AJ Lee retires from WWE

MANILA, Philippines - Three-time World Wrestling Entertainment Divas champion AJ Lee, who became the most popular female wrestler of the past decade, has retired from competition at the age of 28. 

The news was announced on WWE’s Twitter page Saturday, April 4 Manila time as #ThankYouAJ trended worldwide courtesy of her fans. 

The Union City, N.J. native Lee, whose real name is April Brooks, got her start in the WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling in 2009 and debuted on the main roster in 2011. Her first major angle was as Daniel Bryan’s on-screen girlfriend, being used in scenarios by the bad guy Bryan to avoid facing his larger opponents.

At WrestleMania 28, Bryan asked for a kiss from Lee before his title defense against Royal Rumble winner Sheamus. The distraction enabled Sheamus to land his Brogue Kick finisher to win in 18 seconds, leading to Bryan’s breakup with Lee. 

Lee would also have on-screen romances with wrestlers Kane, Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk, the latter of whom she married in 2014.

Lee won her first Divas championship in 2013 from her former tag team partner Kaitlyn. Her finishing hold is called the Black Widow, which is a wrap-around abdominal stretch.

Lee made history for having the longest Divas title reign of all-time at 295 days, plus being named the Diva of the Year at the Slammy Awards in 2012 and 2014. 

Her final WrestleMania moment came this past weekend at WrestleMania 31, when she teamed up with Paige to defeat the Bella Twins. Afterwards Lee teased of a long tenure with the company, tweeting “You guys, I'm 2-0 at Wrestlemania. I'm pretty much going after Taker's streak.” 

Former WWE commentator Jim Ross tweeted his support for Lee’s ‘future endeavors,’ adding that the decision to part from the WWE didn’t come as a surprise, however. 

“While not 'shocked' to hear of @WWEAJLee leaving @WWE, I will miss her work. She lived a dream & went out on her terms.”

While not 'shocked' to hear of @WWEAJLee leaving @WWE, I will miss her work. She lived a dream & went out on her terms. #ThankYouAJ — Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) April 4, 2015

Another fan tweeted: “Thanks for being my role model. Thanks for proving that being different isn't always a bad thing.” - Rappler.com