WWE’s most popular Diva just took her Chucks and went home. At least, that’s what it looks like.
It’s not that AJ Lee left the company under any bad terms, but she was essentially the face of the #GiveDivasAChance movement that’s overtaken pro wrestling social media for the last few months. While it was a 30-second Divas division tag-match with Paige and Emma facing The Bellas that sparked the hashtag revolution, it’s been AJ Lee front-and-center fanning the flames.
Look no further than the way AJ called out Stephanie McMahon out very publicly for unfair gender wage bias in WWE:
@StephMcMahon Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest rated segment of the show several times,
— A.J. (@WWEAJLee) February 25, 2015
And of course, the fact that AJ Lee was part of the ONLY Diva’s match at WrestleMania 31 (alongside her heir to the geek throne, Paige), in a winning effort no less, makes her even more important. She called out the boss publicly and still managed to keep her position. Get somebody else who isn’t named John Cena Brock Lesnar to try that one and survive.
It helps that AJ Lee was an all-around talent. She was great on the microphone, impressive in the ring, and had an uncanny ability to both be herself and connect with the WWE Universe. She won the Diva of the Year slammy in both 2012 and 2014, and still earned her internet street cred by being the first diva ever to be named Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Woman of the Year for three consecutive years.
Plus, she’s the longest-reigning Diva’s Champion of all time.
So with AJ Lee leaving WWE for greener pastures, where does the #GiveDivasAChance movement go?
Simple: to the NXT talent itching for their shot.
Paige absolutely stole the show upon her debut last year. It helped that she was the defending NXT Women’s Champion at the time, and that WWE put the strap on her the first time she showed up on Monday Night Raw, but she took what could’ve been a meaningless story line way to “get over” and turn it into an impressive summer-long run. When they re-paired her with AJ last July, both women benefited from an increased Diva’s presence and a more prestigious title.
And WWE is back in that same spot again. Talent like Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley have been delivering main-event caliber matches for weeks. At the recent NXT house show during Wrestlemania weekend, the battle between Charlotte and Sasha Banks absolutely stole the show, much like they did on NXT television just a few short weeks prior.
That’s what the company needs, though. More one-on-one matches that have some teeth. Let the women show off some good ol’ fashion wrasslin’ holds, get battered and beat up, and fight for a prestigious belt. While it’s great that you can get even MORE women on the card if they go two-on-two… or three-on-three… or four-on-four… the division needs to be about singles competition.
There’s plenty of talent for it, too. Sure, many of the Divas have found a niche on Total Divas – which is great cross-promotion for both WWE and women’s wrestling – but it’s important to showcase the pure athleticism these women have. Don’t just #GiveDivasAChance, give them a meaty storyline. Develop an NXT faction that rises up and challenges the Divas division for all the marbles. Heck, unify the NXT and Diva’s championship in an eight woman elimination ‘King of the Ring’ style tournament that sees a young gun – preferably Charlotte or Sasha Banks – come out on top. And maybe… eventually… we could see Divas main-evening a WrestleMania one day.
Plus, with the recently announced Divas Search on the WWE Network, there should be plenty of talent to fill the ranks down in NXT.
While it’s a shame to see AJ Lee leave WWE at the peak of her career, it gives WWE a number of options moving forward. It’s just about whether the company decides to capitalize on them or not.
There’s money to be made in a hearty Women’s division, lets just hope WWE doesn’t leave it on the table.