WrestleMania Diary: AJ Lee, Day 4
If AJ Lee’s home were somehow set ablaze, there are two things she would scoop up before fleeing out the nearest exit: her blond Chihuahua and what she calls her “fire box,” a compact collection of her most treasured personal trinkets and professional mementos.
The inaugural contents of that sentimental repository, which also houses the wrist tape from her in-ring debut, were her WrestleMania XX tickets that granted AJ and her father access to the Diva-to-be’s first live WWE experience. She’s even kept their original envelope.
The seats weren’t the best in the house, placing AJ and her dad high in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. The distance to the ring mattered little to the aspiring Diva, though, as she witnessed first-hand the reborn Undertaker square off with his brother Kane — a confrontation between two of AJ’s favorite Superstars growing up.
“That was the most important day in my life up until that point, and also the happiest,” AJ says. “I needed to hold on to that.”
The World’s Most Famous Arena has transformed considerably since it last played host to The Show of Shows nine years ago, but if anyone’s familiar with metamorphoses, it’s AJ Lee. Due to ongoing renovations throughout Madison Square Garden, her and her father’s WrestleMania XX seats — Sec. 426, Row E, Seats 17 and 18 — technically no longer exist. Nevertheless, the determined Diva climbs the Garden stairs to find a view matching that of her seminal Show of Shows experience.
Satisfied that she has found a reasonable facsimile of her WrestleMania XX vantage point, AJ leans back, her legs propped up on the seat in front of her as she curiously gazes down — ever the WWE fan — at construction for the night’s WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“I don’t think there’s a place I have more of a connection to than the Garden,” AJ says, who last did some MSG seat-searching prior to Survivor Series 2011. “And that connection is to WrestleMania, and we’re going to personalize it even more tomorrow when it’s going to be in New Jersey, 10 minutes from my hometown. And I’m going to be there. It’s making it all real, and connecting the dots. I can’t wait for it to be 7 p.m. tomorrow night.”
Two months before AJ and “Ziggy” spent their first romantic Christmas together — Dolph likely foregoing eggnog for protein shakes — one young AJ Lee devotee beat The Showoff to the punch, professing his love for the then–Raw General Manager at Ringside Fest 2012 in Times Square, N.Y., with a bended-knee marriage proposal.
We all know about AJ’s history with weddings, so it’s probably for the best that Matthew Hale, 9, didn’t get a definitive answer. The ambiguity of the situation fails to discourage the Staten Island native from reminding his would-be fiancée about his intentions right in front of Dolph.
Impressed by the bravado of the tenacious lothario, Ziggler had little choice but to challenge his rival in romance to a match.
“I think he should just watch his back, cause he doesn’t know what’s coming in that match,” Hale tells WWE.com, taking Dolph’s playful dare 100 percent seriously. When asked about his strategy if he were to clash with “Mr. Money in the Bank,” his answer comes quickly.
“Easy,” Hale says. “I’m going to knock out the referee and hit Dolph Ziggler with a chair.”
It’s not uncommon for WWE Universe members to go above and beyond when they meet their heroes, but the girls and young women who await the chance to convene with the diminutive Diva during an Axxess autograph signing are faithful to a tee.
Whether gifting AJ packages of cookies, 12-inch “Metal Gear Solid” action figures or unicorn-doodled hand-written letters, the Diva’s most passionate female fans are not dissimilar from the teenaged Union City girl whose emotions took over when she met Lita back in 2001. AJ can relate.
One fellow Jersey native, Taylor from Weehawken, lets the tears come as AJ offers an embrace and, later, encouraging tweets visible to 757,169 followers. AJ might not be perceived as the most balanced or kind Diva in WWE — just ask John Cena, Kaitlyn, Daniel Bryan, Kane and countless others — but she hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be on the other end of the autograph table.
Perhaps no moment over the last year quite defined AJ Lee as her ladder-toppling betrayal of John Cena at WWE Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2012, and what better way to immortalize this defection to Dolph Ziggler’s side than with a chocolate cake? At WrestleMania Axxess, a pair of girls presents a photo of the delicious desert that makes the sometimes-sinister Diva’s mouth water, but it’s not because she’s famished.
With a scene involving AJ Lee’s action figure sending the Cenation leader’s Mattel totem plummeting from a plastic ladder into the whipped frosting below, the fan-made confection screams devil’s food.
“I like any girl who can appreciate pushing a dude off a ladder,” AJ says with a wicked smirk.
When a WWE fan presents AJ with a pair of bizarre novelty sunglasses, its lenses adorned with smooch-tastic lipstick insignias, AJ does the only thing that feels natural to her at the moment: She leans over, places the over-the-top eyewear on Big E Langston’s face, and struggles to restrain her laughter … but not too hard.
There are few who would dare make Big E Langston look foolish, and even fewer who would get away with it. Yet, AJ shares a unique bond with the tank-like 285-pounder making his WrestleMania debut just 24 hours later.
It’s probable AJ’s just blowing off steam with her gargantuan guy friend, but she could very well be sending a pointed message to ex-boyfriend Daniel Bryan, whose post-WrestleMania nightmares last year were filled with similarly haunting images of reign-slaying puckered lips, kissing the prize goodbye.
On the Axxess floor in the IZOD Center concourse, AJ Lee, Big E Langston and Dolph Ziggler pass by such relics as Shawn Michaels’ WrestleMania XII entrance garb and Triple H’s “Skull King” mask en route to a private arena elevator.
As the floor numbers count down during the descent, so do the minutes to April 7, when this single-minded triumvirate will craft its own WrestleMania moment in front of millions of WWE Universe members watching around the globe. Dolph Ziggler’s “here to show the world” entrance theme lyrics have never been more appropriate.
During the brief ride, AJ positions herself between her future champions, the calculating Diva’s uneasy silence hinting at massive problems for Team Hell No at MetLife Stadium.
“I don’t think the match will necessarily come down to Big E Langston or Dolph Ziggler,” claims AJ aficionado Dana Ghazzawi, who traveled four hours from Maryland to meet her unorthodox idol at Axxess. “It will come down to what AJ can do.”