Tonight, push comes to shove. Does WWE want Nikki Bella to surpass AJ Lee’s 295 day title reign and crack the record for the longest in the history of the championship, or will she lose to Charlotte (or somebody else)?
Although the WWE brass shows at times that they don’t seem to care about accolades as much as the fans do, one would have to imagine that the amount of times the commentators are forced to repeat the same statistics endlessly definitely factors into the booking once in a while. Ric Flair just received a lot of attention with John Cena attempting to match his 16 world title reigns. JBL was touted as the longest reigning champion in SmackDown history. CM Punk went 434 days (and yet is still behind Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and Pedro Morales).
These are impressive accomplishments that are great soundbites to mention whenever someone goes to the ring, as they help tell the story of why that particular wrestler is important. It’s not rocket science and we all know what it can mean to someone’s legacy to have something like this tied to their name. Despite there only being 25 title reigns in the history of the Divas Championship—since it doesn’t carry over the lineage of the Women’s Championship—it’s still an honor to be that one person above all the rest.
Nikki Bella just has a few more hours to go before she surpasses AJ Lee as that person, but she has to get through two huge obstacles.
The first of which is Charlotte, who is the equal if not superior to Nikki as far as in-ring performance goes. Charlotte is a member of the Four Horsewomen of NXT who have been taking the division in a new direction over the past couple months. Charlotte is new to the main roster, but that hasn’t stopped people from winning championships before. Umaga was defeated by Santino Marella when he was supposed to be just a fan in the audience. The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship when he was still super fresh and Big Show did it even quicker than that, winning the WCW Championship from Hogan in his debut match. Lest we forget that in the context of this article, the current record holder, AJ Lee, ended her title reign by dropping it to Paige on her Raw debut.
The second obstacle, and perhaps the more difficult one, is from WWE Creative. Nikki Bella is a heel right now and there’s a certain level of satisfaction to seeing a heel get his or her comeuppance at the most agonizing time for them. Outside of the short stints as babyfaces when WWE just forgot what direction they were heading in, The Bella Twins have made enemies out of the WWE Universe and the fans would delight in seeing Nikki not only fall from her status as Queen Bee, but also to do it just shy of reaching the milestone. So close, and yet so far.
Is that the right direction WWE should go with this, or should there be more consideration to Nikki retaining the title and becoming the new longest reigning champion?
My POV: Break the Record
Before anyone thinks it, let me dispel the thoughts that this is in any way anti-AJ Lee or even particularly pro-Nikki, for that matter. Until she left the company, AJ Lee was easily my favorite woman on the roster since Mickie James. She’s incredibly talented and deserved to be the focal point of the division. Nikki Bella was not on her level, and I would submit that she still might not be even after improving quite a bit over the past year.
However, Nikki Bella has improved, and more importantly, she’s been the focus of the division with her sister for 2014 and 2015. There’s no denying that the Bella brand is the equivalent to John Cena as far as star power and on a tier on its own well above the other women. They all have their supporters, but what is WWE going to put more stock in, those two or Emma? Natalya’s been around forever, but you don’t see her getting the same treatment. Whether or not she should is an argument for another day, but right now, it boils down to how there is no argument in discussing who is the top of the food chain.
Keeping that in mind, why shouldn’t Nikki Bella be the one who has the record instead of AJ Lee, who isn’t in the company anymore? It isn’t as though AJ is taking a few months off to heal from an injury and is slotted to return at Survivor Series or anything of the sort. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ll never see her again. She could be starting a family, trying out other career options outside of wrestling, working for other companies or even just flat out not being allowed or interested in returning. With the relationship between CM Punk and WWE being on somewhat rocky grounds, the company has no responsibility to honor AJ Lee, nor is there probably an emotional attachment that gets in the way. If there are bad feelings tied to bringing up AJ Lee’s name, then there’s no reason why WWE shouldn’t just replace her with someone who has held the division on her shoulders for months.
Also, what does it do for Charlotte to be the one to take the honor away from Nikki? At first, it will be something that can help boost her up, but how many weeks will we hear Michael Cole say “the Divas champion, Charlotte, who defeated Nikki Bella just a few hours before she broke the record” before it falls on deaf ears? That can’t be spoken of constantly during Charlotte’s reign or else the fans will just be continuously reminded of Nikki Bella rather than focusing on Charlotte.
Obviously, Charlotte is a priority, so how does WWE get to push her without nerfing the Bellatron’s countdown?
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
By the time what happens on Raw settles in, Night of Champions will just be a few days away. If Charlotte were to defeat Nikki Bella, the clear response would be for Nikki to opt for her rematch clause to apply at that event. This will mean two Charlotte vs. Nikki matches in a week. That could be amazing, but it could also be something that people aren’t thrilled to see come pay-per-view night. After all, what’s the thrill in seeing the rematch when the big thing already happened on Raw? If Nikki wins the title back, who cares? If she doesn’t, then people just see Charlotte retain in a way that might draw criticism of being booked “too strong” by some perspectives.