So the big news to come out of last week's edition of Smackdown is that AJ will be the special guest referee for the Daniel Bryan/CM Punk match for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank. If you're reading this, you probably already know that. You probably have an opinion on it too, and if I had to guess, I'd say that you approve of it.
There are some valid objections to putting AJ in the middle of this feud. Two guys the caliber of Punk and Bryan don't really need any outside players involved to create interest in their matches, and AJ's involvement is just mucking things up. Maybe you have trouble believing that Punk is attracted enough to her to not have already told her to go away and quit sticking her nose in the middle of his matches. Maybe her theme music is wearing on you.
But in all seriousness, I think it's hard to argue that AJ has been anything but a positive influence on the Punk/Bryan feud (formerly the Punk/Bryan/Kane feud). Her involvement has been the most effective use of a Diva in recent memory, and she adds a unique, memorable element to the storyline that sets it apart from other feuds.
So, I'm making the assumption that AJ being the ref at Money in the Bank is a good thing, and that most other fans feel the same way.
But let me take this a step further; I would go as far as saying that AJ as guest referee is a great idea, and here are a bunch of totally awesome and completely objective reasons why.
1) Literally Anything She Does Will Make Sense.
So based on her recent actions, it seems clear that AJ is either mentally unstable or a master manipulator. Because of this, anything she does in the context of this match can be easily justified.
If she sides with Punk? That makes perfect sense, because she's made it clear she has a thing for him over the past few weeks.
If she sides with Bryan? Well, that makes sense too. She's made sure to mention that she hasn't really gotten over him on multiple occasions, and it's entirely possible that she and Bryan were just playing everyone else.
If she calls it down the middle? That's logical, too. After all, who knows what's going on in her head?
If she refuses to count any pinfall attempts and just starts doing laps around the ring while flapping her arms? Perfectly sensible. Again, who really knows what's going on in her head?
The point of all of this is that so long as no one else outside of AJ, Punk, and Bryan are involved in this match, there's no chance of any kind of nonsensical swerve, the kind that you see so often in matches with a guest referee.
It's a testament to how well AJ's character has been developed on-screen that her true motives aren't obvious and that her actions remain unpredictable. And seriously, how many people could have predicted her coming out in the middle of Raw dressed like Kane a couple of weeks ago?
And because we don't really know for sure what exactly is happening in AJ's head, anything she does in this match can be logically justified. Storylines that make sense are the foundation of good wrestling feuds, and no matter what happens in this match, it will almost definitely make sense.
2) She Represents A Surprisingly Creative Take On A Feud That Didn't Obviously Need It
So, a little earlier I brought up a few possible objections to having AJ as a guest referee, and one of them was that Punk and Bryan didn't need anyone else involved to have a super-awesome feud with each other. If you don't remember this, just scroll up, it was only a few paragraphs ago.
It seems that there are plenty of more obvious directions to take a Punk/Bryan feud. Obviously, these are two guys who took relatively similar career paths, have had to deal with similar obstacles as they made their way to the WWE, and have a lot of shared history. That's plenty to build a compelling feud on, right?
Well, yeah, it probably is. But to the credit of the WWE creative team, they didn't do the obvious thing. Which isn't always a good thing, because a lot of the time the obvious thing is the right thing to do. That's why it's obvious in the first place.
But adding AJ to the middle of this feud has helped it. It's made it more memorable: partly because AJ is a very different, memorable kind of character, and partly because there just aren't many storylines in the WWE that revolve around a women. This is especially true regarding feuds for the WWE Championship.
It's hard to blow a Punk/Bryan feud; again, both of them are really excellent professional wrestlers. Still, the creative team deserves credit for having an open lay-up, and then hitting a massive dunk (by including AJ) instead of just banking it in off the class.
But seriously, is this not the greatest thing ever?
The whole RKO set-up is great. It gets the crowd psyched for the actual RKO, it makes Orton look cool, it's a recognizable sign that Orton is about to finish off whoever he's wrestling and so on. The one problem is, it almost serves to dignify if his opponent.
Like, if Orton is wrestling say, Yoshi Tatsu, wouldn't Yoshi get kind of excited that Orton was bothering to do his whole RKO dance just to taunt him? I feel like he would. After all, if Orton is going to bother to go into all of his pre-RKO histrionics, that shows a certain level of his respect towards his opponent, right? He's excited enough about being on the verge of beating them that he's freaking out and pounding the mat.
