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April Jeanette Brooks (née Mendez) (March 19, 1987) is an American professional wrestler. She is best known for her time at WWE, where she went by the ring name AJ Lee. She is a three time Diva's Champion and holds the record for the longest Divas Championship reign in WWE History. Mendez enrolled in a wrestling school in March 2007, where she trained for six months before her first official match. In the following years, she performed for several Northeast-based independent promotions including Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) as Miss April. In WSU, she was part of the AC Express alongside Brooke Carter and the duo held the WSU Tag Team Championship once.
In May 2009, she signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), WWE's developmental promotion, using the ring name AJ Lee. In FCW, she was Queen of FCW and FCW Divas Champion, and was the first person to have held both titles. In 2010, she was part of the third season of NXT, having dropped her last name. She became part of WWE's SmackDown brand in May 2011, forming a tag team with Kaitlyn known as The Chickbusters.
A self-professed nerd and tomboy, WWE adapted Mendez's comics and video game fandom to her on-screen character, endorsing her as different from the typical women in the WWE and promoting her as the "Geek Goddess".
Mendez grew up in Union City, New Jersey, describing her family's experience as having to live in motels and other people's houses. Mendez cited her brother’s interest in WWE when they were kids as an influence on her eventual decision to break into the male-dominated world of wrestling, and she cemented her ambition to pursue a pro wrestling career when she was twelve years old. Inspired by the female WWE stars that came before her, Mendez worked several jobs after graduating from high school (including being a janitor at a day care, a cashier and a secretary) in order to save up the money she needed to both support her family and enroll in wrestling school.
Mendez attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in New York City where she majored in film and television production and writing until family and financial issues led to her dropping out six months into her studies. As a tribute to her brother who was in the Army, Mendez sometimes wears camouflage wrestling attire.
Professional wrestling career
Shortly after graduating from high school, Mendez researched wrestling schools, and enrolled in one a mile away from her house, at the ACE Wrestling Academy in Union City, NJ. To pay the tuition, she began working full-time, and became an official wrestling student in March 2007.
Women Superstars Uncensored (2008–2009)
On October 10, 2008, Miss April made her debut for Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU), losing to Soul Sister Jana in a singles match. The following night, she teamed with Malia Hosaka and participated in the tournament to determine the inaugural WSU Tag Team Champions. The pairing advanced to the second round by defeating The Soul Sisters (Jana and Latasha), where they lost to The Beatdown Betties (Roxxie Cotton and Annie Social). At the second taping later that same night, Miss April lost to Hosaka in a singles match. On February 7, 2009 Miss April teamed with Brooke Carter to defeat The Beatdown Betties and win the WSU Tag Team Championship. A month later, on March 7, they defeated The Beatdown Betties in a rematch to retain the championship. On April 10, Miss April competed in the third J-Cup tournament, defeating Roxxie Cotton in the first round before losing to Rain in the second. The following night, on April 11, Miss April and Jay Lethal were crowned the WSU/NWS 2009 King and Queen of the Ring after defeating Jana and Danny Demanto in the final of the tournament.
World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE (2009–present)
Florida Championship Wrestling (2009–2010)
Mendez signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment on May 5, 2009, and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE's developmental territory. Mendez made her FCW television debut at the August 14, 2009 tapings under the name April Lee in a fatal four-way match won by Serena Mancini, and also including Alicia Fox and Tiffany. In September 2009, her ring name was changed to 'AJ Lee'. She began challenging for the Queen of FCW title, and at the television tapings on February 4, 2010, Lee defeated Serena to win the crown. In the first round of a tournament to determine the inaugural FCW Divas Championship, Lee defeated Tamina on April 29, but was defeated by Serena in the semi-finals on May 20. At the June 10 television tapings, Lee challenged Naomi Knight for the FCW Divas Championship, but was unsuccessful. In June 2010, she appeared at Raw house shows, acting as the hostess, and also acted as the ring announcer at an FCW show. The following month, Lee and Serena interrupted Naomi during a promo, and Lee watched while Serena attacked Knight, turning Lee into a villainess. Naomi went on to retain her FCW Divas Championship by defeating both Lee and Serena in a triple threat match. On FCW's 100th episode, Lee fought Naomi to a double countout in a match where both the Queen of FCW title and the FCW Divas Championship were on the line. At the September 2 tapings, Lee lost to Naomi in a Lumberjill match to end their feud.
