Well for this week’s “WWE Highlights” piece, we’re going for something a little different. First of all, the woman here is the first non-blonde I’m writing about. And second of all, she’s still actively wrestling in TNA but it’s safe to say she’s done with WWE for now. Just to clarify, this is just a piece about her WWE career. I’ll do one for her TNA days when/if she retires from the company. So here we have one of the modern stars of the Divas’ division. In an era where the women were interchangeable and handicapped, thus getting silence from the crowd, one woman was able to get standing ovations wherever she went. Whenever that bouncy knockoff of “Hey Mickey” played, the fans got on their feet and cheered for the bubbly brunette from Richmond, Virginia. Here are the top matches and segments from the career of Mickie James.
Superfan To The Rescue – Raw 2005:
As I say any time I have to mention the WWE in 2005, the Divas’ division was in shambles. But the end of the year saw things picking up in a very big way when Trish Stratus returned to in-ring competition and Mickie made her debut. She ran down from the backstage area to save Trish and Ashley Massaro from a beatdown at the hands of Vince’s Devils. Backstage she revealed herself to be Trish’s number 1 fan. Didn’t you just know this storyline was going to be a doozy?
Under The Mistletoe – Raw 2005:
Mickie and Trish’s friendship was progressing in a very unique way to say the least with such gems as Mickie dressing up as Trish for Halloween, interfering in her matches and even eliminating herself from a Women’s title battle royal to ensure Trish retained. But here came the turning point. In the Christmas week, Mickie decided to make the locker room a little more festive by putting up streamers, stockings and a little bit of mistletoe. Just listen to the Earth shattering pop from the fans when they see the mistletoe and then when Mickie locks lips with her idol. It seems Trish had a knack for getting forcibly kissed by her opponents as Lita had done it almost exactly one year before.
Ashley In A Box – Raw 2006:
And the third and final segment from Trish and Mickie’s feud gives us the go-home segment for their WrestleMania match. Mickie has a huge wrapped gift in the middle of the ring which is meant to be a present for Trish. Naturally it’s a person under there and Mickie raises the box to reveal a bound, gagged, enraged Ashley Massaro trussed up in the middle of the ring. In what was probably the most bizarre way to build up a WrestleMania women’s match, the segment ended with Mickie licking the blood off her own nose. Okay…
From One Idol To Another – Raw 2006:
While the feud with Trish Stratus was fun and legendary, it was actually Lita that was Mickie’s real idol. In fact when Mickie was in OVW she pitched the story to Vince with Lita in mind. Unfortunately for her Lita tore her ACL and the storyline went to Trish instead. But Mickie was eventually able to work with her idol following Trish’s retirement in September. The Women’s title was vacant and who better to feud over it than Mickie and Lita? This might be just my imagination but you can almost see the excitement in Mickie’s eyes at being able to have a segment like this with her idol.
Feeding Time – Smackdown 2010:
Skipping ahead quite a few years now but then again after Lita retired, Mickie wasn’t really involved in high profile storylines in her WWE career. Sure she feuded over the title and won it several times but it wasn’t until she was moved to Smackdown in 2009 that she got a storyline of equal notoriety. A program that was hugely controversial saw Michelle McCool and Layla mock Mickie for her weight, acknowledging a real life subject for many fans online and dub her “Piggy James”. While the feud may have started out as tasteless, we ended up getting this amazing promo on Smackdown. Mickie got to defend herself and really put her heart and soul into what she was saying. This promo helped move the feud away from childish antics to a really powerful subject.
10) vs Victoria – New Year’s Revolution 2007:
With Trish and Lita gone by the end of 2006, Mickie found herself at the top of the division and feuded with her only legitimate competition – Victoria. It’s surprising but these two had two rather disappointing PPV matches in TNA and a passable cage match in the main event but here was a match that I could really get behind. This was a really hard hitting bout that saw a real intensity that a lot of Victoria’s later matches lacked. Even with the help of Melina, Mickie prevailed with a really nice tilt-a-whirl DDT at the end.
9) vs Michelle McCool – TLC 2009:
The infamous and controversial Piggy James storyline isn’t exactly remembered fondly but it did produce a noted improvement in Mickie’s ring work. Throughout much of her Divas’ title run in 2009 people noted a recent sloppiness in her wrestling and wondered if she had simply become complacent. However when she was moved to Smackdown it’s as if new life was breathed into her. Being given an emotional storyline must have really helped as well because the first match at TLC was very good. I listed it as one of Michelle McCool’s best matches and of course it’s one of Mickie’s too. As I said before they really used the extra time they weren’t used to getting to sell the animosity and hatred between the two.
