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“We never had anybody. We lived in motels, other people’s houses” said Lee. “It’s so surreal…I could not be more proud, especially to go back there.”
Lee 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 entertainment.
“I was best friends with my brother. I did anything he did. I was a little copycat and … I just sat down and kind of just fell in love with it,” said Lee, who occasionally wears camouflage ring gear in matches as a nod to her brother, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lee said she wasn’t even a teenager when she cemented her ambition to pursue a pro wrestling career.
“I very vividly remember when I was 12 years old, my mother was walking past my room and I was like ‘I’m going to be a wrestler and I’ve decided that’ and she’s like ‘OK Sure’,” Lee recalls. “That was my mission in life and I did everything possible to make it happen.”
After graduating high school, Lee worked several jobs in order to save up the money she needed to both support her family and attend wrestling school.
“I had a bunch of part time jobs. I was a janitor at day care. I was a cashier. And I just did that to support my family, but I wanted a little bit more money because I had to support wrestling school,” she said, adding that she eventually took on a full-time job as a secretary to pay for her training.
At 5-foot-3 and 107 pounds, Lee didn’t look like the cookie-cutter female wrestler.
“I knew that I didn’t look like everybody else so I wasn’t going to take the traditional route of everybody so I kind of needed to learn my craft and just get myself there no matter what.”
She said she found inspiration in watching the female WWE stars that came before her, including Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, and Stephanie McMahon.
After an early run on the independent wrestling scene in New Jersey, Lee secured a legion of local fans that have followed her rise to the big-time.
“New Jersey has a rabid fan base for wrestling – especially women’s wrestling,” Lee said. “The fans are so strong and so passionate…They’ve been watching me since I was 19, and I’m 25 now, so they’ve kind of seen me grow up.”
Lee’s breakout success came when she was introduced to the WWE’s “Smackdown” audience.
“When I first got on ‘Smackdown’ there were a couple of matches where there were AJ chants in the crowd, and I was [unknown],” said Lee. “For them to kind of embrace me and come after it with little AJ chants – that was so moving.”
Today, Lee plays a major in storylines involving some of WWE’s biggest names, including CM Punk, The Big Show, and Sheamus. At WrestleMania 28, she walked to the ring as Daniel Bryan’s manager for the World Heavyweight Championship Match.
“I had no idea that essentially [Bryan and myself] would be at WrestleMania,” said Lee. “It wasn’t the happiest day for Daniel Bryan, but we came back through the curtain and I just cried like a baby and was just so happy my dream was realized.”
Lee hopes to make her mark on WrestleMania 29, taking place at the Meadowlands’ MetLife Stadium in April.
“The basic kid in you wants to be in a video game and wants to have an action figure and so those are two things [that] I’m really looking forward to one day,” said Lee of her career goals in wrestling. “But the ultimate goal, as a woman in this industry, is to be the Champion.”
Lee’s borderline-schizophrenic character keeps fans guessing about match outcomes. In this Sunday’s “No Way Out” storyline, Lee finds herself in a love rectangle, with the coveted WWE Title in the balance.
Tickets for the event are still available and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.