In May 2009, she signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment(WWE), and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), WWE’sdevelopmental promotion, using the ring name AJ Lee. In FCW, she was Queen of FCWand FCW Divas Champion, and was the first person to have held both titles. In 2010, she was part of the third season of NXT, having dropped her last name. She became part of WWE’s SmackDown brand in May 2011, forming a tag team with Kaitlyn known as The Chickbusters.
A self-professed nerd and tomboy, WWE adapted Mendez’s comics and video gamefandom to her on-screen character, endorsing her as different from the typical women in the WWE and promoting her as the ”Geek Goddess”. In 2012, she was named the “Diva of the Year” as part of that year’s Slammy Awards.
Mendez grew up in Union City, New Jersey, describing her family’s experience as having to live in motels and other people’s houses.Mendez cited her brother’s interest in WWE when they were kids as an influence on her eventual decision to break into the male-dominated world of wrestling, and she cemented her ambition to pursue a pro wrestling career when she was twelve years old.Inspired by the female WWE stars that came before her, Mendez worked several jobs after graduating from high school (including being a janitor at day care, a cashier and a secretary) in order to save up the money she needed to both support her family and enroll in wrestling school.
Mendez attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York City where she majored in film and television production and writing until family and financial issues led to her dropping out six months into her studies. As a tribute to her brother who was in the Army, Mendez sometimes wears camouflage wrestling attire.
Professional wrestling career
Shortly after leaving university Mendez researched wrestling schools and enrolled in one a mile away from her house. To pay the tuition she began working full-time and became an official student in March 2007, debuting six months later as “Miss April” to work the New Jersey independent wrestling circuit.
Women Superstars Uncensored (2008–2009)
On October 10, 2008, Miss April made her debut for Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU), losing to Soul Sister Jana in a singles match. The following night, she teamed with Malia Hosaka and participated in the tournament to determine the inaugural WSU Tag Team Champions. The pair advanced to the second round by defeating The Soul Sisters (Jana and Latasha), where they lost to The Beatdown Betties (Roxxie Cotton and Annie Social). At the second taping later that same night, Miss April lost to Hosaka in a singles match. On February 7, 2009, Miss April teamed with Brooke Carter to defeat The Beatdown Betties and win the WSU Tag Team Championship. A month later, on March 7, they defeated The Beatdown Betties in a rematch to retain the championship. On April 10, Miss April competed in the third J-Cup tournament, defeating Roxxie Cotton in the first round before losing to Rain in the second.The following night, Miss April and Jay Lethal won the 2009 WSU/NWS King and Queen Tournament after defeating Jana and Danny Demanto in the final of the tounament.
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE
Florida Championship Wrestling (2009–2011)
AJ addressing the audience on NXT in November 2010 after she was eliminated from the show.
Mendez signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment on May 5, 2009, and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s developmental territory. Mendez made her FCW debut at the August 14 television tapings under the name “April Lee” in afatal four-way match won by Serena Mancini. In September 2009, her ring name was changed to “AJ Lee”. She began challenging for the Queen of FCW title, and at the television tapings on February 4, 2010, Lee defeated Serena to win the crown. In the first round of a tournament to determine the inaugural FCW Divas Champion, Lee defeatedTamina on April 29, but was defeated by Serena in the semi-finals on May 20. At the June 10 television tapings, Lee challenged Naomi Knight for the FCW Divas Championship but was unsuccessful. In June 2010, she appeared at Raw house shows, acting as the hostess and later as the ring announcer at an FCW show. The following month, Lee and Serena interrupted Knight during a promo, and Lee watched while Serena attacked Knight, turning Lee into a heel (villainous character). Knight went on to retain her FCW Divas Championship by defeating both Lee and Serena in a triple threat match. On FCW’s 100th episode, Lee fought Knight to a double countout in a match where both Lee’s Queen of FCW title and Knight’s FCW Divas Championship were on the line. At the September 2 tapings, Lee lost to Knight in a Lumberjill match to end their feud.
On November 18, she dropped the Queen of FCW title to Rosa Mendes. On December 16, AJ defeated Naomi to win the FCW Divas Championship. Her victory made her the first FCW Diva to have held both the Divas Championship and the title of Queen of FCW.She held the championship until April 7, 2011 when she lost it to Aksana during an FCW television taping.
NXT and SmackDown (2010–2011)
On August 31, 2010, it was announced that she would be part of the third season of NXT under the name AJ, with Primo as her Pro.On September 7, AJ made her in-ring debut teaming with Primo to defeat fellow rookie Diva Aksana and her Pro Goldust in a mixed tag team match. Later that night, she unsuccessfully competed in both a “Dance Competition” and a “Capture the Flag” contest. The following week she suffered her first loss when she and Primo were defeated by Kaitlyn and Dolph Ziggler. Over the next two weeks, AJ won three challenges, and on the October 5 episode of NXT she and Kaitlyn were tied for the number of challenges won.Kaitlyn received immunity from elimination in the poll based on crowd reaction. AJ was eliminated from the competition on the November 23 episode of NXT, despite winning a competition and a match earlier in the show. She returned to NXT for the season finale, where she teamed with The Bella Twins to defeat Alicia Fox, Aksana, and Maxine. AJ returned as a special guest on February 8, 2011, during the fourth season of NXT, modeling merchandise during a ‘guess the price’ challenge. She also made several appearances during NXT Redemption in mid-2011.
