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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - The Definitive AJ Lee Column That You MUST Read!
By Mr. Tito
Dec 13, 2013 - 1:21:16 AM
The "Excellence in Column Writing" has returned for some double-dipping during the weekdays, as I had no real intentions of writing after my RAW Thoughts, Slammy Awards Rebuttal, and TLC Pay Per View Predictions column posted Tuesday night. However, the many comments below my column and feedback received in other places like Twitter (@titowrestling) or email have encouraged me to write again this week.
Was it about my RAW Thoughts? TLC Predictions?
No. It was about AJ Lee.
I'm noticing a particular trend among today's WWE fans here on the internet. It seems that today's wrestling fans have their specific darlings, particularly non-main eventers, and they quietly worship them until you dare criticize them in a column. It seems that several NXT wrestlers or recent call-ups are strongly defended (like Bray Wyatt), while others are probably popular because they are too nice to fans online. Whenever any wrestler gives their fans access to their life or their career online, particularly now with socia media sites, internet wrestling fans will slobber all over them. I had to be careful what I said about Zack Ryder because his loyal YouTube fans would attack me back in the day, for example.
For whatever reason, there is a groundswell of support among internet wrestling fans for AJ Lee. Anytime I briefly mention her, even if I'm criticizing her opponent or WWE Creative for the bad storyline writing, I get slammed by her fans. This past Tuesday, I wrote a column full of RAW thoughts, Slammy Awards rebuttals, and TLC Pay Per View and yet my comments are blowing up about the "Diva of the Year" Slammy Award comments regarding AJ Lee and my personal favorites, the Bella Twins. I dared to praise the Bella Twins because that's my bag baby but I wasn't strongly arguing that AJ Lee should have won the award as many of her internet wrestling fans have. Here is what I said on Tuesday night:
For the Diva of the Year award, my girls, the Bella Twins won in a tie. Fine by me... What exactly has AJ Lee done this year to deserve it? Win the Divas Title? Big deal... Her character is too goofy and inconsistent. Bellas are the stars of Total Divas and have helped the WWE generate mainstream attention beyond anything AJ Lee has done for the company. AJ Lee's promo resenting Total Divas might have won the hearts of some critics of the Bellas, but nobody can deny their success on the freakin' E! Channel. In fact, Total Divas might help the WWE land more shows and a better deal with Comcast/USA Networks.
That's all I said... I gave an opinion on the character of AJ Lee while presenting actual facts on the Bella Twins (Total Divas ratings success, cannot deny that), and damn, many readers came after me.
First, let me DEFEND the Bella Twins. Reportedly, the Slammy Awards as voted on by the WWE App, was 100% legitimate on fan voting. Hence why Daniel Bryan won both the Superstar of the Year and Fan Participation Awards. For those of you insisting that AJ Lee is crazy "over", the Bella Twins beat her. And I'd actually argue that the Bella Twins recent babyface run has been underwhelming. Yet, they still beat AJ Lee. You could argue that the Bellas encouraged voting, but AJ Lee has a pretty large internet fanbase herself. For Twitter, AJ Lee has 1,184,001 followers while the Bellas have 882,167. Thus, if you want to argue that the Bellas stuffed the ballot box, AJ Lee has a 300,000 built in fan advantage on Twitter.
Secondly, the Bella Twins were gone for about a year and yet the E! Network has interest in THEM to create a reality show if they were to return to the WWE. The Bellas are very attractive and have personalities that can draw well on a reality based show. While someone could argue that John Cena and Daniel Bryan being on the show is a draw, Cena and Bryan aren't on every show. The show is mostly the Bella Twins interacting with the other Divas on the WWE roster and it regularly pulls in over 1 million viewers despite the fact that it's on the horrid channel known as the E! Network. Total Divas is going to get a second season, too. The success of Total Divas might actually help the WWE in their negotiations with Comcast/USA Networks.