On November 18, she lost to Rosa Mendes in a title match, making Mendes the new Queen of FCW. On December 16, AJ defeated Naomi to win the FCW Divas Championship. Her victory made her the first FCW Diva to have held both the Divas Championship and the title of Queen of FCW. She held the championship until the April 7 television tapings, when she lost it to Aksana.
NXT and The Chickbusters (2010–2011)
On August 31, 2010, it was announced that she would be part of the third season of NXT under the name A.J., with Primo as her Pro. She appeared on the first episode of season three on September 7, teaming with Primo to defeat rookie Diva Aksana and her Pro Goldust in a mixed tag team match. The following week she suffered her first loss when she and Primo were defeated by Kaitlyn and Dolph Ziggler. Over the next two weeks, A.J. won three challenges, and on the October 5 episode of NXT she and Kaitlyn were tied for the number of challenges won. Kaitlyn received immunity from elimination in the poll based on crowd reaction. A.J. was eliminated from the competition on the November 23 episode of NXT, despite winning a competition and a match earlier in the show. She returned to NXT for the season finale, where she teamed with The Bella Twins to defeat Alicia Fox, Aksana, and Maxine. A.J. returned as a special guest on February 8, 2011, during the fourth season of NXT, modeling merchandise during a 'guess the price' challenge.
AJ made her main roster debut on the May 27, 2011, episode of SmackDown when she and Kaitlyn (known as The Chickbusters) lost to the team of Alicia Fox and Tamina. The duo were accompanied by Natalya, who became a mentor of sorts to the pair. AJ and Kaitlyn lost a rematch to Fox and Tamina the following week. Her first victory came on the June 10 episode of SmackDown, when she pinned Tamina in a singles match, a feat she repeated on the July 8 episode. AJ, Kaitlyn, and Natalya continued to feud with Fox and Tamina, who were joined by Rosa Mendes. On the August 5 episode of SmackDown, AJ lost a singles match to Natalya, who then turned on her protégé, attacking her and declaring war on the "perky little princesses" that comprised the rest of the Divas division. The following week, AJ and Kaitlyn lost to Natalya and Beth Phoenix, before AJ teamed with Kelly Kelly to defeat Natalya and Fox. Throughout the next few months, The Chickbusters continued to feud with the so-called Divas of Doom, losing both singles and tag team matches to them. In November, tension began to be teased between The Chickbusters, with Kaitlyn showing signs of a heel turn due to being upset at their repeated losses to The Divas of Doom. After the Chickbusters were defeated again by the Divas of Doom on December 9, the villainous Kaitlyn turned against AJ and left to join the Divas of Doom. However, the match and segment were cut from the broadcast.
Various Relationships; Raw General Manager (2011-2012)
Also in November, AJ began a romantic storyline with Daniel Bryan, In December, Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship and he began to display villainous traits. Despite AJ's declaration of love for Bryan, Bryan avoided saying that he loved her in return. On the January 13 episode of SmackDown, AJ accompanied Bryan for his World Heavyweight Championship defense against Big Show. During the match Show accidentally collided with AJ, injuring her (kayfabe) and causing her to be taken out on a stretcher. AJ returned to SmackDown on February 3, saving Bryan from the Big Show.
In March, Bryan began to mistreat AJ, publicly demanding her to shut up and claiming that she always got in his way. Despite these actions, AJ continued to stand by Bryan. At WrestleMania XXVIII, Bryan's reign as World champion ended when Sheamus defeated him in eighteen seconds due to Bryan being distracted after a good luck kiss from AJ. On the April 6, episode of SmackDown, Bryan blamed AJ for losing the World Heavyweight Championship and ended their relationship.
Despite AJ's attempts to mend their relationship, Bryan cruelly rebuffed her multiple times, leaving AJ an emotional wreck. Throughout the next few weeks, Kaitlyn tried to console AJ about her feelings towards Bryan, but AJ would slap her in response. On the May 11 episode of SmackDown, AJ quickly defeated Kaitlyn. Afterwards, Bryan came out, seemingly impressed with AJ's new ruthless behavior, but then he revealed that he would rather move on to Kaitlyn, further jilting AJ. AJ then turned her affections to Bryan's rival, WWE Champion CM Punk, as well as fellow WWE title contender Kane. At the No Way Out pay-per-view on June 17, when Punk, Bryan and Kane faced off for the WWE Championship, AJ interfered and distracted Kane, leading to Punk winning and retaining his championship.
