As two superstars both blatantly inspired by a punk rock ethos, CM Punk and AJ Lee seemed like a natural couple as soon as they started appearing on WWE television together. Of course, their onscreen union didn’t last nearly as long as the one they’ve been enjoying in the real world since 2013, which blossomed into a marriage somewhere around a year later in July of 2014. Punk controversially left WWE a few months prior to the wedding and officially got fired the same day the couple gave their vows, predicting AJ Lee’s retirement from wrestling to focus on outside endeavors less than one year later.
Punk and AJ have remained in the public spotlight despite leaving the wrestling world, largely due to Punk’s efforts in UFC combined with AJ’s burgeoning career as an animal rights activist, plus her recently announced plan to release a memoir in early 2017. Even as Punk’s UFC dream blew up in his face, AJ has stood behind him as a loyal and loving wife, with Punk returning the favor by supporting AJ’s attempts at broadening her career to literature and charity.
Many WWE fans wish Punk and AJ would return to WWE either separately or together, but the fact of the matter is that remains a highly unlikely possibility even a couple years removed from their infamous exit. Thanks to the couple’s ability to stay in the public eye, though, there’s always a chance fortunes will wrap around to a time one or both feel they could enter the squared circle once again. We may never know when that day will come, so if you need your fix of Geek Goddesses and Straight Edge Messiahs, keep reading and learn 15 things you never knew about CM Punk and AJ Lee’s marriage.
15. The Relationship Became Public During A Baseball Game
Despite their dual status as two top members of the WWE roster, or perhaps because of that status, Punk and AJ were relatively quiet about starting a relationship during the early days of their courtship. Nonetheless, context clues can tell us they started getting together sometime in late 2013, only shortly after Punk had ceased his second shot at a romance with WWE Hall of Famer Lita. Either due to the fallout of that relationship or simply because they didn’t want any public attention during their dates, Punk and AJ spent a few months together in secrecy before being spotted at a baseball game by fellow wrestler Konnan, who later revealed the two were dating on a series of podcasts. Rumors had been swirling for some time that Punk had moved on to another female wrestler, and AJ had also been said to be seeing a WWE wrestler, so although Konnan admitted he and Punk weren’t exactly close, his confirmation on the matter was all fans needed to be sure Punk and AJ were really a couple. In a matter of coincidence, Punk and AJ have since been photographed together at dozens of baseball games, generally in the front row.
14. AJ Idolized Punk’s Ex
Interoffice dating is complicated wherever you go, as are relationships in which one partner is noticeably older than the other. Punk and AJ’s 12-year age gap isn’t exactly indicative of a May-December romance, but nonetheless it created a bizarre circumstance in that AJ Lee has been very open about the fact she absolutely idolized one of her future husband’s ex-girlfriends. Punk engaged in an on-again-off-again relationship with Lita lasting until as little as a few months prior to beginning his courtship with AJ. Once AJ Lee became famous in her own right, WWE discovered video footage from an autograph session in 2001 that saw AJ break down in tears upon the excitement of meeting Lita. More than a couple fans have noticed the connection and found it a bit weird, to say the least, wondering just how far AJ’s idolization went that she saw fit to basically steal Lita’s boyfriend exactly 12 years later. Chances are that the whole thing stands as an eerie coincidence, although it goes to show how complicated it can be to date within one’s own industry.
13. AJ’s Ex Publicly Mocked Them
AJ Lee isn’t without her share of famous ex’s all her own, and while Punk’s exes might be the ones with more cause to speak out about how weird the situation was, it was AJ’s ex who went public with his thoughts on her new relationship. One of AJ’s highest profile relationships prior to Punk was with future ROH World Champion Jay Lethal, who incidentally was also her first trainer in the wrestling industry. Lethal was hugely supportive of AJ when she was his student, referring to her as the most dedicated student he ever trained and claiming he was happy for her success in a 2013 interview. Two years later, Lethal was singing a different tune prior to a Ring of Honor match against Alberto Del Rio, claiming he wasn’t going to “take CM Punk’s hand-me-downs,” but Punk that would obviously take his. Lethal made the comment on March 1, 2015, and Punk and AJ were married only four months later. It has remained unclear whether Lethal simply made the comment to generate heat or if there was genuine animosity between the him and Punk or Lee, and neither AJ nor Punk have offered any response.
12. AJ Almost Got Fired For Punk
WWE has an unfortunate reputation for treating celebrity guests better than their own talent, although the infamous story involving AJ Lee and ESPN broadcaster Michelle Beadle is one where Beadle might actually deserve the benefit of the doubt. In 2013, Beadle, a longtime wrestling fan, decided to help promote and participate in WWE’s yearly Tribute to the Troops special. Beadle was also an old friend of CM Punk, or so she thought, affectionately and absent-mindedly calling him “f*** face” when she passed him in a hallway. Beadle later claimed it was an admittedly weird but meaningless term of endearment, and yet AJ Lee happened to overhear what she said and took it as a gravely offensive thing to say. AJ’s verbal onslaught on Beadle was apparently so harsh WWE executives were considering firing her, despite the fact she was the reigning Diva’s Champion at the time, and they only reconsidered due to the inevitable fan backlash such a decision would cause. Beadle thought the whole thing was a joke and wound up completely shocked when Punk abruptly ended their friendship upon news of the story breaking, although to her credit, she never seemed to blame WWE for the wrestlers’ individual actions.