See also: The Chickbusters
AJ made her main roster debut on the May 27, 2011, episode of SmackDown when she and Kaitlyn (known as The Chickbusters) lost to the team of Alicia Fox and Tamina. The duo were accompanied by Natalya, who became a mentor of sorts to the pair. AJ and Kaitlyn lost a rematch to Fox and Tamina the following week. Her first victory came on the June 10 episode of SmackDown, when she pinned Tamina in a singles match, a feat she repeated on the July 8 episode. AJ, Kaitlyn, and Natalya continued to feud with Fox and Tamina, who were joined by Rosa Mendes.
On the August 5 episode of SmackDown, AJ lost a singles match to Natalya, who then turned on her protégé, attacking her and declaring war on the “perky little princesses” that comprised the rest of the Divas division. The following week, AJ and Kaitlyn lost to Natalya and Beth Phoenix, before AJ teamed with Kelly Kelly to defeat Natalya and Fox. Throughout the next few months, The Chickbusters continued to feud with the so-called Divas of Doom, losing both singles and tag team matches to them. In November, tension began to be teased between The Chickbusters, with Kaitlyn upset at their repeated losses to The Divas of Doom.
Various relationships; Raw General Manager (2011–2012)
AJ (right) with her then on-screen boyfriend Daniel Bryan as World Heavyweight Champion.
In November 2011, AJ began a romantic storyline with Daniel Bryan, In December, Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship and he began to display villainoustraits. Despite AJ’s declaration of love for Bryan, Bryan avoided saying that he loved her in return. On the January 13 episode of SmackDown, AJ accompanied Bryan for his World Heavyweight Championship defense against The Big Show. During the match Show accidentally collided with AJ, injuring her (kayfabe) and causing her to be taken out on a stretcher. AJ returned to SmackDown on February 3, saving Bryan from the Big Show.
In March, Bryan began to mistreat AJ, publicly demanding her to shut up and claiming that she always got in his way. Despite these actions, AJ continued to stand by Bryan. AtWrestleMania XXVIII, Bryan’s reign as World champion ended when Sheamus defeated him in eighteen seconds due to Bryan being distracted after a good luck kiss from AJ. On the April 6, episode of SmackDown, Bryan blamed AJ for losing the World Heavyweight Championship and ended their relationship.
Despite AJ’s attempts to mend their relationship, Bryan cruelly rebuffed her multiple times, leaving AJ an emotional wreck. Throughout the next few weeks, Kaitlyn tried to console AJ about her feelings towards Bryan, but AJ would slap her in response. On the May 11 episode of SmackDown, AJ quickly defeated Kaitlyn. Afterwards, Bryan came out, seemingly impressed with AJ’s new ruthless behavior, but then he revealed that he would rather move on to Kaitlyn, further jilting AJ. AJ then turned her affections to Bryan’s rival, WWE Champion CM Punk, as well as fellow WWE title contender Kane. At theNo Way Out pay-per-view on June 17, when Punk, Bryan and Kane faced off for the WWE Championship, AJ interfered and distracted Kane, leading to Punk winning and retaining his championship.
As the feud between Bryan and Punk continued, AJ was announced as the special guest referee for their title match at Money in the Bank. While Bryan made advances on AJ in an attempt to influence her, AJ continued showing interest in Punk, but Punk let her down by not watching her match. A vengeful AJ then sent Punk and Bryan crashing through a ringside table during their match on Raw on July 2. The following week, AJ proposed to Punk while Bryan proposed to her; Punk rejected her proposal and AJ slapped both men. At Money in the Bank, as guest referee, AJ counted Punk’s pinfall on Bryan resulting in a successful title defence for Punk; as Punk celebrated over a fallen Bryan, AJ was left alone. The following night on the July 16 episode of Raw Bryan once again proposed to AJ, who accepted with the wedding scheduled to take place the next week.
AJ in 2013, after allying herself withDolph Ziggler.
