AJ Lee: A Diva is Born (19 Mar 1987)

AJ Lee backstage with WWE 13 the video game - Youtube/WWE

On this date in pro wrestling history Miss April Jeannette Mendez, the future Geek Goddess and top WWE Diva, AJ Lee, was brought into this world. On the date of her birth, we take a few moments to look back on her incredibly swift rise to Superstardom in the WWE Universe and marvel at what may be yet to come...

Editor's Note: This FanPost has been mildly edited for promotion to the front page and various sections within Cageside Seats for your enjoyment, Cagesiders!

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.

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April 1, 2012 -- WrestleMania 28:

In 18 seconds, the World Heavyweight Championship changed hands. Sheamus defeated Daniel Bryan via Brogue Kick. Of course, this historic WrestleMania moment was actually set into motion by a woman.


"Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus - World Heavyweight Championship Match": WrestleMania XXVIII (via WWEFanNation)

That good luck kiss would begin one of the greatest runs for a Diva in WWE's history. As improbable and sudden as it may have seemed, a five foot, two inch tall, 107 pound, Puerto Rican tomboy going by the name "AJ Lee" had been working for this for half of her life already.

March 19, 1987 -- A Diva is Born:

It was on today's date that Miss April Jeannette Mendez was born. At that time, little did anyone know this Union City, New Jersey native would rise to the top of WWE as the Geek Goddess: AJ Lee.

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"WWE Diva AJ Lee" -- Image accessed via www.wwe.com

Two things greatly influenced AJ’s (a childhood nickname that has stuck with her) eventual dream to pursue the life of a professional wrestler: First, the poverty she and her family endured, and second, the relationship she shared with her older brother.

Since attaining her dream to be a part of WWE, AJ has been rather candid about her family’s struggles. She has described instances where they ate at food banks, lived in hotels and sometimes even in their car. Life was not easy, but they did have each other.

In fact, it was her brother who opened her eyes to the world of professional wrestling. As the youngest of three children, AJ looked up to her brother and felt compelled to emulate whatever he did (as little sisters often tend to do). This copycat behavior led to AJ becoming enamored with science fiction, comic books and video games.

AJ and her brother would also bond by watching superstars like Randy Savage and Bret Hart on TV together. The now famous Diva recalls a memorable fight that broke out between brother and sister, when she accidentally bent their Ms. Elizabeth (her first idol) trading card.

However, amidst the harsh reality of her childhood, AJ made the fateful decision to be a professional wrestler at the tender age of twelve. At this point of her youth she was meticulously writing recaps of WWE shows for her brother (who was overseas in the Army), she told her mother, in no uncertain terms, that she would be a wrestler someday. Her mind was made up. She had her goal, and was set on the path.

2001 -- Age 14:

A couple years later, AJ attended Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden in New York. She waited eight hours in line with her father to purchase nose bleed section tickets. Her patience was rewarded when she got the opportunity to meet one of her newest idols, Lita. And in a twist of fate, WWE cameras were there to capture this moment. Later she would go on to meet Lita again and actually be able to share this video with her. (Not awkward at all.)

See if you can spot AJ:


"AJ Lee meets Lita" (via WWELibraryHD)

2005 - Age 18:

After graduating high school, AJ was accepted into the Film School at NYU (to be precise, the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University). However, she was forced to withdraw after six months in order to attend to family issues. Money was once again an issue in their lives, so AJ worked as a secretary full time while also working two part-time jobs as a cashier and a janitor.

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"April Mendez Yearbook Image" accessed via Leevia/www.pwmania.com

March, 2007-- Age 20:

Eventually, she was able to attend wrestling school, enrolling spring of 2007 just a mile from her home. As her training progressed, it was clear she had a knack for professional wrestling. With her natural ability and the guidance of her trainer (and then boyfriend), Jay Lethal, AJ began to work matches for independent promotions all over New Jersey, debuting as "Miss April".

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"Miss April" image accessed via i.imgur.com

October, 2008 -- Age 21:

The earliest promo and match footage captured of the future Diva on video was from her October 2008 debut in Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU). Her opponent was Jana. AJ was actually accompanied by none other than Gorgeous George (of WCW fame):


WSU "Miss April vs Jana -- Debut Match" via apriljeanettecom

At WSU, AJ continued to hone her craft. She would become one half of the WSU Tag Team Champions (with Brooke Carter). She also teamed with Jay Lethal to win the King and Queen of WSU Tournament:


"Miss April" (AJ Lee), Jay Lethal vs. Danny Demanto, Jana (WSU) via CrissLissDemez lovatic

It would be her run in WSU that would provide her with the confidence she had to gain in order to take a big chance. Rather than continue to toil on the independent circuit, she decided to pay out of her own pocket to attend a Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) tryout camp.

To manage to gather the funds necessary, she starved for two months so she could afford the $1,500(USD) entrant fee.

2009 -- Age 22:

It would prove to be well worth it to put herself through such an ordeal, as she was signed to a developmental deal in May of 2009.

Admittedly, the signing was somewhat of a shock to AJ, as she perceives them having signed her based on potential alone, because she was "a train wreck in the ring during that tryout". She also only weighed 96 pounds at the time, due to her extreme lifestyle in getting there, and was "clueless about hair and makeup".

With her developmental deal in hand, AJ left her life in Jersey behind and moved to Tampa, Florida (where she still resides today).

