A Londoner’s Eye: Thank You, Michelle

I didn’t think much of the school teacher from Palatka, FL seven years ago during a little contest on Monday Night Raw (you may have heard of it). Frankly, said school teacher — while she looked athletic, sure — came across awkward on TV, as if she knew (along with the viewing world) that she didn’t really fit in with the nipped-and-tucked models in bikini tops who made up the rest of the competition. Her thick accent was a little jarring, her looks (which this competition was pretty much based upon) didn’t quite compete with the models and she lacked any distinct personality. Failing to connect with the crowd, the school teacher was cut from the competition in week four. That should’ve been the last we saw of her, but it was just the beginning.

Fast forward seven years and that school teacher, Michelle McCool, is perhaps the most decorated WWE Diva of the last several years. And like any public figure worth knowing about, she’s as controversial as she is talented.

The once doe-eyed school teacher won over many — including myself — and now, as we say goodbye to her, I want to say thank you, Michelle.

I was, if I’m honest, a little perplexed that WWE signed her back in 2004 following the end of the Raw Diva Search. For four years, Michelle would just be there in the background for me. She hadn’t done much of significance to consider myself a fan or dislike her. She was just there. A string of bad gimmicks ranging from personal trainer to naughty school teacher did nothing for me. And let’s not forget that time we saw her run along a beach on a weekly basis. Scintilating television!

In 2008, with the ‘Top SmackDown Diva’ competition and the subsequent launch of the Divas Championship, my attitude towards Michelle changed. All of a sudden I was beginning to take notice; little-by-little, week-by-week, Michelle was actually beginning to win me over — well, in the ring, anyway. (The lack of personality was another story.) Michelle really showed continual improvement in the ring to the point where she was crowned the first ever Divas Champion. In fact, some of my favorite matches of her during that period would be with a Diva that would become her greatest ally: Layla. (See some matches here and here.) At the time both were still learning and little did we know they’d eventually take the Divas division by storm, but those early matches showed snippets of the chemistry between the two and those were some of the first matches I covered here at Diva Dirt, and I remember them fondly.

Within 12 months of winning the first ever Divas Championship, Michelle was now the top heel Diva in WWE, feuding with Melina over the Women’s Championship. By now, her in-ring skills were at a peak by Diva standards. She could (and would) conceivably go against the more experienced wrestlers like Melina, Mickie James and Beth Phoenix. In fact, her heel turn only made her a better worker. As the predatory Michelle McCruel, for the first time Michelle was winning me over in the personality stakes too. Her vicious, cold personality only added to her matches. Sure, some fans would say she was still boring and bland, but I enjoyed McCruel. In fact, a lot of people enjoyed her feud with Melina on SmackDown, if the reception at the time from fans on Diva Dirt is anything to go by.

In my opinion, Michelle became — and remained until last night — the most consistent worker in the Divas division. She continuously churned out great matches with whoever her opponent was. From veterans such as Beth, Melina and Mickie, to younger hands such as Maryse, Taryn Terrell and Maria. In fact, the latter two praised McCool’s ring generalship in our interviews with them. (Maria interview, Taryn interview.) Her matches with Melina were a treat, as was the Tag Team Tables Match last December.

With LayCool, a new side of Michelle emerged. A side that saw some personality come out as a snobby, mean girl with Layla. That near-two year reign of flawless terror is probably still fresh in all of our minds so I won’t go into too much detail. Layla and Michelle had great chemistry as a duo and Layla — whose comedic chops we’ve championed before — really brought out a humorous side to Michelle that we hadn’t seen before. One might argue that they were everywhere and were given too much to do, but I think it’s a testament to how well their gimmick worked that WWE threw more and more at them.

