As wrestling fans, it is hard to watch WWE undermine, mishandle, and ignore the women on their roster. As you can imagine, it's even harder to watch as a woman.
You know how much I love my WWE, and my WWE treats women horrendously. Yet, I haven't watched less wrestling. I haven't bought less merchandise. As a matter of fact, I have done nothing but continually support the company that created Piggy James. Vince McMahon degrades his female talent under the guise of entertainment, and I've been worse than a bystander. I've been a consumer.
This is not a feminist rant. Maybe it's a confession. I thought I could analyze Kaitlyn versus AJ in the same way I'd have done Ziggler versus Del Rio. And here I sit, wanting to do right by my gender, and review the Divas match in the “fairest” way. But what’s fair?
A few minutes in, I realized I was holding the match to a lower standard. A women's match of any kind is rare these days, let alone one of a decent length on a PPV. Was I being overly generous in my assessment, like a starving child being thrown a crumb? Shouldn't I be looking at this match with the same level of scrutiny I would apply to Ziggler/Del Rio?
Then again, how can we watch any match in absolute terms? The only way to do right by the Divas was to review their match within the same context that they wrestled it. Every wrestler walks out to that ring carrying the weight of backstage politics, uneven storylines and random opportunities. We judge them based on the entire experience, whether it’s fair or not. So let’s do this.
Light It Up
I love that neither woman typifies the unobtainable Diva ideal. AJ’s “geek goddess” has sent girls flocking to the nearest Hot Topic and Scissors R Us stores, wanting to look like their favourite Diva. When is the last time a woman in the WWE has inspired young female fans to emulate her? Kaitlyn rocks a completely sexy look without requiring a Brazilian wax to do so. Both women are all business as they walk to the ring, neither smiling nor waving.
You’ve Got 10 Minutes
- Stare down, broken by AJ blowing Kaitlyn a kiss, and Kaitlyn punching her in the kisser.
- A hard-hitting beat down ensues, then Kaitlyn flings AJ over the Spanish announce table onto the floor. What a fantastic visual, with AJ being so small and Kaitlyn so strong. It is an enthusiastic, attention-grabbing start.
- Kaitlyn drags AJ back into the ring for more pummelling.
- AJ slips out of the ring, and lures Kaitlyn into getting a double boot to the face. AJ really uses her quickness to advantage here. She looks both wily and skilled, and you can hear the fans reacting. She also takes every possible opportunity to gloat over her dominance. AJ Lee does not waste a moment or a movement on screen.
- AJ drags Kaitlyn into the ring for a 2 count. Jerry Lawler crows, "I've said this before: I think all women secretly despise each other." There's being a heel announcer, and then there's being Jerry Lawler. Don’t tell me he’s just doing his job.
- AJ applies a side headlock with a sly expression on her face.
- Kaitlyn elbows out of the predicament, and comes off the ropes into an AJ elbow – AJ covers for 2.
- "I don't think any of us knows what's going on in the heads of these two women, or ANY women, for that matter," says Michael Cole. Cue guffaws and jokes about failed marriages. Please raise your hand if you think these guys are hilarious; I really want to know.
Did You Hear That “You Can’t Wrestle” Chant? Me Neither.
- AJ applies swinging neckbreaker after neckbreaker, then another 2 count. I like that AJ covers whenever she can, since she’s a tenacious character trying to win that title.
- AJ taunts Kaitlyn and gets in a few kicks, then Kaitlyn tries to throw AJ into the ropes. AJ reverses it into a sleeper hold position on Kaitlyn's back. Kaitlyn is brought almost to her knees, but powers up to her feet and backs AJ into the corner. Another excellent visual thanks to AJ’s tiny stature and Kaitlyn’s strength.
- AJ lands on the top turnbuckle, but uses the positioning to double-kick Kaitlyn in the back. Nice! Unexpected, and well done.
- AJ delivers a roundhouse kick, but then Kaitlyn meets her off the ropes with a dropkick. AJ sells the dropkick with bouncy Ziggler-esque authority. Kaitlyn eyes AJ like a predator. Someone holds up a sign saying, “I Miss Lita”. Testify.
- Criss cross to the ropes, and Kaitlyn shoulder-tackles AJ better than John Cena in his wildest dreams. Kaitlyn’s the real deal.
- 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, you make me want to change my dream for what I’d do if I worked for the WWE. No more Master Classes, or brainstorming with the legends on how to improve the next generation. 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! (My tombstone will read: Here Lies Heather Hickey, A Mark Til the End).
Now Everyone’s Fired Up
- Kaitlyn grabs onto AJ’s hair, and AJ breaks the hold with a high kick. She’s always thinking, always moving, it’s a fluid match.
- AJ jumps into a crucifix on Kaitlyn’s back, and pulls her down for a pin attempt. Kaitlyn reverses it by sitting up, then using momentum to roll over backwards with AJ still on her back, and gets to her feet with AJ in that fireman's carry position. The fans are impressed.
- Kaitlyn then executes a fireman’s carry gutbuster.
- AJ scrambles to the ropes, but Kaitlyn grabs onto her, pulling off AJ's belt while AJ holds on tight to the ring apron ("She deserves a good spanking!" says Lawler. Don’t worry, Jerry, you’ve got my attention now.)
- While the referee adjusts the ring apron back into place, AJ grabs the belt and decks Kaitlyn in the head with it.
- AJ gets a 2 count, and reacts with rage, screaming.
- AJ climbs to the top turnbuckle, and lands on Kaitlyn with a cross body. Kaitlyn catches her, but AJ scurries onto Kaitlyn's back and cinches in the Black Widow.
- Kaitlyn is worn down, but manages to get back to her feet and reverses the hold into a powerful backbreaker.
- As AJ gets back to her feet, she is met with a beautiful spear.
- Before making the cover, Kaitlyn makes the fateful error of pausing to blow AJ a kiss, then pounding her head into the mat. Two count.
- Kaitlyn lifts AJ to her shoulders, but AJ slips out of the hold.
- Kaitlyn charges towards AJ in the corner, and ends up banging her face against the turnbuckle when AJ moves out of the way. Note that AJ doesn't just move out of the way, she lithely drapes herself across the ropes.
- AJ applies the Black Widow submission hold again, and this time Kaitlyn cannot power out of it. She tearfully, wearily taps out. Really well done.
- AJ celebrates, holding the Divas title belt and a joyful, deranged expression. Whenever I know that a wrestler was a fan as a child, and dreamt of moments like this, it’s easy to forget it’s all fake. Savour it, AJ!
- The camera zooms in tight on Kaitlyn's tear-streaked face. She's so young and fresh, full of potential. The crowd chants, “You tapped out” and I will take it, because they’re chanting something, and not taking a bathroom break.
That was a great wrestling match. Not just “for what it was” or “all things considered.” There were no awkward moments, the time flew by, and they wrestled the glittery trunks off of the two Jericho/Fandango matches that I’ve analyzed before. Kaitlyn and AJ were comfortable in the ring, they hit hard, executed their moves, and told their story. Congratulations to you both. May your efforts pay off in a company where success can be disproportionate to talent.
I don't expect wrestling to be tasteful or kind. But sometimes it’s hard to completely suspend disbelief, and just let the show be a show. I’ve bestowed a lot of blind faith into WWE, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow when they insult me in return. Who’s the fool? Is it really Jerry Lawler, or me? Last week I vowed to just “enjoy it for what it is” and what a wonderful match it was. Payback, indeed.