AJ Mendez (formally known as AJ Lee) is one of the most memorable women's wrestlers of all time. She is an amazing example of what it means to fight for the life you want. Coming from humble beginnings in New Jersey, young April Mendez dealt with a tough upbringing but found refuge in video games, comic books and professional wrestling. This passion led her to become an early wrestling star in New Jersey and she would then go on to WWE to become an FCW Divas Champion and a 3-time Divas Champion on the main roster. After years of shattering glass ceilings, breaking hearts and capturing our imaginations, she retired in 2015. In the years since her exit from in-ring competition, she has become a New York Times best-selling author and actress. After returning to wrestling as an executive producer and colour commentator for WOW-Women of Wrestling in 2021, Mendez announced via social media that her contract with WOW is "winding down" and that she hopes to "come back and play with them in the future." With this announcement, her viral in-ring scene from the Starz Original series 'Heels' and her chiselled physique, the wrestling community embraced the notion of AJ making her way back to an athletic career. Where would she begin her new journey? What women of our modern era would step up to face AJ's veteran status? And what championships would she collect to solidify her dominance? What if AJ Mendez came back to the Squared Circle?
Future WOW World Champion or General Manager?
The wrestling world was floored when our resident geek goddess returned to us in 2021 in the form of an executive producer and colour commentator for the rebooted WOW-Women of Wrestling show that premiered last year. Since then, the all-women's promotion has enjoyed success with rising ratings, live tapings at the Belasco Theater and more exposure for the greatest wrestling talent in the world. AJ Mendez was a huge part of the charm of WOW Superheroes as the knowledgeable colour commentator between WOW co-owner David Mclane and play-by-play extraordinaire Stephen Dickey. But what if AJ's WOW contract was a multi-year one and she decided to make a return to the ring there? Since we have all seen that Mendez still has great wrestling chops, how amazing would it be if AJ made a shocking return and challenged the WOW World Championship? Or what if she created a tag team with the likes of Chantilly Chella, Foxxy Fierce or Jennifer Florez? Her skills would be refreshing to see next to the rising stars of women's wrestling today!
Or what if AJ served as a general manager of WOW? All one has to do is rewind the clock eleven years to remember her experience as the WWE Raw general manager. Though it can be argued that she was in a different place then, it was still amazing to see a woman in a place of power in wrestling with her power suits and Chuck Taylors. If she were the GM of WOW, Mendez would lay down the law and stop a lot of the underhanded tactics from the likes of Las Bandidas and BK Rhythm. There could also be more stipulations in matches with her at the helm of WOW. AJ Mendez has given a lot to WOW with her presence and the second season will definitely miss her, but it is nice to think about what more she could have done.
A Return to WWE? Hmmm...
In 2015, Mendez retired from wrestling and left WWE after triumphant wins at that year's Wrestlemania with Saraya (FKA Paige) against The Bella Twins and her final match on the Raw After. Though this broke a lot of hearts, it never stopped the wrestling community from fantasizing about AJ Lee's return. Since she's been gone, WWE's women's division has evolved by leaps and bounds with a Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank, two Wrestlemania main events and a complete rebrand as Superstars instead of Divas. But can you even imagine how the crowd at the first women's Royal Rumble would have erupted if Mendez had come back as a surprise entrant? If she had a stand-off with Mercedes Mone' (FKA Sasha Banks) and that led to an iconic wrestling feud? Or if AJ had a tiff with her lifelong idol and Hall of Famer Lita?
But let's bring it to the present day. What if AJ came to Smackdown and challenged The EST of WWE Bianca Belair and questioned her grit? Would Mendez become the fourth member of Damage CTRL? Or would she take her talents to Monday Night Raw and get in the face of of Becky Lynch or Trish Stratus? She might hunger for gold and challenge Rhea Ripley for the Women's World Championship or become Chelsea Green's new tag team partner. Back on the blue brand, she could align or feud with the Latino World Order's Zelina Vega and add more growth to her solo career. Or how would the wrestling community react if she went back to her stomping grounds at NXT and caused mayhem to the women who are trying to make their way to the top like Gigi Dolin, Tiffany Stratton, Thea Hail, Lash Legend, Kelani Jordan and more! AJ was a pillar of NXT's former iteration Florida Championship Wrestling and enjoyed success there as a Queen of FCW champion before going to the main roster, so her presence at the black and gold brand would be a gorgeous full-circle moment for her career. It is pretty safe to say that AJ Mendez would have a big playing field if she were to return to WWE.
IMPACT Wrestling: A New Journey
AJ Mendez has a history in two major wrestling promotions and attached her name with incredible projects, but do you know a place where she has not cast her iconic shadow? IMPACT! Wrestling. A promotion that has maintained its place in wrestling history in spite of various obstacles, IMPACT has found its groove by leaning into its strengths, one of them being its Knockouts division. They have shown their respect and admiration for the power of women in wrestling from how they book their athletes to valuing their intelligence as leaders backstage. Doesn't that sound like the perfect environment for a returning legend like AJ Mendez? She could have a fresh start as a producer, a tag team manager with Gail Kim or a brand-spanking new Knockout! A feud with current Knockouts World champion Trinity would be magical as they did cross paths at FCW, or they could pit her against the highly accomplished Deonna Purrazzo. Mendez could also fare well against Gisele Shaw and another icon in the form of Mickie James. Her presence would be billed as one of the most important signings in IMPACT'S herstory, and it would give her a new wrestling chapter.
Rising as a woman of colour in a male-dominated business can be daunting, but AJ Mendez has proven that with a lot of passion, grit, fire and vulnerability, you can make your dreams come true. Watching her succeed and advocate for women's wrestling has been a privilege. Witnessing her gift for words take shape into art is inspiring. Though she has not explicitly said that she would return to the ring full-time, it is always good for the mind to imagine the possibilities of what would happen if she did. As most wrestling fans say, "No one ever really stays retired." AJ's love bit us, and we just cannot get cured.