After an interesting and prosperous career in the WWE, AJ Lee has decided to call it a day.
While specifics are still unknown, WWE announced Lee’s retirement about a week ago on social media, igniting the fans to speculate about her motives. Lee’s departure came abruptly, and by the same token, leaves a void in the Divas division.
The New Jersey-native was a breath of fresh air and really stayed true to presenting herself as a wrestler over an entertainer. In a class full of women that portray themselves as glamorous, Lee didn’t shy away from expressing her true feeling about her counterparts on a number of occasions.
During her stay in WWE, Lee had a successful career, yet she did have a tendency to clash with others, whether it was her boss Stephanie McMahon or ESPN presenter Michelle Beadle.
Nevertheless, she still holds the record for most Divas title wins (three, alongside Eve Torres) and held the title for 295 days after she won it in mid-2013 for the first time, which is another record that hasn’t been broken. Apart from those accolades, she’s always been consistently good, even though she had a light schedule at times.
Here are some of Lee’s greatest career moments:
15 WWE Debut Match On SmackDown
Lee’s WWE debut came in 2011 when she formed a partnership with Kaitlyn as The Chickbusters. It proved to be a pretty terrible name over time, but the first night on the job is always memorable, even though Lee’s team lost against Alicia Fox and Tamina. AJ Lee went on to become one of the best Divas in recent memory, while Kaitlyn left her contract so she could go back to the fitness world.
14 Her First Singles Victory Over Tamina
In the summer of 2011, the feud involving those four ladies continued, which led to Lee earning her first singles victory over Tamina two weeks after her debut on SmackDown. Oddly enough, Tamina would be Lee’s bodyguard further down the road.
Quick facy about Tamina, she's the daughter of the legendary Jimmy Snuka and made her acting debut alongside The Rock in Hercules.
13 The Kiss Of Death At WrestleMania 28
Sheamus fans must have been extremely proud of Lee when her then-boyfriend Daniel Bryan insisted on a kiss from his significant other during the match. The current WWE Intercontinental Champion didn’t realize the “Celtic Warrior” was behind him and the latter defeated Bryan in under 20 seconds for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Bryan’s fans were outraged and Lee would be blamed for the whole debacle. It maybe wasn’t favorable for her, yet this was one of the biggest moments of her career, and a notorious WrestleMania moment, too.
This was important because it started a hot storyline between Lee and Bryan, which involved CM Punk and made for an interesting rest of the year.
12 Puts Paige Over After WrestleMania 30
In perhaps the most embarrassing moment of her career, Lee lost her Divas title to newcomer Paige one night after WrestleMania 30, putting the English wrestler over in her main card debut. In an electric moment on the 2014 edition of “Raw After Mania,” the longest-reining Divas champion had her streak broken, but had no problem putting over the younger talent and engaging in a decent feud shortly after.
11 Wins Diva Of The Year In 2014 & Avoids Hugging Jerry Lawler
When AJ won the Diva of The Year Award in 2014, she accepted the award and had great things to say about the women of NXT, but found herself in an unfortunate moment beforehand.
Lee’s episodes in the commentary booth were always entertainment, specifically because she would call out Jerry Lawler, whose had a storied career of creepiness. Lawler went in for a hug, but Lee wasn’t buying it, and tried to keep as much distance as possible.
10 Divas Title Match Against Natalya On Main Event
The longest Divas title match just so happened to be on a less-popular WWE show, but that didn’t ruin the moment Lee had with Natalya.
The Canadian pushed her foe to the limit and vice versa, as they both engaged in a near 15-minute battle which saw Lee submit Natalya in one of the best Divas matches in WWE history. Perhaps Natalya can be used to fill the void left by AJ Lee, as the best veteran female wrestler on the program.
9 Unexpected Return To Claim Her Second Divas Title
One night after Money In The Bank 2014, Lee stormed the gate and made an unexpected comeback to challenge Paige for the Divas title, after the champion made a successful title defense the night before against Naomi.
Lee needed just over a minute to defeat her rival, winning the title for the second time. The crowed went nuts for the win, making this one of the best moments in her career.
