WWE Diva Kaitlyn announced her departure from the wrestling business on Wednesday, effective immediately. Her last match aired on this week’s Main Event. Regardless of how far in advance this was planned, I am happy to report that we’ll not only get to see Kaitlyn wrestle that one last match, but her opponent will be AJ Lee.

Without having seen all of the Divas matches last year (for damn good reasons too snarky to enumerate), I’d have to nominate Kaitlyn’s bout with AJ at Payback as the best of 2013. I actually went so far as to select that match as the one to analyse from that PPV. Ha ha! In re-reading that column, which you should do too, I am tickled by the timeliness of my rant:

Great elbows from Kaitlyn, getting her a 2 count. "AJ's kissed everyone in the WWE except for Michael Cole,” says Lawler, reusing old material to imply that AJ is a slut who gets around. Why are we talking about this? Jerry Lawler…I want to write a script for AJ Lee to read in the center of the ring at WrestleMania 30, belittling you for a change. All the other Divas - and yes we’ll bring back Lita too - will stand behind AJ, and the stadium will boo the shit out of you, Jerry. I’m writing it, Lawler!

When Jerry had his “health scare” this past Monday night - which turned out to be a case of dodgy clams and a scheme to shill for the WWE App – I was shamelessly terrified that this might be it for “The King”. Of course I want him to live, but also I really want to write that fake promo for WrestleMania XXX. I need to get on that, and Jerry needs to get drinking kale smoothies and whatnot. I want him fit as a freakin’ crown-carrying fiddle. Now you’ve got me all diverted, Jerry, and we’re here to talk about Kaitlyn!

Her real name is Celeste Bonin, which I would argue is a far better Diva name than Kaitlyn. I know how rare it is for Vince to bless a Superstar with his/her own name, because then Vince can’t own it. But she looks like a Celeste, and it’s beautiful and unique without being “too exotic” for us idiot fans. She is 27 years old, and had only been in wrestling for 3 years. So we can call this an icebreaker on her resume, a bit of carny intrigue to get her foot in the door elsewhere.

She came to WWE developmental with a body fitness background, having placed well in competitions and appearing in magazines. Here she is, placing 1st in 2007:

Um, holy crap. I will also say that this photo shows the ridiculous work ethic possessed by one Miss Bonin, which translated well to pro wrestling. Hard work and dedication from within must be a necessity when you work for Vince. I suspect there are many days for both developmental and the main roster, where life feels like one of those gag birthday candles. You blow the shit out of it, and it keeps lighting back up for you to start all over again.  

When Kaitlyn signed a developmental contract in 2010, she worked at Florida Championship Wrestling with the likes of AJ, Aksana, Naomi and Rosa Mendes. (FCW was re-branded as NXT in 2012, but they also ran a concurrent-yet-separate “rookie competition” program called NXT. I’m sure it’s not confusing for anyone else but me.) I didn’t see Kaitlyn until she was a “contestant” on Season 3 of NXT. She basically played the wide-eyed target for her mentor Vicki Guerrero’s tirades, resulting in several comedy segments and matches between the two. After various humiliating trials and a few entertaining matches, Kaitlyn was crowned the winner of NXT Season 3 (“The Breakout Diva”) in November 2010 (just four months after she’d stepped into a ring). Would she go the way of Season 1 winner, Wade Barrett (careful how you gauge that one!) or Season 2 winner, Kaval (does he wish he was #BadNewsKaval?).

I’d say Kaitlyn went a different way altogether. She spent most of 2011 as one half of the The Chickbusters tag team. She and AJ were positioned as cutie-pie besties battling The Divas of Doom (Beth Phoenix and Natalya). Beth and Natalya were waging war on the “Barbie Dolls” of the women’s division -  a smart concept in that Barbies such as Kelly Kelly and Maryse were running rampant, but stupid in that the Chickbusters were neither Kelly Kelly nor Maryse. Kaitlyn and AJ were defending the “honor” of the likes of LayCool, but here’s the good news: it gave them the opportunity to get better in the ring. They were being given a chance. It wasn’t the best concept (women going all Lord of the Flies on each other) but I had to appreciate that it was a concept.

