One of the hottest storylines in pro wrestling right now is Daniel Bryan's pursuit of CM Punk's WWE Championship. For most hardcore fans, that synopsis is reason enough for excitement. But what really has this angle buzzing is the involvement of Bryan's (and maybe Punk's as well) "ex-girlfriend" AJ. AJ has been made the special guest referee for their match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view (PPV) on July 15th, and speculation about what she will do is running as wild as thoughts about who will wear the belt on RAW the next night.
Conventional wisdom has it that one of three things will happen:
(1) AJ will reveal that she is still aligned with Bryan and cost Punk his title.
(2) In an effort to get revenge on Bryan and impress Punk, she will cost Bryan the match.
(3) Similar to this past Monday night on RAW, the "mentally unstable" AJ will take out both men.
What do you want to see happen, Cagesiders? This writer's thoughts are below.
At an s1rude booked Money in the Bank (MitB), the ladder match for the WWE Championship title shot would occur earlier on the card than the WWE Championship match. The notion of Cena not going on last is probably enough to render this whole thing a pipe dream, but RAW going dark on AJ's smiling face gives me a glimmer of hope that the promotion's eponymous title might actually main event. While we're making wishes, I'll say that Jericho wins the briefcase - although I think my booking of the end of AJ-Bryan-Punk works regardless.
After a long, hotly contested match, we end a sequence with a Bryan pin attempt that looks like it will be successful. AJ counts: one, two...and stands up. An outraged D-Bry gets up, screaming at AJ and getting in her face. The smirking ref says something along the lines of "at least this time, you'll be sure that I screwed you out of a victory" and slaps him across the face. This spins Bryan around into a now recovered Punk, who picks him up and delivers a GTS. AJ again goes to record the pinfall: one, two...and stops. Now it's Punk's turn to act confused and indignant, for which he gets a swift kick in the cajones from the ref. AJ smiles again and says, "So sorry, but what do you expect from a 'crazy chick'?"
At this point, your MitB winner hits the ring, shakes AJ's hand and gives her the briefcase, hits his finisher on Punk and wins the belt. AJ skips up the ramp while the new champ celebrates and Bryan and Punk look on in shock.
The main reason I like this scenario is that it establishes AJ, the breakout star of the hot summer angle, as a strong character on her own, free of the male wrestlers she's been linked to for the better part of the year. You could put her back with one of them, or another superstar, in the future, but you don't have to. She's set-up as a mercenary tweener - the Harley Quinn many of us have been clamoring for since she skipped down the ramp in Kane's welder mask. She can win the Divas championship, feud with Eve or Vickie in their roles as heel authority figures or interject herself into another men's storyline.
It leaves the door open for more Bryan-Punk matches, or Punk could go immediately into a program with whoever won via cash-in. I prefer Jericho for a couple of reasons. If they're set on putting the belt back on Cena but want to save a feud with Punk for later and don't want to kill Bryan by feeding him to the leader of the Cenation, Jericho isn't hurt by only wearing the strap for a short time before doing the job for Cena. It also allows Bryan and Punk to blow off their feud at Summer Slam with a submission or iron man match. And it keeps the issues between Punk and Jericho alive for the future.
But it could also work with Big Show or Kane as the briefcase holders. The former leads right into a match with Cena, as John entered MitB with the stated purpose of keeping the strap away from Show. The latter would make sense given his recent involvement with AJ. And either man could survive losing the belt to he-who-you-can't-see. Then there's the possibility of Cena cashing in, with the requisite speculation of an imminent heel turn that would bring.
A heel turn is certainly one way they could go with a Cena cash-in. They wouldn't have to, though. Cena could come out on July 16th to "explain his actions". And that explanation would be that Punk has gotten a little too big for his britches: this past Monday's vignette between the two before their tag match when Punk tells Cena to "follow his lead" being the main set-up. Cena had a vow to keep coming out of MitB, and an overconfident Punk was another obstacle he had to overcome to keep his promise to the WWE Universe. But he's willing to do the honorable thing and give Punk his fair shot at the belt, in a rematch of their last match - at Summer Slam! In a nutshell, this allows Cena to remain the face who does douche-y things because it's what the Universe wants/needs...and WWE gets to close out the July PPV with him standing tall, even if he's not in the main event per se.
Regardless of who is champion at the end of the night, the main takeaway is a strong AJ. You can only go so far - in marketing and storytelling - with a mentally ill "little girl". But a woman who has seen that being a starstruck fangirl gets her nowhere, so she empowered herself to make a statement and create her own destiny? That character has long-term potential in and out of the ring.
I really can convince myself of this idea's worth if I think about it enough. But I also don't want to be that smark and fall so in love with my own fantasy booking that it ruins my enjoyment of the real product. What do you folks think? Could any of this happen? Should it? What are your ideas? Use the comments to let us know how you would...