WWE:AJ Lee was amongst the most famous female professional wrestlers for a large part of this decade. She was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Woman of the Year for an unprecedented three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. In many ways, she was at the peak of her powers and fame when she chose to walk away from it all.
She was a first-rate superstar who was very popular amongst the fans. So, it came as a major surprise to WWE fans when she announced her retirement from professional wrestling and WWE, after Wrestlemania XXXI. So, what made her retire from WWE, all of a sudden at the peak of her popularity?
Troubles between WWE and her husband CM Punk
CM Punk, the husband of AJ Lee and an A-list superstar himself, had left the WWE after making allegations of complete disregard of his health by WWE medical officials, and that too on multiple occasions.
Perhaps the most serious of these was when a WWE doctor told him a mass on his back was nothing serious, but it ended up being a staph infection that had been untreated for a long time and could have even turned out to be fatal. Punk had alleged that it was just before the WWE Royal Rumble 2014 pay-per-view.
Punk also raised concern about lack of proper training given to young superstars who were drafted which led to serious injuries.
He also voiced his grievances against WWE on his friend Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast in November 2014, which definitely put the relationship between WWE and AJ in a somewhat awkward position.
Punk was also facing a lawsuit by Dr. Chris Amann of the WWE for defamation in retaliation for false charges of medical neglect. All this surely would have influenced AJ Lee’s decision to quit the organization and support her husband’s fight.
Neck injury, possible issues with the future storylines
AJ Lee had suffered a neck injury during the 2014 Survivor Series pay-per-view. That might have been a factor in her taking a call on her future wrestling career.
AJ Lee was not exactly on the best of terms with Stephanie McMahon and some other Divas. At Wrestlemania XXXI, she was booked to win via submission over Divas Champion Nikki Bella. The plan was to set her up for a title program with Nikki, but she announced her retirement before things could shape that way.
The idea of using retirement as a means to escape the remainder of a contract is one that has been used for quite a while now by many wrestlers. AJ Lee might have thought about it deeply, and decided that it was the right moment to go.
The Legacy AJ Lee left behind
AJ Lee was a pioneer on many fronts in the WWE. She won the Divas Championship a record-tying three times. She also won the Diva of the Year Slammy Award twice and was very popular amongst the fans. She was seen as a torchbearer for the new generation of WWE divas and her charisma and energy in the ring were unrivalled by any other Diva.
AJ also raised issues about greater opportunities for Divas in the WWE* shows and pay-per-views. She commented that “despite having generated record-selling merchandise and several top-rated segments on WWE* shows, female wrestlers in WWE* receive a fraction of the wages and screen time of the company’s male roster”. WWE* chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, also acknowledged the issue.
Clearly AJ Lee was a pioneer in the women’s division, and served wrestling well with her in-ring performances and out-of-ring leadership qualities. At a time when most of the women’s roster is harangued for being more style than substance, it is distressing that more wasn’t done to retain such a standout amongst the WWE’s ranks.