Monday, July 22, 2024

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Thank You, Layla: Forever Flawless

Yesterday, after nearly a decade with WWE, Layla announced her retirement. Anyone who listens to the weekly rants of myself, Erin and Chris on Diva Dirt Weekly is well aware of how big of a Layla fan I am. Whether she was capturing the Divas Championship in a return match or pouring kitty litter on Summer Rae, I stood behind her 100 percent.

I’ll never forget that first time we were all introduced to Layla. It was a summer night in 2006 and The Miz was introducing the newest batch of Diva Search competitors. There was Milena who showed off some Latina flare, Maryse who wanted to be the next air flying Diva, JT Tinny who…JT Tinny and of course, Layla. She immediately grabbed the microphone and showed a burst of personality. Even though her introduction to the WWE Universe ended with her saying she would be the next “WWE Divr” I knew she was the one who had to win this competition. Fortunately for all of us, she did.

Unlike most models turned Diva, Layla showed no fear in front of the cameras. There were few awkward blunders and even her first night in dancing around the stage of the Hard Rock Restaurant in New York wearing a pink dress she was completely herself. I’m sure if Twitter were around at the time there would be constant memes circulating comparing the Brit to Scary Spice. Besides both being British and at the time having a fro, that is where the comparisons ended. Layla was an original.

Fast forward NINE YEARS after Layla won that Diva Search competition and an oversized novelty check and she has gone from model to dancer to 2 time Divas Champion and the last ever Women’s Champion. Not only are her accolades impressive but Layla also led dozens of Superstars to glory as their manager, had show stealing pay-per-view matches and was even one half of arguably the greatest female tag team in WWE history. Here nine-year career with WWE has come to an end and for all that she’s done for WWE and for me personally, I want to say thank you.

Layla really took off in WWE as a member of Extreme Expose, alongside Kelly Kelly and Brooke Tessmacher/Adams/no last name necessary. The trio would perform weekly dance routines to The Pussycat Dolls or whatever Pitbull song WWE was attempting to shove down our throats at the moment. During this time, Layla was even included in the iconic Timbaland music video for “Throw It On Me”. Sure, it was basically just WWE’s version of the Nitro Girls but at least Layla became a familiar face with the WWE audience.

This worked in her favor when months later she would align with The Miz to feud with her former partner, Kelly Kelly. This began Layla’s in-ring career. I’m sure many of us would like to forget those first couple of matches. There were a few blunders here and there but Layla still remained confident in the ring. Despite what she lacked in experience she more than made up for in personality commanding the audience to give her attention as a heel.

Layla impressed. So much so that she was drafted to the RAW brand a few months later. Layla entered a storyline with Jamie Noble, appearing as his love interest. This proved to be a golden opportunity for Layla as she ended up double crossing Noble and aligning herself with William Regal. Under Layla’s management, Regal won the Intercontinental Championship. Layla began to show that she truly was a hidden gem within WWE.

Less than a year later Layla was drafted full time to the SmackDown! roster where she began a brief feud with 2007 Diva Search Winner Eve Torres. Eve and Layla took part in a memorable dance off where Layla got to finally impress the audience with her Miami Heat dancer background. She began wrestling regularly on this program showing that she’d been working hard on her in-ring skills.

Her hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Layla was scripted into a team with WWE Women’s Champion Michelle McCool. Alongside McCool, Layla continued to show improvement in the ring. She would constantly pull out new maneuvers including her finisher the Lay-Out. Besides her in-ring skills improving, Layla developed an even more memorable character. She brought comedy to her role, often taunting the other Divas alongside McCool….and she did it right. Most of the time a female comedy character in WWE is a jobber (see Victoria and Jillian Hall) but Layla was one of the first to show that you could be funny and still be dominant in the division.

Layla and McCool became two of WWE’s top heels and stood atop the Divas division for nearly two years. During the time, Layla defeated Beth Phoenix to become WWE’s last ever Women’s Champion and unified the belt with the Divas Championship with McCool. Layla was making history and looking good doing it. On top of winning Championships, Layla competed in two women’s matches at WrestleMania 26 and 27. The first was a ten Diva tag in which her team was victorious and the second was in a losing effort teaming with Dolph Ziggler and McCool against Trish Stratus, John Morrison…and Snooki.

Following their loss to Snooki, McCool and Layla disbanded and competed in one of WWE’s most memorable women’s matches at Extreme Rules in 2011.

After an injury that kept Layla on the shelf for a year she returned at Extreme Rules in 2012 to win the Divas Championship. This wasn’t the same Layla we had seen prior. She was bubbly, she we was excited, she was a Diva. Busting out an entirely new move set, attires and theme music Layla reigned her division for nearly half of 2012 before dropping her title to Eve Torres.

For the next several years with WWE, Layla continued to give her all in matches and always show personality. She may not have always been the center of the division but when she was out there all eyes were on her. I can remember every time she made an appearance on television, my Twitter feed would blow up with her fans praising her hard work.

Personally, I’ve only had the opportunity to meet Layla on one occasion. It was at WrestleMania 29 Axxess. I was in line to meet Cesaro at the time when I heard Layla was arriving in the booth next to our line. I hauled ass out of line and jumped into hers. Waiting nearly an hour, I finally got to where she was seated. I had brought along a Diva Dirt T-Shirt with me to hold up during pictures. I introduced myself as a member of the team and her eyes lit up.

“I love you guys!” she squealed before giving me an enormous hug.

We snapped a photo and I turned to thank her for everything she’s done for the division and how much she has impressed me. She replied back in the most sincere voice, “No, thank you!”.

When the line handler gave me back my camera I laughed when I saw the photo. She didn’t look directly at the camera and smile but instead gave my Diva Dirt T-Shirt a giant kiss.

Beside her entertaining character and in-ring work, Layla has been an inspiration to me in the sense of how much she shares with all of us. Like Layla, I lost my mother to cancer. When WWE began its campaign with Susan G. Komen Layla was one of the chosen spokespeople. She shared her story about her mother and her mother’s battle. She was so brave and it takes so much to share a story like that. Because of Layla I found the courage to return to my college and speak about my personal story of my mother at Relay for Life. It gave me peace, it gave me comfort…and I honestly thank Layla for helping me find that courage with her story.

As Layla’s run comes to a close and reflecting on all of her moments and inspirations I can’t help but think how Layla really transformed from the curly haired girl doing splits to a decorated champion. In the promotional video introducing the 2006 Diva Search contestants Layla said she as going to fight for this. She fought, all right. She fought her way to being one of WWE’s longest tenured employees, a top star of the Divas division and a veteran in the ring. She left a legacy.

To prove it, here are some of the responses we got from fans on Twitter when they were asked to name their favorite Layla moments:

You can check out responses on our Facebook page as well.

Thank you, Layla. You will remain forever flawless.

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