Diva Digest returns to Bleacher Report after a lengthy post-WrestleMania hiatus.
This past week featured developments in both WWE Divas and TNA Knockouts storylines, including a title change on Thursday night's Impact Wrestling.
Former friends saw their rivalry heat up on WWE programming while, over on Impact Wrestling, a new champion was crowned and the first match of its kind was announced for the promotion's Slammiversary pay-per-view event.
Get caught up on all of the week's news and results, as well as the Diva Digest Fave Five and any news and notes from the past seven days inside.
This is Diva Digest No. 16.
After serving a four month stint in a Connecticut prison, WWE Hall of Famer Sunny (real name: Tammy Sytch) told TMZ.com that she was diagnosed with cancer while serving time.
Tammy told us she contracted HPV before going into prison ... and found out while doing time that it had developed into cervical cancer. She says she underwent a hysterectomy at an area hospital a couple of weeks ago ... and is now cancer-free.
The cancer diagnosis is the latest addition to a sad story that has developed over the last two years. Sytch, who entered World Wrestling Entertainment's Hall of Fame in 2011, was in the process of dealing with alcohol-related addiction when she was arrested three times in three days. According to TMZ, charges included:
...disorderly conduct, assault, 3rd degree burglary ... and violating the BF's TRO at just about every step.
The good news for Sytch, and her fans, is that she has been declared cancer-free and she reportedly plans to start fresh in New Mexico, where she will begin work on an autobiography.
There is still a place in sports-entertainment for Sunny, who has a wealth of knowledge and could easily serve as an ambassador for either World Wrestling Entertainment or TNA. One can only hope this is the last run-in with the law for one of the pioneers for today's Divas and Knockouts divisions.
Last Friday, WrestlingInc.com (by way of PWInsider.com) announced that World Wrestling Entertainment had cut seven NXT performers, including the likes of Derrick Bateman and Percy Watson.
One of the most notable names on the cut list was Audrey Marie (real name: Ashley Miller), an NXT Diva who had made great strides over the last year and looked like a candidate to be called up to the main roster sometime in the not-so-distant future.
The release came as a shock to many as Audrey was one of the standout Divas in developmental, perhaps behind only Summer Rae and Paige.
Also released was Anya (real name: Anna Bogomazova), a Russian kickboxer. Unfortunately, an arm injury had cut short her developmental career. She had limited time to develop before being a casualty of the recent releases.
According to Diva-Dirt.com, World Wrestling Entertainment has added two young women to its developmental roster, both of whom are professional bodybuilders who have also dabbled in professional bikini contests.
From Diva Dirt:
Christina Vargas is 28 years old. A former three-year Track and Field captain in high school, Vargas started training at the age of 19 and began competing in 2007. Vargas won her IFBB Pro status at the Junior Nationals in 2009. She has competed in the IFBB as both a Figure and Bikini contestant and is one of the few to make the successful transition from Figure to Bikini contests. She won the 2011 Houston Pro Bikini, which qualified her for the Olympia. Christina has been featured in the likes of Muscle & Fitness, Muscular Development and Ironman Magazines. Vargas also dabbles as a R&B singer.
Alexis (Lexi) Kaufman is 21 years old and from Columbus, Ohio. Kaufman became a competitive gymnast at the age of 4 and transitioned into high-school cheerleading later in life. After winning a national title in individual all-star cheerleading, she was featured on the cover of American Cheerleading Magazine as their cheerleader of the month in September 2008. She began training in 2010 and achieved IFBB Pro status at the 2011 North Americans. Lexi is a Bikini contest competitor who recently placed 14th at the Arnold Classic. Like Vargas, Kaufman also has had exposure in bodybuilding magazines. She can also be seen in supplement ads for FINAFLEX.
WWE continues its trend of hiring women who look good in bikinis but also have a background in athletics and/or bodybuilding. Current Divas, such as Naomi and Summer Rae, were athletically gifted young women prior to being signed to developmental contracts. Aksana and current WWE Divas champion Kaitlyn, on the other hand, were accomplished bodybuilders prior to their entry into the biggest promotion in sports-entertainment.
All four of those women have found success in the company, to varying degrees. With that said, there are no guarantees that an athletic or bodybuilding background will result in a call up to the main roster. As discussed previously, former Russian kickboxer Anya was released in the recent roster cuts.
On Monday's Raw, AJ Lee met Layla in singles action.
A former Divas champion, Layla was the perfect test for a young woman preparing to challenge Kaitlyn for the Divas title in the very near future. AJ controlled the early portion of the match but Layla took over late and appeared to have the number one contender on the ropes.
Unfortunately for Layla, she reverted to her LayCool days, worrying too much about mocking AJ by skipping around the ring. She took her eyes off of her opponent and AJ made her pay, applying the Black Widow and forcing her to tap out.
The win was an important one for AJ, who continues to remind fans that, before the drama that surrounded her in 2012, she was a wrestler who was on her way up the ladder in WWE.
Whether AJ can ride the wave of momentum she has been on in recent weeks and capture her first championship in WWE remains a mystery. What is not is that she will present Kaitlyn with a hell of a fight when they finally do meet in a championship bout.
On Thursday's Impact Wrestling, Mickie James defeated Velvet Sky to once again become Knockouts champion.
The match, which seemed somewhat disjointed and was largely disappointing, was secondary to Mickie's actions during it and immediately after it.
