this. Nikki’s getting back on TV and playing into Brie’s feud with Stephanie, The Funkadactyls tension is NOT being dropped, and overall I don’t have an issue with the split teasing being played out a while longer because I don’t want to see this feud get rushed. Maybe it’s just my shock at us having four legitimate women’s storylines running right now, but I don’t want any of them to end!

The Not-So Good:


Whether you’re a fan of AJ or not, or whether you’re a fan of Paige losing the title so quick into her reign or not, tonight was a huge night for the Divas. In fact, 2014 as a whole, while maybe not seeming like it week to week, has been quite a turning point for them when it comes to WWE in the big picture of it all. I mean, just speaking on my behalf, I’m finding a lot of these reduxes so much more fun to write with everything that’s going on that it’s giving me NXT Redemption vibes in terms of looking forward to doing these every week and not just going through the motions so to speak (also, my ruined sleep schedule aids in that as well). Plus, I’m starting to get Golden Era feels again in terms of every Diva really standing out from one another, as well as different roles and feuds being given to 90% of the roster. If we can just get some more of them a bit more over with the crowds on a permanent basis, we could be set at the best the division has been in years in my opinion, and putting Brie in a feud with Stephanie as well as possible Heel Paige in one with Babyface AJ could really help that out.

We’ve regularly been seeing two Divas matches per Raw and that’s not something that’s just been going on for a short time anymore so it feels comfortable to say that it could be becoming the norm. NXT has been delivering time and time again as well, and not only that, but we have FOUR actual womens storylines happening on the main roster alone and all four of them got development tonight. When has that honestly ever happened for the Divas? People like Alicia Fox have depth now where seeing them win would no longer feel like the apocalypse is near, and honestly there’s just been so many good things to happen to the Divas this year that I really stand behind 2014 being the start of something great for them, especially now that the crowd’s favorite is back and can definitely help out in that department.

If I had to decide where to go from here with Paige and AJ, I’d heavily start planting the seeds for Paige to transform into a heel with the reason being that she did everything for the fans such as “saving” them from AJ’s lengthy reign and the thanks she got for it was them still supporting Lee over her. She assumed that by doing what she thought they wanted, they would love her and when it proved they sided with AJ over her, she came to the realization that she doesn’t owe them anything. It wasn’t the fans who helped her get to where she is, but the fact that she fought and clawed her way up for the past nine years when they didn’t even know who she was. This could then unleash the Anti-Diva inside where she talks about how maybe it was her pale skin or her unique look that they couldn’t get behind because they all just want the same cookie cutter “Diva” mold, but she won’t rest until it’s broken down and she can reclaim what’s rightfully hers whether they like it or not.

Okay I’ll stop now… but I’m excited(!) and that’s a good thing so until next week where we might get a little more answers to all of these moments, I’m out!

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