But I would argue that the Bellas aren't that big of a deal as WWE wrestlers... Their victory in the fan voted Slammy Awards isn't necessarily from the Bellas getting love, but AJ Lee not being as popular as the internet believes.
If you look at the Monday Night RAW ratings breakdown, they're not popping for AJ Lee segments. The only time she drew was when she was the girlfriend character to Daniel Bryan. As history shows, whomever hangs around Daniel Bryan will also get over by extension or from having incredible matches with Bryan. See Kane's success with Bryan as a tag team and how well the Shield looked as Bryan's repeat opponents early in their WWE career. Thus, AJ Lee was popular because she had the great Daniel Bryan to bounce off of. After the Daniel Bryan storyline, her storylines haven't been so good...
First, we had the RAW General Manager angle. Total failure, but not her fault. The WWE just gave her that role during the 1,000th edition of RAW at a time when WWE fans were expecting a big, experienced name to take the role. Instead, they give it to a female wrestler whose character has not shown any administrative qualities. It's not her fault, but at the same time, she didn't make the most of it. She was soon replaced by Vickie Guerrero... Then, she was thrust into a love interest storyline with John Cena. Surely, she'd shine in an angle with John Cena, right? And get further heat when she turned on John Cena in order to join Dolph Ziggler as his boyfriend? Nope... Another dud, though you could argue that the WWE was poorly booking Dolph Ziggler and made Ziggler look like a chump against Cena during late 2012.
I'd argue that AJ Lee has had some in-ring success as the Divas Champion. She had a nice series of matches with Kaitlyn and seems to have brought some credibility to the Divas Title. If the WWE would invest in more quality in-ring performers, someone like AJ Lee could really thrive with strong opponents. However, WWE employs a bunch of women who are mostly there as eye candy without as much focus on the in-ring product. When AJ Lee cut a promo against the ladies of Total Divas, I half expected her to be the babyface going against a group of women called the "Total Divas". That show title sounds heelish and the Bella Twins, at the time, were heels. However, AJ Lee has been presented as the heel and the Bellas, thanks to the Randy Orton storyline with Daniel Bryan, were turned babyface when Brie Bellas relationship with Bryan was exposed on WWE television.
In my opinion with AJ Lee, I see TWO problems with her that always gives me excessive problems whenever I write about her.
(1) The Internet Loves Her - AJ Lee = Female Zack Ryder AJ Lee is adored by internet. Anytime wrestlers give access to internet fans be it giving details about their personal lives or WWE careers via social media, responding to fans via social media, or giving fans extra content like podcasts or video shows. AJ Lee was a big wrestling fan growing up (see AJ Lee meeting Lita!) and I think she, like Zack Ryder, goes out of her way to treat internet wrestling fans extra nice. Thus, it creates a very loyal fanbase online. Remember, not every WWE fan follows pro wrestling on the internet. As I've always said, what looks strong on the internet is not indicative of the entire fanbase. There are many overhyped NXT wrestlers coming out of the developmental territory that are talked up but just don't look as impressive on the main WWE roster. Then, the WWE receives a lot of hate from internet fans when (a) the debuting NXT wrestlers aren't overpushed or (b) the debuting NXT wrestlers are overpushed and then the WWE pulls back when the push is a failure (see Fandango!).
(2) WWE Creative is doing AJ Lee NO favors. Hold on here... WWE Creative does push AJ Lee strongly. For the past 3 years, she's been actively involved with WWE storylines and has been featured more than any other Diva on the roster. The issue with AJ Lee is HOW SHE IS USED! Reportedly, Stephanie McMahon is a HUGE fan of AJ Lee and has been responsible for the recent overpushing of AJ Lee's character. Stephanie is a big fan of the soap opera style and has in fact replaced Vince's old wrestling hands backstage with former soap opera writers from Hollywood. Stephanie LOVED the Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee storyline and fell in love with the AJ Lee character from there. Hence, the RAW General Manager role that was granted to her soon after as Stephanie reportedly pushed for that AJ Lee storyline role. Then, they let her be a lame General Manager. WWE Creative proceeds to BURY Dolph Ziggler as AJ Lee joined him as Ziggler was unable to look good against John Cena. Thankfully, she returned to being a wrestler again (what she does best), but now she's a heel going up against the Total Divas stable. Just doesn't make sense...