As the feud between Bryan and Punk continued, AJ was announced as the special guest referee for their title match at Money in the Bank. While Bryan made advances on AJ in an attempt to influence her, AJ continued showing interest in Punk, but Punk let her down by not watching her match. A vengeful AJ then sent Punk and Bryan crashing through a ringside table during their match on Raw on July 2. The following week, AJ proposed to Punk while Bryan proposed to her; Punk rejected her proposal and AJ slapped both men. At Money in the Bank, as guest referee, AJ counted Punk's pinfall on Bryan resulting in a successful title defence for Punk; as Punk celebrated over a fallen Bryan, AJ was left alone. The following night on the July 16 episode of Raw Bryan once again proposed to AJ, who accepted with the wedding scheduled to take place the next week.
During the exchange of vows at Raw 1000, AJ announced she had been offered the job of Raw General Manager by WWE owner Vince McMahon and left Bryan at the altar. Her first official day began July 30 where she alleged Bryan only wanted the legal leverage to have her committed, forcing him to undergo his own psychological evaluation. Later, AJ modified CM Punk's WWE Championship bout at SummerSlam into a triple-threat match due to his interference during a #1 contender match between John Cena and the Big Show. Meanwhile, AJ continued to exact her revenge on Bryan by denying him a WWE Championship shot and instead forcing him to face Kane at SummerSlam. Concurrently, she would begin feuding with Vickie Guerrero, who would demand AJ's spot as the GM, deeming AJ too childish. CM Punk would later humiliate AJ for her past affections, leading to Paul Heyman demanding the GM spot, which he would run in conjunction with Vickie.
On October 22, AJ stepped down from her General Manager duties due to the stress of false allegations of fraternizing and having an affair with a wrestler on the Raw roster, which was later revealed to be John Cena. Later Vickie Guerrero would show evidence of John Cena and AJ going to a business dinner, AJ walking into Cena's room and more. At Survivor Series, AJ tried to show "evidence" of Vickie Guerrero fraternizing, but was attacked by the returning Tamina Snuka. On the following episode of Raw, John Cena and AJ passionately kissed each other to give Vickie and Dolph Ziggler something "to talk about". On the November 26 episode of Raw, AJ would kiss Cena again after his match against Ziggler, starting a real relationship between the two.
Her relationship with John Cena would continue until Tables, Ladders, and Chairs . During the main event, John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler in a ladder match, AJ turned heel by betraying Cena and pushing him off the ladder, sealing the win for Dolph Ziggler. The next night, at the annual Slammy Awards, AJ would win the Best Kiss Slammy, accepting the award from Vickie Guerrero. During a verbal altercation with Vickie Guerrero, Ziggler ran out to try and stop the two women. AJ would subsequently kiss Mr. Money in the Bank, who would eventually return the kiss. Later that evening, Ziggler and AJ were paired in a mixed tag match against Cena and Guerrero. At the end of the match, AJ brought out her friend, Big E Langston, who laid out John Cena to end the show. The next night, at SmackDown, the two appeared (with Langston) on MizTV to explain their actions. AJ said that she loved Cena, who broke her heart, so she decided to help Ziggler break John Cena. Ziggler came to AJ's defense, saying she wasn't crazy, just passionate beginning a romantic relationship between the two of them.
Divas Champion (2013-2015)
AJ won a battle royal on April 22, 2013, to become the number one contender to Kaitlyn's Divas Championship. Kaitlyn then began a storyline where she received gifts from a secret admirer. On June 10, after setting up Big E Langston to pose as the admirer, AJ revealed it to be a mind game, berating Kaitlyn and leaving her in tears. Six days later at the inaugural Payback pay-per-view, AJ defeated Kaitlyn to capture her first Divas Championship. AJ and Langston continued to mock Kaitlyn, with AJ ultimately retaining her Divas Championship against Kaitlyn in a rematch at Money in the Bank on July 14. Later that night, AJ cost Dolph Ziggler his rematch for the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio, after she prematurely snuck into the ring and hit Del Rio with her Divas title, prompting a disqualification.