8 Divas Title Match Against Kaitlyn At Payback 2013
Those casting aside women’s wrestling because they think it’s far less entertaining or less action-packed aren’t exactly getting the point and probably have something wrong with them.
In most cases, WWE doesn’t exactly do itself any favors by giving limited minutes to the women to work with or choose to go with supermodel looks over in-ring skill.
Former best friends Lee and Kaitlyn had a fantastic match at Payback in 2013, full of great psychology, spots, and storytelling throughout. Lee emerged victorious in a moment that would cement her legacy and put her above those that came before her.
7 Headlines Raw With CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan & Eve Torres
Years after Trish Stratus battled Lita on the main event of Raw and made history as the only two women to do so, Lee and Torres got the chance to close out the show in 2012 while competing in a mixed-tag match involving CM Punk and Bryan.
The episode itself was pretty horrendous, yet this was a milestone both Lee and Torres should be proud of. AJ Lee was absolutely deserving of this honor and we wish it could've happened more often.
6 Becomes General Manager Of Raw In 2012
On the night she was about to tie the knot with Daniel Bryan on a summer night during an episode of Raw in 2012, Mr. McMahon ruined the festivities by announcing Lee as the new general manager of Raw. Lee left Bryan at the altar as a part of her master plan and Lee went on an awkward yet impressive run as the show’s boss. Of all the female general managers, she was definitely the best in-ring competitor.
5 #GiveDivasAChance Succeeds At WrestleMania 31
Stemming from her tweet and the fan movement in general, the proposed changes to the Divas division relied heavily on the match between Lee and Paige against The Bella Twins at this past year’s WrestleMania. It wasn’t so much on the performers, but the time they would be given to show the women deserved more of a chance to shine.
A.J. and Paige earned the victory over the Bella Twins, which would be Lee’s final and finest WrestleMania moment.
4 An Unexpected Last Television Match To Be Proud Of
The Divas division kept rolling on night after Raw, as Total Divas stalwarts The Bella Twins and Natalya took on Lee, Paige and Naomi in a six-women tag match. All involved worked the contest almost perfectly and it would be Lee’s last match in WWE before leaving the company a few days later. Unfortunately, the sexually suggestive slurs made from the San Jose crowd aimed at those in relationships with other male wrestlers ruined the moment.
Lee’s retirement was announced days after the match, as her WWE career came to a close in California.
3 Disses Stephanie McMahon On Twitter By Using Her Voice
Stephanie McMahon was quick to tweet out a picture dedicated to Patricia Arquette’s speech at the 2015 Oscars, which called for equal rights and pay for women across the world.
McMahon didn’t realize she wasn’t exactly practicing what she had preached.
Lee called out her boss for being somewhat hypocritical, seeing how the women of WWE didn’t have the same wages as the men, and got less time to work on television. McMahon responded by stating she appreciated her opinion, even though she must have been fuming with her brutally honest employee. You can see the entire exchange here.
2 A Legendary Pipe Bomb Promo For The Ages
Many like to draw similarities between Lee and Punk, considering they’re married and a lot alike.
The strongest instance of this was when Lee cut a pipe bomb promo targeted towards the Divas, specifically those in the Total Divas spotlight during an episode of Raw in 2013.
While standing firm on the top of the entrance ramp with the belt on her shoulder, Lee grilled the Divas who star in the show while The Funkadactyls, The Bella Twins, Natalya, Jojo and Eva Marie remained at ringside, and it was incredible. Not only does she insult the wrestling ability of these women (Natalya was the most established competitor), she lashes out at them for being wannabe actresses.
Talk about blurring the lines of reality.
1 Wins The Divas Championship For The First Time & Holds It The Longest
After her win over Kaitlyn, Lee would go on to hold the Divas Championship for a whopping 295 days, marking the longest title reign in the championship’s history. Maybe Alundra Blaze doesn’t exactly see eye to eye with Lee when it comes to the winningest and most accomplished women’s champion in WWE, not to mention the now-defunct Women’s Championship reigns of The Fabulous Moolah, Rockin’ Robin and Trish Stratus, but Lee’s numbers make her the most accomplished women’s wrestler of the so-called “Universe Era,” and it’s going to take a hell of a lot to match her records.