WWE Creative has not only overpushed her instead of letting her naturally get over, but they are writing poorly for her. RAW General Manager, Ziggler's girlfriend, and heel against the Total Divas...
If you believe that I'm anti-AJ Lee, think again. I think that she's a blessing to the WWE as far as giving fans a decent in-ring product. Her matches with Kaitlyn were excellent and she's tried her best to carry some of the inexperienced Divas in the ring. She looks like a dumbass, however, when she's skipping around the ring like an idiot. Again, we're talking about WWE Creative decisions on her character. Some of you have called her the "next Trish Stratus", "next Lita", etc. That's hilarious... AJ's career is still young but I don't think that the misguided storylines given to her has allowed AJ to show her true potential. Besides, someone like Trish Stratus was the total package. Incredible athletic ability, beauty, charm, charisma, and a great personality. Even when she managed Test & Albert (you get it? T & A???), you should sense that Trish had something. Putting her in the storylines with the McMahons and Triple H just threw gasoline on a fire that was ready to ignite.
And again, go read my September 8th, 2013 Column on turning AJ Lee babyface. I argued that the real potential of AJ Lee is NOT as a heel but as a babyface. In fact, I argued that the WWE could easily remedy the bad heel storylines by acknowledging them to transition her into a babyface. I recommended using Mick Foley and putting on a famous non-wrestling segment called THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Here is what I wrote on September 8th, 2013:
THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
WWE needs to bring in Mick Foley specifically for this segment. Why? He was the host of the highest rated RAW segment (or second? Maybe an Austin vs. Undertaker match holds the record?) titled THIS IS YOUR LIFE in which Mick Foley, then as Mankind, had an in-ring promo with The Rock that brought elements of his past out. The segment was goofy, as Mankind brought out a teacher, Rock's first girlfriend, and someone else... Funny segment, but the Rock was already established as a big star. Might have helped solidify him as a babyface with a few funny catchphrase moments (I believe the "pie" comments started here), but he was on his way there anyway.
But it could be a HUGE segment for AJ Lee. Came changing, in fact... It could turn her into a FULL BLOWN FACE and also allow the WWE to exploit new fanbases. Hear me out, IWC...
Mick Foley calls out AJ Lee for the "THIS IS YOUR LIFE" segment. At first, you could have Daniel Bryan come out. You could even incorporate the current storylines of Bryan vs. the Corporation by having Randy Orton/the Shield doing something backstage to distract Bryan and actually pull him away from the segment. I could recommend having Bryan apologize for his blaming of AJ Lee concerning the Wrestlemania 28 loss, but I don't know if that would present Bryan's character as being weak? Certainly, AJ Lee could apologize for being a psychopathic girlfriend...
Then, wheel out Stephanie McMahon. She could admit that she wasn't ready to be RAW General Manager and apologize for not succeeding in that position. She could tell Stephanie, to her face, that she's a pro wrestler first and was wasted in that position. Stephanie could be irked by that call-out and that could set-up future AJ Lee vs. the Corporation storylines.
Next, it's Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston. She could suggest that she was vulnerable during that period of time after being rejected by John Cena and did some things that she regrets. She could then end the association with Big E Langston, suggesting that he's now free to do whatever without her input. Puts closure to that feud and storyline...
