WWE's announcement that AJ Lee (April Jeanette Brooks) had chosen to retire from in-ring competition wasn't the biggest surprise in the world. With family lawsuit concerns, her husband moving on from his wrestling career, and the reality of a female performer on Vince's show in 2015, it might have been a "when" and not an "if" question. Despite her character, AJ has been a fan favorite for years. She exuded passion for what she did; at least until this last few months, when the proverbial writing might have been splattered across the wall. Undeniably, she has provided a huge volume of entertainment for wrestling fans around the globe.
One of the more obnoxious things to witness over the past 15 months, since CM Punk departed, has been the incessant chanting for a man who walked away on his own terms, but did in fact leave the fans behind that loved him. Those chants are the fan base's prerogative, but they became tedious rather quickly. However, they became downright pathetic when AJ had to listen to them during every one of her matches. Punk himself made a point of it in his conversation over the Thanksgiving holiday with Colt Cabana. He said, "cheer for Ape," and still, the fans cheered for him.
This may not be a novel concept, and maybe it would happen anyway, but I propose that on Monday, as RAW emanates from the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, AJ finally gets the respect she's deserved for quite some time. Whether you appreciate certain aspects of her work or not is irrelevant. She's been the one consistent force for women in the WWE for years.
AJ Lee wasn't the model who fell into wrestling because of the paycheck or because it might get her on television. We all loved this lady so much because she was one of us - from the very beginning - and she found the way to her ultimate goal. She has provided so much joy for wrestling fans and in her final few years in the ring, shedding the "crazy" character, she was also an inspiring figure for young women.
"C-M Punk" is easy to say. Guess what, so is "A-J Lee." This was a girl who grew up a die-hard wrestling fan; Lita was her favorite. From the age of 12, she was transfixed by the world of the squared circle. She went to shows, tried to emulate her heroes, and somehow, improbably, was able to live out her dream. The reality of her life has changed for the better; wrestling might not be that "thing" anymore.
Whether or not she's departing forever or simply stepping away from the ring, perhaps due to a future new addition to her family or any number of other reasons, the WWE Universe should rise up and salute her contributions. Hopefully, through that act of respect, it would have the bonus effect of showing every woman on that roster that whether or not the company cares, the fan base will pay attention to the ladies who want it and earn it. In short, they'll treat them like they do the men.
RAW should open on Monday night with the usual wide shot of the building. Then, over the welcoming words of Michael Cole, the crowd should erupt into a chant for the wide-eyed New Jersey girl who just wanted to be a professional wrestler.
That crowd should, at different times during the night, go ballistic for the small in size, large in stature woman who remained outspoken until her final day - whether you agreed with her or not.
In short, on Monday night in Austin, RAW should chant for the incredible wife...not the talented husband.