Despite Michael Cole’s dreadful skewering of the NXT program (“For the few of you who actually watch NXT, AJ’s having some sort of relationship with that leprechaun, Hornswoggle”), Kaitlyn and AJ endeared themselves to fans. They both possessed an “it” factor that transcended superficial beauty and wrestling technique (though they had the former in spades, and the latter was coming along nicely). Unfortunately, the company failed to showcase their talents in an appropriate manner. AJ was basically profiled as a crazy slut, and Kaitlyn as desperate and bland. There were a few shining moments between them as The Chickbusters imploded – you can see that beneath the lame scripting, there is a winking sense of humor.

And then there was the secret admirer. Played out for far too long, we all breathed a sigh of relief when the admirer was revealed to be AJ (and not Hornswoggle, as is usually the case). This was the best possible climax to a secret admirer angle: Kaitlyn didn’t need to be defined by a romantic relationship, and these former best friends could settle their differences by WRESTLING. When they weren’t given much time in the ring, their matches usually consisted of Kaitlyn tossing AJ around like a rag doll, then AJ outmaneuvering her for the finish. I have to hand it to them, they were a great combination: Kaitlyn’s bodybuilding background made her the perfect contrast to the wiry AJ. The difference in their body types made for interesting wrestling. AJ could nimbly take to the air, and Kaitlyn was strong enough to catch her.

When they were given more time, their matches were all the better for it. The women knew how to pace themselves and tell a story in the ring. I never got the impression that they were counting out steps or feeling paralyzed by the notion that they didn’t know what to do next. Instincts: they had them. And as much as I loved Beth Phoenix for her strength, Kaitlyn’s strength was accompanied by a soft beauty, and the priceless gift of youth. Her abilities in the ring improved in a short period of time, and she knew how to use the power that she had worked so hard to develop. There was no way I’d complain about “yet another” match between Kaitlyn and AJ.  It was a refreshing cat-and-mouse game that had people hoping for a renaissance in the Divas division.

WWE loves to churn out Divas in sexy (blonde) packages, and I felt they never knew how to capitalize on Kaitlyn’s looks. Bodybuilders and lingerie models may wear a similar amount of clothes, but their figures and poses should be very different. Here are two examples of how they tried to “package” Kaitlyn:

 

 

That couch pose is the definition of awkward. And the shark costume says “badass” and “assholes” at once, because you know in the next frame you’ll find the Bella twins dressed as matching schoolgirls whose outfits got shrunk in the wash. There has to be some middle ground between Shark and Schoolgirl. Please! And I don’t know who was responsible for the blonde-on-black decision at the hair salon, but it was not a good one. It must be hard to differentiate yourself, but it detracted from Kaitlyn’s other features. She has such a pretty face, and didn’t require a spatula to apply it.

What I also loved about Kaitlyn’s face is that she was able to be so composed and relaxed with her expressions. She only wore a fake smile when she wanted to make a point, and always walked down to the ring with purpose. She may not have been a decades-long veteran, but I think she brought a great deal of gravitas to the squared circle. Whatever her reasons for moving on, she leaves with her dignity intact.

I apologize for posting this column later than usual on a Thursday; I was unexpectedly ill last night. But the bright side of this coin is I was able to wait and watch Kaitlyn’s last match against AJ. I said at the beginning that I was happy these two would close Kaitlyn’s career together, and they did not disappoint. I am a sappy soul when it comes to wrestling, but this ranks high on my list of “ways to go out”.

Thanks for reading, all. I hope that you’ll check out my recent post on Jake “The Snake” Roberts on another site. His appearance on this week’s Old School Raw was a great moment. I’d also like to add my voice to those mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Mae Young, for she really LIVED. Please comment below, tweet me @kickyhick or send me an email. Have a great weekend!