Due to AJ's actions, Ziggler ended their relationship the following night on Raw. AJ exacted revenge by costing Ziggler a non-title match against Del Rio, then she attacked Ziggler and unleashed Langston on him. On the August 2 episode of SmackDown, Langston was banned from attending AJ's matches. However, AJ successfully defended her title against Kaitlyn after Kaitlyn's friend Layla turned on her. At SummerSlam, AJ and Langston were defeated by Kaitlyn and Ziggler in a mixed tag team match, putting an end to their feud.
On the August 26 episode of Raw, AJ started a feud with the cast of Total Divas by cutting a worked shoot promo criticizing them. The following week on Raw, AJ interfered in a triple threat number one contender's match between the Total Divas of Natalya, Naomi and Brie Bella, resulting in the match being stopped when they all attacked her. Thus, AJ had to defend her title against the trio in a fatal four-way at Night of Champions, where she retained her championship. In late September, AJ enlisted Tamina Snuka as her bodyguard. AJ went on to successfully defend her championship against Brie Bella at Battleground with help from Tamina, but was legitimately sent home from the following night's Raw after she showed signs of a concussion stemming from when her head struck a ring post during her title defense. She returned to action at Hell in a Cell where she once again defeated Brie Bella. At Survivor Series, AJ captained a team in a traditional seven-on-seven elimination tag team match against the cast of Total Divas, in which she was the last to be eliminated, courtesy of Natalya. This led to a title match between the two at the TLC pay-per-view, where AJ once again retained her championship. On the January 8, 2014 episode of Main Event, AJ defeated her former best friend and tag team partner Kaitlyn in the latter's final match, officially ending their rivalry.
In mid-January, AJ became the longest reigning Divas Champion, surpassing Maryse's previous record. On April 6, at WrestleMania XXX, AJ successfully defended her Divas Championship in the 14-Diva "Vickie Guerrero Invitational" match. The following night on Raw, AJ lost the championship after she boastfully challenged the debuting Paige to an impromptu title match, ending her reign at 295 days. It was subsequently reported that AJ had requested time off from WWE.
AJ returned on the June 30 episode of Raw, where she apologized for her previous actions, turning face in the process. She then challenged Paige to an impromptu rematch, in which she emerged victorious, capturing her second Divas Championship. On July 20 at Battleground, AJ defeated Paige to retain the title. The next night on Raw, after successfully competing together in a tag team match, Paige turned heel by assaulting AJ. On the August 1 episode of SmackDown, Paige shoved AJ off the entrance ramp, briefly injuring her in the storyline. At SummerSlam on August 17, AJ dropped the Divas Championship to Paige. She then won it back at Night of Champions in a triple threat match also involving Nikki Bella, making her a three-time Divas Champion. AJ's feud with Paige ended the following month at the Hell in a Cell event, with her retaining the title. On November 23, at Survivor Series, AJ quickly lost her championship to Nikki Bella after Brie Bella distracted her. She failed to regain the title the following month at TLC, after Nikki sprayed a substance in her eyes.
After a three-month absence to heal a legitimate neck injury, AJ returned on March 2, 2015, coming to the aid of her former rival Paige, who was being attacked by The Bella Twins. AJ and Paige then allied together to defeat The Bella Twins at WrestleMania 31 on March 29. On April 3, WWE announced that AJ decided to retire from the company.
Mendez is of Puerto Rican heritage. She was previously in a relationship with her trainer Jay Lethal. She is best friends with fellow WWE Diva Kaitlyn. She has a tattoo in tally marks on the back of her neck, which read as "6-16-13", commemorating the date on which she won her first WWE Divas Championship.
Mendez became a fan of comic books in the fourth grade and claims that comics gave her a sense of creativity that carried over to her later life. Her favorite series are X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. As for characters, some of her favorites include Harley Quinn and Jean Grey. Mendez also enjoys video games, and was the first female winner of WWE's "Superstar Challenge", defeating Mark Henry in the final round of a WWE '12 tournament at WrestleMania XXVIII Axxess to finish in first place out of sixteen.
On June 13, 2014, Mendez married Phillip Brooks, better known as CM Punk.
- At the 2012 Slammy Awards, AJ was involved in all 4 nominations for the Kiss of the Year award, with Kane, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and John Cena.
- AJ has kissed Primo, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Kane, John Cena, Hornswoggle, and Dolph Ziggler.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- With Kaitlyn
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- PWI ranked her #9 in the 2013 PWI Top 50 Females
- Women Superstars Uncensored