By now, the news has sunk in that AJ Lee has left WWE. Though it’s no less sad to see a trailblazer like her walk a different path, the WWE Universe can now, at least, look back fondly on what made AJ so unique in the first place. From her look to her talking skills to her incredibly memorable stint as Raw General Manager, here are eight things we’ll miss most about our beloved Black Widow.
Say this for AJ: She didn’t give a hoot what anybody thought about her. From the second she walked through the doors of NXT Season 3, there was something different about this perky pixie in Chucks. Over the years, it became apparent that AJ Lee was going to do things her way, or not at all. She never once seemed to bend to any kind of pressure to be or act a certain way. It sometimes rankled a few feathers, but right until the day she left, she was redefining “Diva” on her own terms and setting an example for the younger generation to follow. There’s something to be said for that. Stay weird, indeed.
Now that she’s gone, we can say this, right? Calling AJ Lee’s mental stability into question was a surefire way to get yourself beat up if you were a Diva, or even worse if you were a Superstar. But AJ’s delightfully unstable state of mind made for some incredibly captivating television. Each time you thought she had reached a new level of unsettling, she’d start talking to herself in a mirror, or leaping into Kane’s arms, or, you get the drift. It was dark stuff for a Diva, and she wore it well. Almost too well. Think less “Bring It On” and more “Fatal Attraction,” and you’ve got the idea.
For a long time, the term “Diva” was synonymous with a fitness model, Amazon-queen type who topped out at six-foot and change, and could likely bench more than most guys in the room. AJ was not that. Standing at a furious 5-foot-2, she looked more like the girl who hung out by the lockers in high school than the mean girls who would shove folks into them. And her unabashed love of graphic tees and plaid in place of spandex and knee-high Chucks over wrestling boots gave some undeniable credence to her well-earned nickname, Geek Goddess.
Her mic skills:
There was a time not all that long ago when some wondered if the Divas division had much to say. AJ Lee changed all that. Not just because she had plenty to divulge (though we’re getting to that), but because she did it so well. Dispelling any outdated notion that a Diva couldn’t go toe-to-toe with a Superstar on the mic, AJ held her own with such loquacious luminaries as Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, Vickie Guerrero and CM Punk, and sparring with the best will ultimately make you better as a result. Which leads us to…
Toward the end of her run, when AJ had a mic in her hand, you knew someone, somewhere, was about to get really, really mad at what she had to say. Beginning with her obliteration of the “Total Divas” cast a few years back, AJ made a name for herself as a pipe bomb-dropper in her own right, eschewing such things as subtlety and grace in favor of blunt-force truth. It didn’t stay confined to the ring, either: AJ used her Twitter as ruthlessly as she did the stick, taking up the “Give Divas a Chance” movement with no less than Stephanie McMahon herself in an exchange that garnered mainstream media attention for its brazenness.
Her matchmaking skills:
…And we mean that in a couple of different ways. Yes, it was entertaining to see the combination of romantic entanglements AJ found herself ensnared in. Yet, what we really mean was her cut-short-too-soon run as the General Manager of Monday Night Raw. Appointed to the post by The Chairman himself, AJ hit the ground running in Raw’s hot seat, organizing blockbuster matches and instigating no less a pairing than Daniel Bryan and Kane, leading to the formation of Team Hell No. Hell, we owe her just for the anger management trips alone.
Her wrestling skills:
It might slip your mind when you think about what a strong personality she was, but wrestling wise, AJ Lee was good. And she was good in a way that was unusual for a Diva at the time, the complete package of presence, personality and in-ring skills that instantly positioned her, alongside Kaitlyn, as the two Divas who gave the division a jump-start before the “Total Divas” crew threw it into overdrive. As the speedy technician who complemented Kaitlyn’s grrl-power heavy-hitting, AJ didn’t just beat Divas twice her size, she made them tap out with her version of an octopus hold, aptly named the Black Widow. Bet the rest of the Divas won’t be missing that.
And here, now, we get to the core of why AJ was so great while she lasted. She never allowed herself to be pinned down as one anything, even a persona. She started out as the perky, geeky chick on NXT, only to grow into this generation’s Miss Elizabeth as Daniel Bryan’s submissive girlfriend, only to break away from him and evolve into a strings-pulling maneater, inevitably to ditch the dudes entirely and start blazing a trail on her own terms for Divas and women alike. There were always two AJs, the kind and the crazy, but the real secret was that either one had the total package. Thanks for everything, Puddin’. We’ll see you down the road.