As alluded to earlier, McCool was often followed by controversy. In fact, she’s perhaps the most controversial Diva in quite some time. (Dare I say ever?) Scrutinized like no other Diva, everything Michelle did, it seems, was under the microscope of fans. From her ‘backstage pull’, to her lack of crowd response, her lack of personality etc. — the list goes on. People will believe what they want to believe. That is the way the world works. As for me? My personal approach to Michelle is that, probably more than any other Diva, I’ve made it a point to go on what I know rather than what I read or hear. This is what I’ve seen and what I know: Michelle’s hard work in the ring is her own. No one can ‘transfer’ wrestling ability into your brain backstage. I commend her for being a great worker. Do I feel like she was in the spotlight too much? At times, yes, (still bitter that Layla wasn’t in the title unification match!) but what’s done is done. Outside of the ring, I’ve always admired and respected Michelle. In the face of contentious fans, she has always held her head high and doesn’t let things phase her. That’s respectable to me. Sadly, women in any industry are often villainized much more than their male counterparts. The wrestling industry is no exception. Michelle, however, continues to tweet and interact with her fans, even if often bombarded by negativity, never letting her ‘haters’ get the better of her. In fact, she’s been known to snark-tweet right back at times too!

As a woman, I respect Michelle’s intelligence. Education is important and she’s got her degree! Even her decision to leave now when she could go for several more years is pretty intelligent on her part, while her body still feels good and isn’t too battered/broken. We sadly saw Edge forced to retire a few weeks ago due to the damage done to his body over the years. I wouldn’t want that for McCool or anyone else, for that matter. I also respect her poise and grace (see above paragraph). And on a wholly superficial level, I admire her fashion sense! Michelle has probably been my favorite Diva style icon of the past couple of years. In my opinion, she’s a good role model for women.

My personal dealings with Michelle have been minimal, but she was always friendly and courteous whenever approached. Michelle has always shown appreciation for what we do here at Diva Dirt, which we’re grateful for. Perhaps what I will most treasure (and she doesn’t know this… until now! Hi Michelle!) is that back in 2009 she offered her assistance to our charity drive, Diva Dirt Gives Back. In fact, she was the only WWE Diva that offered up her help by sending us some personally signed 8x10s. She could have easily ignored our call like some of the others — she didn’t owe us anything, after all — but she didn’t. That is something I haven’t forgotten. Michelle showed her charitable side and she’ll always have my respect for that.

As her run comes to a close, I’ve grown accustomed to that once jarring thick accent, I’ve watched as average-looking school teacher Michelle became more comfortable looking the part of a WWE Diva (and in turn, became a personal style icon), and I think it’s safe to say that as the ‘Cool’ in LayCool, Michelle had a very distinctive personality.

I can’t think of a better way to close this than with a quote kindly sent to us by Michelle’s friend, Lisa Marie Varon, better known to you and I as Tara:

I’ve been in regular contact with her since I heard that this could be her last match. I’m happy that she accomplished everything she wanted in wrestling and I am sure she will have happiness and success in her future endeavors.

Thank you, Michelle!

Follow Michelle McCool on Twitter at @McCoolMichelleL. Be sure to use the hash tag #ThankYouMichelle.

Follow Melanie on Twitter at @MelanieTeamDD.

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  • https://twitter.com/Ana_THDanielson Ana_Nattie_rules

    Lovely article, Melanie.

  • iLUVwrestlingValets

    Very good article Melanie, Michelle has come a very long way, and took everything that was thrown at her and turned it into gold

  • xmelissaa

    Definitely agree with this. I first came across Michelle around the time she was paired with Chuck Palumbo and it was after that that she began to grow as a performer. If it weren’t for Michelle’s relationship with the Undertaker, would things be different for her? I don’t know. What I do know is that she’s grown into one of my favourite divas and it’s sad to see her leave. And hey, the publicity may not have always been good but at least people cared enough to talk about her!

    Thank you Michelle and we hope to see you back one day :) – and thank you Melanie for a wonderful article!

