Friday 3rd April 2015 saw a shockwave rip through the WWE when AJ Lee announced her in-ring retirement from the company. It was news that not many fans saw coming, with most expecting AJ would perhaps leave WWE when her contract with the company was due to expire. While we don't know the exact ins and outs of why AJ chose now to retire, the key to remember here is that it is only from in-ring competition. That part of the announcement has of course led many fans to speculate she could be pregnant, but nothing has been confirmed as of this time. It's not impossible that AJ may take up another role within the company if that is the case, but from the fact AJ has set up her own website and seems to be gearing away from the WWE on this, I would suggest her time as a WWE Diva has officially come to an end.
AJ was without doubt one of WWE's top Divas. Not since names like Lita or Trish Stratus has a Diva found herself so popular within the company. We were first introduced to AJ as a contestant on the all female, third season of NXT, where AJ was introduced to us as the girl who loved comic books, video games, and was different to your average Diva. She struck up an unforgettable bond with fellow contestant Kaitlyn, who would go on to win the season. Who can ever forget the way AJ and Kaitlyn would seemingly never take things seriously, or how they would mess around during challenges. From the moment AJ first stepped in the ring she showed she was going to be a top talent to watch out for. She proved from an early stage she could wrestle and she very quickly became a fan favorite with the WWE Universe.
Not only was she a fan favorite, AJ managed to accomplish several different championship runs during her run at the top with WWE. She won the FCW Divas championship on one occasion, while also being known for a time as the Queen of FCW. During her time on the main roster, AJ won the WWE Divas Championship on three occasions, capturing her first title on June 16 2013, a date she now has tattooed on her as a mark of remembrance for this achievement. AJ also picked up the Diva of the Year Slammy Award on two occasions, winning the first in 2012 and her second in 2014. It's hard to believe AJ was only Divas Champion three times throughout her career, as she always seemed to be a mainstay in the Divas title picture. But one huge achievement that AJ should always remain proud of is her run as Divas Champion for a record 295 days in her second reign as Divas Champion, before she was shockingly defeated the night after Wrestlemania 30 by a debuting Paige.
We've seen AJ portray several different roles during her time as a WWE Diva. From her introduction to us as the comic book, video game, anime loving tomboy, to the the girl who became involved in a love triangle between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, to the crazy and unstable chick who you could never quite tell what she was going to do next, AJ has been able to successfully switch between being one of the most loved and most hated Divas in the company. That's the one thing about AJ that many Divas have struggled to replicate, she is very adaptable to her surroundings and able to take on whatever role the company needed her to. She was also able to reinvent herself throughout the transitions of her character in the ring, coming up with three different and unique finishing moves, each one different from the other. The Black Widow has most recently become AJ's go to move, a unique and painful looking submission that made her stand out from the traditional and typical finishers used by the other Divas.
Speculation about the future of AJ in WWE had been making the rounds every since her now husband CM Punk walked out on the company at the beginning of 2014. Backstage many WWE officials would tread carefully with Lee, worried she would walk out on the company like Punk, but to her credit AJ would stick around for over a year after his shock departure, despite her taking time off between December 2014 and March 2015 to heal a legitimate neck injury. During this time off speculation about the future of AJ with the company went into overdrive as she sent a tweet to Stephanie McMahon, criticizing the WWE for the way they treat the Divas by giving them a fraction of the male rosters wages and screen time, despite the fact that some of the Divas had top selling pieces of merchandise and also featured in some of the companies top rated segments. Her words received acknowledgement from Stephanie and Vince McMahon, and since then there does seem to have been a positive change in the way the company gives it's Divas television time. There's no doubt AJ's comments were part of the catalyst for this change, and I hope WWE continues to spotlight the Divas in the same way.
AJ wrestled her last competitive match on the 30th March 2015 edition of WWE Raw, where she would end up on the winning side of a six Divas tag match with Paige and Naomi. I'm glad AJ went out on the winning side, and glad she got to have her last match at Wrestlemania, where AJ and Paige would defeat the Bella Twins in a great Divas match. AJ will leave a legacy in the Divas Division as one of the companies top female talents, and I hope this is truly not the last we see of AJ in a WWE ring. The fact she is still under contract with the company and only retired from in-ring competition tells me there is something more to come from AJ in WWE for the future, but if this really is her last hurrah then along with every fan of WWE, I simply want to say thank you AJ for the memories, and I hope you achieve the same kind of success outside WWE as you did in it.