The eight-year pro wrestling career of one of the most successful WWE Divas of this era is officially over. WWE.com announced the retirement of AJ Lee, a separation predicted by many months ago.
“AJ Lee (April Mendez) has decided to retire from in-ring competition with WWE. We wish AJ the very best.”
I think the biggest surprise from the announcement is that Lee made it this long with the company. For those unaware, Lee is married to former WWE superstar CM Punk. Punk and the WWE had an acrimonious split last year which resulted in two lawsuits, one that is currently underway. The obvious tension and working for a company whose doctor is suing her husband for over a million dollars were expected to result in a split at some point.
Lee had just returned from a lengthy absence in March which culminated in a match at WrestleMania. I was surprised to see her come back at the time due to the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit. Yet she did come back and finished out her run at WrestleMania. Lee’s final match with the company will be a Mania victory which saw her get the win for her team (with Paige) against the Bella Twins.
Lee’s career with the WWE lasted just shy of six years as she signed with the company in May of 2009. In a world of Divas where many were recruited outside of wrestling, Lee was a trained pro wrestler when she entered the WWE. She had garnered a solid reputation on the independents. She actually got her deal after attending a tryout camp which she reportedly paid $1500 to attend.
Lee hung around FCW and NXT for two years before debuting on SmackDown almost two years to the day she signed her contract. Lee’s career in the WWE didn’t start heating up until several months later when she was tied to Daniel Bryan in a storyline which saw her more obsessed with him than he was with her. The two wound up in some kind of love triangle with CM Punk which culminated in Lee leaving Bryan at the altar after being named new WWE General Manager.
Lee has always been a big favorite with the fans but I felt she missed an opportunity to evolve as G.M. Even as G.M., they had her skipping around which I thought seemed odd for the role. Lee seemed caught in that old dumb schoolgirl role while trying to portray herself as a serious wrestler. Lee eventually won the Divas championship from Kaitlyn in 2013.
It’s funny how f you look back over the last several years of WWE Divas and it becomes apparent quickly that the shelf life for a WWE Diva is much shorter than it is for a WWE superstar. Ironically, a quick look at the careers of the top WWE Divas over the last several years produces an average of six-years in WWE. I am looking specifically at the top like Trish Stratus, Kelly Kelly, AJ, and Eve Torres as examples. Even the Bellas left at one point. All quit on their own volition which makes you think that regardless of the personal conflicts in AJ’s life with the WWE that she would have moved on sometime in the near future.
My hunch is that with summer coming up you’ll see plenty of AJ Lee at conventions and signings around the country. She’ll clean up big and fans will get an opportunity to say a proper good bye. In the meantime, thanks for the memories.