By Graham "GSM" Matthews
One night removed from her successful defense of the Divas Championship in the Vickie Guerrero Invitational at WrestleMania 30, AJ Lee was out in the ring on Raw, proclaiming herself the greatest women's wrestler in the world. It had been a while since we last saw a Divas promo segment, so I knew as soon as it was made clear that AJ wouldn't be wrestling that could mean one thing: Paige was finally going to make her main roster debut. Sure enough, I was right and her (awesome) entrance music hit the arena before AJ could continue talking. The crowd went crazy (no pun intended), and so did I. I couldn't remember the last time I was that excited about anything involving the Divas. When Paige beat her for the belt that night in surprising fashion, I looked forward to where their feud would go as well as the future of the division as a whole.
I was surprised to see Tamina Snuka named the No. 1 contender to the title shortly thereafter before discovering AJ took a hiatus from WWE. I thought it was great in prolonging the feud between AJ and Paige, saving it for the grand stage of SummerSlam instead of rushing through it and giving it away at Extreme Rules. The only issue was that WWE failed to capitalize off the momentum the Divas division garnered on April 7 with the hot title change. Paige had a handful of successful title defenses as champion, but the fans weren't getting behind her (insert your own sex joke here) as a babyface. It wasn't Paige's fault. WWE just wasn't giving her any mic time or character development. Fans simply saw her as a great wrestler and nothing more, and she wasn't even able to showcase her tremendous talents because her matches were so short. The Divas division was back to being stagnant with no story.
On the June 30 Raw in Hartford, AJ made her highly anticipated return and defeated a seemingly heel Paige for her second Divas Championship in the same fashion she lost it. Being there in attendance, I can tell you that the crowd was excited to see AJ back in the mix and even I marked out when her music hit. My excitement for the future of the Divas division had returned, and this time, it stuck. The long awaited feud between AJ and Paige had finally begun.
Some fans were frustrated that the two were portrayed as friends for the next few weeks, but I thought it was a smart strategy. It was clear Paige was going to turn on AJ sooner or later and it made people care about Paige before she went full-blown heel. When she finally did flip the switch the night after Battleground, it garnered a great reaction from the live crowd. People legitimately cared about the Divas division for once, and although the story was predictable, it was well booked. There was no need to over complicate it.
The length of Divas matches on TV wasn't increasing much, but there was a lot of great build for the AJ vs. Paige match at SummerSlam. They had promo segments which, as previously noted, is very rare for the women nowadays. I was disappointed they weren't given much in-ring time at the biggest party of the summer, but they made the most of it and had their best bout to date. Paige, after unsuccessfully contending for the title at Battleground, came out on top (on her 22nd birthday, no less) in clean fashion to claim her second Divas title. It was a very cool moment. Unfortunately, the feud peaked there and it's been all downhill since.
Following SummerSlam, AJ and Paige started teasing a storyline where the two were developing an interest in each other. AJ and Paige are both gorgeous women and for them to be acting like lesbians could be considered "hot" for any male viewer (myself included), but it does nothing for the division, the feud, the title or anyone else for that matter. Would it have worked in The Attitude Era? Absolutely. But this isn't The Attitude Era. It's a different time, both in wrestling and in the world as a whole. You know WWE isn't going to go all the way with it given the PG rating of the product, so why bother doing the storyline at all?
Fans often romanticize about The Attitude Era, and rightfully so. It was a great time to be a fan. But what a lot of people tend to forget was that it wasn't the best time for women's wrestling. Sure, it gave us Trish Stratus and Lita, but there was hardly any actual wrestling. Nowadays, it's ridiculous how many great women's workers we have, and you wouldn't even know because they aren't given more than two or three minutes on Raw and SmackDown. Paige and AJ can win the fans over with their great wrestling. They don't need HLA to accomplish that, and all it's done is ruin anything good they had going up until a few weeks ago.
Had you told me months ago that a feud between AJ and Paige would flop, I would've called you crazy. Granted, it could be much worse, but everything they've done as of late has fallen flat and hasn't made me excited for another match between the two. They are capable of so much more and it pains me to see them being subjected to such stupidity. There's still time to salvage this feud, but I don't have much faith in WWE Creative to open their eyes and see that they could have the next Trish vs. Lita right in front of them.