AJ shares Madison Square Garden memories at Survivor Series
NEW YORK – At WrestleMania XX, the WWE Universe members jam-packed inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden were utterly electric as The Rock competed in what was then believed to be his final match. That memorable night in The World’s Most Famous Arena, few were as excited to witness WWE history unfold as WWE superfan-turned-Diva AJ, who attended the event with her father after waiting in line eight hours for tickets.
Seven years later, The People’s Champ made his return to action, successfully teaming with John Cena to combat the threat of The “Awesome Truth” at Survivor Series. However, Nov. 21, 2011, was also a homecoming of sorts for AJ, who ventured to MSG that night for the first time since witnessing the 20th annual Show of Shows as a spectator.
Prior to Survivor Series, where AJ would serve as a lumberjill in an explosive Divas Title Match between Eve and reigning champion Beth Phoenix, the spunky young Diva experienced what she called a “full-circle moment” when she sought out her and her dad’s seats – Sec. 426, Row E, Seats 17 and 18 – and reflected on how far she’s come.
Moments after AJ shared this surreal nostalgia with her Twitter followers, WWE.com caught up with the ring’s resident girl next door to talk about what the Garden means to her.
WWE.com: You went to WrestleMania XX at Madison Square Garden in 2004 as a WWE fan, and at Survivor Series you walked into MSG as a WWE Diva. What was that like?
AJ: The first thing I did when I got to MSG and put my bags away was go and find my old seats. I still have the tickets, because I save all of my memorabilia – I even have the wrist tape from my first match! I save everything. I took a picture of the tickets, went up three escalators and an elevator and found them. I just sat in them for a little bit with Kaitlyn and took some pictures. It was really awesome. I loved it.
WWE.com: What was going through your head while you were sitting there in your old seat?
AJ: WrestleMania XX still feels like yesterday. I remember when my dad and I got here for WrestleMania, we initially went to sit in the wrong section. It was a little bit closer to the ring. And the security guard told us, ‘Your seats are all the way up there.’ My dad felt really bad that he couldn’t afford better seats and we had to go to one of the last rows – literally at the top of the building. I remember him saying, ‘Sorry I couldn’t get you better seats.’ I just said, ‘It’s okay, I’m going to be in the ring one day.’ Two years after that, I actually started competing. So I’ve kind of been working my butt off to make that come true.
WWE.com: Was experiencing WrestleMania XX at MSG one of the things that inspired you to become a Diva?
Even when I was 11 or 12, I knew I was going to be a Diva, and I said it then with 100 percent certainty. I just really wanted it and wouldn’t stop until I got it. And when I told my dad I was going to be in the ring someday, I meant it.
WWE.com: At WrestleMania XX, you thought you were seeing The Rock’s final match. Now, you’re at MSG passing him in the hallways. Did you ever imagine you would have this experience?
AJ: With me, it’s kind of like that for everyone. I feel like I’ve watched everyone growing up. And now I get to see them walking around and sitting in catering. You know, people seem a lot less intimidating when they’re eating some chicken. But The Rock is awesome and really nice. It’s weird to remember watching him in seventh grade and now here we are!
I was actually talking to John Cena, who was in the opening match at WrestleMania XX. He was just getting started then, and now he’s back in the same building teaming with The Rock. It’s kind of crazy how everything works out.
WWE.com: What’s different about a Madison Square Garden crowd compared to WWE Universe members in other cities?
AJ: New York City crowds are similar to Philadelphia crowds in that you can’t tell them who to like. They’re very independent thinkers. And that’s how I was as a WWE fan. I think New York crowds tend to root for the underdogs, and it’s fun to perform in front of them.
WWE.com: After being a lumberjill in a Divas Title Match at Madison Square Garden, do you think you might return to MSG someday as the champion?
AJ: [Laughs] Well, the first step was just getting here! I’m from Jersey and I went to school in New York, so MSG is kind of like my stomping ground, if you will. My first WWE show I ever went to was here. It feels like home, and I definitely just wanted to get into the building. It actually felt kind of weird when security let me through! The next step is definitely to be Divas Champion, but I don’t get anything easy, and I’ve never gone from 0-100. Ever. For me, everything’s kind of an uphill climb and I’m fine with that.
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