“When looks fade, and your only value is your mind, will you still be beautiful? I figured out early on that investing in my heart, my personality, my mind, and my soul was going to be the key to success. Fans connected to me, they cheered for me, and they fought alongside me because I was genuine. When someone is honest and raw on-screen, the fans can see it. They can also tell when someone is not.”
The first thing that struck me while reading the informative and earnestly written “Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules“ by former professional wrestler, AJ Mendez Brooks, was that you don’t have to be a fan of sports entertainment to enjoy it. AJ Lee, as her fans knew her when she was wrestling for the WWE, doesn’t just chronicle her rise from obscurity to the pinnacles of success she reached within the industry. Several of the accomplishments AJ achieved while in the business were being involved in major storylines on WWE programming’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw – She had over one hundred different pieces of merchandise bearing her name, image, or likeness, even though she was originally told that fans don’t buy souvenirs of female wrestlers – and AJ became a three time, WWE Divas champion. Since her retirement in 2015, the Diva’s title is now simply called the Women’s championship, and female wrestlers are now referred to as sports entertainers just like their male co-workers.
While AJ does write about her time in Florida Championship Wrestling, where she was trained by Jay Lethal, no part of the book is a – how-to-guide on how a person can become a professional wrestler. Seemingly, the only advice AJ imparts on the subject is that a person has to have an incredible dedication in regard to diet, exercise, and training, and even then there are no guarantees. Furthermore, for those wrestling fans interested in information regarding her husband, former WWE champion, Phillip Brooks, better known by his in-ring moniker, CM Punk, especially details regarding his exit from WWE, AJ doesn’t provide any. She writes about their first kiss, which was supposed to be a quick peck, a part of a storyline that had been scripted for television, but went further than anyone expected, especially AJ. She also provides a few tidbits about their relationship prior to their dating and being married, and she touches briefly upon their wedding, but chooses to hold private most of the other aspects of their relationship.
Instead, what AJ writes about, while utilizing humor and heartfelt prose, is her tumultuous and often times, unstable childhood. Her entire life, and into her adulthood, she felt like an outsider before becoming the strong and confident woman she is today. She was a member of a family of five, which included her parents, and her two older siblings, her brother Robert, and her sister Erica. AJ shares with the reader the numerous embarrassments and indignities her family lived through. The Mendez family frequently had to move, having no money for rent, or for that matter, much of anything else. This included money for clothing and food; an empty refrigerator was not an uncommon site, but as AJ mentions, in a bitter tone, and rightfully so, there often times seemed to be money for a cold, six-pack of beer. The family often lived in seedy motels, relatives’ houses until they inevitably overstayed their welcome, and for an extended period of time, in the family car.
AJ did her best to escape the reality of her home life, or lack thereof, through creative writing, delving into comic books, and living vicariously through the female action heroes in the video games she enjoyed playing. When she discovered wrestling at the age of twelve, thanks to her brother Robert’s interest in it, she realized larger than life female heroes did really exist. Although she did other things along the way, which included attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied film and television production, wrestling was her ultimate calling.
Growing up, however, escaping poverty was not AJ’s and her siblings only problem, nor, as it turned out, would it be AJ’s worst. AJ’s mother, for years went through life, not having been properly diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and her behavior of extreme highs and lows, had its effect on the three Mendez children; but their mother was particularly hard on AJ, who she often accused of being sexually promiscuous, even though there was not a shred of evidence to support such an accusation. Nevertheless, because her mother, when in one of her dark moods, felt AJ was going to become a teenage mother, in addition to the constant verbal chastising, her mother inflicted harsh punishments on AJ that would sometimes last for hours. Much to AJ’s surprise and horror, after an overdose of antidepressants and pain medication she had been prescribed for a wrestling injury, she, sought out professional help, and learned that she shared her mother’s affliction. The book gives insight as to what she went through after the initial diagnosis, and how she has learned to live with the condition, as best she can, because her Bipolar disorder will never completely go away. One of AJ’s goals in telling her story in the book is to educate anyone who is, or knows someone who is, dealing with the debilitating mental condition. She informs the reader that Bipolar disorder, has often been mistaken for depression, and that if it goes untreated, as she can attest to from first hand knowledge, things will continue to get progressively worse.
I’ve touched upon several of the major themes in the 288 page autobiography published by Crown/Archetype on April 4, 2017, but there is still a good deal more to discover. AJ’s interesting, physically demanding, and often times emotionally gut wrenching journey to becoming a professional wrestler; and what transpired after she made into the business, where a new set of obstacles were set in front of her to overcome, as stated earlier, should appeal to non-wrestling fans as well. I didn’t feel, at anytime while reading the book, that she was attempting to illicit sympathy from the reader, although there were moments where I definitely felt bad that she had to go through certain emotional and financial struggles. AJ currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband, and several dogs they have rescued from kill- shelters; AJ is an animal rescue ambassador for ASPCA. I am interested to see what a creative, driven, and intelligent individual, like AJ will accomplish next.