On July 29, 2015, the longest-tenured WWE Diva waved goodbye to the industry when Layla El announced her retirement from professional wrestling.
The announcement brought an end to a career that exceeded all expectations.
A former Miami Heat dancer and model, the British-born Diva went from another pretty face who was adept at shaking her booty as part of Extreme Expose every Tuesday night on ECW to a legitimate in-ring worker who, when all was said and done, had become one of the more underrated performers on the Divas roster.
Her work paid off, earning her runs with both the women's and Divas titles and a huge push as half of the hated LayCool tandem.
Whether she was working the audience for laughs or earning its disdain in her role as one of the company's resident mean girls, Layla always appeared to be having fun. As a result, it was much easier to lose oneself in her performances.
Though her final few years with the company were plagued by inconsistent booking and injuries, Layla more than earned her spot as one of the top Divas of the 2010s.
Now, in honor of her tremendous career, let's relive her finest matches and moments with this exclusive retrospective.
This Is Only The Beginning
Layla's foray into the wrestling industry began when she entered the 2006 Diva Search competition. Her British accent, bubbly personality and wild hairdo helped her stand out among the otherwise bland, uninteresting competition, making her an early fan favorite.
The popularity she gained throughout the week's long contest eventually helped her to victory, making her the newest WWE Diva.
The first few months were a bit rocky for the newcomer. She appeared in segments focused almost exclusively on exploiting her sexuality, including an "initiation" at the 2006 SummerSlam in which she was dragged to the showers and spanked by her fellow Divas.
By the time she settled down on the SmackDown brand and entered a rivalry with The Miz, fans finally began to see the flashes of the kind of performer Layla would eventually become. There was a charisma about her and a beauty that helped convince fans to invest themselves in her work, even if she was incredibly green and nowhere near ready to be in the ring at that point.
On the October 27, 2006, episode of SmackDown, Layla made her in-ring debut, working a Halloween-themed Divas Battle Royal. She was moments from winning the bout when The Miz inserted himself in the proceedings, helping Kristal Marshall pick up the victory.
But the feud between Layla and The Miz was suddenly dropped without any real explanation, and the young star was shifted to the ECW brand, where she became a member of the dance group Extreme Expose alongside Kelly Kelly and Brooke Adams.
Despite being a trio of three attractive young women dancing for the entertainment of the audience, it was hardly what fans wanted to see from the once-extreme brand, and they were often greeted with boos.
Eventually, The Miz became the emphasis for the breakup, with Layla and Brooke turning heel and aligning with him while leaving Kelly to engage in an awkward friendship with Balls Mahoney.
The feud between Layla and Kelly was the British Diva's first real taste of a legitimate rivalry. It stretched from 2007 into the following year but, again, was suddenly dropped when Layla was drafted to Raw.
Managing The King
2008 was a banner year for veteran William Regal, one of the most talented in-ring performers of his (or any) generation and a legitimate heel at a time when all the other baddies wanted to be cool.
As the general manager of Raw, he generated the most heel heat of his career and then returned to the squared circle, where he won that year's King of the Ring tournament by defeating CM Punk.
It was during that fall that Layla, with nothing better to do on the Raw brand, began seconding Regal. The pairing had no real business working as well as it did, but there was something about their chemistry that sparked interest.
She was by his side when he captured the WWE Intercontinental Championship from Santino Marella and then figured heavily into the rivalry between Regal and old foe Punk over the title later on.
As was becoming an unfortunate pattern in her career, though, the pairing was suddenly and unceremoniously dropped, and Layla was again left without anything to do.
That is, until a fateful night when she was drafted back to SmackDown.
When Layla forged a partnership with Michelle McCool in 2009 on SmackDown and began targeting Mickie James, calling the highly decorated and popular Diva every possible name while poking fun at her weight, she hit on a gimmick that would help her achieve the biggest push of her career while also introducing her to the squared circle more frequently, allowing her to develop as an in-ring worker.
Throughout the feud with James, it was clear Layla had worked extremely hard to keep up with both her rival and her tag team partner McCool, whose natural athleticism made her one of the elite female performers on the roster.
Sure, the program with Mickie earned scorn for being mean-spirited, but it was also a star-making vehicle for LayCool, who developed into legitimate heels whom fans wanted to see get their comeuppance.
At a time when the Divas division was starting to show signs of becoming one-dimensional, with all the women exhibiting the same lack of personality that would doom the division for a while, LayCool was an over-the-top homage to Mean Girls. They insulted everyone, were grating on the nerves and loved instigating choruses of boos in arenas all over the country.
Fans hated the act and wanted to see them shut up, which made every victory and championship win that much more irritating.
And they eventually did get their just desserts, literally, at the 2010 Royal Rumble, when McCool was beaten by James for the women's title. Both she and Layla were covered in cake by the babyface Divas.
But the duo bounced back, and on the May 14 episode of SmackDown, Layla achieved championship glory for the first time in her career by beating Beth Phoenix for the same title. Management had trusted the Diva to carry the gold, which she did, splitting it with McCool and further infuriating fans.
LayCool's rivalries with Phoenix, Natalya, Kelly Kelly and Trish Stratus helped established them as elite performers while also creating a scenario in which they were the heels the entire division was booked around. That is incredibly rare but something they pulled off—wait for it—flawlessly.
Layla Goes It Alone
In 2011, ego proved to be the demise of LayCool.
In the wake of a big loss at WrestleMania XXVII, Layla and McCool began bickering and fighting with each other. Then, on the April 22 episode of SmackDown, Michelle turned on her partner, only to be stunned when Layla fought back, proving she was not the weak link of LayCool, as perceived.
A "Loser Leaves WWE" match was booked for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view event, ensuring that LayCool would not only explode at the annual show but that half of the tandem would be banished forever.
In what proved to be McCool's final match, Layla pinned her clean.
What should have been the start of a push that would see the "little English muffin" (called as such by commentator Matt Striker) become the face of the Divas division on SmackDown, feuding with newcomer Kharma, soon turned to disappointment when she revealed a knee injury that would sideline her indefinitely.
It would be a year before Layla would return to the ring, replacing Beth Phoenix in April 2012 at Extreme Rules and defeating Nikki Bella to capture the Divas Championship. As the titleholder, she would defeat the likes of Beth Phoenix, renewing her rivalry with The Glamazon, as well as Eve Torres. It was the same Torres, though, who put an end to her 140-day title reign in September.
It was at that point that Layla became lost in the shuffle as the likes of Kaitlyn and AJ Lee began receiving more television time. The returning Bella Twins stole the headlines, leaving Layla to settle into the role of a second-tier Diva. She lost more than she won, working the likes of Alicia Fox and the Funkadactyls on less important shows such as Superstars and Main Event.
The development was extremely disappointing for Layla, who had worked so hard to develop, had worked even harder to rehabilitate her knee to get back and then found herself competing in meaningless matches and losing to women who in all likelihood were not nearly her equals as workers.
In 2014, Layla became the new dance partner for Fandango, earning the wrath of Summer Rae in the process. They engaged in a rivalry, leading to a singles match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Layla picked up the win, but the following night, she forged a partnership with Summer, kicking their chauvinistic charge to the curb.
It was the last time she would enjoy any real, extended television time.
On June 13, 2015, she worked her final televised match for WWE, a loss to Paige on Superstars.