11. They Had A Very Quiet, Private Wedding
Unlike the many celebrity couples who like to go all out on their wedding, Punk and AJ were married in a very small ceremony so scarcely attended that news of their nuptials weren’t confirmed until a few days after they were hitched. For as loud and bombastic as both Punk and AJ’s personalities can be in the ring, when it comes to their personal lives, Punk in particular has always been reserved and unwilling to share too much of his life with the public. AJ has likewise claimed to be somewhat of an introvert, not sharing many details of her life until deciding to release a memoir. Punk and AJ gave one another their vows on June 13, 2014, with both members of the couple reportedly having chosen the date because it was Friday the 13th, and both are fans of irony and the horror genre. By keeping the event underreported, Punk and AJ were able to maintain their privacy and enjoy their wedding in peace. Unfortunately, though, that peace wouldn’t last forever…
10. Punk Was Pissed When Wedding Photos Leaked
The Internet has never been a place known for its understanding of human requests for privacy, and thus it was only a matter of months before pictures of Punk and AJ’s private wedding leaked to the public. Only a few hours after the photo, showing the happy couple arm and arm in their wedding wear, was leaked to the public, Punk took to Twitter and made his feelings on the matter explicitly clear. Punk wrote, “Tweet that pick and I block you. Simple. And I block you because I can’t punch you in your disrespectful f***ing face. Pigs.” AJ never publicly commented on the matter, but it would probably be a fair assumption to say she generally echoes her husband’s sentiment. Especially in this information age where every couple posts their daily life to Instagram, it says a lot about the kind of people Punk and AJ are that they don’t want their personal pictures spread throughout the public.
9. They Adopt Rescue Dogs
We already mentioned AJ’s second career as an animal right activist, so it probably isn’t a huge shock that she and her husband have made a habit out of adopting rescue dogs as one of her various charity efforts. AJ’s not alone in her love of dogs, as she has claimed Punk falling in love with some of their pups has been the deciding factor in her decision to adopt. AJ is still clearly the bigger animal lover of the group, considering she has been volunteering at animal shelters her entire life, including even the busiest parts of her career with WWE. AJ also took her efforts to the Internet by re-tweeting dogs listed for adoption in the various cities she travels to, and her tweets eventually caught the attention of the ASPCA. Lee has worked on campaigns focusing on anti-dogfighting and having pets neutered, in addition to designing apparel with Beautiful Disaster Clothing that benefitted PAWS Chicago. Most recently, the pair has adopted a dog they named Larry Talbot after the classic horror series, The Wolfman.
8. They Share A Love For Comic Books
Nothing brings a couple together like shared interests, and one hobby that followed both Punk and AJ throughout their entire lives has been a deep seeded love of comic books. They both love comics so much that graphic novels have been ingratiated into their characters, with AJ’s nickname of Geek Goddess implying a certain love for all things nerdy, and Punk’s penchant for yelling “It’s clobberin’ time!” before his matches in tribute to The Thing. Punk has taken his comic aspirations further than AJ, having established an ongoing relationship with Marvel Comics since 2012. Punk first wrote the introduction to Avengers vs. X-Men, followed by co-writing an issue of Thor and then becoming one of the regular writers of Drax. AJ might have taken the love of comics further in the ring than anyone noticed, though, as she later claimed Harley Quinn was “pivotal” in developing her in-ring persona. Punk and AJ have both become comic book characters themselves as well, appearing alongside dozens of other wrestlers in Mick Foley’s WWE Superstars series.
7. They Both Love Video Games
Certain interests go well together, and along with comic books often comes a love of video games. Punk and AJ have both appeared in dozens of WWE releases, and more importantly they’ve both spoken at length about how much they’ve enjoyed playing non-wrestling games throughout their entire lives. AJ might actually be the bigger gamer of the two, having gone so far as to reveal her top 10 favorite video games in an interview. During the interview, AJ revealed that Punk is obviously a fan of video games as well, considering the couple apparently have spoken at length about whether or not CM Punk resembles Solid Snake. Punk apparently felt he and the Metal Gear Solid main character had plenty in common, while even Punk’s wife laughed at that notion and told him he “wasn’t cool enough” to compare himself to Snake. Punk has also spoken about how during his time with WWE he and Kofi Kingston would spend long hours playing video games while on the road together.