The skip? Completely emasculating. Look at Kane in the video. As he stands there, totally confused, you can physically see the testosterone dripping out of his body. Or maybe that's just me seeing things. Probably the latter.
But my point remains. Orton's RKO taunt is great, but AJ skipping around has the added bonus of making whoever she's dealing with look stupid. I can't wait until she starts incorporating it into her matches.
Anyway, it's not conclusive whether she'll end up breaking out the skip at Money in the Bank. I'm really, really hoping she does. But just thinking about her skipping around the ring while the loser of the match watches, unable to do anything because no matter what, no man can even think of hitting an 100 lb. girl; well, whoever the loser is, I'm guessing that watching the skip isn't going to make them feel very good about themselves, and that's why it's such a great taunt.
4) It Gives The Loser A Legitimate Out
One of the obvious downsides to ever having a guest referee is that there probably won't be a clean finish. And as a wrestling fan, this is rarely satisfactory. We yearn for definitive closure to feuds, with a winner who definitely deserved their victory. But it isn't possible for the winner to look very good if they only win because the referee gave them a quick three count.
But in this case, a lack of closure and a cheap victory may be a good thing (though for all we know, there may be a clean finish. Again, with AJ involved, we just can't be sure how things are going to play out). After all, if there's no closure, that means more Punk vs. Bryan, right? C'mon, how many people don't want more of that?
I don't know, maybe there are some people who tired of Punk/Bryan matches and want them both to move on to other things, but I wouldn't mind seeing them wrestling each other at least up to SummerSlam, and possibly even past that. And if AJ does end up being heavily involved in the conclusion the match, then fantastic: it's a great excuse for them to have another match, no matter who the winner is.
Of course, this may all just be wishful thinking on my part. After all, would anyone really be surprised if the Money in the Bank briefcase was used immediately following this match? I know I wouldn't.
Still, AJ's potential role in the match is a perfect excuse for a couple more rounds of Punk vs. Bryan, at least in theory. And I'll take a theoretical chance of more Punk vs. Bryan over no chance.
5) It's The Most Effective Use Of A Woman In Professional Wrestling History
Okay, maybe it's not, although you can't prove that claim demonstrably wrong.
Still, as I said earlier, I think this is the WWE's best use of a Diva, or any other woman, in recent memory.
To start with, unlike literally every other female character on WWE programming, you can't just pigeonhole her as "good" or "bad." Last week's Smackdown provided an excellent example of this.
AJ started the show by wrestling Layla, losing the match when Bryan came out to distract her. After she lost, a frustrated AJ snapped and attacked Layla, who is a face. Of course, the rest of the time we saw AJ during the show, she was antagonizing Bryan, who is a heel. So from all of this, what can we conclude about whether AJ is a face or a heel herself?
And the answer is that right now, she's neither. She's just a person reacting to things that are happening to her in a completely logical way. She got angry when she got screwed out of a win, so she attacked her opponent. She got angry and hurt that Daniel Bryan dumped her, so now she's going out of her way to be a thorn in his side. In some ways, AJ acts more realistically than anyone else in the WWE.
Because she acts realistically, her behavior isn't predictable, unlike other wrestlers. For example, henever John Laurinaitis (RIP Big Johnny) was taking a while on the microphone, you could basically count on CM Punk coming out, interrupting him, and then calling him boring and/or a girl. But at this point, we can never really be sure what AJ's going to do and when she's going to do it. And once again, in my opinion, the unpredictability of AJ adds a lot to this match.
Meanwhile, the other women in the WWE are used mostly as shrewish buzzkills (Eve, Vickie Guerrero, arguably Beth Phoenix) or bouncy eye candy (Layla, Kelly Kelly, etc). They're largely one-dimensional characters who wouldn't be able to realistically be as integral to any match as AJ is to Punk vs. Bryan.
And it's not like one-dimensional female wrestlers are new to the WWE. Non-rhetorical question: how many female wrestlers with well-developed characters who were major contributors to a feud with male wrestlers can you name?
Off the top of my head, I can't think of any. I keep coming to Trish Stratus turning on Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XX, but I don't think her character was as well-developed or realistic as AJ's is.
So is AJ being the guest referee at Money in the Bank really the greatest idea ever? Probably not; my apologies to anyone who didn't recognize the title as hyperbole.
That said, it's still a really good idea, one that should add a lot to, not subtract from, the Punk/Bryan match.
And even if her involvement somehow did make the match worse—which I can't imagine it will—we'll still probably get to see her break out the skip, so it won't be a total loss.
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