Former WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee has announced her retirement from in-ring competition today per the WWE’s official Twitter page. Lee, real-name April Brooks (née Mendez), was just coming off a WrestleMania 31 victory with tag team partner Paige against WWE Divas Champion Nikki Bella and sister Brie Bella. No reason was given for the departure, but Lee has spoken out against WWE brass in the past.
After Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech pleading for equal opportunity for women, WWE executive Stephanie McMahon tweeted out a message of support with the hashtag #UseYourVoice. Lee soon replied to McMahon in two tweets, “Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest-rated segment of the show several times, and yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster. #UseYourVoice” Stephanie and her father WWE CEO Vince McMahon heard the criticism loud and clear as they replied back thanking Lee for her opinion.
Lee joined the company in 2009 and was assigned to the former developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, where she won the FCW Divas Championship and won the title of Queen of FCW before making the move to the third season of NXT. Lee made it to the final three off the all-women season and soon made it to the main roster in late 2011. The storyline girlfriend of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, and John Cena spent the next three and a half years ruling the WWE Divas division. Winning the Divas title three times and taking home three Slammy Awards, Lee became one of the most popular talents in the entire company and transcended the boundaries generally seen in the WWE between male and female wrestlers.
Lee’s husband CM Punk also left WWE abruptly in 2014 after being an equally outspoken performer during his tenure. There is no word on the status of her contract or her future in the WWE or otherwise.
AJ LEE STORIES
- May 30, 2017: AJ Lee book about far more than wrestling