Want to know what guys dig more than crazy chicks?
Luckily for WWE’s AJ Lee, she has both angles covered thanks to her ring-skipping, Kane-kissing ways on screen, and her “Batman: Arkham City” obsession once she gets back home.
“’Arkham City’ is one of my favorite games of all time,” the 25-year-old Diva/Geek Goddess/Raw General Manager tells me over the phone as we talk video games and wrestling. “I’m a huge Harley Quinn fan, which I’ve tried to make references to in the past, but the way they captured all of the characters is amazing, and the gameplay is insane. I thought ‘Arkham Asylum’ was really advanced, but with the new game, they just took everything to another level. It’s definitely one of the best games to come out in the past couple of years. Amazing.”
ESPN Playbook: I know guys like Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes talk a lot about gaming on the road. Do you bring a system on the road with you when you travel?
AJ Lee: I play my Xbox and PlayStation at home, then when I’m on the road, I’ll bring my Vita with me to play games like “Snake Eater.” That’s what I like to bring with me.
Do you ever get on Xbox Live with the other WWE stars and shoot it out with them in games like “Call of Duty”?
I’ve never been a big Live player. I’ve gone on and played a little bit, but for some reason, I like the solitude of sitting on my couch and not really worrying about anyone else. I don’t know about the competitive nature of it.
At WrestleMania this past year, you became the first female to ever win the WWE Superstar Challenge video game tournament. Was everyone else on the roster shocked by your skills?
You know what’s funny is, everyone knows that I love playing video games, so they were all telling me, “I know you’re going to win this.” But I was terrified because I had never had the chance to play the game, and the gameplay in “WWE 12” was completely different than the game that came out the year before. The pinning system, kicking out, the submission system is all so different, so I thought I was so screwed. But I got to play two or three practice matches before the tournament started, then I just got really lucky. Everyone thought I had been playing for months, but I only played like two matches. I’m proud of that win. I keep the trophy in my office.
SummerSlam is in a couple of weeks, and THQ is going to reveal the official roster for “WWE 13.” As a gamer, what would it mean to you if you find out that you’ll actually become a video game character?
I am so waiting for that day. Recently, my first action figure was announced, and when you look at things you want to do, action figure is one of them, and then being in the video game would be so huge. Then I don’t have to create myself. I used to make myself for years in “Smackdown vs. Raw” and all the games before that, so hopefully I’ll be in the game this year, and if not, hopefully next year. It would just be insane to be in the game. I think I would pathetically be home alone playing the video game and putting myself in matches. I would love that. It would be a dream come true.
In terms of your television character, why do you think you’ve been able to connect with fans almost instantly, while so many other performers just seem to come and go and never stick?
I think the important thing is that I’ve never tried to be someone I’m not. People can read right through that. There’s a place for people who are unattainable where you want to have their poster on your wall because they’re larger than life, and that’s fine, but that’s not me. I’m not the coolest person in the world. I’m not the sexiest Diva or the strongest Diva. I know who I am. I’m not the most popular person and I’m kind of dorky and I’m someone you can see at your school or as your neighbor, and I think people like that. I think I’m a girl that represents someone you might know or would like to hang out with, and I think people just relate to me. I also look like I’m about 14, [laughs] so maybe I look like I do go to high school with everyone. I just think it’s cool that people have taken to me. Before I was on the show, I was a fan, and I think people can see that.
Every time my daughter sees you, she starts skipping around the room. It’s pretty funny.
That is so awesome. I love that. That really means the world to me. It’s a responsibility I’m becoming more aware of, because when I first started, I was always trying to be the prettiest I could be and I wanted to do my hair all big and was putting all this makeup on, but then I just stopped. I’m not the girl who has perfect hair or wears makeup. I want to represent that. When you see me on TV against one of the other girls, they look 10 times better than me, and I’m OK with that. I make a conscious effort not to wear that much makeup and not have my hair so perfectly groomed. That’s just not me. I’m not going to be perfect. I’m not that person, and I think little girls and people in general can appreciate that. I want to represent something that people can look up to, and hopefully I can do that even better now that I’m in a position of power.
When did you first decide that you wanted to be a wrestler? Were you a big fan as a kid?
Oh my gosh, I’ve been a fan my whole life. Miss Elizabeth was my first idol growing up, and I was just obsessed with it. I was a huge fan of Molly and Lita and Stephanie. I was just watching for so long, and at 12 years old, I just decided this was something that I wanted to do. I started at 18, and it’s been a really long journey, but it just all feels like a dream to be here now.
What’s it like hearing those comparisons people make between you and Miss Elizabeth, considering that she was your idol growing up?
I think I have a long way to go. She is out of my league, but I appreciate the comparison. I think it’s the innocence people see in the two of us, and having something that’s more of an understatement. A woman who appears to be more of a gentle creature on TV. It’s amazing to me to be compared at all to her, or anyone in the past. I hope I can be someone people look at in the future and compare other people to me. It’s a big deal, and I appreciate it.
What’s the sudden rise to fame been like for you this past year? You’ve basically gone from someone a hardcore fan might recognize to one of the biggest stars on the show. Can you even walk through the mall anymore?
It’s strange. The other day I was in Walgreens just trying to buy a toothbrush, and I’m not aware -- I don’t read the Internet, I just watch the shows back to see how I did -- so I’m not really aware how many fans are out there watching this. So here I am at Walgreens buying a toothbrush, and this guy who works there is helping me for like 10 minutes, then all of a sudden he blurts out: “You shouldn’t let Daniel Bryan talk to you like that!” and runs away. I was like, “What?” I was so confused. [laughs] It’s so weird because people know you even if you don’t know them, and I’m still wrapping my head around that. It’s really cool, but it’s a little overwhelming for me because I’m a shy person. I had someone come up to me at the airport and grab my engagement ring after Daniel Bryan proposed to me, and she was like, “Oh my god, this is amazing. You and Daniel are going to be so happy.” It’s weird. Everyone feels like they know you. It’s an adjustment.