For anyone who has harbored skepticism about the earnestness of AJ Lee’s love for video games (a medium that the Diva has repeatedly raved about), the October 31, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw busted the hell out of that myth. During a Halloween-themed Divas battle royal, Lee hit the ring as the spitting image of Kitana from Mortal Kombat. Witnessing someone dressed up as the Princess of Edenia of all characters on WWE programming was surreal in itself, but the true coup de grâce to the skeptics was when Lee broke out a Fan Lift at the beginning of the match. Disappointingly, “Kitana wins” would not be uttered that night (Eve, who went as Robin, won), but it still was the most loving shout-out to the gaming faithful on Raw since John Cena did that Punch-Out!!-themed promo in 2010.
The New Jersey native born April Jeanette Mendez originally got into gaming as a child via her brother. The first game she played was either Super Mario Bros. or Excitebike, but as she seriously fell for the hobby later on, she became loyal to the PlayStation. “I was so obsessed with it. Now, I have an Xbox and I love that, so I can’t pick one or the other. They’re both really, really cool,” she says. “Growing up, I was like, ‘Ah, screw Xbox,’ which is terrible because I’m obsessed with it now.”
As of now, Lee’s plans for WrestleMania 29 on Sunday, April 7 involve scheming alongside Dolph Ziggler and newly crowned Twitter demigod Big E Langston when they face against Team Hell No for the tag titles, but hey, a Divas Championship match could always fall out of the sky. Way before the big show, we had a chance to speak with the ex-General Manager of Raw about her 10 most beloved vidja games. Not only was Lee up for the challenge, but she compiled the whole list before the call and put them in order. That’s dedication. (Also, check this space again shortly for another similarly gaming-informed WWE talent dropping knowledge about his favorites.)
10. Pokémon Yellow (a.k.a. Pokémon: Special Pikachu Edition) (1998)
I think it’s a strange choice, but I was so obsessed with Pokémon. I didn’t have a lot of money growing up at all, so I borrowed my friend’s Pokemon Red and the original versions of it. The first one I ever got was [Yellow]. I think my parents saved up for a while, and it was a Christmas present or a birthday present—I can’t remember—and I got Pokémon Yellow. I played that until I couldn’t play it anymore. [Laughs]
How deep were you into the Pokémon phenomenon?
Well, I have to say that it’s all about just the first incarnation of it—the first 150. When Misty wasn’t there, I left. But I was so into it. Again, I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so I never could afford the cards, so I kind of missed out on that. I thought it was really cool—I wish I could’ve—but yeah, I was kind of obsessed with it. I will tell you an embarrassing story: I went to the premiere of the movie wearing a Pikachu shirt, and I was probably way too old. [Laughs] I wasn’t that young where that was okay. [Laughs] I was pretty dedicated. I loved Pikachu, so [in] Yellow, you get to have him walk around with you. Oh yeah, that was awesome. That was probably the highlight of my year.
9. Super Mario Bros. (1985)
It’s more for sentimental value. It reminds me of sitting with my brother and my sister and a nice memory of childhood. I remembering I never wanted to be the Princess. [Laughs] I wanted to be the guys rescuing the princess.
8. Batman: Arkham City (2011)
I love the characters. I’m a big Harley Quinn fan, and it’s really cool. [It has some] of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game and had a really good story. It’s a little low on my list because I have such sentimental connections to all the other ones. But yeah, that one was awesome.
Do you have any favorite Batman villains besides Harley Quinn?
Poison Ivy. I like the girls. [Laughs] The girls are so bad ass. Any time the girls are usually pretty bad ass, I mark for that. [Laughs]
7. Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
I think a lot of people like Mortal Kombat II better. I don’t hear 3 a lot as people’s favorite, but again, sentimentally, there was a time when that was like the only game I had. That, and Samurai Shodown I think. I fell in love with Kitana and Sonya, so that’s my number seven.
Did you have this on Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis?
Did you have a favorite character from the game?
I’ve always loved Sub-Zero’s story. Everything about him has been really interesting, so probably him.
6. Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
I was obsessed with this game. I’m a big racing game fan. Something about it just goes back to my Excitebike days. I just love the feel of that. I loved Need for Speed: Underground because it wasn’t on a track. You could drive around the whole town. Need for Speed: Underground 2 is so much more in-depth than the first one. I was a really big Fast and the Furious fan back then, too, so oh my gosh, I was obsessed with that. I would kick that game’s butt so much.
5. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) and WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw (2004)
I had to fit in all my favorites so I cheated and I made a tie for number five. This is ’cause I was playing them kind of around the same time: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis tied with the first SmackDown! vs. Raw. At the time, they were [out] around the same couple of years. The SmackDown! vs. Raw I have the love for because it was one of [WWE’s] first [games] to get really in-depth and really accurate and more realistic. I would play that game every second of my life because I wanted to be a wrestler so bad. That was the closest I could ever get to it. I made myself in the game. A great deal of my childhood was spent on SmackDown! vs. Raw. [Note: We think that she means WWF SmackDown! from 2000 but can’t say for sure.]
Resident Evil 3 was the first time I got my sister to play a video game, like actually play it and get into it, so if Resident Evil 3 could convert someone, it must have some sort of power to get a super girly girl to sit down and play it. It was probably because there was a boutique key and we had to change our clothes [Laughs], but still, Jill Valentine is one of my all-time favorite video game heroines.
4. Fable III (2010)
Oh my gosh. You cannot get a game that is more made for me [especially with] anything with a sword and a different time. It’s like The Sims, but you get to kill people, so it’s awesome. I was obsessed. Fable II I was really obsessed with way back in the day, but Fable III really got it right.
3. Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Huuuuge fan of that. I like that one way more than Resident Evil 5. I didn’t like the outdoorsy setting of 5 and it wasn’t as scary. Resident Evil 4 was the first time it wasn’t zombies and they had different camera angles, but it still had the feel of Resident Evil. It has to be, to me, one of the best done games of all time. The graphics were amazing, the game play was amazing, and it had the really creepy feel of Resident Evil with a different kind of game.
2. Final Fantasy X (2001)
What’s your favorite memory from Final Fantasy X?
Oh gosh, probably anything with Auron. When he left at the end, I may have cried. [Laughs] When you kind of realize that it has been just like a dream the entire time, that sucked. [Laughs] But I loved him. Yeah, that game is so good. It was so good that I even played Final Fantasy X-2. I played it a hundred percent, so I could get Tidus back. [Laughs]
1. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
I was really young [when I played it], probably too young to realize how different it was from other games and how cutting edge it was. I remember at first we had a demo for it. I played that so much. It was the first level with him getting to the elevator. I was kind of like, ‘Oh, this is so cool.’ I just sat sneaking around [with] the stealth aspects of it. This sounds really twisted, but I thought it was so cool to sneak up behind people and snap their necks [with] the little twitch-twitch-twitch and then it just cracks. [Laughs] I was so little and I was like, ‘This is so awesome!’ I was really into that, and once I actively played the whole thing, it was a movie that you were a part of. It was so cool. I could play that now and the story would still be better than a lot of stories that are in games right now. To me, it’s the best game of all time. I have all the action figures on my shelf in my office. Big Meryl fan. Playing the most recent one was cool because everyone came back in it. I love every the Metal Gear Solid series, but I don’t think any other game in the series can match the feel of the first one—or technically Metal Gear Solid, not the actual first one on Nintendo.
[CM Punk and I] were talking about Snake the other day, actually. [Laughs] He was trying to compare himself to Solid Snake. [I said], ‘You are not cool enough to be anywhere near Solid Snake.’ [Laughs]