6. They’re Still Close With Big E
Once Punk and AJ left the wrestling industry, they seemed to also end the majority of the relationships they had formed during their time in WWE. We may never know the full circumstance of what happened, and there are probably more lasting friendships than we realize, but nevertheless, Punk’s public falling out with WWE has left many superstars cold to mentioning his name or spending time with him. This attitude has extended to AJ, especially on screen, where superstars are practically banned from mentioning either member of the couple. Despite all this, at least one superstar has managed to maintain his friendships with both AJ and Punk, and he proved it when AJ posted a picture of Big E lounging on her and Punk’s couch around the same time WWE was doing a show near Chicago. Big E was of course linked with AJ on screen when the two were the respective enforcer and valet of Dolph Ziggler, and Punk had a tertiary connection to Big E through his friendship with Kofi Kingston. Big E didn’t receive much publicity for hanging out with Punk and AJ, and yet the incident still stood as a bold move that proved his friendship surpassed unspoken company policy.
5. They Lost A Bowling Match Against A Group Of Nerds
People tend to make a strange assumption that being good at one sport makes someone inherently good at all other sports, but Punk and AJ proved that certainly isn’t the case when it comes to pro wrestling and bowling. The couple teamed with Fandango and Kofi Kingston to compete against a team of comedians led by Chris Hardwick for Nerdist: All-Star Celebrity Bowling, and despite a sterling display from all competitors, the wrestling team ultimately lost to the nerds by an extremely close two points, 400-398. Team WWE looked to be ahead almost the entire game, only for the group to start getting cocky, stop caring about the game, and focus more on eating nachos and telling jokes than actually maintaining their lead, allowing Hardwick’s team to slowly creep ahead and sneak away with the victory. The video wasn’t Punk’s first collaboration with Nerdist, as he also starred in the series CM Punk’s Grammar Slam, humorously correcting his critic’s grammar. Punk also teamed with Nerdist as their correspondent at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con.
4. Punk Was Fired On Their Wedding Day
Perhaps even more reported than the fact Punk and AJ were married was the fact CM Punk was officially fired from WWE on their wedding day. Punk set his fate by walking out on WWE shortly after the 2014 Royal Rumble amidst complaints about his character’s direction and nagging injuries causing him to feel a serious need for time off. While it was unprofessional of Punk to leave in the way he did, it remains true he technically wasn’t breaking his contract in any way, and he later claimed he was expecting to renew his contract and make a return in a few months when everything blew over. Instead, Vince McMahon made the decision to release Punk of his contract and sent him his termination papers through the mail, which Punk received on the same day he and AJ were set to wed. Considering how scarcely reported Punk and AJ’s wedding was, Vince claimed it was an unfortunate coincidence he didn’t intend, but Punk himself finds that an unlikely story and says enough people in the business knew that it could’ve gotten to Vince one way or another.
3. AJ Convinced Punk To Challenge WWE
The terms of Punk’s departure from WWE were public and messy, so some of the details tend to get lost in the shuffle, such as the fact AJ heavily inspired the move that set in motion the entire chain of events causing Punk to leave. Punk had been worried for some time that the health care situation in WWE wasn’t up to par, and his suspicions were personally confirmed when a WWE physician allegedly refused to treat him for a MRSA infection. AJ convinced Punk that the WWE doctor wasn’t his doing his job, and that Punk should therefore visit AJ’s personal doctor in Tampa, Florida. AJ’s doctor told Punk about the MRSA infection, which WWE misdiagnosed as a harmless fatty deposit, and told him he needed it removed immediately. The doctor actually went so far as to inform Punk he could have died from the infection due to how long he ignored it, which was what convinced him WWE didn’t care about the wellbeing of their employees.
2. AJ Supported Punk In UFC
Part of what brought Punk and AJ together was their various shared interests, not least of which must have been their love of professional wrestling. Despite this, AJ has always publicly supported Punk in his every move, from his decision to leave WWE in 2014 to his next career move, stepping into the UFC octagon against Mickey Gall. Punk received a great deal of public scrutiny during his time training for a career in MMA, but AJ never left her husband’s time, and was regularly seen with him as he trained or gave interviews about his new UFC career. AJ was backstage when Punk entered the fight, and Tweeted earlier in that day that she was “the proudest wife in the world.” Punk has gone on the record stating how appreciative he was of his wife’s willingness to move their entire life to Milwaukee so he could live his dream, and she returned the love by supporting him in his effort to do so. AJ can be seen supporting Punk throughout the documentary Evolution of Punk, cataloguing Punk’s training efforts and preparation for his debut fight.
1. AJ Stood By Punk After His Embarrassing Defeat
After months of hype and what felt like years of planning, CM Punk made his UFC debut against Mickey Gall on September 10, 2016, in which he submitted to a rear-naked choke in two minutes and fourteen seconds. Punk’s defeat was quick, painful, and disappointing, although not entirely unexpected to the majority of insiders in both the MMA and wrestling worlds. Punk may not have fared as well as he or anyone on his team had hoped, but he never claimed to regret the experience and remains proud of himself for living his dream, and probably more important on a personal level, he claimed AJ’s first words to him after losing the fight indicated she felt the same way. Punk was noticeably emotional when asked about AJ in the immediate wake of his fight, albeit the reason seemed to be her support in his loss moved him in a manner he didn’t expect. Despite his horrible loss, Punk at least learned he had the consolation prize of his wife’s undying respect, so perhaps he didn’t lose anything important at all.