Candice Michelle should have been the next great Diva to follow in the footsteps of Trish Stratus. Like the seven-time WWE women's champion, she entered the wrestling industry from the modeling business. Her first year was filled with ups, downs and deer-in-the-headlights looks, but by the time 2007 rolled around, she had developed in-ring skills that no one who watched her early work ever could have imagined.
The star of the infamously sexual GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercials and a Playboy magazine cover girl, Candice was at the height of her career as the second half of the 2000s arrived (video NSFW).
Unfortunately, a series of clavicle injuries halted her upward momentum. By the time she recovered from the initial injury, then the re-break that set her back even further, the Divas division in WWE had passed her by. Beth Phoenix, Michelle McCool, Maryse, Layla, Melina and Mickie James had all picked up where she left off.
Add to it a little bit of hesitancy on her part, and Candice never was quite the same performer she was prior to the devastating night in October 2007 that led to her time on the disabled list.
Still, the former Diva Search competitor exceeded expectations and became a valuable member of WWE's talented roster of women, thanks to both her ability to grow, learn and develop as an in-ring competitor and also the recognition she enjoyed away from the ring and the attention it brought Vince McMahon's company.
Enjoy this look back at her improbable career with the greatest matches and moments from Candice Michelle.
Candice Michelle made her WWE debut as a hopeful in the Diva Search competition. While she had envisioned becoming part of the contest, she did not even make it that far. Despite the early disappointment, she was able to skip the ridiculousness that was the first incarnation of the so-called "reality" competition and earn a contract with the company anyway (video NSFW).
She appeared on television as makeup artist, a role that would be short-lived. Instead, like most of the girls from the competition who were eventually hired, Candice spent much of her initial few months competing in bikini contests and lingerie pillow fights, proving that WWE clearly had plans on treating its female performers as sideshows rather than legitimate wrestlers.
The first half of 2005 was spent doing little of note. Candice was hot, sexy and voluptuous, and that was all she was meant to be.
The beautiful brunette's first opportunity to be something more than just "hot girl No. 3" came when she, Victoria and Torrie Wilson formed the heel trio known unofficially as "Vince's Devils." Together, they wasted little time making the lives of the Raw brand's top babyface Divas a living hell.
Ashley Massaro, winner of the 2005 Diva Search competition, was the first to experience the wrath of Candice and her friends.
Then Trish Stratus made her long-awaited return to the squared circle, and the trio found themselves dealing with someone capable of handling all three. By the time obsessed Stratus fan Mickie James made her debut, Vince's Devils essentially saw their weeks-long run of dominance of the Raw Divas division come to an end.
Still, they remained a faction throughout the remainder of 2005 and well into 2006. It was in March of the following year that Candice announced that she would be gracing the cover of Playboy. Naturally, the revelation caused some dissension between her and Wilson, who began a feud that culminated at WrestleMania 22.
There, on the biggest stage known to sports entertainment, they clashed in a Playboy Pillow Fight, during which they inexplicably competed in evening gowns.
The match was as bad as it sounds, but throughout the course of the "bout," it became more and more apparent that Candice was beginning to understand how to work the crowd. She did enough to get her egotistical sexpot character over with the audience via body language and poses.
Unfortunately for her, all the momentum she had built for herself as a heel early in the year was erased when she suddenly turned babyface in the summer of 2006.
Making Out With the Boss
Rather than building on the foundation that Candice had laid with Vince's Devils and crafting her into the company's top heel Diva, she floundered as a babyface on Raw.
One of the weirdest and most inexplicably ridiculous aspects of Candice's post-WrestleMania 22 storyline was her brief relationship with Vince McMahon.
In some of the most uncomfortable television of the year, a year that included McMahon wrestling God, the 60-year-old man made out with the 27-year-old brunette in some tasteless backstage segments.
Sure, it was played for laughs and entertainment purposes, but it was more of the lecherous old-man character that had played out its welcome five years earlier.
Worse yet, it stunted Candice's growth in that it kept her away from the ring, where she needed to be if she was truly going to grow and evolve as a performer.
Luckily, that time would come sooner rather than later.
Women's Championship, Feuding with the Glamazon and Injury Strikes
By the time summer 2007 rolled around, Candice was showing flashes of something special between the ropes. Rather than being the pretty ex-model who just happened to wrestle, she looked more and more like a real wrestler with every match she competed in.
Several victories in tag team matches against Victoria and then-women's champion Melina put the former model squarely in contention for the Women's Championship.
It was around that time that she was officially recognized as the GoDaddy.com girl, having appeared in numerous Super Bowl ads for the Internet domain company. Needless to say, Candice was on top of the world.
Her 2007 would get even better when, at Vengeance: Night of Champions in June, she defeated Melina to win her first, and only, WWE Women's Championship. It was the culmination of an improbable journey, one that started with fake laughs and cleavage shots as part of the Diva Search and ended with her holding the top prize in women's wrestling in her hands, tears streaming down her face.
She would successfully defend the title against Melina at the Great American Bash in a good match, then defeat the likes of Victoria and Jillian Hall throughout the summer to retain.
It was the arrival of Beth Phoenix that would provide Candice with her greatest challenge. After all, the blonde bombshell was nicknamed The Glamazon thanks to her combination of beauty and strength.
At Unforgiven in September, Candice was lucky enough to successfully retain her title off of a fluke pin.
She would not have the same good fortune a month later, losing the title to Phoenix and setting in motion what could, and should, have been a feud capable of reigniting women's wrestling in WWE.
Then, during a 2-of-3 Falls match on Raw against Phoenix, Candice fell from the top rope. She landed on her neck and shoulder, cracking her clavicle. She would be sidelined for a large portion of time.
When she returned, she unfortunately suffered the same injury again.
By the time all was healed, it became clear that Candice was no longer the same performer. Scared may be too strong a term, but there was definitely hesitancy on her part.
And who could blame her?
Injury had struck and ended what was the greatest stretch of her career.
Unfortunately, with the quality of her work no longer what it was, and new Divas invading the company thanks to the annual Diva Search competition, she was deemed replaceable and was released from her contract with WWE in 2009.
Candice Michelle's career is one of what could have been, though through no fault of her own.
Injury struck at the most inopportune time, robbing fans of what could have been a truly special and historic run atop the Divas division.
A woman who clearly had the support of WWE, and who rewarded that faith with continued improvement and incredible dedication to growth as a professional wrestler, Candice should have been the next woman to carry the Divas brand on her back.
That did not happen.
Now, some six years after she last set foot inside a WWE ring, she is but a footnote in history.
And that is incredibly disappointing, both for her and for fans.