She made her debut in September 2009 as "a babyface with a spunky attitude":


April (AJ) Lee - FCW debut promo via WWELibraryHD

2010 -- Age 23:

In February 2010, her career hit a major milestone just a half year into her developmental deal, when she not only took on, but successfully defeated Serena Deeb for the title of the Queen of FCW, as featured in the Best Matches of FCW 2010 footage below:


The Best Matches Of FCW 2010 (2/14/10) "Serena Mancini vs AJ Lee" - highlights via TheMrbigboss2013

In just a few months time, April would turn heel for the first time in her career. This would be a difficult transition for her, given that AJ was "a natural baby face". However, adding an attitude and a tiara would help ease her into the new role:


FCW (8-22-10) AJ Lee Interview.mp4 - via MrKebe83

In August 2010, after barely a year in developmental, it was announced that AJ would be competing on Season 3 of NXT.

For the show, her heel persona was dropped however, and replaced with an approach far more reflective of her actual personality. Fans instantly loved her "girl next door" appearance (right down to the glasses and Converse All-Stars) as well as her love of "geeky" stuff:


Getting To Know Your NXT Rookie Diva: A.J. (September 7, 2010) -- via apriljeanettecom


Getting To Know Your Rookie Diva: A.J. (September 29, 2010) - via apriljeanettecom

As the season progressed, A.J. proved to be quite popular with the fans. And despite the frivolity of NXT (trivia contests, limbo contests, dance offs, etcetera), she was able to have a good match against Naomi:


WWE NXT: A.J. vs. Naomi - via WWEFanNation

Unfortunately, she ultimately ended up being voted off of the program, however she was able to finish in third place:


WWE NXT: A.J. is eliminated from WWE NXT (via WWEFanNation)

2011 -- Age 24:

She would return to FCW and achieve a first for that company...she would become the only Diva to ever be Queen of FCW and the FCW Divas Champion...

When she defeated Naomi in January, 2011, just a few months prior to her 24th birthday:


FCW - "AJ Lee vs. Naomi" Night for FCW Diva's Championship (January 23, 2011) via apriljeanettecom

AJ made her main roster debut on WWE SmackDown in May 2011.

She teamed with her real life best friend, Kaitlyn (who did win NXT Season 3) to form "The Chickbusters" tag team. The premise was that they were a new breed of Diva: tougher than the model types and better looking than the wrestler types. They would be mentored by Natalya Neidhart and Beth Phoenix... that is, up until they "turned on the Chickbusters".

The four would go on to feud heavily all throughout the Fall of 2011:


"A.J. Lee & Kaitlyn vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya" - WWE SmackDown (9-23-11) via wwedivafan177


"Divas of Doom vs. A.J. & Kaitlyn" WWE SmackDown (11/25/11) -- via MultiTvSeriesV4

It was after this angle that AJ began a storyline that would make her career and take her to heights that very few Divas have ever been able to attain.

In November of 2011, she was paired in a romantic relationship with none other than rising star Daniel Bryan. They made a memorable pair, as he would win the World Heavyweight Championship.

2012 -- Age 25:

However, the title would cause a change to his character and turn him heel, as he continued to famously and controversially mistreat AJ, as seen here in this clip from the 09 March 2012 episode of WWE SmackDown headed into WrestleMania 28:


Daniel Bryan - "AJ Shut up." (via AppleRobin)

Bryan's unfortunate loss at WrestleMania 28 led to their break up (sort of).


WWE SmackDown: Daniel Bryan breaks up with AJ (via WWEFanNation)

During the summer of 2012, her subsequent involvement in storylines continuing to involve Bryan, as well as with the likes of wrestling legends CM Punk and Kane, served to make her a high profile figure in the WWE Universe.

She would spend the duration of 2012 having a "wedding" on Raw 1000, going on to become the General Manager of Raw and ultimately turning heel on John Cena during the 2012 TLC pay-per-view event.

Quite a year for anyone, let alone somewhat of a rookie Diva who was fighting for air time just a few months earlier.

Since her rise to fame in WWE, AJ has used her status as a Diva to promote the cause of shelter pets. She frequently retweets the ASPCA to her over 700,000 followers on her official Twitter account. Since relocating to Florida and rising to fame in WWE, she has adopted three dogs herself, the most famous being "Nacho":

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"AJ Lee and Nacho" -- image via i.imgur.com

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"AJ Lee & Nacho" via i.imgur.com

19 March 2013 -- Age 26:

No one can argue that AJ Lee has had quite an eventful life in her short 26 years. Many more fascinating years to come are easily foreseen (hopefully, more years like 2012 for her). Her current storyline heading into WrestleMania 29 features her in the role of girlfriend to Money in the Bank holder Dolph Ziggler, and best friend to the reigning NXT Champion and ringside enforcer Big E Langston. Only time will tell what is yet to come for this driven young wrestler.

Undoubtedly, if history is any indicator, she will continue to achieve all of her goals, such as cementing her role model status for girls. Quote from 2009:

"I also hope to be a role model to young women. I was personally inspired by Lita. I was always a tomboy and was really insecure about it. When Lita came along, I finally had someone to look up to. She showed me you didn’t have to be a girly-girl to be beautiful, and it was okay to be a strong, athletic woman.

"I hope to one day be that same kind of role model and show girls that no matter your looks, style, race or size, you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to."

~ Glory Wrestling/bios

On behalf of all of the Cagesiders here at Cageside Seats, "Have a Happy Birthday AJ, you deserve all of it and more!"

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Editor's Note: This FanPost has been mildly edited for promotion to the front page and various sections within Cageside Seats for your enjoyment, Cagesiders!

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.

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