Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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TLC in Review: AJ Skips Closer to a Record-Breaking Reign

Going into Sunday, the result of TLC’s Divas Title match between AJ Lee and Natalya seemed straightforward.

However, backstage drama that put AJ in the hot seat appeared to change the minds of a few, who started predicting a title change. Could it really happen? Would AJ drop her title?

Watch the match below and see for yourself:

Before the match, Renee Young caught up with AJ (with Tamina Snuka), who as usual proclaimed her own greatness, calling everything from Total Divas to the division itself a joke. After tonight, she said, she would be the only one laughing.

In the ring, she and Natalya start quickly, with Natalya taking down AJ for a quick pin attempt. AJ kicks out and soon finds herself in a side headlock, but reverses into a submission of her own, wrapping her legs around Natalya’s neck.

Natalya soon kips up, but gets a kick to the stomach. AJ wrenches her arm by the wrist, but finds that reversed, Natalya flipping out of it and taking AJ down with a modified suplex. She goes for a pin attempt, but AJ kicks out at one.

The Divas trade momentum until Natalya latches on an armbar. AJ works her way to her feet, but Natalya stays on her, hitting her with a snapmare and a low dropkick to the back.

AJ slips out of the ring for a breather, being pursued by Natalya, who is stopped in her tracks by Tamina. This allows AJ to slip back into the ring and attempt a baseball slide. Natalya sees this and stops AJ, pulling her out of the ring and tossing her into the barricade. Now this is the Natalya we want to see: brutal and taking no shit!

She tosses AJ back into the ring, eyeing Tamina before trying to get back into the ring herself. She remains distracted when she hops onto the ring apron, allowing AJ to kick her legs out from under her, causing her to hit the apron face-first.

AJ brings Natalya back into the ring, going for an unsuccessful pin attempt. She then locks Natalya into a sleeper, which Natalya slowly powers out of, running the ropes and walking right into a spinning heel kick from AJ. AJ goes for another pin, but Natalya kicks out at two.

This time, AJ locks in a front facelock. Natalya soon lifts AJ off her feet, driving her into the corner and freeing herself. When she tries to capitalize on this, though, AJ kicks her in the face, dropping her to the mat.

She send Natalya into the corner, kicking her in the midsection and pausing a bit to soak in the crowd reaction before charging at her. Nobody’s home, though, and Natalya lifts her up, going for a bodyslam. Out of nowhere, AJ latches onto Natalya’s neck, locking in a guillotine choke!

Natalya has nowhere to go, so she tries to lift AJ off of her. She eventually does, tossing AJ over her shoulder and rolling out of a roll-up attempt, kicking AJ in the face. She blocks a kick from AJ and hits her with a series of clotheslines and suplexes, topping it all off with a sitout slam. With AJ prone, Natalya locks in the Sharpshooter!

AJ fights to the ropes, but when she’s inches away, Natalya drags her back to the middle of the ring. It looks like AJ has nowhere to go, but she flips her body around, taking down Natalya with her legs. As she recovers, Tamina distracts Natalya, allowing AJ to pounce and lock in the Black Widow! Natalya manages to escape by dropping to a knee, knocking AJ off. She hits her with a clothesline, and AJ doesn’t get up.

Seeing this, Natalya tries again with the Sharpshooter, but AJ grabs a handful of hair and pulls her into a small package pin. AJ retains!

Thoughts:, In my opinion, this was AJ’s best title defense yet. No one she’s come across yet has been able to put on as good of a match as this one. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though because hello: this is Natalya!

While this match’s buildup and Natalya’s character (again with the waterworks?) leave a lot to be desired, it is nice to see a great match. Tamina was used well, with her providing quick, plausible distractions that were enough to throw Natalya off her game.

Yes, AJ’s reign has been less than exciting, and her character could use a good freshening up, but I think it’s obvious by now that AJ’s holding on to the title until she breaks the record. Maybe once she drops the title we can get a decent story brewing. As well as AJ plays her character, there’s only so many times we can see her weasel her way to victories in the big matches. Six months of that has been more than enough.

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