If you had told me on August 31st 2010, after AJ made her debut on the all Dive season of NXT, that in two years, she would be the most interesting character on WWE television, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. Here we are, two years later and not only is AJ the best thing going on WWE television this summer, but she’s the best thing going by a pretty large margin.
She has been on quite a journey in recent months, from finally having the courage to get together with her crush Daniel Bryan, to dating the World Heavyweight Champion, to costing him the title and subsequently being dumped, everything in her narrative has helped transform her from the geeky girl next door to the WWE’s resident “Crazy Chick”. What’s crazier than her character is the fact that the WWE has made it all make sense!
This week’s edition of A Matter of Character will analyze the character of AJ. I will highlight her strengths, and point out the weaknesses I perceive in the character and the performer (heads up, there aren’t many). Following my analysis, I will suggest ways to improve or help the character progress in the future. Let’s Do This!
At 5 ft 3 in tall, and just over 100 pounds soaking wet, AJ is the smallest Diva on the WWE roster, and in many regards may be the cutest Diva on the roster as well. Whether playing a nerdy chick, or a crazy chick, it’s pretty undeniable that AJ is f’n adorable. Is she the sexiest Diva on the roster? I’d say no, but she’s very pretty, and her character coupled with her obvious cuteness make her more appealing to WWE’s male audience (myself included). Speaking for myself, it doesn’t really matter how physically sexy you are if you offer nothing more than that. Eventually I’ll get bored if you bring nothing else to the table except that you’re nice to look at. AJ is (and always has been) sexy, in part because she always brought more to the table than her looks (which are delightful as well).
Not only is AJ all kinds of adorable, but she can flat out go in the ring. She, along with Natalya and Beth are probably the best female wrestlers in the WWE right now. I especially like her in ring work right now, as the “Crazy Chick” character. She seems to convey a wide variety of emotions during the course of her matches, which I find highly entertaining. Physically AJ has all the tools to succeed.
When she debuted on WWE Television, AJ had a very bubbly personality. She was the fun-loving, geeky girl next door, which was a fun character to watch. In the recent months she has transformed her cheerful personality to one that is unpredictable and for all intents and purposes needy. One moment she’s happy, the next she’s crying, then she’s laughing, it’s impossible to keep track of this girl’s emotions. The only thing that we as the viewer can somewhat deduce is that she is a co-dependant person, and the idea of being alone is not one that AJ is willing to entertain.
This is the personality of a dynamic character. She’s plausibly unpredictable, and we can follow her thought process. We know what she likes and doesn’t like, and the only thing really in question about her character is how she’ll react in various predicaments. The character is also helped by the fact that AJ has the charisma to pull it off flawlessly, to the point of romanticizing the idea of dating a crazy chick to the male audience watching (it can be fun but almost always turns out being terrible FYI).
Words and Actions
AJ’s promo work during recent weeks has been pretty phenomenal. Michelle McCool and Layla had conditioned me to hate it anytime a WWE Diva grabbed a microphone, and for a long time my assumption was correct. The Divas would speak in clichés and whine incessantly about things that wouldn’t matter to anyone but teenage girls. AJ’s promos are vastly more substantive, and maybe it’s because she’s been interacting mostly with guys like CM Punk, Kane, and Daniel Bryan. Whatever the reason, she shows a great deal of charisma when she speaks, while also being able to project a wide variety of emotions to the WWE Universe via her facial expressions and tone of her voice. She has proven to be a better performer than 90% of her male counterparts in this regard.
Her actions in recent months have surprisingly become the most compelling in the entire WWE. From turning on her best friend after Daniel Bryan broke up with her, to attempting to seduce CM Punk and Kane, to oddly smiling as Kane carried her to the back after he’d knocked her off the apron (which helped CM Punk retain his championship), her antics are unpredictable and entertaining (certainly more entertaining than anything John Cena has done in his feud with Johnny Ace). I actually find myself looking forward to her segments the most now because they are the most fun, and almost always impeccably performed.
AJ is co-dependant, which I touched on briefly in the Personality section. It’s this co-dependence that is truly driving her character more than anything else right now. The Divas title isn’t important, her friendships aren’t important; all that matter is obtaining a significant other, be it CM Punk or her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Bryan. Until she does so she will not be able to focus on anything else.
I think this is a great motivation for a character, for two reasons. One because the motivation has been sensibly developed in her character over the course of several months (she feels better when in a relationship and she wants to go back to feeling better), and two, because it makes her intimately involved with the other participants in her narrative.
I can see why some out there would think this character motivation is a bit sexist. I can hear them already “Oh, so her only purpose in life is to have a man… great message to send to young boys and girls”. I hear you, but I respectfully disagree. While her character is fun to watch, nothing but confusion a calamity follows her everywhere she goes. Her co-dependence is a danger to herself and the people she “cares” about. Her motivation IS her conflict.
I personally am so interested in this narrative, because I want to see what, if anything can boost this girl’s confidence to the point where she isn’t dependent on a relationship to keep her happy. I am invested because I want her to get to the point where she’s comfortable enough in her own skin that she won’t put up with abusive assholes like Daniel Bryan, or depend on having a boyfriend as a crutch in her life. If the story is completed properly, it is a great message to get out there.
I’ve been regularly wrong in trying to predict where the WWE is going with this narrative, and have been pleasantly surprised where they’ve taken it each step of the way. That being said, I see her helping Daniel Bryan win the WWE Championship from CM Punk at Money in the Bank, and her and Daniel getting back together, becoming the new power couple of the WWE.
I’d be totally fine with that outcome as long as they continue to play up her co-dependence as a negative, until she finally gets to the point where she is comfortable enough with who she is to break away and be by herself. That being said, the WWE could put a nice bookend on her “co-dependence” narrative at MITB as well.
They’d simply need to have CM Punk tell her that he thinks that she’s really cool, and he enjoys spending time with her, but he’s not interested in he as anything more than a friend. This would anger her, and in the weeks leading up to MITB, she would gravitate more to Bryan who is showering her with attention and affection in hopes that she’ll help him defeat CM Punk when she’s the special guest referee. He can even go as far as finally saying that he “Loves” her, which he didn’t do when they were dating.
At the PPV, she would attempt to help Daniel win, but CM Punk would keep finding ways to stay in the match. Eventually you could have Bryan get frustrated with her and push her down. Punk would then take Bryan off his feet, and help AJ to hers despite her attempts to screw him out of the WWE Title. It would be in this moment that AJ would start to realize that the person who cares about her the most despite not wanting to be her boyfriend is CM Punk, and that having a boyfriend doesn’t mean that that person really cares about you. At that point she’d finally give Daniel Bryan what he deserves, siding with Punk to a loud ovation from the WWE Universe, and taking her first steps to independence.
There you have it, but I want to know what you think? Is AJ the best, most compelling character on WWE TV right now? Do you find her as adorable as I do? Is her narrative providing a bad message for you boys and girls who watch the WWE?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying Happy Canada’s Day to my Canadian brethren, Happy 4th of July to our Southern neighbors, and Happy Birthday to me (July 3rd). Have a great week everybody!