Much like Hulkamania, the rumors and conjecture regarding AJ Lee’s departure from WWE are running wild. Lee effectively punctuated a wild and wooly few days of headline-grabbing reports with a poignant tweet via her official account. The post includes a photo of her empty wrestling boots lying alongside a carry-on suitcase. In the world of pro wrestling, wrestlers often refer to retirement as a time to “hang up the boots.”
Break the rules. Be a fighter. Any dream is possible if you are brave enough to do it YOUR way. Thank you all. pic.twitter.com/qu7bBOMFdu
— A.J. (@WWEAJLee) April 5, 2015
WrestlingINC.com noted that fans and industry insiders alike have speculated on whether or not AJ would leave WWE for some time, particularly in light of CM Punk’s very public—and ugly—exit from the company last year. In an article regarding Lee’s departure, the site also noted that the female wrestler took “extended breaks from WWE throughout 2014.” It’s worth noting that AJ married Punk last year and one of the breaks was reportedly for the couple’s honeymoon.
Reaction via social media from both fans and industry insiders alike has dominated the internet since WWE announced Lee’s departure late last week. USA Today noted that WWE legend Mick Foley posted a lengthy note via Facebook praising Lee’s contributions to the wrestling business.
“AJ Lee has retired from WWE – and somehow that just doesn’t seem right. I have been talking for a while about a revolution in women’s wrestling – and I really do believe we are on the verge of a new dawn for women’s wrestling. When that new dawn arrives, it would seem only fitting that AJ be allowed to bask in the warmth of the rays she helped make possible.
”#AJLee was a pioneer – fighting her way up against all odds in the WWE developmental system, proving that unique talent, heart, and determination were just as important (if not more so) as the physical attributes that were generally accepted as necessary to find a spot near the top of the women’s roster.”
Any time a celebrity makes a major life change, the proverbial rumor mill cranks up into overdrive. Because CM Punk and AJ Lee—whose real names are Phil Brooks and April Jeanette (Mendez) Brooks, respectively—have been generally regarded as something of a “power couple” in the wrestling industry, Lee’s departure from WWE has garnered rampant speculation as to her next move.
Early suspicions of a possible pregnancy have not been substantiated or officially confirmed to date. Although CM Punk, who recently launched his own MMA career, appears to have teased that his wife may follow suit, there’s not much information at present to suggest that the lady grappler possesses any interest in getting punched and kicked in the face for real. Moreover, while many wrestlers often ply their trade in regional, “independent” promotions after working in the big leagues, it’s plausible that Lee, like many others in her field, had a non-compete clause in her WWE contract that would restrict her from working in the ring with any other companies for a specified time.
What’s next for AJ Lee? It’s the question that almost every wrestling fan—both her admirers and detractors alike—would love to have answered. When WWE Hall of Famer Edge retired in 2011, he told fans in a moving farewell speech, “I don’t have to wear tights tomorrow and I’m going to eat a whole lot of ice cream tonight.” Only 28-years-old, AJ Lee has all the time in the world to enjoy life—and all the ice cream she can eat—as she plans for a new life beyond the squared circle.
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