Saturday, July 2, 2022

Latest Posts

SmackDown Redux (March 26th, 2015): A War of Words

Welcome to the final pre-WrestleMania Redux! We’re two days away from the biggest show of the year, which would normally mean the Divas feud would be coasting its way to the finish line. Not this year, though. This year, we have a final promo featuring WrestleMania teams AJ Lee/Paige and Brie/Nikki Bella. Ever since it was taped Monday night, the internet has been abuzz: were those actual personal attacks? Did they go off script? Did someone body-snatch the regular writing team? Watch the promo below and judge for yourself:

AJ, after skipping to the ring, opens the promo by recapping her WWE career so far, reminding fans that she’s been everything from a Diva to a General Manager to “just about everybody’s girlfriend”. Most importantly, though, she’s been the longest-reigning Divas Champion of all time.

She says she loves the Divas Title, as does Paige, and the Bellas used that love to turn them against each other. She’s adding that to the list of reasons why she’s going to step up to those, “pampered, prissy, plastic mannequins” and beat them.

AJ then invites Paige to the ring, saying that the only question her mind going into WrestleMania is if she’ll have a partner by her side.

Paige comes out, doing a bit of walk-and-talk on the way to the ring. She accuses AJ of wanting to “skip past” what happened on Raw. She references her debut and first Divas Title win, claiming that AJ doesn’t want her to have it back.

AJ acknowledges that she wants the Divas Title back, but that’s not the matter at hand. What matters now is that they stick together, because when they’re at odds, they pose no threat to the Bellas. Paige agrees, but she says she can’t trust AJ and fears that she’s just going to screw her over again.

AJ assures Paige that this is not the case because she hates losing. She says she and Paige are alike. Paige, like AJ, is “stubborn, weird as hell and completely out of [her] mind.” Pleading with Paige, AJ tells her that they cannot let “the Kardashians” win. That’s enough to convince Paige, and she agrees to ditch the “frenemies” thing once and for all. Before they can shake on it, though, the Bellas interrupt, stepping out on the top of the ramp.

Nikki addresses Paige and AJ as the “compulsive liar” and “the backstabber”. She says that while AJ is good at manipulating the crowd into believing everything she says, it’s not going to help her win this Sunday. Brie says that’s because she and Nikki have a bond neither of them can dream of breaking. She acknowledges their short-lived split last year (GASP!), saying that she forgives her sister and will always forgive her.

Nikki knows that AJ and Paige want the Divas Title, but prays that AJ won’t get ahold of it again, because she works less than part-part-part-timer and WWE Champion Brock Lesnar. She says that while AJ’s been gone, she’s been running the division.

AJ and Paige, she says, remind her over every Diva in the locker room: desperate to be the Bellas. Brie concurs, claiming that everyone wants to be a Bella.

AJ facetiously agrees, confessing that everyone wants to be “D-list failed actresses” like them. Nikki objects to the label of “failed actress”. Paige follows up AJ’s remarks by clarifying that both of them prefer to be “the freaks, the geeks, the weirdos, the misfits, the oddballs.” Paige says that they’re not afraid to be themselves, inferring that the Bellas are.

AJ says that they are what “real women look like” (Pause here if you need to let out a scream of frustration like I just did.) and that they’re going to kick the Bellas’ asses.

Nikki says that she prefers “no labels” (*throws confetti in the air*), but says that a “real woman” stops talking and acts. She invites Paige and AJ to meet her for a fight, walking down the ramp. Brie stops her, and Nikki takes that to mean that AJ and Paige aren’t came for a fight. Nice bit of heelish hypocrisy there. I was almost forgetting that the Bellas were the bad guys, to be honest.

The Bellas retreat, Nikki saying they she’ll see those “bitches” at WrestleMania. Paige reminds her that they’re the ones who are leaving. Both teams pose triumphantly, making this promo a draw.

That wasn’t the only Divas sighting of the night. One of the other few pre-taped segments for the show saw Naomi at ringside, cheering on The Usos in their tag match:

Thoughts: No cuts! That’s impressive. I was sure, after all the hubub surrounding the promo, that it would be cut to bits, much like Nikki’s kayfabe-blurring promo from a few months ago. It’s obvious that this was written with more effort and care to detail than your average Diva promo. From AJ poking fun at herself for being “just about everybody’s girlfriend” to Brie actually giving a reason (hand-wavy or not) for turning heel again last year, there were little touches that aren’t normally there in the WWE’s usual broad-stroke strategy with the Divas. It sounded like a promo Diva fans would write, and that’s a good thing.

The performances were great, too. All of them came off confident, none sounding rehearsed. Nikki in particular impressed me, showing a lot of first. I guess that contributed to the rumors of Nikki going “off script” in the promo. It just goes to show that if you give them the opportunity (or chance, if you will), Divas can give great mic work and grab the crowd’s attention. Sure, it took veiled personal attacks to get people to buzz about the promo, but I suppose that would be the case for any mid-card feud that isn’t being built up throughout the show.

All that glowing praise aside, it concerns me that we’re probably supposed to root for AJ and Paige and agree with the things they said about the Bellas. Sure, this feud has blurred the lines a bit, with the Bellas making valid points about the unfair way they’ve been perceived by fans and their fellow Divas, but I absolutely can’t get behind the “heroes” dismissing their opponents by calling them “mannequins” – AKA women who have no function but to look good – and claiming that they’re not being themselves. That’s regressive thinking, and while I know that wrestling isn’t the place I should be looking for progressive, feminist thinking, I have to admit that that rubbed me the wrong way. That wasn’t the only dialogue along those lines, either. The crack about Paige and AJ being “real women” has me shouting, “THERE ARE NO *REAL* WOMEN!” Real women are short, tall, fat, skinny, all-natural, surgically enhanced, etc. Unless the Bellas are extremely convincing holograms, they’re real women too. Drawing the line and saying that they’re not “real” because they conform to the beauty ideal is harmful and just gives misogynists more ammo. Divided we fall, and all that.

At the end of the day, this feud has been booked really well: there’s nuance, excitement, uniquely booked segments. This match feels important, and that makes all the difference in the world. I hate, though, that the crux of the feud comes down to “us vs. them”, perpetuating the stereotype that all women secretly hate each other and aren’t “real women” unless they conform to a standard that doesn’t look like it’s conforming to a standard. It’s all very high school, but I suppose it’s still a step up from the usual Diva feud motivations: vague hate and a tunnel-visioned desire for the butterfly belt. Maybe one day they’ll leave the cafeteria feuds behind and put their big girl pants on. For now, I’m going to content myself with the fact that we have a Divas match that people outside of the Diva fan community are paying attention to. Now’s the time to deliver, ladies!

Latest Posts

Don't Miss