During the exchange of vows at Raw 1000, AJ announced she had been offered the job ofRaw General Manager by WWE owner Vince McMahon and left Bryan at the altar. Her first official day began July 30 where she alleged Bryan only wanted the legal leverage to have her committed, forcing him to undergo his own psychological evaluation. Later, AJ modified CM Punk’s WWE Championship bout at SummerSlam into a triple-threat match due to his interference during a #1 contender match between John Cena and the Big Show. Meanwhile, AJ continued to exact her revenge on Bryan by denying him a WWE Championship shot and instead forcing him to face Kane at SummerSlam. Concurrently, she would begin feuding with Vickie Guerrero, who would demand AJ’s spot as the GM, deeming AJ too childish. CM Punk would later humiliate AJ for her past affections, leading toPaul Heyman demanding the GM spot, which he would run in conjunction with Vickie.
On October 22, AJ stepped down from her General Manager duties due to the stress of false allegations of fraternizing and having an affair with a wrestler on the Raw roster, which was later revealed to be John Cena. Later Vickie Guerrero would show evidence of John Cenaand AJ going to a business dinner, AJ walking into Cena’s room and more. At Survivor Series, AJ tried to show “evidence” of Vickie Guerrero fraternizing, but was attacked by the returning Tamina Snuka. On the following episode of Raw, John Cena and AJ passionately kissed each other to give Vickie and Dolph Ziggler something “to talk about”. On the November 26 episode of Raw, AJ would kiss Cena again after his match against Ziggler, starting a relationship between the two. On the December 3 episode ofRaw, AJ defeated Tamina in a singles match.
Heel turn; Relationship with Dolph Ziggler (2012–present)
On December 16, at TLC, AJ turned heel after interfering in John Cena’s ladder matchagainst Dolph Ziggler on behalf of Ziggler pushing Cena off the ladder. The following night on a special Slammy Awards episode of Raw, AJ won an award with Cena for “Kiss of the Year”, which was presented by Vickie Guerrero. However, AJ and Vickie started arguing which led to Ziggler coming in and setting them apart. That allowed AJ to kiss Ziggler in front of Vickie, officially solidifying her heel turn and relationship with Ziggler. In the main event, AJ teamed with Ziggler to take on Cena and Guerrero, with Cena and Guerrero victorious after Big E Langston interfered and attacked Cena on AJ’s behalf. On the December 18, at the special live episode of Smackdown, AJ justified her actions saying that Cena broke her heart like Bryan and Punk and she helped Ziggler break him. In her first televised match for 2013, AJ lost to Natalya on the March 9 episode of WWE Saturday Morning Slam, after missing a diving cross body press.
Mendez has stated that she is of Puerto Rican heritage. She was previously in a relationship with her trainer Jay Lethal.
Mendez became enamoured with comic books in the fourth grade, citing her love for the medium as imbuing her with a sense of creativity that carried over to her later life. Her favorite series is X-Men followed by Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four; characterwise she prefers “badass chicks” (in particular X-Men’s Jean Grey, of whom Mendez is especially fond) and Cyclops. She also enjoysvideo games and was the first-ever female winner of WWE’s “THQ Superstar Challenge” at Wrestlemania XXVIII Axxess, last defeating Mark Henry in a game of WWE ’12 to finish first out of a sixteen-person field.
AJ performing a roll-up on Natalya
AJ performing a crossbody on Natalya
- Finishing moves
- Octopus hold
- Shining wizard
- Signature moves
- Hurricanrana, sometimes to an oncoming opponent
- Missile dropkick
- Monkey flip
- Multiple arm drags
- Spinning heel kick
- Wheelbarrow bulldog
- With Kaitlyn
- Aided splash
- Corner clothesline (AJ) / Backbreaker (Kaitlyn) combination
- Daniel Bryan
- Big E Langston
- Wrestlers managed
- Daniel Bryan
- Dolph Ziggler
- “The Thunder and Lighting Combination” — with Kaitlyn
- “Geek Goddess”
- “Crazy Chick”
- Entrance themes
- “Feelin’ Ya” by Jim Johnston (FCW)
- “Oh Puerto Rico” performed by Vinny and Ray with vocals by Marlyn Jiménez and composed by Jim Johnston (while as Primo’s NXT Rookie)
- “Right Now” by Jim Johnston and performed by Tyler Van den Berg (June, 2011–September, 2011)
- “Let’s Light It Up” by Jim Johnston and performed by Kari Kimmel (October 2011–present)
Championships and accomplishments
- Florida Championship Wrestling
- FCW Divas Championship (1 time)
- Queen of FCW (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked her #48 of the best 50 female singles wrestlers in the PWI Female 50 in 2011
- PWI Woman of the Year (2012)
- Women Superstars Uncensored
- WSU Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Brooke Carter
- WSU/NWS King and Queen of the Ring (2009) – with Jay Lethal
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Slammy Award for Diva of the Year (2012)
- Slammy Award for Best Kiss of the Year (2012) – with John Cena
1Lee defeated Eve Torres to win the WWE Divas Championship in a triple-threat match also involving Layla at a live event on November 11, 2012, but acting general manager Vickie Guerrero ordered the match to be restarted. Eve would win the match and regain the championship. WWE does not recognize Lee’s win and the title changing hands.
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