Arguably the most talented Diva on the WWE roster has exited the company. WWE.com posted a shockingly brief statement earlier today:
AJ Lee (April Mendez) has decided to retire from in-ring competition with WWE. We wish AJ the very best.
AJ’s exit from the promotion comes just over a year after the unceremonious departure of her husband, CM Punk, with both wrestlers exiting in their prime.
Though AJ’s split from the WWE wasn’t quite as abrupt as Punk’s (who had just dropped the WWE Title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, and was, likely, in the midst of a Wrestlemania program with Triple H), it was not without its own amount of vitriol.
A February Tweet from Lee, to company Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon stated: “@StephMcMahon 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”
McMahon’s passive-aggressive Twitter response, “Thank you @WWEAJLee, I appreciate your opinion. #UseYourVoice,” no doubt led to backstage friction between the two.
Adding to the drama was the ongoing situation with CM Punk.
Many assumed that, at the very least, the backstage atmosphere could not have been comfortable to Lee or, on a stronger note, that Lee’s storylines may not have been as juicy because of Punk’s ongoing legal battle with WWE and Dr. Chris Amann, after Punk’s critical remarks about the promotion’s doctor on Colt Cabana’s podcast last November.
The same podcast revealed many other ugly claims by Punk, including being rushed back after serious surgery, the WWE’s withholding of his royalties, and being given a pink slip on the couple’s wedding day. If any, or all, of these claims were true, it had to have led AJ to develop a strong disdain for her former employer.
As one of the best female workers in the company, Lee probably hoped to escape the madness of backstage politics by putting on top-tier matches in the ring. Unfortunately, the WWE Universe would not allow her any respite, often loudly chanting her husband’s name whenever she made a live appearance.
All in all, ‘retiring’ from the sport was probably the best course of action for AJ Lee. Hopefully, this series of unfortunate events has not completely soured her on the business, as it did her husband, and we can see a return to the ring sometime in the future.