Then, the next segment would be 100% unscripted and completely unexpected to AJ Lee. In fact, DO NOT tell her about the next mystery guest. What you want here, folks, is a completely spontaneous response by AJ Lee that will actually get her CRAZY OVER as a baby face. All Mick Foley has to do is to ask the backstage production area to PLAY THIS VIDEO:
That's right, that is a younger version of AJ Lee in full tears meeting her idol, Lita in person at an autograph signing. The video suggests it was July 18th, 2001, but regardless, AJ Lee is highly emotional as a kid when she met Lita. Chances are strong that Lita helped inspire AJ Lee to pursue becoming a pro wrestler. If AJ Lee has no clue about this surprise guest and she sees this video played before her, she'll lose it.
Then, she'll lose it further if Lita's Titantron hits and Lita actually comes out to embrace her. Lita could cut some kind of promo where she suggests that everyone did things in their past that they are not particularly proud of and that the fans would love to see you move on. Lita could then say that she's proud that AJ Lee has made it this far in the business and is proud to see her as Divas Champion. I guarantee you, if this was a surprise, AJ Lee would be crying heavily and the WWE fans could see this and instantly embrace her as a newly turned baby face.
But could you IMAGINE a new fanbase that the WWE could exploit by this simple connection? By showing AJ Lee as a younger fan and meeting her idol, Lita, younger girls would see this and begin to embrace AJ Lee. I guarantee that AJ Lee's autograph signings would be filled with younger female WWE fans who would love to meet her. WWE has struggled since Lita and Trish left to have an inspiring babyface female wrestler. Kelly Kelly did a decent job but she lacked actual personality and in-ring skills to get the job done. AJ Lee has both and just needs the right push to solidify her as a consistent character. The "THIS IS YOUR LIFE" segment could allow closure for AJ Lee for past storylines but then introduce WHY she loves the pro wrestling business so much. She's a fan of the business and someone like Lita inspired her to join it.
To end the segment, I would have the Total Divas attempt to attack and BOTH AJ Lee and Lita CLEAR THE RING to a major babyface push. If not the Total Divas as a whole, use the Bella Twins as the punching bags and you could let them cut a mini-promo before getting whooped. It's a perfect ending and firmly establishes AJ Lee as the top babyface.
After feuding with the Total Divas wrestlers and getting a few wins over them to strengthen AJ Lee as top female babyface and Divas Champion, you then re-introduce her to Stephanie McMahon. Remember what I said above about Stephanie being irked by AJ Lee's comments regarding RAW GM? AJ Lee soon finds herself in the McMahon Corporation crosshairs. In my opinion, the WWE has to bring in someone NEW to go after AJ Lee. Whether it's someone extremely talented being developed in Florida or bringing back someone of hoss like proportions such as Beth Phoenix or Kharma, they have to pose a legitimate threat of harm to AJ Lee. Beth or Kharma (or a new wrestler) would be Stephanie's enforcer and AJ Lee would have to overcome her before getting to Stephanie. I hate to even suggest this, but a match like AJ Lee vs. Stephanie McMahon could be somewhat interesting at Wrestlemania 30. Stephanie, I think, would be game for the match... See her No Way Out 2001 match against Trish Stratus if you need to see proof.
I just laid out the perfect roadmap to get AJ Lee CRAZY OVER as a babyface. You're welcome, WWE, for the free advice. Now, go get Mick Foley and Lita for that segment... I'm sure they would be glad to do it.
In hindsight, instead of using someone like Beth Phoenix or Kharma, TAMINA SNUKA is now that HOSS wrestler that Stephanie McMahon could use as muscle against AJ Lee. It's perfect timing, as Tamina is currently helping AJ and thus the groundwork is in place to create the turn. AJ Lee challenging a HEEL Stephanie would give us a "female" version of Austin vs. Vince and I'm willing to bet there would be interest in a Stephanie vs. AJ Lee match at Wrestlemania 30.
If you believe that I'm anti-AJ Lee, you're smoking crack. My argument is that the Internet loves her TOO much while the WWE Creative Team has no idea how to use her properly.
Now, as for my Bellas love... AND TWINS!
Comments and debates are welcome on Twitter. Bring it on. @titowrestling
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