8) vs Trish Stratus – New Year’s Revolution 2006:
Before Trish and Mickie locked horns at the grandest stage of them all, they had another match that intensified their feud. Mickie had won a #1 contender’s match to earn the chance to face Trish and what started out as a friendly encounter slowly boiled over into something more. Another wrestling columnist actually said she preferred this match to the WrestleMania one. I would hardly go that far but it’s still a good match in its own right.
7) vs Melina [Falls Count Anywhere] – Raw 2007:
Mickie abruptly lost her second Women’s title to Melina in a match on Raw and the stakes sure got upped for the rematch. It’s almost unheard of for a match like this to take place for the women but this was the first Falls Count Anywhere match the Divas got to do. Not exactly a wrestling clinic but still a brilliant spectacle showing the Divas getting to rough it up backstage and of course the obligatory pit stop in the women’s locker room. Apparently the finish had to be rushed because Mickie landed right on her head too.
6) vs Michelle McCool – Smackdown 2010:
Mickie’s second last match in the WWE was also her return to the ring after having to take a hiatus due to a staph infection in her knee. She made her return facing the Women’s Champion in London and showed she hadn’t lost her touch. Delivering a fun and entertaining match that was quite close to being a MOTY candidate for the girls, Mickie’s subsequent release is only even more puzzling.
5) vs Lita – Survivor Series 2006:
Unluckily, unlike Trish and Mickie, Lita and Mickie didn’t exactly share a mind blowing chemistry. Lita has always been hit and miss in the ring for me and really Mickie was too. They had a dreadful match at Cyber Sunday to crown the new Women’s Champion after Trish’s retirement, but the next match at the Survivor Series had the girls on form. Mickie had gotten put over by one veteran Diva previously in the year and here she was getting it from another. It was Lita’s retirement match and the excitement was high. Mickie got to retire her idol and Lita didn’t wrestle a match until she showed up on Raw a couple of months ago to challenge Heath Slater.
4) vs Beth Phoenix – Raw 2008:
Beth and Mickie’s chemistry was…patchy to be generous. I’ve never really seen two Divas who are so talented in their own right and yet just don’t click in the ring. However much like Lita and Mickie, Beth and Mickie were destined to put on a great match in the special Raw episode in the UK. They pulled out all the stops to give us a proper David vs Goliath battle that the fans were hugely into. Beth had just started to come into her own as a worker and was able to play off Mickie’s persona so well. And Mickie gets to win her fourth Women’s title.
3) vs Melina – Backlash 2007:
Naturally as this was listed as one of Melina’s best matches when I highlighted her career it was going on this list too. The two girls got to do the fun backstage brawling in their Falls Count Anywhere match but here at Backlash they showed that they could go on the mat and put on a clinic. Neither woman is exactly renowned for technical skill and mat wrestling ability but there is really a great showing from both of them of just those abilities in the opening parts of the match. Even Uncle Jerry Lawler was into the action as he really talked up the women’s wrestling abilities, which is something that only happens once in a blue moon.
2) vs Beth Phoenix vs Melina – Judgment Day 2008:
I’ve always felt that when Mickie became Women’s Champion for the fourth time in 2008, we really saw some of her best work. She and Beth had patchy chemistry but almost all their matches from that time were very good, I enjoyed all Mickie’s showings with Katie Lea and Jillian but here was a real doozy. A little annoyingly, Mickie was sort of the spare part in this match as Melina was in the process of turning face and feuding with Beth but she really made her presence known in the ring. To quote Jerry Lawler, “I’m impressed with the offence of Mickie James, she’s everywhere”. It’s too bad the match couldn’t have gone on longer.
1) vs Trish Stratus – WrestleMania 22:
Would it be anything else? Yes the ending was horribly botched. Yes there were a couple of miscommunications. And yes they were capable of better. But at the same time it’s still an excellent match. I’ve always loved it whenever the crowds really get into the Diva matches because it makes them seem so much more important and special. The smarky Chicago crowd turned on Trish and cemented Mickie’s status as a star. Mickie was just fantastic in this psycho role and it’s a shame it had to end so soon. Just look at the way she dances around to soak in the crowds’ reactions and that mad cackling she does after countering the Stratusphere. That’s certainly a golden WrestleMania moment.