There has been a sense that Mickie may turn heel in the coming weeks. Her character has taken a more vocal approach and she seems disenfranchised with her lack of television time and the feeling that Velvet Sky is more popular than she is.
She even said so in an interview with the Running the Ropes podcast.
On Thursday's Impact, she gave Velvet an out. She offered to go to Brooke Hogan and have the match postponed until Velvet Sky's knee injury was healed. Velvet refused, saying pulling out of the match would only satisfy Gail Kim, who had further injured her knee by delivering the figure four around the steel post.
With the match underway and Velvet making a plucky underdog comeback, Mickie stooped to targeting the injury. She delivered a chop block to Velvet's knee, rendering her essentially useless and, seconds later, ended her title reign with a huge DDT.
The most telling moment of the match actually happened just after the bell. As referee ODB checked on Velvet, Mickie stood across the ring, the title in her possession, watching. She showed no remorse for targeting the injured limb, nor did she do anything to check on Velvet.
Instead, she continued her title win celebration.
A heel turn for Mickie James is just what the doctor ordered. Since arriving in TNA in 2010, Mickie has played essentially the same character as she did for years in WWE. She has not been a villain on any pro wrestling show since 2006 and there is staleness that has set in on the character.
With a new edge, a more determined and desperate Mickie could also provide TNA with a fresh new villain in the Knockouts division.
During Impact Wrestling, cameras caught up with Gail Kim and asked her about her match with Taryn Terrell at Slammiversary.
Gail said she was the best women's wrestler in TNA and that she should be challenging for the Knockouts title. She bragged about applying to both Tara and Velvet Sky the figure four around the steel post.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Taryn attacked and a brawl between the two erupted. Referees and officials had to pull the two rivals apart, putting an end to what was a tremendous, if short, catfight.
Later in the evening, it was revealed that the match between Gail and Taryn at Slammiversary would be the first-ever "Last Knockout Standing" match. Taryn has proven to be so much better in the ring than could have been expected and Gail is consistently one of the best talents in the sport.
There is no reason not to believe they can deliver a very good match, especially if they bring to it the same intensity they brought to their backstage brawl this past Thursday.
As if you, the WWE fan, had not been bombarded by enough plugs for the WWE App, here is another: the WWE App actually features constructive segments in-between action and during commercial breaks.
During a commercial break on Friday's SmackDown, AJ approached Kaitlyn backstage. They exchanged barbs, brought up their past and introduced a little comedy to their confrontation before AJ caught Teddy Long walking by and accused Kaitlyn of bullying her, complete with tears. After all was said and done, Kaitlyn was admonished by Teddy and AJ had gotten one over on her former friend.
It was a short, harmless little segment that added to the ongoing rivalry between the two and built on the animosity they had for one another.
Even if only a portion of the audience actually saw it.
AJ Lee picked up a big win over former Divas champion Layla. Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim built interest for their Last Knockout Standing match at Slammiversary with an intense backstage brawl. Mickie James recaptured the Knockouts title.
Which woman did enough to capture the top spot in the Diva Digest Fave Five?
Without further ado, here is this week's Fave Five!
5. Velvet Sky
The Knockouts champion refused to allow her knee injury to prevent her from defending her title against Mickie James on Thursday's Impact Wrestling. Unfortunately for Velvet, Mickie targeted that injury and defeated the resilient Sky for the title.
Velvet's second Knockouts title reign came to a disappointing conclusion but it is unlikely that her days as a champion in TNA are over.
4. Gail Kim
Gail continued to toot her own horn, referring to herself as the best women's wrestler in the world. She took great pride in attacking Velvet and her own tag partner, Tara, before wrapping their legs around the ring post and applying the figure four.
Gail would pay for her braggadocios attitude when her Slammiversary opponent Taryn Terrell attacked her.
3. Taryn Terrell
Speaking of Taryn Terrell, the beautiful blonde from New Orleans comes in at number three because of her fearless attack of Gail Kim in the backstage area, despite knowing about the violent attacks Gail had perpetrated on both Velvet Sky and Tara in the weeks.
At her core, Taryn's character has been that of a young woman who was verbally abused as a referee by Gail Kim. No longer able (or willing) to take the abuse, she stood up to the experienced in-ring competitor and, since then, has made quite a go at it as an in-ring performer.
Now, she is charged with facing Gail Kim in the first-ever Last Knockout Standing match at Slammiversary. Unfortunately for Taryn, she may have bitten off more than she can chew
2. AJ Lee
As she prepares to challenge Kaitlyn for the Divas championship in the very near future, AJ squared off with Layla on Raw and picked up a huge victory over the former title-holder.
AJ has done a very good job of reminding fans of her in-ring abilities and as her title opportunity nears, expect her to continue utilizing the Black Widow submission hold and playing mind games with her one-time friend.
1. Mickie James
The former Divas and Women's champion added to her TNA Knockouts championship resume, capitalizing on Velvet Sky's knee injury to capture her third Knockouts title.
Whether this signals the beginning of a heel turn that could freshen up Mickie's character and result in more television time and a return to a more layered character remains to be seen.
In the next edition of Diva Digest, get caught up in all of the goings-on in WWE as AJ continues to target the Divas title and Kaitlyn while, over in TNA, Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell gear up for a historic Last Knockout Standing match.
Who will top the Diva Digest Fave Five? Will anyone be able to knock Mickie James off her pedestal and, if so, will it be a Diva or Knockout?
All of that plus the latest news on everything Divas and Knockouts from the week that was in professional wrestling.