Childhood & Early Life
AJ Lee was born as April Jeanette (AJ) Mendez, on March 19, 1987, in Union City, New Jersey. Of Puerto Rican descent, Mendez has two older siblings, Erica and Robert.
It was her brother’s interest in WWE that influenced AJ to pursue professional wrestling as a career. At the young age of 12, she cemented her decision to become a professional wrestler.
In 2005, she graduated from Memorial High School. Later on, she enrolled at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study film and television production and writing, but dropped out of the same in six months. She then took up part-time jobs to support her family financially and save for an enrollment in a wrestling school.
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In 2007, AJ Mendez enrolled in a wrestling school. By March, she was training under Jay Lethal. The same year, in September, Mendez made her official entry in the ring under the name of Miss April, wrestling on the New Jersey independent circuit.
In 2008, Miss April joined the New Jersey-based promotion Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU). She lost her debut match to Jana. Unable to make it to the inaugural WSU Tag Team Champions, she formed a tag team with Brooke Carter. In 2009, they captured the tag titles by defeating the Beatdown Betties.
Together with Jay Lethal, Miss April won the 2009 WSU/NWS King and Queen Ring of the Tournament. In May 2009, she left WSU to sign a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), she made her debut under the ring name April Lee in a televised match. It was shortly thereafter that she changed her ring name to AJ Lee that stuck to her for long.
In February 2010, AJ defeated Serena Mancini to win the Queen of FCW title. However, she could not retain the title for long and lost it to Rosa Mendes in November. In December, she bounced back to defeat Naomi for the FCW Divas Championship title. The victory made her the first FCW's female wrestler to win both the titles. She held the title until April 2011, finally losing it to Aksana.
In 2010, AJ was one of the six participants of the all-female third season of NXT, with Primo as her WWE pro. She survived the initial stages but was eliminated from the competition in November.
AJ Lee accepted the position of Raw General Manager offered by WWE chairman Vince McMahon in 2012. However, her term as a Raw GM was full of complications as Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman deemed AJ unfit for the position. Finally, on October 22, AJ stepped down from her General Managerial duties.
In 2013, she won a battle royal to become the number one contender to Kaitlyn’s Divas Championship. She then defeated Kaitlyn to capture her first Divas Championship. Later she participated in the first-ever in-ring Divas Championship contract signing for a rematch at Money in the Bank, which she won. Though she successfully defended her title, she lost the mixed tag team match at SummerSlam to Ziggler and Kaitlyn.
In January 2014, AJ became the longest-reigning Divas Champion, surpassing the previous record set by Maryse. Though attempts were made to take away her title, she successfully defended them all, including the 14-woman match at WrestleMania XXX in April. It was the first time that the Divas Championship had been contested for at the WWE's flagship event.
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AJ’s reign however ended on a tragic note when she lost an impromptu title match after she challenged the debuting Paige. The match marked the end of her record-breaking reign of 295 days.
AJ Lee returned to the ring in June 2014, dismissing Tamina. She even challenged Paige to an impromptu rematch and this time emerged victorious to capture her second Divas Championship title. She successfully defended the title at Battleground but finally lost it to Paige at SummerSlam in August 2014. In a series of matches that followed from August 2014, AJ regained the title but lost it almost immediately to Nikki Bella.
On March 29, 2015, AJ Lee allied with Paige to fight against the Bella Twins at WrestleMania 31. The duo emerged victorious as they successfully battled out Nikki and Brie Bella. This was the last match for AJ as five days later, on April 3, 2015, WWE announced her decision to retire from in-ring competition.
The highlight of AJ’s career was her record-breaking reign as the Divas Championship title holder for 295 days. She held the title for an overall record of 406 days, beating several high profile wrestlers in the title games.
Personal Life & Legacy
In November 2011, AJ Lee began a romantic storyline with Daniel Bryan, a World Heavyweight Championship title holder. The relationship hit the rocks when Bryan blamed AJ for his loss of the title to Sheamus after a ‘good luck kiss’ by her distracted him.
Distraught by the breakup, AJ turned her affection to Bryan's rival and WWE Champion CM Punk, and later to another WWE title contender, Kane. Meanwhile, Bryan reconciled with AJ and proposed marriage to her.
It was during the exchange of vows at Raw 1000 that AJ left Bryan at the altar to take up a job as Raw General Manager. Following this, she was involved in romantic storylines with John Cena and later with Dolph Ziggler, both of which ended hastily.
After a series of on-and-off relationships, AJ finally married CM Punk on June 13, 2014.
AJ is an avid animal welfare advocate. Since 2015 she has served as an ambassador for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).