Sunday, June 23, 2024

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Women of the Year 2014: AJ Lee

Every hour until the clock strikes midnight (Eastern time) and we usher in 2015, Diva Dirt will highlight – in no particular order – the women who made an impact in 2014.

AJ Lee

No one could stop talking about AJ Lee in 2014.

First, they talked about her record-breaking Divas Title reign, which surpassed Maryse‘s mid-January and extended all the way until April, setting a new record at a nice, neat 295 days. Right near the end of that reign (like, t minus one day until it all went caput) she made one last little bit of history, becoming the first Divas Title holders to defend the belt at WrestleMania. She retained it, coming out on top of a 14-Diva Vickie Guerrero Invitational that seemed designed to rid AJ of the belt. Her luck won out, though, and she skipped out of Mania with the belt.

That luck only lasted about 24 more hours, though, because the next night on Raw, it all went wrong for AJ. She was interrupted mid-promo by Paige, who was making her WWE debut. Incensed by the interruption, AJ challenged Paige to a match. She was so confident, in fact, that she put her title on the line. That, it turns out, would be a huge mistake.

Paige would win the title in shocking fashion, pinning Paige after hitting a Paige Turner out of nowhere. Stripped of the title, her “baby”, AJ disappeared from WWE television for months. That didn’t mean people stopped talking about her, though..

That’s because, above all else this year, people loved to talk about AJ’s personal life. This was due in large part of her then-boyfriend CM Punk, who split from the WWE immediately after the Royal Rumble. This put fans in a tizzy, vanquishing them forever to the first stage of the Kübler-Ross model: denial. AJ bore the brunt of all of this, people suggesting that her WWE departure was imminent too. This only got worse during her spring break. She married Punk, which started a whole new string of rumors about pregnancy and threw her WWE status into serious question. How could the wife of WWE’s persona non grata stick around? She couldn’t possibly – gasp – have motivations and aspirations of her own, could she? As the months went on, most assumed that she was, for all intents and purposes, gone.

But AJ had one hell of a trick up her sleeve. In a moment perhaps more shocking than Paige’s debut in April, she returned at the tail end of June, interrupting a promo by Paige. History repeated itself, Paige challenging AJ to a match with the title on the line and AJ defeating her quickly, taking the belt for her own. As far as AJ fans were concerned, all was now right with the world.

This kickstarted a feud with Paige, the one fans had been waiting for since April. The two would trade the title back and forth, AJ losing it at SummerSlam and regaining it at Night of Champions. A win over Paige at Hell in a Cell was the nail in the coffin for that feud – for now. Now a three-time Divas Champion, AJ turned her attentions to Nikki Bella.

Nikki, having spent the better part of a month torturing her sister mentally and physically, earned a shot at AJ’s Divas Title, and the match was set for Survivor Series. AJ lost the title in a very unexpected way, Brie returning to her estranged sister’s side with a kiss to AJ, distracting her and allowing Nikki to nail her with a forearm, dazing her enough to hit the Rack Attack and become the new Divas Champion.

After a few weeks spent trading insults seemingly designed to convince fans that these women really hated each other (talk of sexually transmitted talents, “phonies” and Instagram rants tend to do that), AJ got another shot at the title at TLC. Again, Nikki would bend the rules until they broke, spraying a mystery substance into AJ’s eyes and blinding her long enough to hit a Rack Attack, retaining the title. Post-match, AJ was tending to by officials, whose quick treatment prevented permanent damage to her eyesight.

This would be the last time we’d see AJ on WWE television in 2014. The kayfabe injury allowed AJ to disappear from WWE television for the second time this year. While this would amount to a few weeks of shows, the disappearance was enough to start another string of rumors about her imminent WWE departure.

But really, did they ever stop? It truly felt as if the theme of 2014, Diva-wise, was “AJ is leaving.” The rumors never stopped – they just adapted to fit the situations as the year went on. First, AJ was gone because she’s marrying Punk. Then she’s quitting because she’s pregnant. Now she has a bad attitude, and everyone backstage hates her. Now Punk’s open defiance of the WWE has hurt her reputation, and they’re going to punish her until she quits. She’s leaving after Battleground. No, SummerSlam. No, Night of Champions. No, Hell in a Cell. No, Survivor Series. Okay, she’s definitely leaving after TLC. Her Slammy Award acceptance speech – for Diva of the Year, no less – told me so.

Most Divas would kill to inspire that much chatter. Of course, no one would want to be on the receiving end of these rumors, though. True or not, it doesn’t matter, because they play directly into the vision many have of women in the WWE: they experience huge success, and they get a big head. They become a bitch and don’t get along with their fellow Divas. They get married, and instantaneously, their motivations are made inseparable from their significant others. This also gives them baby fever, and it’s only a matter of time before they get knocked up. Fans want to believe it, and so they will.

AJ’s proven that she’s more than capable of defying rumors, proving her skeptics wrong and carving her own path separate from Punk’s. That won’t stop the rumors, though, so let’s get ahead of the 2015 game and start them now.

Will she ever return? Will she have Punk babies? If she returns, will she finally feud with Stephanie McMahon? If she does, will her promos be filled with real pot shots? Will she develop the worst reputation of any Diva in WWE history? Will she get in a fight with another Diva backstage? Will she wrestle at WrestleMania? If she doesn’t, will she be bitter about that and quit? Will she quit after Extreme Rules? What about Payback? Money in the Bank? Will CM Punk’s UFC debut inspire her to get into MMA and leave wrestling behind? Will one of her t-shirts get discounted and give away the WWE’s intent to release her? Will those rumors inspire new rumors? Will we experience Rumorception? WILL THE DREAM COLLAPSE?

That should be enough to get us through the summer, right?

Come back at the top of every hour to see who else has been crowned one of 2014’s Women of the Year.

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