There is no doubt that AJ Lee must be under consideration for most influential Superstar of the year in 2012, and is arguably the most important WWE diva on television for a decade.
This is remarkable as she started the year as valet to then-World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan, which—at the time—was considered a major push for her.
How highly AJ is being considered is all the more inconceivable considering the success others have had in 2012.
CM Punk has held the WWE title for every moment of the year, while Sheamus started 2012 with a Royal Rumble victory, took the World Heavyweight title in 18 seconds at WrestleMania and then proceeded to take part in every match involving that belt during the rest of the year.
Yet AJ—through her many relationships with top-named Superstars and how those trysts have impacted championships and championship contenders—can be seen as a force of nature that has had a greater overall effect than any one man in the company has by himself.
More important than AJ’s rise to prominence are the lessons learned—or at least remembered— by WWE’s creative team regarding how women can be utilized as more than eye candy or in-ring competitors.
Women can seduce, anger and infuriate men into actions that he would be unlikely to do otherwise. Using this ability opens up new and interesting situations for the WWE to explore, and innovation is one of the keys to compelling television.
WWE applied this thinking in the run up to SummerSlam, when Stephanie McMahon was able to get Paul Heyman to agree to a match between her husband Triple H and Brock Lesnar when other methods had failed.
The love of a good woman—or a Superstar protecting the reputation of one—has also been shown to be a great motivation for friends to come into conflict. The classic feud between Chris Jericho and Christian over Trish Stratus shows how good such a rivalry can be, and the WWE has rediscovered that potency with AJ multiple times this year.
Of course it was Eve—not AJ—who was the first to show how a woman can affect a feud by seemingly courting then-U.S. champion Zack Ryder in January, when she was actually using him to get closer to John Cena.
For a short time, this successfully put Cena into a position where he could have been in conflict with other faces while not being at fault. Finding ways to pit good guys or bad guys against one another is so important to the WWE, as this opens up fresh feuds for them to have and new dynamics to work with.
One woman who has been showing the effectiveness of a female character for several years is Vickie Guerrero. From her run as Smackdown general manager and her support of husband Edge, to managing Dolph Ziggler into a position where he has the opportunity to be a star, Vickie has shown what a strong female role can do for others.
Perhaps it ought to be Vickie who should really get the plaudits for reintroducing such ideas to the minds of WWE’s creative team rather than AJ, who has benefited from it.
Throwing together a Superstar and a diva is not always going to lead to a successful storyline, or even a productive partnership. Ted DiBiase’s and Maryse’s run was disastrous for both individuals, with one languishing at the bottom of WWE’s undercard and the other moving on from the company completely.
Regardless, after the success of AJ and others in 2012, it has become the logical choice to connect more divas with Superstars. This has already begun to happen, as WWE fans have recently seen Alberto Del Rio flirt with Rosa Mendes while The Great Khali has been accompanied by Natalya.
2013 may well turn out to be the year of relationships in WWE, and fans should expect a lot of coupling up to happen over the next few weeks.