  • http://twitter.com/art1e art1e

    her push had nothing to do with how well shes got at wrestling because gail kim & so on would be mega pushed on raw but their not.i think if anything mccools n takers relationship influenced writers/creative & she took advantage of it i.e she said yes to everything offered to her…back in 2008 michelle did kellys awful dropkicks lol glad she removed them from her move set…
    i have 100% respect for michelle as an athlete & wrestler cause she could be like maryse/kelly but she isnt so thanks michelle for learning to wrestle..

    the only good thing bout the laycool push is that it showed layla in a new light to wrestling fans she wasnt just a jobber or talent enhancer,she turned into a champion.
    she showed her wrestling ability,personality & charisma…

  • Roqqsz

    Thank you Melanie for this. I’ve always loved Michelle it started when she was knocking heads off in Diva Dodgeball, then her fued with Dawn Marie. I will never forget the St Patty’s day brawl, that is when I knew that Michelle was going to become the future of the Divas, her and Dawn literally beat the holy hellout of each other, and the WWE started makingher the focal point of Smackdown after that. I was sadden when I heard she almost died in the hospital, and was truly happier seeing her reemerge as the Naughty School Teacher, her wrestling was getting there, but then when the Divas title came into play her matches with Victoria, Maryse, Nattie, Maria, The Bellas, Layla people took notice that this lady was a WRESTLER. Then she started using high impact finishers, IE The Wings Of Love And More so The FaithBreaker (I don’t care if they are copied moves, it’s wrestling we all copy finishers). Michelle branched out and became a huge Staple in the Diva’s division her matches with Melina, Gail, Mickie, Beth and again Nattie were awesome, she doesnt ever have a off night when she gets in that ring. I’ll truly miss her on my TV, but I’m glad she left on her call, and not due to injuries. Michelle has done it all. Great woman whose blogs I truly miss reading, and I’m glad for her on twitter such a sweet lady. Last night she did awesome. And passed the torch on to Kharma. I hope when she wakes up she’s proud of everything she’s accomplished. Thank You Michelle.

  • 04bia

    i agree with everything mel, great article. michelle mccool really worked hard to get where she is. i dont believe the whole “taker” thing. cos taker didnt make michelle the performer she became, she became that hardworking diva on her own. michelle has always been adored by fans and some criticized but i respect michelle for having the class to ignore and still embrace those fans. she didnt turn back on any of her fans she still loved them all.
    she gave us memorable matches, and feuds.and she definatly paved way for girls like layla, maryse, tiffany, kelly etc. in her final match she passed down her torch, to her bff layla and kharma. and thats shows alot.

    thankyou soo much michelle for everything you’ve done your a beautiful person inside out. and your very kind. i appreciate what you’ve done for all us fans.

    i really hope michelle makes returns like trish and lita, im gonna miss her dearly

  • Litaker61

    Beautiful article, Michelle has had an amazing career and if last night was indeed her final night she should be proud of what an amazing impact she had and how she gave some credibility to what was sometimes a lacklustre Divas division.

  • Silver-Bout

    This brought me to tears. I will miss Michelle so much. Thank you McCool

  • seasons-of-love

    A very talented woman who I probably would have warmed to a lot more had it not been for overexposure. By all accounts she’s a very respectable person too. She’ll certainly be missed by many, and I wish her the best of luck. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ClassicJeffry ClassicKellyEve

    heehee Mel i really want a diva dirt special interview with Michelle (i already asked her via twitter).. To be honest, the first time i know her was around her School Teacher gimmick.. And when she won the divas title i was like “Wow”. And about LayCool, yes Layla (most likely) would be jobbing if LayCool wasn’t exist. yes she is definitely one of the best female worker in WWE, I’ll miss her.. Just hoping she will teach again (anyone know which subject she was teaching in?).

    Btw, i love her face side better than her heel side, dunno why ;)

  • theregoeskitty

    although at times i got fed up of her getting all the spotlight, i will really miss Michelle

  • adifferentsame

    I’m not and wasn’t necessarily her biggest fan, but I did become a sympathiser of sorts. No one deserves the vicious scrutiny she often contended with. Michelle always conducted herself with class and was one of the true blossomings among the Diva Search girls. I don’t fault her for the lack of acting, because Michelle’s wrestling told the story. Critics of her personal life can remain unyielding with their barbs; Michelle has a lot to be proud of. All the best to her.

