Another WWE Monday Night Raw is in the books and another show dominated by the presence of AJ Lee. Lee is a great performer, and the storyline features two of the best wrestlers in the world today in CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. I can't help but wonder what's the end game? What's the point of all this?
Over the course of WWE history, storylines with women as the focus haven't moved the ratings. They just haven't. Even in the heyday of Sable in 1998 and 1999, when she was arguably the most prominent sex symbol in wrestling history, her segments still didn't register numbers.
Sure, preteens and adults, alike, loved seeing her wearing a bikini, but never were fans invested in her storylines. There certainly were no pay-per-view buys with the sole intent of seeing something Sable would do.
The fact of the matter was, no matter how many Internet views, no matter what type of mainstream buzz or even how many Playboy Magazines sold, Sable simply didn't mean a thing to the then-WWF's ratings or pay-per-view revenue.
The most recent and most prominent love triangle feud of the last 15 years both ended with less-than-stellar results.
During the summer of 2000, Triple H and Kurt Angle feuded over the love of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. Despite, again, featuring two of the best wrestlers in the world, despite rumors of McMahon-Helmsley turning on her husband Triple H, it was all over in a flash. Quietly, Angle lost to Triple H at Unforgiven 2000, and the storyline ended without as much as another mention.
While both workers moved on to even bigger heights the rest of the year and beyond, the angle itself had no payoff whatsoever, and frankly even at the time, nobody cared where McMahon-Helmsley ended up.
In 2005, Matt Hardy and Edge engaged in one of the best feuds in WWE history over Hardy's former girlfriend Lita. While Hardy was rehabbing an injury, Lita found solace on the road in the form of rising star Edge. Once WWE found out about this situation, they did the only logical thing—fired Matt Hardy. No, but seriously, that's what they chose.
Either way, Hardy returned to television in July 2005 and kicked off a blood feud of epic proportions in that it was rooted in reality like few WWE angles before. This supposed love-triangle storyline launched Edge into the top upper echelon of the WWE, but it did little for the career of Hardy, and when it was all said and done, Lita was only a small part of the bigger picture to develop Edge's character.
The feud culminated in a match at SummerSlam 2005, which ended with a whimper, as Edge caused Hardy to bleed, forcing the referee to stop the match. And just like that, the love triangle was over.
Edge was able to parlay the blood feud into a main-event spot, but that was more about Edge finally getting TV time and becoming much more improved on the microphone. Hardy quietly retreated to the SmackDown brand and never found his stride again.
Fast forward back to today's current love triangle, and while the storyline hasn't been awful, I'm just confused as to the overall benefit.
It's been built quite well, AJ is great in the role, Bryan and Punk are elite wrestlers in the world, but at the end of the day, what does an angle with a woman as the focal point mean for the WWE?
Raw ratings have been up in the past weeks including a 3.2 for Monday's show—a great rating given competition from MLB's Home Run Derby. It's presumption to assume AJ is the reason for the spike in ratings, but she certainly hasn't turned people away.
Despite this, I still worry about the long-term ramifications of the angle. I'm having issue figuring out where anyone benefits. If she screws Bryan and goes with CM Punk, is Punk now a heel? Does Bryan become a babyface? Does she just go with Punk, and they both are face? Then, you end up in a scenario where Bryan looks like a fool.
The most ideal scenario in my mind, is screwing over Punk to go with Bryan. This way, Bryan maintains his top heel status along with a woman who didn't stand up for herself and went back with the man who treated her poorly. While this isn't the most idealistic role for AJ, it's the best for wrestling purposes. This scenario begs the question of what the past four months were for, though, as this scenario was already playing out on television.
The last is she ends up with neither of the men and is placed with a dark horse like Kane or just ends up by herself. This is another scenario that's not awful, but essentially, accomplishes nothing. Sure, we have seen some great television and pay-per-view matches with Bryan and Punk, but we would've gotten those too without having to sit through 20-minute segments of AJ.
I'll give the WWE credit for putting Bryan and Punk in a main-event storyline, but I can't help but notice them not being the focus. The more and more AJ takes TV time, the less this entire feud helps Bryan and Punk.
Instead of building up two of the top young stars in the business, WWE seems more interested in letting a Days of Our Lives' storyline play out and have people guessing each week where the crazy, but lovely, AJ will end up.
Why can't this feud be about who's the best in the world? Why can't fans just take enjoyment in seeing two of the best wrestlers in the world battle on pay-per-view?
I'll have to let this angle play out before I can say for sure, but looking at the possible endings, I don't see how this ends up benefiting anyone in the long run.
I don't believe Bryan or Punk are going to become bigger stars when the angle wraps up. All I can really see is AJ becoming a larger on-screen character temporarily. This also begs the question of benefit as AJ isn't a strong in-ring performer and has had little-to-no interaction with the rest of the Divas' division.
Wait and see I suppose, but I can't help but question the ending