EXCUSE ME! I said EXCUSE ME!! It’s time for some “Real Talk”! This week I am turning in my tiara for a full-zip custom hoodie…and I gotta admit, I’m pretty fired up. I’ve wanted to write about Lay-Cool for a while now but I keep getting distracted. First by Beth’s knee injury. Then by my sudden fascination with the Bellas. Then by my favorite French Canadian Maryse (I’m proud of that column by the way. It only took me 2,300 words to prove that Maryse is “hot”. I know, impressive.) But no more. Now is the time. Now is the time for me to write about one of my favorite tag teams ever. Honestly, I haven’t enjoyed a tag team, male or female, this much since the Hart Foundation broke out the pink and black almost 25 years ago. (Seriously…go back and watch WrestleMania 3 and tell me if you ever saw a cooler tag team.)
First off, let’s get this out of the way – some of you might not think Layla and Michelle are officially a “tag team” because the WWE doesn’t have an official women’s tag team division. Well, I think you’re wrong. I think Lay-Cool can be classified as a traditional tag team because they meet the required criteria, as defined by yours truly…and in this case I am the judge, the jury, and the executioner (no, not THE Executioner who lost to Tito Santana in the first WrestleMania.) Trivia time: What big name grappler played the Executioner that night? Did you know it was that Executioner’s only WWF appearance (and it happened at WM?!? WTF?!?). It also led to one of my all-time favorite Gorilla Monsoon lines: “I don’t know much about this particular Executioner.” There were others he DID know a lot about??? God I loved the Gorilla. My favorite Monsoon expression ever? Every time Nikolai Volkoff would wrestle Gorilla would say “the Big Russian doesn’t have a clue how strong he is”, usually right before Volkoff got pinned. Killed me every time. In Gorilla’s honor I have a framed Volkoff signature in my basement and I know all the words to the Soviet National Anthem. “Mr. Glamazon requests that you all rise and respect his singing of the Soviet…National…Anthem.” Boooo! USA! USA! USA! I would make a great heel.
It is possible you and I have a different definition of a tag team. I guess technically R-Truth and John Morrison were a tag team, but I will never enjoy that kind of “pairing” (i.e. two individual superstars thrown together for a few months) because I grew up in the Golden Age of Tag Team Wrestling, the mid-to-late 80’s. Back then pro wrestling featured a surplus of amazing teams such as the Hart Foundation, the British Bulldogs, the Road Warriors, Demolition, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Killer Bees, the Bushwhackers, etc. There were a few short-lived teams such as the Mega-Powers, but for the most part tag team divisions were full of talented, interesting, and (most importantly) veteran teams. I loved it. Even stables such as the Four Horsemen consistently competed for tag team championships. I gained a real appreciation for the art of tag team wrestling. (I think things started going downhill when Vince stuck Haku with Andre the Giant and packaged them as the Colossal Connection…not really peanut butter and jelly with these two.)
For me tag teams should have a coordinated look and feel. I like teams that have a team name, matching team uniforms, a recognizable entrance, good chemistry in and out of the ring, and a power finisher. Unfortunately tag team wrestling has been deemphasized a bit over the past 10 years and more and more we see teams just put together for the short term (ShowMiz, anybody?) And if a pairing catches on, management seems to be in a rush to break them up. I thought Miz and Morrison were fantastic together. Once they split up I lost interest in them because they weren’t doing the Dirt Sheet anymore, etc. (although admittedly they are fine as single performers). The Colons were good together until they went loco, then they got lost in the mid-card shuffle. I like the Hart Dynasty but there just aren’t enough quality teams to build an interesting division around them. It seems like the WWE just randomly pairs guys together, which ultimately waters down the product. Case in point, this past week on Superstars featured a tag match between Goldust / Yoshi Tatsu vs. Primo / Zack Ryder. WTF?!? Man I really miss the days of the Islanders vs. the Killer Bees.
In terms of the Divas, other than the Bellas we haven’t really seen a consistent female pairing in a while and very few over the course of WWE history. (Hey, I like the Jumping Bomb Angels as much as the next guy, but it is definitely a short list.) That is what makes Lay-Cool so special. I’m not 100% sure that the folks at WWE headquarters thought Layla and Michelle would click “quite” this good, but whether they lucked into this or not, the WWE has since kept these girls together and given them a chance to shine. And give Michelle and Layla some credit because they took the ball and ran with it.
