BY MATT FOWLER - WWE’s annual Hell in a Cell event goes down live this Sunday, October 26th on the WWE Network (only $9.99 if you hadn’t heard). Two matches will take place inside the titular Hell-filled Cell – John Cena vs. Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins. What match should take place inside the Cell that isn’t taking place inside the Cell? Why, Paige vs. AJ Lee for the Divas Championship of course.
I spoke to WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee about, perhaps, one day battling someone inside that Cell, along with her thoughts about working with Paige, Total Divas, a future match with Stephanie McMahon. Plus, we talk about what comic books she’s currently read, binge-watching The Walking Dead and the rise of the nerd.
IGN: First things first. Have you watched the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer yet?
AJ Lee: Heh, I have not! I heard it was leaked though.
IGN: Well it was leaked, but then because of that Marvel just went ahead and released it officially.
AJ: Oh yaaay. Interesting! But no, I haven’t seen it yet.
IGN: Okay, you have homework to do. Just letting you know.
AJ: [laughs] I do!
IGN: What’s it like to be in a long, multi-Pay Per View storyline with Paige? It’s got to be fun to work with someone over a long stretch of time.
AJ: Oh yeah. I think the last time I got to do something like that was with Kaitlyn. And that was going into the title picture. So I didn’t even have the title yet. And then I spent about a year defending it and it was a different opponent every pay-per-view. And that was interesting and fun to do. But to kind of have something that lasts longer gives people more of a chance to invest in it and you’ll see the people start to pick sides. And there’s so much value in that. So I feel like I waited a year or more for something I could really sink my teeth into, so it’s been really fun. It’s been about four months of exciting stuff. So we’ll see what happens on Sunday.
IGN: With your feuds come a lot of mind games. A lot of friendships lost or friendships faked. What’s that like to play with?
AJ: I think it’s cool. Because with Kaitlyn, it’s like we were friends but then we hated each other. And so then we brought that back up going into the title picture. And what’s interesting with Paige was that it was clear that these girls were not going to be buddies. No matter what. From day one. So there’s been a lot of pretending involved just to see who can get the upper hand. That was fun. Because for three weeks people were like “You know you girls don’t like each other” and they were waiting for her to sort of kick my butt the way she did that one time. I think I flew over the announce table. So people were waiting for that. But now some of them want us to be friends again. And I think that’s the interesting part.
IGN: Do you think the story’s going to end with your match this Sunday?
AJ: I don’t know. Hmm. It’s so much fun and I think it’s some of the best work that the Divas division has gotten to have in a long time. So I’d love for it to last forever. It’s something that certainly could go on for a long time. I’m not sure a lot of people could have handled four months. And Paige is so new too so I think it’s sort of a testament to how talented she is.
IGN: Would you ever want to compete in an actual Hell in a Cell match?
AJ: I wish! I wish!
IGN: A lot of fans would love to see you and Paige in that Cell.
AJ: Trust me, we were very vocal about wishing that was possible. And trying to make that happen. We really were. Especially Paige, because she’s down for any of that stuff. The really cool thing too was that we’ve been kind of smashing each other all over the place already. On the stage, and then she pushed me off the stage. And the announce table. The barricade. The post. Things that girls actually hadn’t done in so long. So we were surprised that we were trusted with that in the first place. It seems like they’d trust us to take it to the next level and we kind of wished we could.
IGN: Paige and Alicia Fox are joining the next season of Total Divas. Will we get to the point – or maybe we’re even at that point right now – where you’re the only Diva not on Total Divas?
AJ: Oh my god! Um, I think maybe. Right? I feel bad though because I feel like people are mad at her, at Paige, for it I think. But they really shouldn’t be. I think she has her own style and she’s going to bring a different flavor to that show. So people should just be happy for her and glad that they can now see more of her life. As for me. No, I like having people know the AJ I play on TV, on RAW, and I go home and I get inside so no one talks to me [laughs].
IGN: About a month back you had a great moment with Stephanie McMahon in the ring. And now a lot of fans want to see you two have a match. Is that something you’d like?