  • 041293

    It’s not gonna be the same without McCool. Thank you ‘Chelle!

  • mr_socko

    what a fantastic and fitting tribute to a diva legend. thanks melanie!

    but….. kharma v mccool, mania 2012? Wouldn’t bet against it!

  • Melina&Mickie4ever!

    MIchelle caught my attention for the 1st time , when she faced Jillian on SD , when she lost that match , ever since then Michelle caught my eye , but then she became overrated and I started to hate her , but she caught my eye again when she started fueding with Maryse. Michelle did indeed make a impact in the divison , she put divas over like Layla , Kelly & Eve. Like I said before Im not a HUGE McCool fan , but I am a fan of hers. I will miss Michelle but I thank her for all the matches she put on for us, Melina vs Michelle NOC ’09 will always be my favorite match for Michelle. Im glad we got a chance to see her work with Beth , Melina , Mickie , Gail & Natalya. 5 of the best women wrestlers in the game 2day. With that under her belt how can she complain ?

  • C_Payne

    Wasn’t the Top Diva of Smackdown a text in your vote competition? I don’t see WWE fixing that when people were paying for it and so that shows Michelle won that through fans alone, while not a fan of her at this time I am so dumbstruck by her retirement as it has come out of nowhere.

    I hope to see an interview of sorts soon Melanie ;-) It would be one I would listen to all the way through haah

    Great work as always Melanie

  • Alex

    such a beautiful article Melanie

  • Judas

    @MrSocko – Hugs* “Let it go. That won’t happen, she’s retired. Let her breathe. ”

    Thank You Michelle, you were a great worker and a joy to watch in the ring. Not an iconic figure like Lita, Chyna or Trish – but certainly a very decorated diva.

  • BillyGP

    She never won me over, but to her fans it never good seeing one your favorites leave.

  • Jamal

    Very cool article! You summed her up perfectly, Melanie. She’s probably one of the most improved divas ever. It’s amazing to watch her body of work and see the actual progression. She’ll definitely be missed.

  • areacode212

    I always kind of liked Michelle. Yeah, her mic skills were terrible, and she was an unlikeable babyface, but she had a certain kind of heel charisma when she was actually in the ring, even going back to her first heel run years ago. Like when she’d taunt the crowd, or when she’d scream at Kelly Kelly while beating her up. She was a pretty good heel, and I think it’s good that she left on her own terms.

  • G32106

    Love her or Hate her, Michelle made you watch the divas. I have only respect for everything Mccool has done for the divas division.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOyzTv-g8FA Piggie James

    Even though I was never a fan of the way she was used with the DIvas, her improvement in the ring was undeniable. I’m sad to see her go, because I really think she would have kept improving (top rope Faithbreaker anyone?). It’s a real shame if her retirement was due to injury, and I hope it heals up for her. She’s a major loss for the Divas division given how far she had come and has been built up.

    I suppose sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, because I wished to see less of Lay-Cool and more of the other Divas, but I certainly didn’t want to see McCool retire so young. I never thought she got ‘over’ with any of her gimmicks (McCruel was getting there though), but I think she should be commended for putting both Layla and ‘Kharma’ over in her final appearance.

    But like most great wrestlers, she’s sure to get the wrestling bug again! Very nice article as well.

  • Ellis

    I have always admired Michelle’s hard work and dedication to what she does, ever since I first saw her in the Diva Search I liked what I saw. Michelle has continued to grow on me and I will miss her on Friday Nights. Here’s hoping to a happy and Successful future! Thank You Michelle Mccool x

  • LadyGoDiva

    Appreciate your comments but its I know that she didn’t go out like Trish Stratus did at her last match but she still had one great career.