But judging by the comments on this site seems many of you don’t agree with me. It seems that Lay-Cool has actually gotten under your collective skin. Shut’em up! Break’em up! Enough of Michelle hogging the spotlight! The co-champions gimmick is stupid! (Just for the record, they are the second set of WWE co-women’s champions. The Glamazon and Mr. Glamazon were the first. We had a short run but it was memorable.) I find it really interesting to read the wide range of opinions on these two. When you consider how prominent they have been on Friday Night SmackDown this past year, and the somewhat controversial nature of their storylines, I guess that isn’t surprising. Lay-Cool has become polarizing. In part that is what makes them fantastic.
Initially paired up in the summer of 2009, Michelle and Layla gradually started to change their look and became a much more integrated team. As Michelle was defending her Women’s Championship, Layla was right by her side as a supporter, but more and more it felt like they were equals in this relationship. I certainly felt this way when they would be in the ring together. You could see dramatic improvement in Layla’s wrestling ability, and to this day she more than holds her own as McCool’s partner. Layla’s kicks are always on point and she is developing some very smooth mat wrestling. Working with McCool is obviously helping, though some will still criticize McCool as a wrestler (almost refusing to give this girl credit for anything). Michelle knows all the basics and has a few signature spots that round out a nice move set. Her finisher, the “Faith Breaker”, is punishing and she uses it effectively in her matches (often times different angles set it up) but people harp that she stole it from AJ Styles. (Please, enough of this. I don’t hear people complaining that Maryse stole the DDT from Jake Roberts. I just saw Curt Hawkins deliver a beautiful flying elbow on Smackdown and people don’t moan about Randy Savage. Let it go. Few people are true innovators in this industry.) I like Michelle’s intensity in the ring and I think she works well with Layla, who bumps strong and sells their collective emotions. As wrestlers I just don’t see any weak links. Michelle plays the leader, Layla plays the foil. Perfect. Their relationship with Vickie Guerrero even worked for a short while, although I like the two of them better on their own.
So technically I think Lay-Cool is very, very solid. Truthfully I don’t hear a lot of disagreements about that. It seems most people get annoyed with their behavior and overall “gimmick”. The “mean girls” routine. The matching hoodies. The choreographed entrance. This is probably one of those “agree to disagree” situations because this is entirely subjective. I love their overall style and attitude and I think they are pretty funny as “BFF Champs”. It is refreshing and different. I like the spins at the beginning. I like the two championship belts. All of it just works for me. I like that each girl has a distinct personality that really shines through, both in their interviews and in the ring. LayCool has even managed to coin a few catchphrases. How many Divas can you say that about? When I spoke with Layla at the WWE Art Auction she said that she and Michelle put a lot of thought into their characters. You can tell they work hard on their backstage promos because they are fairly lengthy and complex (seriously, pick a friend and try to count to 20 in unison…I bet you can’t do it without a lot of practice.) The Divas have to work extra hard to stand out in the WWE, and Lay-Cool has managed to become both very unique and very substantial within the company (as evident by their spot on NXT). Not a trivial thing to do.
We might disagree on the hoodies, the spins, the interviews, but here are three aspects of LayCool that should resonate with each of us to some degree:
1) Layla has become a breakout star. At some point Layla and Michelle will go their separate ways and when they do, Layla will be more than ready to become a main event-caliber performer. Her growth this past year has been stunning, and although not completely due to Lay-Cool, a large part IS due to working with Michelle. I’m so glad the WWE didn’t break these girls up yet. With the injuries to Melina and Beth and the departure of Mickie, the division needs stability. The girls on Raw are doing a good job keeping that show afloat (especially Gail and Alicia) and Lay-Cool is doing the same for Friday nights. The WWE can eventually book Layla vs. Michelle, but for now Lay-Cool’s star power is helping disguise some shortcomings on the roster. Using them as a mentor on NXT shows you how effective the WWE feels these girls are in getting talent over. So give Michelle credit for helping to elevate Layla, and I support any storyline that results in building future stars.
