So this is a few weeks old, but I wanted to address it anyway. A pretty cool example of the WWE taking a set of opinions espoused by many WWE fans and having it articulated by a “superstar” (er, I mean “diva”) happened recently. I’m referring to AJ Lee’s “pipebomb.”
A few months ago, WWE began promoting a new “reality” series called Total Divas that purported to show the behind-the-scenes lives of seven female performers. Now, the show itself is pretty fascinating because it operates at a level of reality that is somewhere in-between the scripted WWE “universe” and the “reality” of the Kardashians. The series shows some aspects of the performers lives that were previously NEVER mentioned “in-universe,” particularly the romantic relationships between performers in the company. In other words, the relationship between “face” John Cena and “heel” Nikki Bella is definitely not a part of an WWE storyline, except in Total Divas.
Last month, WWE started featuring more of the Total Divas cast on Raw and Smackdown. Suddenly we saw matches featuring only the “Total Divas” and not regular old divas (the WWE name for female wrestlers) like AJ Lee or Kaitlyn, both of whom are usually considered favorites of the IWC (internet wrestling community). Did fans have a reason to care about Brie Bella versus Naomi or Natalya? Not really. There were also many discussions about why or why not certain divas were part of Total Divas. Actually, there have been a lot of discussions, in general, about the show and its place in the WWE universe.
So when AJ Lee came out on a recent episode of Raw and delivered a lengthy rant about whether the Total Divas cast really want to be wrestlers or actresses, the IWC got pretty excited. AJ not only used the term “wrestler” (rarely spoken in WWE), but she not-so-subtly accused the Total Divas of sleeping with higher up WWE performers to gain status and attention (and a reality show). Although it’s likely that the speech was written by a WWE creative staffer, it was delivered as though AJ was simply channeling the feelings of the most vocal fans. People called it a “pipebomb” and got super excited about the very idea of a woman getting so much mic time. Fans reminisced over the days of Trish and Lita, when women actually main evented an episode of Raw (basically unthinkable these days). I went back and watched that match and was surprised to see both women wearing pants.
Of course, those were also the days of bra and panties matches and a whole host of other stuff that wouldn’t fly in the PG-era. And I’m not up for a discussion about sexism in WWE, because whoa, that would take days.
The point is, WWE introduced yet another level of “reality” in their storyline. The whole thing is so ridiculously meta that you’d need an infographic to visualize exactly what you’re supposed to “believe” at this point. In even promoting a reality show that undoes some of the fabric of the WWE universe, WWE is asking fans to believe two different narratives at once, and then to agree or disagree with another character’s commentary on the whole thing (which possibly exists on its own level of reality?)
Either way, I’m confused, but interested.
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