In retrospect, WWE fans should have been savoring every AJ Lee moment after CM Punk left the company. His departure and the subsequent controversy created an impossible situation for AJ. Her eventual decision to follow him out of WWE was as guaranteed to happen as Michael Cole overusing the word "vintage."
A new report addresses that and in the process falls into the category of "least surprising backstage news."
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc), AJ's retirement stemmed from fallout over WWE doctor Chris Amann filing a lawsuit against Punk. The report also notes that AJ likely had to call her exit a retirement to get out from under her contract with the company.
Getting out had to save her sanity as well.
No other wrestler on the roster has had to suffer the awkward, unenviable situation that she did. She worked for the company that her husband had a surplus of ill will toward. She worked for the company suing her husband.
It all sounds like something that belongs on a TV drama.
Back in November, Punk opened up about his issues with WWE on Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast (contains lots of NSFW language) and fired a number of allegations at the company. He contended that Dr. Amann misdiagnosed a staph infection and fed him Z-Paks for concussion symptoms.
One of the biggest stories to come out of that interview was that WWE fired him on his wedding day.
Vince McMahon later said on Steve Austin's podcast (h/t Fox Sports) that it was just a coincidence that Punk's walking papers arrived then. As Pro Wrestling Torch founder Wade Keller pointed out, Punk thought otherwise:
That alone had to strain AJ's relationship with WWE. Her wedding day will always be associated with the climax in her husband's battle with their employer.
She couldn't exactly have had a ton of confidence in the medical staff hired to take care of her after hearing all of Punk's horror stories.
Punk told Cabana that the staph infection was life-threatening and that a doctor told him he was lucky to be alive after having it go untreated for so long. For AJ to have to work for the company that Punk blames for all of this had to be incredibly hard. It's the kind of difficult scenario that few of us could imagine.
Amann then suing Punk only made things messier. Now AJ was not only caught in the middle of a battle of egos and politics, but a legal one as well. She was like the child bearing the tension created by two fighting parents.
The folks at Not in the Hall of Fame summed up how unsurprising that made her retirement:
Jim Ross had similar thoughts. He wrote on his personal blog, "AJ Lee retiring from WWE did not shock me, as most could certainly understand the uncomfortable nature of her husband, CM Punk, abruptly leaving WWE as he did and her staying in the same environment could not be the easiest thing for her to endure."
Still, AJ had been such a key component of the Divas division for so long that it felt like she would be a part of it forever. She held the title from June 2013 to April 2014—a total of 295 days, per WWE.com—and twice more between June and November 2014. And when she wasn't the champ, she was almost always in the hunt for the gold.
She won't be anymore.
Fans should have been treating AJ's WrestleMania match as a farewell. With as tough as it had to be to have your employer and husband at war, the chances of her continuing for another whole year were unlikely.
The ever-present "CM Punk!" chants directed at her couldn't have helped, either.
Now part of WWE's history, not its present, she's free to spend more time with her husband. And after an exit that should have surprised no one, she's freed from the awkwardness she stomached for months.