2) Lay-Cool has been involved in some of the most memorable programs this past year. It has been beaten to death about the political correctness or appropriateness of the “Piggie James” and “Glam-a-Man” storylines, but you can’t deny they were effective in building sympathy for the babyface and ultimately raising Lay-Cool’s profile. We don’t always have to love every storyline or feel everything is in good taste. That ultimately falls to personal preference. (For example, I thought it was funny the Islanders stole Matilda from the Bulldogs. Seeing Haku and Tama walk around with an empty dog collar was hilarious. But my sister-in-law would have been calling PETA.) The beauty of the wrestling world is that normally the babyface gets the final revenge, so I enjoyed Lay-Cool’s bullying and looked forward to Mickie and Beth’s payback (especially since Beth won the title at Extreme Rules in a match I’ve watched 3,407 times.) Note to Kelly Kelly… keep pushing for the “Smelly Kelly” angle because you could use the rub.
3) LayCool passes my “Kate Winslet Theory”. Please, let me explain. One of my all-time favorite movies is “The Holiday” where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz switch houses to escape the pressures they face at home. Kate moves from Surrey to LA and meets a cool screenwriter played by Jack Black (PS – if you have never seen Jack Black’s “King Kong” song from SNL, run to YouTube right now…trust me.) Kate and Jack start spending time together and eventually fall in love. Fast-forward to the 1:44 mark of the movie…Jack has written a song for Kate and tells her “I used only the good notes.” To this day it is my favorite movie line of all time. When he tells her that, you can see she has completely fallen in love with him. Chills!!! Even though I know they are just actors, I BELIEVE that she really loves him. Kate Winslet makes me believe everything about every character she ever plays because she is such a magnificent actor.
So what does this have to do with Layla and Michelle? Well, whether they really like each other or not, they make me BELIEVE they are best friends. They make me BELIEVE they enjoy spending time together. They make me BELIEVE they enjoy picking on the other girls. For the most part I don’t care about match results or championship belts. I care first and foremost about authenticity. About performers putting everything into their characters and telling us a story. Layla and Michelle make me BELIEVE and that is the biggest compliment I can give them. (In contrast, I find it hard to believe that Mike Knox studied kinesiology, or that Finlay and Hornswoggle are related. See the difference?)
Someday when I am old and grey I will think back and remember how much I enjoyed watching Lay-Cool. They will be on the short list of my favorite wrestlers of all time, nestled right next to Beth Phoenix and the Hart Foundation. I have been collecting autographs for 20 years now and I rarely buy them anymore, preferring to get them in-person if possible. However, I did crack open the piggy bank to buy the LayCool “Glam-a-Man” tank tops from WWE Auction.com. I couldn’t pass up the chance to own the shirts Lay-Cool wore when they beat up Beth on Smackdown. For me it represents the best women’s wrestling has to offer, all of my favorites in the same ring. The shirts will be centerpieces of my collection.
Lay-Cool also has sentimental meaning for me because my 5 year old son is now a big fan. He is just starting to figure this whole WWE thing out and when I showed him his first Lay-Cool match he wanted to know “are they good or bad?” (He asks that about everyone.)
I said they were “bad” and he wanted to know what kind of “bad” things they do.
I told him “they say mean things and once they even cut up poor Mickie James’s clothes!”
He grew real concerned and said “well, that’s not very nice!” I agreed.
Then he asked “but they’re not REALLY bad right? You met them and they’re actually really nice people, right daddy?”
“Yes they are. They just play mean characters on TV.”
And they do it so well people of all ages…believe. To me that is “simply flawless.”
— Mr. Glamazon
Trivia Answer: “Playboy” Buddy Rose
PS – I wanted to mention the Beautiful People in my article because I really like them, but it just didn’t work out. I think they are a fun tag team and I hope TNA keeps using them as the focus of their Knockouts division.
PPS – I would be neglectful to not mention the recent passing of the amazing Rue McClanahan, the sexpot on the Golden Girls. To this day that is one of the funniest shows ever. Here is a challenge – watch a rerun and don’t allow yourself to laugh out loud. I guarantee you’ll fail. Those four women were just that damn funny. Something that wasn’t so funny? Bea Authur’s feet, which I stared at for 2 straight hours when I saw her in concert several years ago. She didn’t wear shoes the entire time. It was a little disorienting. Sadly there is only one Golden Girl left now. “Thank you for being a friend” Rue…you were a modern-day Diva in every sense.
PPPS – Follow me on Twitter @dlb19338!