Analyzing Where AJ Lee's Divas Title Reign Ranks Among Pro Wrestling's Greatest

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Analyzing Where AJ Lee's Divas Title Reign Ranks Among Pro Wrestling's Greatest
WWE.com

As captivating as AJ Lee has been at the high points of her WWE Divas title reign, pro wrestling's history is dotted with a number of more successful women's champions.

Mexico, the independents, Japan and WWE's past have given us female titleholders with longer, more compelling reigns. Ranking her below them is no indictment of her as much as it is accepting how low the Divas are on WWE's list of priorities, and how other companies and other time periods have better showcased its women champions.

AJ is now the longest-reigning Divas champ in WWE history at over 220 days.

Since winning the belt, she's too often been asked to settle for the thinnest ray of spotlight. The company hasn't paired her with quality rivals often enough. For those reasons, even with as fantastically as she has played her character and as mesmerizing as she's been on the microphone, one can't rank her higher than the top 20 reigns of all time.

Above her stands the Fabulous Moolah who once held both the NWA World Women's Championship and the WWE Women's Championship for decades at a time. Mildred Burke has AJ beat in longevity too, having worn the WWWA World Championship from 1937 to 1956.

Bull Nakano and Kaoru Ito would both later keep that same championship for stretches that dwarf AJ's current reign.

More opportunities and better opponents had Aja Kong, Awesome Kong (Kharma), Lita and Trish Stratus have better, more entertaining reigns. Sara Del Rey had a series of great matches as the first-ever Shimmer champion. 

All that being said, AJ's run has been one of the best in recent memory. Michelle McCoolBeth Phoenix and Eve Torres didn't have a promo as powerful as hers or a rivalry on par with AJ vs. Kaitlyn. 

While AJ's damning of the Total Divas cast is her most famous speech, she's spent much of her reign impressing on the mic. Take her response to Dolph Ziggler leaving her, for example.

AJ's dramatic story opposite Kaitlyn and many of her battles with Natalya have been far better than what fans have come to expect from the Divas division.

Whether she's gloating over a victory, howling, skipping or talking to her title like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, AJ has been one of the company's most interesting characters. Combine that with the length of her reign and her in-ring skills and the result has been the best female champ's reign since the butterfly belt was born. 

Unfortunately, AJ's reign has not been as exceptional as it could be. The state of the Divas division is like a weight tied to her ankle. Short matches, inconsistency and inattention bog it down.

A look back at two memorable reigns in women's wrestling history show us how far AJ's run is from all-time greatness.

 

Nov. 26, 1992-March 26, 1995

Aja Kong won the WWWA World Heavyweight Championship from Bull Nakano in a meeting of two of the most intimidating women to ever step into a wrestling ring.

All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling had resurrected the title 14 years after Mildred Burke retired it. After Hall of Famers Jaguar Yokota, Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo won and lost the belt, it was Kong's turn.

Her reign included a string of great bouts including an emotional win against Megumi Kudo in December of 1993 and a critically acclaimed match against Manami Toyota in the Tokyo Dome in 1994.

Each time Kong stepped into the ring, fans witnessed the collision of two warriors. Comparing this to AJ defending her title against one of The Bellas is like comparing a Play-Doh sculpture to Michelangelo's David.

During her reign, Kong had rivals like Toyota and Yumiko Hotta whose challenges were violent, intense and worthy of headlining a major event. 

Working for an all-female promotion meant not having to endure being cheated out of airtime the way that AJ is today. Kong's reign featured fierce, 30-minute battles against elite competition while AJ has been asked to go for five minutes against Brie Bella.

 

Jan. 9, 2005-April 2, 2006

The sixth time that Trish won the WWE Women's Champion, she didn't let go of it for 448 days.

The reign began after defeating her biggest rival, the win coming at the climax of a personal and intense feud. It ended with the climax of a classic angle where Mickie James became obsessed with befriending and becoming Trish.

In between, Trish battled Christy Hemme at WrestleMania 21, beat Melina at Survivor Series and even used a gimmicky lingerie match at Taboo Tuesday 2005 to further the James storyline.

Even though she missed some time due to an injury, Trish's reign is one that is implanted in fans' minds forever because of that feud with James. James went from fan to teammate to stalker to enemy. The rivalry hit its apex at WrestleMania 22.

The dramatic highlights of Trish's reign make up for its pockets of inactivity. AJ has yet to have as many engaging stories during her time with the belt. Should she keep the title come April, she could have her first taste of the WrestleMania spotlight as champion.

AJ still has time to extend and add to her title reign, but for now it has to rank below what Trish accomplished. Kong, Del Rey, Burke, Moolah and others have had more historic and entertaining runs than her as well.

More excellent matches and another rivalry powered by a great story and AJ will climb up that list. Doing that is going to be an arduous trek though with the inattentiveness of the WWE with the Divas division  totally working against her. 

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