So there are the best moments and matches from the WWE run of Mickie James. She sure racked up a list of achievement with five Women’s titles, one Divas’ title, plenty of contest wins, magazine covers and standing ovations wherever she went. And yet she was only in two WrestleMania matches, had only two real storylines in her time, was pushed and yet held back at the same time and given an abrupt release out of nowhere. I’d always thought Mickie would leave WWE on her own terms but it was not to be. I haven’t been crazy about her run in TNA but at least she’s still doing what she loves. Oh, Mickie, you’ll always be so fine.
I wrote my first WWE Highlights piece for this site on a woman that is almost universally loved, if not at least respected for her tenure. This article now concerns a woman who is a lot less universally loved. When she was in WWE, you could not mention her name on a message board without people sniping about her sleeping her way to the top, back stabbing people backstage and getting rewards for doing nothing. But when I was watching her in WWE, I was simply being entertained by a talented woman doing her thing. Ladies and gentlemen, the WWE Highlights of Michelle McCool.
Dawn Gets Detention – No Way Out 2005:
Since Smackdown had about four women that could wrestle from 2002-2005 the bookers had clearly exhausted every combination of matches that they could have for their brand-exclusive PPVs and so when 2005’s No Way Out rolled by, four of Smackdown’s newest Divas were given the centre stage. It was called the Rookie Diva of the Year contest and featured Michelle along with fellow Diva Search finalist Joy Giovanni as well as Lauren Jones and Rochelle Lowen (if you just asked yourself “who?” I’d understand). Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie were the judges, and Dawn continued to talk trash all night throughout the evening gown and swimsuit portions of the contest. When it came to the talent round, Michelle announced that she was tired of a certain someone running her mouth and slammed Dawn right on the spot. Almost fitting foreshadowing considering she would evolve into a talented wrestler while the rest would be gone from WWE within a year. And while Joy got the fan votes, Michelle was the one that lasted.
The Birds & The Bees – Smackdown 2006:
Michelle got taken off TV a few months after her debut, and relocated to DSW to get proper training. She made her return after a match between Jillian and Kristal, now as Ms McCool, a sexy teacher with hair in a tight bun, a short skirt and a measuring stick for obvious purposes. She announced she was ready to teach us all about the birds and the bees. I quite liked this little gimmick but Michelle reportedly hated it as she was terrified of her old co-workers seeing it in case she ever wanted to get her old job back. I’ve had plenty of attractive teachers but I really wish I could have gone to Michelle’s class at least once. And please watch the awesome Jillian/Kristal match that comes first.
Maria Gets A Red Card – Smackdown 2008:
Fast-forwarding quite a bit to the time when Michelle became Smackdown’s top face, winning the first ever Divas’ Championship and dominating the fledgling division. Michelle continued to tease tension with Maria, bringing a bit of unpredictability to Diva storylines. The spoilers reported Michelle acting heelish but when the segments aired, she didn’t seem heelish at all. So everyone was wondering whether or not she even would turn. The answer to that came on the final Smackdown of 2008 when Michelle defended her title against Maryse for the third time, with Maria as the special referee. Towards the end Michelle took exception to how Maria was calling the match and that was her undoing as Maryse kicked her in the head to win the title. After the match, an enraged McCool turned heel on Maria and gave her one of the most disturbing beatdowns I’ve ever seen. I always felt Michelle played a much better heel than face so here’s the start of it. But apologies for the rude title of the Youtube video.
A Christmas Easter Egg – Raw 2010:
Here’s a little treat for all you LayCool fans that never knew about this. There was a promo from the two that took place at the Slammy Awards during the commercial break. Layla had just picked up her Knucklehead Slammy and they were in the ring waiting for the battle royal to decide Diva of the Year. As any good heels would, they used the three minutes to cut a nice promo dissing the New Orleans crowd. This is actually one of my favourite LayCool promos ever and you can compare Michelle’s monotonous promos from earlier up on the list to this one, and the difference is astonishing. Gone is the robotic over-accented dull surprise, to be replaced by an over-the-top and charismatic Valley Girl. This promo didn’t surface online until a few months after Michelle had retired too.
