AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan were a great couple.
So great, in fact, they were nearly married back in 2012 on the 1,000th episode of Monday Night RAW. Naturally, like (almost) every WWE wedding, it didn't work out, and Bryan was left at the altar so that Lee could pursue her newfound career as RAW General Manager.
Her bearded ex-boyfriend was relegated to anger management classes.
That's a role that allowed Bryan to shine, largely in part because it played to his strengths. By contrast, Lee bombed as the RAW GM, not because she wasn't a capable performer, but rather because the role was miscast. Sure, the future Divas champion had glowed in her previous angle, but all that glitters is not gold.
The same can be said for Bryan, who lost his World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in just 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28. A good portion of the pro wrestling "Universe" -- myself included -- didn't expect the YES! man to ever fully recover, let alone make a run at the WWE title.
But that's because we didn't think Creative would ever figure out how to properly use him.
In the end, it was the same tried-and-true formula that's worked from day one. If you have a wrestler who is talented, then all they really need is a mic and a few minutes on television to get over. Bryan's "gimmick" is a beard and an "obnoxious" catchphrase.
The rest is ability.
It should come as no surprise then, to learn that Lee's promo last night in Phoenix -- considered one of the finest in her professional career -- was not about her being a jilted psycho, or a locker room slut, or even a person of authority. Heck, it wasn't even about heels and faces.
It was about her, AJ Lee, and why the Total Divas television show (in spite of solid ratings) makes her howlin' mad.
Not only was her performance captivating (watch it again here), it was effective in burying the program. Ordinarily, a burial signifies death, but when a promo is good enough, it can also bring about life. Less than 24 hours after the fact, WWE legend Mick Foley is sounding off.
Why all the hullabaloo?
Lee's diatribe was a reflection of this industry's prevailing wisdom: Divas are often shoehorned between important pay-per-view matches to give fans a chance to take a piss or refill their diet Pepsi. In other instances, they're trotted out to the ring for the purposes of standing around and looking hot.
Those Divas who are actually given time to perform, often do so in a clumsy and haphazard manner.
But that's a result of not having any real opportunities to get better inside the ring in front of a live audience, something required on a regular basis to establish any kind of prolonged fluidity. I think it's an unfortunate fact -- one not lost on Lee -- but her attack is on the women who embrace it.
Yet the alternative can leave you unemployed.
I think that's a sentiment echoed in this promo from Daniel Bryan, also one of his finest, in his recent tete-a-tete with John Cena. He doesn't have the genetics to be Vince McMahon's poster boy, nor does he have the lineage to afford him certain favors when it comes time for the casting call.
He's just a guy who worked hard and believed in himself.
That could have been the breaking point for Lee, who like Bryan, has now established herself as the most interesting wrestler in her division. Instead of one John Cena, she has a half-dozen, all of whom are capable of getting attention by wearing a low cut shirt or bending over to get between the ropes.
Also like Bryan, she's managed to win a championship, yet still finds herself in a holding pattern while the "faces" of the company carry the torch. How much of that is real versus how much is kayfabe is irrelevant. It's a storyline we've all faced in real life at school, work and various social settings.
And it sucks.
That's why Lee was able to round the bases last night on RAW, as the opposing team could do nothing but stand there and heckle as the ball left the park. We want to root for the underdog, the hard worker who is a representative of the people and not a corporate stooge.
Lee has our attention. Now let's see what her (and Creative) intend to do with it.