Who is the top star in World Wrestling Entertainment?
One may be led to believe it is C.M. Punk, the current world champion, or John Cena, the man who has carried the company on his back for nearly a decade. Based on the last several weeks’ worth of television, it would appear the biggest star in the male-dominated world of WWE is a 100 pound. woman.
AJ Lee, real name April Jeannette, has become a fixture in the main event scene. Her rise to superstardom isn’t so much because of her wrestling ability, but because her character is one of the most unique in wrestling today.
AJ burst onto the scene in 2010 as a contestant on the third season of WWE’s pseudo-reality show NXT. That season was based around a group of women vying for the opportunity to become a WWE Diva (the official term used for females on the roster). The native of Union City, NJ, emerged as a fan favorite with her spunky girl next door persona. She eventually made it as one of the three finalists before being eliminated. In an ironic twist of fate Naomi and Kaitlyn, the two women she lost the competition to, have seen their careers literally and figuratively go nowhere.
Despite the loss, it wasn’t long after until AJ debuted on Smackdown. For those unfamiliar with the women’s division of WWE, let’s just say that they are low on rungs of priority within the company. Most of their matches are less than three minutes and their primary purpose is to serve as eye candy rather than actual athletes. AJ’s fate was sure to be no different than that of the other dozen or so women in the division until she became involved in a storyline last year with then world champion Daniel Bryan.
Bryan, who up until that point had played the role of a traditional good guy, was in the midst of a major character transformation. He became the smug and cocky guy who always bragged about never losing his title. AJ played the role of the girl who was so smitten by him that she overlooked what everyone else saw as the obvious–Bryan was using her. Their chemistry together was amazing and it was one of the reasons, aside from his natural talent, as to why his three-month championship reign was such a success. After his reign ended they did the breakup angle which eventually led to the current AJ, Punk and Bryan love triangle which has dominated WWE television this summer.
Last month’s triple threat PPV match involving Kane, Punk and Bryan was heavily centered on AJ’s involvement and she will be the guest referee for the Punk vs. Bryan championship match at this month’s Money in the Bank PPV. AJ was also the only woman featured in the USA Network commercial promoting the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw. If you were a first-time viewer tuning in than you would be led to believe that she is the only woman in the company who matters.
It was reported in this week’s issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the company plans to continue making her a focal point of the main storylines.
What is it about AJ that sets her apart from virtually any woman that has competed in WWE?
With all due respect to popular performers like Sable and Trish Stratus, neither of them was ever consistently featured in programs with the top talent of their respective eras like AJ has.
I believe the attainability factor is the big thing that sets her apart. WWE has been traditionally been the land of silicone-induced blondes with little to no personality. In that sense, AJ is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant environment. She wears punk rock attire, skips to the ring and is a self-described comic book geek.
How many of us guys actually encounter (unless you live in an entertainment capital like LA or Miami) women who look like they’ve walked off the pages of a Maxim centerfold? I don’t think many of us see women like that walking around the neighborhood grocery store. AJ’s look alone makes her come across as the girl you could meet anywhere in town and have a conversation with.
Her uncanny acting ability is among the best of anyone, male or female, in wrestling today.
She plays the most convincing role I’ve seen of a manipulative attention-craving psycho. She can be flipping out at a person one moment and acting like a sweet schoolgirl the next. It’s quite remarkable.
Some fans have complained about her overexposure. They think her involvement overshadows the matches of the wrestlers who the company should be focusing on. And there may be a valid argument in support of that. However, in 2012, I will take entertainment in wrestling any way I can get it. And for right now there is no one more entertaining than her.