In eras gone by, long-running champions felt important. Bruno Sammartino held the WWE (then WWF) Championship seven years, and Hulk Hogan held it four. CM Punk became the longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era when he held it 434 days. And when it comes to the women, ladies such as Trish Stratus, the Fabulous Moolah, and Sensational Sherri all had long runs with the title that defined their careers.
Since the advent of the Divas Championship, no one has held the belt longer than AJ. She picked it up from Kaitlyn in June of 2013, and has held it for a now-record 268 days heading into her match tonight on Main Event with Natalya. AJ's title run hit a high point on August 26, in this writer's opinion.
On that episode of Raw she cut her own version of a "pipebomb" promo that criticized the ladies involved with WWE's reality show, Total Divas. It seems to be at that point that her title run began to feel less important than it should.
Some like to look beyond the curtain and the business though to point to why AJ's title run has begun to slip off the radar. One of the bigger rumors that seems to like to circulate these days is that AJ is in WWE's dog house. AJ is dating the now-departed CM Punk outside the ring, and various rumors have painted a picture that WWE bookers have decided to punish AJ in effort to send a message to CM Punk. An example of this that was cited is how AJ got laid out by Nikki Bella last night on Raw, taking the loss in the Divas tag match for her team. Some will call this vulnerability heading into a title match (which will take place on Main Event by the time this gets posted), and some will call this conspiracy.
I never profess to be an insider, or be connected in the industry. I am simply a fan with an internet connection and an ability to read and think for myself. That said, AJ's title run has fallen to a point where it's not relevant, but backstage politics are a very small reason for this slide.
Part of the problem with her title run is the booking surrounding it - a topic that we've covered at length in both audio and print on the site. Of all the ladies on the current roster, AJ is probably the best in-ring worker. Few on the roster seem to be able to measure up to her ability to work in the ring. Add to it that she has been repeatedly fed "opponent of the month" challengers with very little storyline support. There are no meaningful Diva programs any longer. All of this combines together to fail to present AJ in a meaningful way. That is not a way to get a long running champion over.
I think it's also fair to factor in the performance of WWE's reality show, Total Divas. The first season of the new E! Network program performed very well, and WWE is immensely proud of that performance. Naturally, the booking of Divas on WWE broadcasts (Raw, Smackdown, Main Event, etc.) would spotlight those participating in the program more prominently. As a result, it seems like AJ became somewhat of an afterthought, and her title run hasn't had the traction it should.
To WWE's credit, they attempted to make the Total Divas situation a story for AJ. But because of weak booking support to the story and a desire to not make the ladies of Total Divas look weak, it flopped, miserably.
Is there a new Divas Champion by the time this posts? That, I do not know because I can only open so many tabs. Change is good, and perhaps it is time to reset the Divas title situation. But there are twenty six days until Wrestlemania 30, and that is plenty of time to develop a sound story for the current Divas Champion for her to defend that title on the grandest stage of them all.
Win or lose, a 268+ day title reign deserves that much.