LayCool Hits The Rocks – Smackdown 2011:
Ever since Layla had won the Women’s title and Michelle started going around with an identical belt calling herself the co-Champion, fans had been expecting a LayCool break-up. It had been teased many times (three I think) before the duo officially split for good. After their loss at WrestleMania to Snooki, Layla felt the two should go to counselling to fix their failing friendship. Michelle became convinced that Layla was holding her back and so turned on the poor girl, giving us the segment we’d all been hoping for. It seems the fans were really into this as well, as the following Smackdown when the two brawled at ringside we got plenty of “let them fight!” chants. The feud was a little rushed but what we got sure was good.
10) vs Natalya – Great American Bash 2008:
The Smackdown Divas got a huge bombshell dropped on them in the Summer of ’08 – WWE was bringing in a second Women’s title for them to compete for, the WWE Divas’ Championship. Newcomer Natalya won a Star on a Pole match to earn one of the spots in the match and it was a matter of weeks before Michelle earned the other. For a match that was meant to crown the first ever champion, it needed to be longer and a lot more special (I mean it was barely five minutes) but it still was a good match and had some nice hard work going on between the two ladies. Natalya of course has great matches with just about anyone and unfortunately Michelle didn’t get much of a comeback. She just got out of the Sharpshooter, locked in the MAD-T and then it was over. But still a good match from an entertainment standpoint and indeed a high point of Michelle’s career to be the first ever champion.
9) with Layla vs Kelly Kelly & Tiffany – Superstars 2010:
Michelle and Layla started off as one good wrestler and one improving one when they were first paired. One year later, Layla had stepped up her game and improved in the ring to make them both a formidable duo. As co-Women’s Champions, they feuded with Kelly Kelly and Tiffany in the summer of 2010 and their best and longest match together came in what also happened to be the main event of WWE Superstars, the company’s sanctuary for the Divas. Michelle and Layla showed excellent chemistry and ring presence, really working hard to isolate Tiffany from her partner and ultimately prevailing in the ways that made them both such a dominant tag team. As I said in my Trish article, there is always an art to wrestling like a proper tag team.
8) vs Melina [Lumberjill Match] – Night of Champions 2010:
When the Divas’ Championship was first announced, Diva fans everywhere rejoiced. When this match was announced, they wept. WWE’s idiotic booking decided that they had to unify the two women’s titles and they rushed the build-up so they could have it at Night of Champions (and presumably get out of having to deliver two Diva matches per the gimmick of the show). Before the match, Michelle had managed to connive her way into representing LayCool despite not being the legal champion. Layla didn’t seem to be too happy about this but in the end it turned out they’d fooled us all. As for the match, it was actually pretty great despite the booking behind it. Melina wasn’t the best after her injury but Michelle got a good match out of her, and it adds yet another achievement to Michelle’s long list as the one to unify the titles.
7) vs Mickie James – TLC 2009:
When Mickie James got drafted to Smackdown at the end of 2009, we got both one of the most controversial Diva feuds of all time and one of the most powerful at the same time. Michelle and Layla, now properly formed and titled “LayCool” poked fun at Mickie for her weight and dubbed her “Piggy James”. Despite the tasteless subject matter, the feud saw a renewed fire in Mickie that had been missing for quite some time. Their title match at TLC was shockingly nearly ten minutes long and they used this extra time wisely. In comparison with a lot of Michelle’s matches with Melina in particular which were more fast-paced and action-packed, this one was slow paced and served to tell more of a story to sell the animosity and hatred between the two women. And it was a story I really enjoyed.
6) vs Gail Kim – Smackdown 2009:
One of the many dream matches that Diva fans anticipated when Gail Kim made her return to WWE in 2009 was with Michelle. She had just turned heel and had developed a proper aggressive streak, as well as there being an added backstory of Gail being one of many released in 2004 to accommodate Michelle and the other Diva Search girls. Michelle and Gail had two good matches on Smackdown in 2009, Gail winning the first and Michelle winning the second. This was the rubber match and it would also decide who would challenge the reigning Women’s Champion Melina at The Bash. Indeed a PPV-quality bout from both women and the win marked the start of Michelle’s rise to the top in 2009.
