Sunday night at Payback, AJ Lee will challenge Divas champion Kaitlyn in a match that is the culmination to a months-long story that has its roots in 2010's third season of NXT.
For two years, Kaitlyn and AJ were associated with one another on WWE programming. Often tag team partners, they were inseparable on-screen and off. Best friends, they traveled the country while living their dreams as WWE Divas.
That all changed a year ago when AJ was the girlfriend of then-World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan and was on the receiving end of verbal abuse at his hands. Kaitlyn tried to open her friend's eyes, to make her see what was being done to her.
AJ refused to see just how bad a guy Bryan was at that point, and the once indestructible friendship began to fracture.
Over the course of 2012, as AJ became more delusional and more mentally unstable, the friendship disintegrated. The petite New Jersey native, a powerful, former bodybuilder from Houston, engaged in a number of backstage altercations, which often needed to be separated by security.
When AJ turned to the proverbial "dark side," aligning herself with Dolph Ziggler, things only became worse. With Kaitlyn now the Divas champion, AJ set her sights on beating her former friend and winning the title for herself.
At one point, that match seemed destined to happen at April's WrestleMania. A series of pre-event matches had pointed in that direction, but for whatever reason, it was decided not to involve that bout on the final card. Instead, it would be saved for one of the post-WrestleMania pay-per-views.
AJ would defeat her fellow WWE Divas in a Battle Royal to officially earn a shot at the title and set in stone a match with the woman who at one time was her closest confidant.
Simply earning a title shot was not enough for AJ, however. The twisted No. 1 contender played mind games with Kaitlyn, pretending to be a secret admirer interested in the Divas champion's affection. She revealed herself to be said admirer only six days ago on Raw and proceeded to humiliate the Divas champion on live television.
Kaitlyn snapped, attacking AJ on Raw and both Aksana and a WWE official on Friday's SmackDown. Now, with only hours left until their clash at Payback, the question remains whether or not AJ has manipulated the emotions of Kaitlyn and can now exploit them to capture her first Divas title.
It is rare to see a story unfold around the WWE Divas title in the manner in which the one between Kaitlyn and AJ has. Too often, the women of WWE are thrown out in the ring to have a match to little or no fanfare, and as a result, they oftentimes fail to get over.
In recent weeks, the creative team has gone out of its way to give fans something they can sink their teeth into—a story they can completely buy into, and as a result, the interest surrounding tonight's Divas title match is as high as it's been in months, if not a year.
Who leaves Chicago's Allstate Arena matters less than the fact that it has been proven that fans can care about a Divas rivalry. Now, it is up to the creative team to capitalize on the momentum provided by the AJ-Kaitlyn rivalry and deliver more layered stories for its female performers.
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