AJ Lee & the WWE’s View On Women In Wrestling [VIDEO]
Vince McMahon once said that it is easier to teach a supermodel to be a pro wrestler than it is to teach a pro wrestler to be a supermodel. This mentality has never been more apparent than in the current roster of WWE “Divas”, primarily made up of former models with no prior wrestling experience, taking away the emphasis of wrestling in women’s wrestling. But one of those women who wanted nothing more than to be a pro wrestler may have finally derailed that train with a “pipe bomb” this past Monday.
The term “pipe bomb” was made popular by WWE Superstar CM Punk two summers ago when he delivered an infamous promo about his frustrations with the company in the final days of his old contract. The idea of a pipe bomb is delivering a promo that comes across as so real and impactful that it blurs the lines between the scripted show and reality, and takes the business in a new direction. Since that summer, there have been impressive promos by several wrestlers, but none that had the impact of Punk’s. That changed this past Monday when current WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee came out to address the stars of the E! reality series “Total Divas”.
AJ Lee is a wrestler first and foremost. The 26-year-old began training for the ring after family financial troubles forced her out of college, enrolling in a wrestling academy and spending a few years working independent shows before being noticed by the WWE. AJ also recently became the first WWE Diva to surpass one million followers on Twitter; a feat she boasts was done without posting a single revealing, sexual self shot. On the other hand, “Total Divas” stars Nikki and Brie Bella were models who gained the attention of the WWE when they tried out for the 2006 WWE Diva Search, a search for new Diva talent that was primarily made up of models and Playboy Playmates. Of the stars of “Total Divas”, only Natalya Neidhart has a true professional wrestling background, growing up in the famous Hart family. However, it is speculated that Natalya’s physique (fit, but thicker than others like the Bella Twins or AJ Lee) keeps her from being used as a regular main star of the Divas, being used lately as filler talent between major storylines.
The favoritism of models over trained wrestlers has lead to extreme frustration with fans that see this as damaging to the image of females in the WWE. Since the WWE started refocusing on female wrestlers in the mid-90s, this is definitely a low point for women in the WWE. While women were still used as beautiful one-dimensional arm decoration for the male wrestlers, the late 90s showed the rise of women like Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, Ivory, and Victoria, beautiful women who could also perform in the ring to such a level that their matches were often a highlight of the show. But over the past few years, women’s matches in the WWE have become the customary bathroom break from those in attendance at live events. The matches last two or three minutes at best, and are the worst performed matches on the card. Why is this? Vince McMahon favors models over women who have the desire to train and work to become an accomplished pro wrestler. This isn’t to say Divas like the Bella twins aren’t trained, just that they were trained to be wrestlers AFTER they became part of the company. Their in-ring abilities were obviously not a consideration in their hiring, nor have they been a key point to their portrayal on WWE TV since.
After AJ’s promo on Monday, the hope is WWE will work to better their image of women since they’ve openly addressed the criticisms. From a story perspective, AJ’s promo was partly done to instigate a new feud between AJ and the Bella twins, leading to a match in the near future. Unfortunately, as WWE is pleased with the ratings and reaction to the semi-scripted “Total Divas”, there’s a solid chance one of the Bellas will replace AJ as champion and be the focal point of the division. On the other hand, WWE Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon (Vince's daughter) tweeted that she was greatly impressed with AJ's performance Monday, a terrific compliment coming from the VP in charge of the creative direction of the company. And after Monday, fans have rallied around AJ as the one capable of leading the Divas to a new version of the WWE’s “Attitude Era”, where the Divas were not only beautiful, but accomplished performers on the microphone and in the ring, absolutely worthy of the attention and television time.