What some might’ve called inevitable was just announced, via this two-line post from WWE.com:
AJ Lee (April Mendez) has decided to retire from in-ring competition with WWE. We wish AJ the very best.
Lee leaves WWE — and professional wrestling itself, we assume — as a 3-time Divas Champion, a 3-time Slammy Award winner and somewhat unexpectedly one of the most popular and influential female competitors of the modern era.
AJ first joined WWE in the Florida Championship Wrestling developmental territory in 2009, making her WWE TV debut as an NXT season 3 rookie in 2010. Although she failed to win that season, only making it to the final three, she stuck around and made her main roster debut as 1/2 of ‘The Chickbusters’ alongside winner Kaitlyn in 2011. Around that time she became a cult favorite on the internet and especially in our social circles, thanks in part to a really great Halloween battle royal in which she dressed like a Mortal Kombat character and accurately tried to do her moves.
AJ exploded as an on-screen character in 2012 when she began to valet for Daniel Bryan and helped build what would eventually be known as the ‘Yes Movement.’ She was instrumental in Bryan’s 18-second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28, a match that split she and Bryan and launched her crazy “Black Widow” character, jumping from Superstar to Superstar until rising to the very top of WWE and becoming Raw General Manager. At the inaugural Payback event in 2013, AJ won her first Divas Championship and held it for a record 295 days.
In her personal life, Lee would marry one of those Superstars she was involved with on-screen, Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks. While not confirmed, it’s easy to imagine that Punk’s rocky relationship with WWE and venture into the world of MMA would help cause Lee’s view of the company to change. Whether that turns out to be the case or not, AJ will forever be remembered for her unexpectedly meteoric rise to the top, and for her role as one of the most decorated and powerful women in the history of the Divas Division.
She will be missed, and we wish her the best in whatever it is she decides to do next.