AJ: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s no one who could match the promos we could put on together. I think that’s why people might be into it. Because it’d be two alpha females. And we do talk a big game. We’re good at that. As far as a match goes, that’s been done. So I don’t know how much we’d be into re-doing something. It’d have to be very different and very unique. It’d have to make its own mark on our industry and add to the history. But I think the girls [Steph and Brie] did such a good job that I wouldn’t want to mess with that. Because that was their own special moment that they had at SummerSlam. But I also think that getting into a war with her would be amazing. I think people are looking forward to that. And the tiny interactions that we have had, so far, have been some of the most fun I’ve ever had.
IGN: You retweet a lot of your fans when they send you artwork or pictures of themselves dressed like you. Did you ever think you’d be a role model for young girls in this way?
AJ Lee: You know, it’s crazy. Because I got into all of this by having amazing role models. Like Miss Elizabeth. You know, like Mickie and Trish and Lita and Molly. These girls that I looked up to. And so now seeing younger girls emulating me is always going to be the most real thing and the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. Especially because I like to perpetuate being more of a tomboy or being more comfortable with your individuality. For it to be okay. And for girls to get that at a young age perhaps because of me is the best thing I’ll ever do on this planet. And then, you know, the other side they don’t even realize maybe is that them dressing like me and being comfortable with themselves and putting all this stuff on Twitter has in its own way affected the Divas division from a business standpoint. Because that was the beginning of them agreeing to do female merch for the first time in, like, seven years. I was told that Divas didn’t sell anything. And that they weren’t sure how to profit from that. And so girls tweeting pictures of themselves dressed like me helped change their minds. And you look now, two years later, and everyone has merch. The girls are treated like the guys. And that kind of started with girls putting AJ shirts on and Chuck Taylors on their feet. It’s the coolest thing in the world to me that pictures on Twitter would be so effective.
IGN: Did you ever think you’d be an actual cosplay choice? Like, have such a distinctive look?
AJ: [laughs] I never thought that would happen, no way. But my idea going into it was that I wanted to be something that you could recognize quickly. Like, someone could draw a doodle of me in two seconds. That’s when I knew that I found what I wanted. My character on TV is very definable. Very recognizable. So I guess somewhere along the where it turned out to be an outfit that people dug. Most of it comes from Target so… [laughs]
IGN: Well, I know you haven’t seen the Age of Ultron trailer yet, but what comics are you reading right now?
AJ: Well, my husband got me the last trade of Hawkeye. And I guess we’re coming close to [writer] Matt Fraction wrapping up. And I didn’t know about this so I’m heartbroken. But he [Fraction] actually tweeted me, which was the coolest thing and told me everything’s going to be okay. But still, a little heartbroken. So I’m reading that. Kate’s adventures in LA. And I just started The Sixth Gun, which I heard was amazing. But I’m just starting to get into that. Oh, and Harley Quinn. Her new incarnation. So I’m kind of all over the place these days.
IGN: Are you all caught up on The Walking Dead? Can you watch Season 4 yet?
AJ: Yes! I just got caught up so now I’m watching the new season. It’s funny because there’s a part of me that if something is popular I sort of become a defiant teenager about it. Like “Oh, I’m not gonna like that because everybody likes it.” So I avoided the show for years. And then I decided to try it and felt stupid because it’s the most amazing show.
IGN: Well to be fair, it’s still a huge shock that it’s such a big mainstream hit given how dark and gory it is.
AJ: Yeah, and you know it’s funny, I’ve watched every episode but I’ve maybe seen 60% of all of it because my eyes are closed through 40% of it. Because I’m such a pansy. But I think that it’s interesting how shows like Walking Dead, or even Game of Thrones with all its fantasy elements, have become so popular. Sometimes though I get a little bit annoyed because the whole nerd thing taking over and is now cool and it wasn’t cool when I was younger.
IGN: I know. We had to pay our dues to pave the way.
AJ: Exactly! Exactly. I mean it wasn’t cool that I didn’t comb my hair and had books and wore glasses. It was never cool be a nerd and tomboy and these days it really is. And I’m like “You guys have no idea what I went through.” How many times my mother yelled at me to comb my hair. But it’s cool to see people open their minds and to things that I would try to get people into. Side note: When I dressed up like Harley Quinn on TV a long time ago everyone was like “Who is that?” And now she’s got an entire merchandise line. [laughs] The world has evolved and I’d probably know about her, but I’d be a little ashamed to be part of a bandwagon right now.