Last Word on Pro Wrestling’s latest series, War of the Words, explores the art and impact of the promo by looking back through the archives. This series will examine all kinds of promos, from the most memorable or ones that have been overlooked and are underrated, showing the background of the promo, the promo itself, the aftermath of the promo and what came from it. The most recent installment looks back at AJ Lee’s Pipe Bombshell towards the Divas division in 2013.
It feels like it has been forever since the Divas division was around and women were treated as an afterthought in the WWE. The Women’s Evolution has come a long way from making people forget about the mistreatment of women in the company. But before there was #GiveDivasAChance or even slight hope of women main eventing WrestleMania, there was one woman who stepped up and made her voice heard. That woman was AJ Lee, who was in the midst of her reign as the Divas Champion. On August 26th, 2013, Lee delivered a promo that is still remembered to this day.
Background: Total Divas and the Continuity of No Respect
On July 28th, 2013, the first-ever episode of Total Divas aired on E!. The original cast consisted of The Bella Twins, Naomi, Cameron, Natalya, Eva Marie, and JoJo. With the show airing, these women also became the focal point of the division on Monday Night Raw. Something that was clear was the fact that AJ Lee, the Divas Champion, was missing from the show. The reports then, which were later confirmed by Lee, was that she declined the invitation of being on the show. It was clear that Lee didn’t see the show as something that a women’s wrestler would take part in. Yet, even as the champion, Lee was getting less attention than the women on the reality show.
Lee was there to be a women’s wrestler. She didn’t come from a modeling background much like a lot of the women that were included in the show. She didn’t fit the mold of a Diva. Lee was in every sense of the term, a “women’s wrestler.”
Growing up, Lee idolized women like Lita, who aren’t always given their fair credit for the role they played in kicking off the women’s revolution. In fact, there’s a famous photo of Lee in tears as she received the autograph of Lita at a young age. That admiration of Lita led to Lee’s desire to become a wrestler. For those who may not be familiar, Lee was trained by Ring of Honor’s Jay Lethal in 2007. She wrestled for a number of companies in her indie career, including Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) and National Wrestling Superstars (NWS). Before long, Lee was signed to Florida Championship Wrestling following a tryout and would appear on the first-ever all women’s season of NXT when it was still a competition show. This is where her support and rise would really begin.
— IWNerd.com – WWE Predictions! (@InnerN3rd) March 12, 2015
Besides Natalya, the cast of Total Divas was not built on wrestling like AJ Lee. They didn’t necessarily have a sole focus on being a professional wrestler. Lee’s goal was to become a wrestler, while the other women had backgrounds in dancing, modeling, and other ventures before picking up wrestling. As the champion, she felt it was time to deliver the scathing promo that may have quietly put everything in motion to get us to the point we are today.
War of the Words: AJ Lee’s Pipe Bombshell (8/26/13)
Do you want to know what I see when I look in that ring? Honestly? A bunch of cheap, interchangeable, expendable, useless women. Women who have turned to reality television because they just weren’t talented enough to be actresses. And they just weren’t talented enough to be champion.
Honesty is the best policy. A promo that feels real is something that WWE has struggled to deliver all the time in the past decade. This was one of those moments brought through the words of AJ Lee. She took a shot at the ladies that were making this whole wrestling thing something it was not. A reality TV show where they talk about their problems rather than do what they were paid to do – wrestle.
i have done more in one year than all of you have done in your entire collective careers.
Lee was on top of the world as Divas Champion. Untouchable is a good choice of words. She became the first woman since the days of Trish Stratus and Lita to get the main angle of Raw and SmackDown week after week. She established herself as someone that people wanted to look up to, someone who little girls could see and strive to be someday. This promo can be seen as an attack, but fans saw it as AJ Lee’s truth. It was a moment where she could air out that “dirty laundry” of how she had felt for months and months. Lee knew she wasn’t seen like them. She earned this spot. Her year was because of the work she put into her craft.
You guys can’t even go backstage and shake my hand and look at me in the eyes because you know that I worked my entire life to get here. I gave my life to this and you were just handed fifteen minutes of fame.
What made this feel so real was the reactions of these ladies Lee was aiming this scathing promo towards. They weren’t happy or just sitting there taking it. The Total Divas were taking it personally because perhaps the truth does hurt too much. The Bellas were non-stop yelling in anger as Lee continued to drop truth bombs on her colleagues. Most would agree that the idea of someone working harder than you to get to their spot can hurt, especially when you admittedly know that there is no denying that truth. That is how this went down. AJ Lee was not buffering any words or making up ideas. No, she was speaking from her heart and mind as to how she felt and you could feel that.
I got here because I was good. I earned this Championship and no matter how many red carpets you guys want to walk in your four thousand dollars ridiCUlous heels, you will never be able to lace up my Chuck Taylors. You’re all worthless excuses for women and you will never be able to touch me. and that’s reality.
The woman held nothing back. The idea of War of the Words is that the promo was something that stuck with fans. The line of not being able to “lace up my Chuck Taylors” was the icing on the cake. She was different. Lee was ahead of her time. And Lee opened the eyes of generic WWE fans whose views may have been tainted by the WWE mindset.
Two years later when #GiveDivasAChance rang through the social media world, AJ Lee had left because she managed to do everything she needed in her career and could move on. She truly started a movement, even if it was the beginning of something that WWE will never give her proper credit for.
Without AJ Lee’s push to change the Divas division in her truthful sermon, who knows when the Women’s Evolution would have begun.
Aftermath: A Women’s Evolution
AJ Lee held her championship until the night after WrestleMania XXX when Paige debuted on the main roster and ended her record title reign. Lee’s lasting legacy will be this promo, her ability to stand against the boss, and the start of something real. As she had one foot out the door, AJ Lee called out Stephanie McMahon on Twitter for the handling of the women’s division and the wages of the women despite her record-setting numbers and the ratings she was bringing in during her segments. Perhaps this is what served as a precursor to WWE’s change that brought the women more positive attention than anything in the past decade.
The Women’s Evolution is talked about to this very day, and WWE can call all these women “pioneers” to what made this a reality. But the company, likely due to the nature of Lee’s relationship with CM Punk, a man who’s own words echoed similar realities for WWE, cannot accept that the woman who left them in the dust was at the head of the pack two years before.
On July 13, 2015, almost two years to the day Total Divas first aired, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair debuted to kick off the start of it all. The women’s division returned at WrestleMania the following year, kicking the Divas monicker to the curb. Three years later, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Ronda Rousey main evented WrestleMania 35. In between all of that time were so many firsts that weren’t even imaginable at the time of Lee’s promo.
The Pipe Bombshell was not the single reason for the Women’s Evolution. It’s wrong to think that. But it can be forever seen as a starting point led by AJ Lee. She wanted things to be different and the women in the company to want that spot more than being handed it. As we sit here almost a month after the incredible run of Becky Lynch came to a pause due to her pregnancy, it’s clear that the ones who earn it can always rise to the top.
WWE is better off for that moment on August 26th, 2013 where AJ Lee put her feelings into a promo and let the world know her wrestling truth.
More From LWOPW
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