World Wrestling Entertainment has made a killing trying to cater to certain groups over the years. For instance, Rey Mysterio was perennially featured on Smackdown when it was on network television. Why? Because ratings showed that Latin American people stuck around and watched him there because he was on free TV. When Smackdown moved to ScyFy, that statistic died. It’s also why WWE had him constantly speaking Spanglish in his promos. This same practice was first exercised in the early 90s with the character of Razor Ramon, a stereotypical Cuban character that Latino kids everywhere wanted to be emulate. I, not knowing any better, cheered for him as well.
During the Attitude era women would come out scantily clad and have bikini matches, evening gown matches, and pool matches, in order to cater to the men. And if they weren’t perfectly clear about this, they gave The Godfather a flock of women to act as his “ho’s.” The emo kids who cut themselves, wore dark nail polish and dyed their hair with Manic Panic, were catered to by Team Xtreme, which consisted of Matt & Jeff Hardy along with Lita. Heck, Stone Cold Steve Austin was supposed to appeal to the everyman, who drank beer, cursed people out, raised hell and wanted to beat up their boss. Characters like Gangrel appealed to the Goth kids, and The Dudley Boys appealed to the pyromaniac kids who liked to light fires and smash tables.
Recently, April Jeanette Mendez debuted on Smackdown under the alias A.J. Lee. While they aren’t coming out with a media blitz advertising this, it is obvious who she is supposed to appeal to: the snarky internet wrestling nerd who lives in his mother’s basement, plays Halo all night, hangs out at the comic book shop, makes frequent comments on wrestling message boards. Heck, he and his buddies may even get together and do a podcast on the weekend (laugh it up, fuzzball). A.J. Lee is a petite girl who looks much younger than her actual age, comes out to a theme song that sounds like something out of an anime, calls people “dude,” wears a faux Hello Kitty logo on her tights, and overall looks like one of those geeky girls who hangs out at A*Kon, and does a little D&D while episodes of Big Bang Theory play in the background on a DVD. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that she is supposed to appeal to the geeky kids.
While there isn’t anything wrong with that, I must say that WWE trying to pull this off now is simply blasphemous. I am a geek/nerd, whatever you want to call it. I am also a constant peruser of internet wrestling forums and Facebook discussion boards. I like comic books. I like movies. I like video games. I like sci-fi. Vince McMahon has always looked at guys like me with a certain amount of disdain. We are hardcore wrestling fans. WWE has never felt the need to appeal to us. They know that they are going to get us to watch every episode of RAW, Smackdown, NXT, and *gasp* Superstars. We’re gonna order every pay-per-view event. We’re gonna buy every DVD they put out, and we are going to go to their online store and buy up all kinds of WWE merch. They don’t need to cater to us because they know they got us hooked. Just like McDonalds, WWE has us from the cradle to the grave. WWE spoon fed us Hulk Hogan when we were kids, and now that we’re older jaded fans, he really has no use for us other than to jump on our message boards to complain about who should and should not be getting pushed, and also to jump on whenever one of the divas has a “wardrobe malfunction.”
There have only been two times where Vince McMahon and the WWE has ever catered to us “hardcore” fans.
First, when Matt Hardy, in the midst of his real life break up with real life Lita, who was seeing real life Edge, was real life fired from the company. After weeks of internet campaigning, WWE finally allowed Matt Hardy to return to WWE in a worked angle where he was sneaking into the arena to exact revenge on Edge. Afterward, both WWE and Matt Hardy would “leak” stuff onto the internet to get the message board cretins’ juices flowing, and their nobby fingers pounding away on their keyboards. This was all a work. Matt Hardy had already come to terms with his relationship ending, and he came back to make some money. WWE and Matt Hardy succeeded at fooling the internet.
The other bout of “fan service” came when perennial “hardcore fan” favorite Rob Van Dam defeated then champion John Cena at the second One Night Stand pay-per-view. In a small ballroom filled with rabid internet crazy “hardcore fans,” the WWE decided that it would probably be in their best interest to give Van Dam the belt that night. The internet hates John Cena. I mean, seriously, we HATE HIM WITH A BLOODY PASSION! So much so that there was a sign that someone held up, and that the cameras caught a few times, that read: IF CENA WINS WE RIOT!!! And as amped up as that crowd was, you’d better believe that’s exactly what would have happened. Van Dam won the title and all was well in internet land.
Those two examples were done solely to make money. Vince McMahon saw an opportunity to take advantage of a bad situation, and capitalized on it. April Jeanette Mendez existing is only to make money. She’s cute as a button, and in all honestly probably is a little nerdy. WWE knew that nerds would cream their shorts over her, thus a star is created! Q and myself have also caught ourselves trying to internet “claim” her. She’s spunky, energetic, and is being subtly marketed as every nerds ideal girlfriend. Message boards have been abuzz about this girl since she first appeared in FCW. Comparing her to Kelly Kelly, one internet wrestling cretin said that Kelly Kelly is the girl you’d want to have sex with the most, while A.J. Lee is the girl you’d like to take out on a date. To me, she’s the girl you could take to Cold Stone Creamery, hit up the Barnes & Noble to check out the latest Manga (not something I do), and then hit up a movie of her choice, which would probably be either a super hero movie or a Michael Bay explosion-fest.
Vince McMahon is not stupid. He knows that we’ll fall in love with her. That’s why he’s given her this gimmick. He knows that she’s just fodder for the hardcore internet fans who do nothing but read dirt sheets and jerk off to screen caps of Trish Stratus cleavage shots. And I hate to say it, but it’s working. In all honesty, it should be about her wrestling skills, not who she can cater to enough to make them drop $$$ on merch. WWE diva Maryse frequently auctions off her ring worn bra and panties on Ebay. This is done to appeal to her fan base, which is a bunch of horny frat boy types. What is A.J. gonna auction off? Her Hello Kitty scrunchie? Her D&D twenty sided dice? Only time will tell.
PS: According to her Facebook page, A.J. is not into of the aforementioned geek/nerd things. Also, she’s married.