5) vs Maryse – Smackdown 2008:
Michelle was the first ever Divas’ Champion, knocking off Natalya first and then it was the relatively new Maryse who stepped forward to challenge her next. Maryse had surprised everyone with just how good she was in the ring for someone so green, displaying an innovative style and nice ring presence. The two had a passable match at the Unforgiven PPV but their rematch on Smackdown a few weeks later took the cake (that expression doesn’t have the same ring when used in the past tense, hmm) and ended up being one of the best Diva matches that year. A fast-paced athletic affair from the two blondes, Michelle really started to show her improvement as she led the match as now the more experienced worker in the ring. And wasn’t Wings of Love just one of the most effective Diva finishers?
4) vs Melina – The Bash 2009:
Michelle broke Gail Kim’s faith in the number 6 spot to earn her part in this match. Melina and Michelle saw a nice amount of material to work with on Smackdown when they feuded where Michelle attacked Melina at ringside and kicked her head into the announce table, claiming she wasn’t just going to beat her [Melina] but rather humiliate her as well. The ante got upped the week before the PPV where Michelle nearly broke Melina’s jaw in a match. The eventual bout was a properly aggressive and intense one that at first I didn’t think much of but eventually I came to love it and now it’s one of my favourite Michelle matches. And yes, she makes history by becoming the first Diva to have held the Women’s and Divas’ titles.
3) vs Victoria – Smackdown 2009:
Here’s a little-remembered match amongst Diva fans, mostly probably because it can’t seem to stay on Youtube for too long. At the start of 2009 we were just seeing Michelle grow into her new heel role and she continued to show her aggressive streak by attacking Eve Torres and her own tag team partner Victoria. This match was in fact billed as Victoria’s retirement from WWE, which was a shame for many reasons but one that I thought of when watching this match is that heel Michelle vs face Victoria could have been an amazing feud. There was certainly an insane chemistry between the women that Victoria didn’t get to show much of in her later years when she was mostly putting over the newer girls. While this wasn’t her final match ever, it was certainly a bang to go out with.
2) vs Layla [No Countouts, No DQ; Loser Leaves WWE] – Extreme Rules 2011:
And moving from one retirement match to another, this is Michelle’s retirement we’re now viewing. The LayCool split was highly anticipated and the grudge match was announced for Extreme Rules. But a bit of a scandal appeared the Friday before the PPV as the spoilers for Smackdown had said that the match was announced as simply as “Loser Leaves Smackdown” deal but when it aired, it had been edited (badly) to become “Loser Leaves WWE”. Then rumours started hitting the internet that Michelle was on her way out of WWE, adding just a little more spice to the proceedings. The actual match restored my faith in the Divas’ division. After a string of lacklustre PPV bouts with Natalya, LayCool put on the best match seen in years from two Divas with each other. And Layla ended up working a lot of the match with a torn ACL too. And since a certain debut came after this match, I felt no need to separate it into the segments section.
1) vs Melina – Night of Champions 2009:
And it’s Michelle’s third straight match with Melina. But what can I say, they were a winning formula and never had a bad match together when they were feuding. I listed this as Melina’s number 2 match of her WWE career but for Michelle it goes all the way to the top spot. From the opening attack while Melina was doing the splits to the fight on the security wall, this was the best Divas match of 2009. That DDT may have gotten the women in trouble with management for being too high risk but it got a “holy shit” chant from the crowd and has found its way into many a video package made for the Divas by myself. Michelle and Melina really deserve their props, much like Beth and Kelly did last year by injecting some form of excitement into their matches when WWE wasn’t putting any effort into the reasons behind them.
So here are ten of the best matches and five of the best segments from “Ms Cool” as Booker T titled her whenever they were at the commentary booth together. Michelle has always been a big target of controversy for fans who insisted she couldn’t wrestle and was only in her spot because of her relationship with the Undertaker. Indeed when I returned to watching wrestling, I heard those rumours and I believed them…until I actually saw Michelle wrestling. While I’m sure she wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea she was one of my favourite women to watch in the ring because you could always get a sense of wanting to improve and try her best. Here’s a little known fact for some fans – Michelle actually filled out papers for the very first season of Tough Enough but never sent them in. And apparently she only signed up for the Diva Search because one friend said to her “there’s your chance, Michelle, but you won’t take it”. So whoever that friend was/is, I thank you anyway. The Diva Search isn’t exactly remembered fondly but here’s one of the good things it produced. A small-town middle school science teacher who eventually became Famous and Flawless.