Examining AJ Lee's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential
With a dagger for a tongue and a Lamborghini engine powering her legs, AJ Lee is the best overall wrestler in her division.
Examining AJ's present and future, though, can't be done without talking about the place of female wrestlers in WWE.
Stories and high-profile feuds are rare for the Divas. Many of the most talented and hardworking wrestlers in the division are rarely used on TV.
When they do get a shot to perform on TV, it's often for matches that don't last past a handful of moves.
AJ is currently in a feud with Brie Bella, but it's being not given nearly enough attention to truly dive into it. The two have collided in the ring, but the soap opera narratives and post-match brawling that is the hallmark of WWE rivalries is non-existent.
AJ had a single true feud during her title run in Kaitlyn.
Since then, she has teased a showdown with Natalya and hired one of the few women in WWE who would offer her a real challenge, Tamina Snuka, as her bodyguard. Regardless of the supporters she has in the industry, she is in danger of being held back due to a lack of air time and rivals on her level.
Goldust (Dustin Rhodes) is clearly a fan of hers. He tweeted an apropos adjective for the Divas champ.
One of the most respected names in the business had extremely high praise for AJ.
Hall of Famer Jim Ross wrote on his website, "If she continues down her current path, AJ Lee has the opportunity to be in the same discussion with the all time best Divas in WWE history."
You can't get much more complimentary than that. Ross' statement isn't hyperbole either; AJ's skill set enables her to make Ross look clairvoyant.
The skill many have been talking about since Aug. 26 is her proficiency on the microphone. Mick Foley was among many to take note of her now-famous "pipe bombshell."
Praise from a man who has had such a surplus of great promos in his career carries a lot of weight.
A moment that has been AJ's magnum opus thus far is not the case of a one-hit wonder finding the right tune for a single time, but rather, it's another in a list of hits for her.
Hateable Villain, Lovable Nerd
Were one to compile a list of greatest promos from female WWE wrestlers, AJ's name would appear again and again.
Her attack on the cast of Total Divas got fans talking about the division more than they have in recent memory. It was certainly not the only time she's sliced into her opponents with her microphone, though.
When she revealed that Kaitlyn's secret admirer had been a hoax, for example, AJ was at her finest.
She was vicious, powerful and heartless as she pounced on vulnerable prey. She talked about how Kaitlyn had abandoned her and flung insults at her like stones. AJ was every bit the manipulative villain the audience despises but refuses to look away from.
Some may find her excessive head tilting and her acting too melodramatic, but throughout performances like these, AJ is the most important thing a wrestler must be—interesting.
Besides, it's easier to rein in overacting than to develop charisma out of nowhere. WWE will gladly take AJ's hammy acting over the tedium that holds so many Superstars and Divas back.
Her mental instability has been one of the most compelling parts of WWE over the past two years and home runs on the mic like the ones she's had already will keep her relevant in a division that is often just the opposite.
WWE has asked her to be a girlfriend, a stalker, the Raw General Manager and now a champion.
Her versatility will keep on her on TV when she's not wrestling, and it gives WWE more options in how to showcase her, which will make her growing fan base happy.
More than her promo work and presence has led to having such a devoted fan club; being relatable is a big part of it as well.
Her talking and personality make what she does in the ring so much more significant as fans are invested before the bell rings.
AJ uses the ring as her personal race track, speeding between the ropes and charging at her opponents. That skill is on full display when she hits the Shining Wizard.
It's not often that WWE fans see Divas borrow moves from Keiji Mutoh. Too often, Divas matches are marked by a lack of creativity and rely too much on the same set of moves.
AJ's offense, like just about everything about her, is unique.
Her finishing move, the Black Widow, is a perfect weapon for someone her size. She doesn't overpower her opponents, but instead, she crawls atop them and punishes them until they tap out.
The Divas champ is not just stringing together impressive-looking moves; she's telling a story. This is where her acting acumen comes into play, even if it's a bit too exaggerated at times.
When she took on Kaitlyn at Payback, the spotlight illuminated her potential as a ring worker.
As the victim of Kaitlyn's rage or as the snake striking, AJ helped compose one of the best Divas matches since Lita and Trish Stratus worked for WWE. She was emotive, aggressive and an eye-catching force.
Will she get enough chances to do something like this again, though? Will WWE commit to building a story before a match like it did with this one?
Her match with Brie Bella at Battleground was better than expected, but AJ can't catch up to Trish or Lita unless her competition can match her abilities. WWE has a limited number of options in terms of her challengers and doesn't prioritize the Divas division, so it will be a struggle for AJ to reach her full potential.
Opportunity will decide AJ's legacy.
Divas consistently struggle to be a prominent part of Raw and SmackDown. Women aren't ever going to be seen as a valuable commodity in WWE the way the men are, regardless of talent.
There is a bikini model-turned-Diva for every talented female wrestler that WWE employs and that means that in a division that is less than half the size of the male roster, many of them just aren't going to push or keep up with AJ.
AJ had a great feud with Kaitlyn, almost had one with Natalya and could make noise opposite Paige from NXT. Then what? WWE is going to run out of fitting rivals at some point.
Trish wouldn't be thought of as great as she is today had she not battled Lita, Mickie James and her other opponents.
Should WWE find rivals on par with those women for AJ, she will definitely climb into the discussion of greatest WWE Diva ever. She may never surpass Trish or the Fabulous Moolah, but she'll be in the same conversation as those women.
She is among the best in-ring performers of her generation, the far and away best talker and the biggest star in her division. She just needs a longer list of great moments and matches, and that requires archenemies that can match her energy and in-ring storytelling capabilities.
AJ's ceiling includes being one of a select number of women in the WWE Hall of Fame and holding the Divas Championship longer than anyone in the title's history. Given the proper chance to do so, she will steal the show at a few pay-per-views as well.
She's already sitting atop the current Divas ladder, cackling and swinging her fists at any who try to pull her down. It's time to let her move onto the all-time ladder and see what rung she ends up on there.
Be sure to check out previous installments in this ongoing series:
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