It almost seems a given that the most spotlighted female performer in the biggest wrestling company in the world would have had “a good half year”. Certainly from an exposure perspective, it’s pretty much impossible to have had a better six months than the so-called “Geek Goddess” – as she has starred in a major role in one of the company’s top storylines, and been a focal point of feuds surrounding both the World and WWE Championships. For AJ though, as we discussed recently, her rise to prominence has been not as a wrestler – but as a character. And what a character she has been.
It’s technically just outside of the six month assessment period for this article, but Monday Night Raw this past week had AJ all over the show. She had multiple backstage vignettes, wrestled during the ten o’clock quarter hour in a fairly random mixed tag match (and won), and closed the overrun quarter with a deeply disturbing new level in her “crazy chick” gimmick when she threatened to put herself through a table in order to get attention. The final shot viewers had was AJ on the ropes, chanting “YES! YES! YES!”. WWE believe they’ve got something special with AJ, and we’re very much in agreement. Her ability to take what could have been (and probably was going to be) a nothing happening storyline and make her personal performances so compelling that the company is building *entire storylines* around her is to be commended. I’ve heard on many occasions about how Vince McMahon likes to give the speech about how talent have to “get themselves over” and “grab that brass ring” – well, 2012 has seen AJ go above and beyond every other Diva in the company make herself an integral part of WWE programming – and fair play to her.
She started 2012 in the role of Daniel Bryan’s girlfriend. So far, so lame. Gail Kim and The Bellas had onscreen “romances” with Bryan in 2011 and neither of them came to anything – however, with Daniel’s move to the dark side in December, AJ all of a sudden became a lot more sympathetic by comparison. She was the likeable and supportive girlfriend to the rapidly more dickish Bryan – and became a big part of the storyline of Bryan’s early 2012 feud with Big Show after Show wiped her out at ringside by accident. While the characters are vastly different, there was a certain hint of the Macho Man & Elizabeth relationship with the misogynistic and self-absorbed Bryan backed by the unquestioning dedication and wholesome naiveté of AJ – but that relationship was cut desperately short when a good luck kiss from AJ led to the infamous 18 second WrestleMania Title change. Days later, Bryan broke it off with AJ.
That could’ve been it for AJ’s brief main event flirtation, as she spent a few weeks being humiliated by Bryan repeatedly as he rebuffed her attentions, and caused a split of her and Kaitlyn’s friendship/tag team “The ChickBusters” – but there was something in AJ’s performances that resonated. She already had the approachable girl-next-door nerd charm and fan empathy, but she could also turn on a quite disturbed element in her performance. I don’t think anybody at WWE really knew what they wanted to do with her at this point, but it was clear that she at least had “something”. She was able to deliver a decent promo, she was willing to throw herself completely into the role and – thanks to that, she was noticed. Whether it was Vince, Stephanie, Hunter or someone else on the creative team, someone noticed and went to bat for AJ – and she returned to the main event scene with a vengeance.
Turning her attentions to Bryan’s #1 rival CM Punk (who apparently “digs crazy chicks” but most of the time seems weirded out on how to handle AJ), and also, rather amusingly towards Kane in what could have been a pseudo Beauty and the Beast storyline (click for an animated gif that you might end up staring at for an uncomfortably long length of time), AJ has managed to play the character so well that you really can’t quite tell how much of her schtick is supposed to be genuine psychotic behaviour and how much of it is calculated evil. A backstage interview with Josh Mathews a few weeks ago may hold the key to where I believe the AJ character may be going – using sex as a weapon and using her femininity to control men. Just as psychotic and just as disturbed, but the character has realised by the way men act around her that she can use that to her advantage.
Going into this month’s Money in the Bank PPV, the story of where AJ’s loyalty lies (if anywhere) appears to even overshadow the WWE Championship, but it does also promise to give us some answers. On a personal level, I’m hoping that (assuming they want to keep AJ involved in the men’s story going forward), AJ and Bryan get back together – only with the sexually aggressive and controlling AJ as Daniel Bryan’s “Lady MacBeth”. With Bryan having the hints of a babyface turn somewhere down the road, having AJ as the devilish woman in his ear, telling him to do things he doesn’t want to do may offer some interesting potential booking choices in the next six months.
It’s been an incredible six months for AJ, and it looks like there may be plenty of twists and turns yet to come for her.
– Stew Allen