Bobby Between The Ropes: A Look Back At Divas On PPV – 2008
Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015



The year 2008 saw the WWE heading into a new direction; a more family friendly direction. The whole brand would make the switch to a TV-PG rating halfway through the year. This meant that there would be no more Playboy pushes and no more blatant T&A matches. In theory, this means more chances for Divas to actually wrestle? In practice? Well we’ll get to that later. Beth Phoenix was Women’s Champion opening up the year – but it wouldn’t be too long before she was only one of two female champions in WWE. 2008 would see a historic event happening: a Smackdown-exclusive women’s title. But it’ll be a while before we get to that part.

WrestleMania 24 – Maria & Ashley vs Melina & Beth Phoenix [Playboy Bunnymania Match]:

The first Diva match to make it to PPV this year is WrestleMania huh, go figure. Anyway Maria was eventually chosen as 2008’s cover girl for Playboy magazine. Her boyfriend Santino Marella was not happy with this]. Maria was given a chance – if she could beat the WWE Women’s Champion in a match, she would be allowed to pose. Help arrived in the form of the returning Candice Michelle – so Maria got the win and the cover. A match was made for WrestleMania, pitting Candice and Maria against Beth and Melina. It also became a Lumberjill Match, with none other than Snoop Dogg as the guest announcer.  But two weeks after her return, Candice re-aggravated her injury and would be left out of action again. Ashley was then chosen to replace her in the tag match. This may raise eyebrows and send hearts racing – especially after her disastrous showing at the previous Mania. But Ashley has one of her better days and performs quite well. She certainly does much better than she did at 23. Maria also performs much better than we’re used to seeing from her. It just goes to show that if these two had been properly trained before getting put on TV – maybe their wrestling would have been much better. Maria especially pulls off some very nice moves, working really well with Beth. The lights actually go out in the middle of the match, but we get a little spotlight on the ring to highlight the action. Maria looks to have the match won with a diving bulldog to Beth – but Santino breaks the pin. Jerry Lawler gets up from the announce table to wallop him, while Beth hits the distracted Maria with the Fisherman Buster for the win. Afterwards Snoop Dogg clotheslines Santino and plants a kiss on Maria.

Winners: Melina & Beth Phoenix. Match Rating: 6/10

Backlash – Mickie James, Michelle McCool, Ashley, Cherry, Kelly Kelly & Maria vs Beth Phoenix, Melina, Victoria, Natalya, Jillian Hall & Layla:

In the weeks following WrestleMania, Mickie James received another shot at the Glamazon. In a special episode of Raw in the UK, Mickie pinned Beth to win her fourth Women’s Championship. The next week featured a segment akin to West Side Story – where nearly all the Divas went at it in the ring. Thus we had ourselves a 12-Diva tag match. Once again, the face/heel side is shockingly unbalanced. Layla was the only model type on the heel team, while Mickie and Michelle were the only wrestlers on the face side. As expected, only three face Divas see ring time, while nearly all the heels get tagged in. But the match is much better paced than the Survivor Series one. Michelle is promoted as Mickie’s number 2, while Melina is promoted as Beth’s. Michelle works really well with both of them. Mickie likewise shows off some nice moves too – and we even get to see her work a bit with Victoria and Natalya (PPV debut!) Ashley meanwhile is the jobber of the team, having to get dominated by the heels. It all culminates in two match breakdowns – the first of which is Cherry pulling Natalya down from the apron, resulting in a catfight. The second has a very organised looking rush of finishers. The best ones are Victoria hitting the Widow’s Peak on Mickie, and Jillian hitting the X-factor on Kelly. Beth picks up the win for her team with a Fisherman Buster on Ashley. Good and fun match that could have been a clusterfuck – but thankfully wasn’t. Though I’m sure all the coloured outfits bouncing around made a few TVs explode.

Winners: Beth Phoenix, Melina, Victoria, Natalya, Jillian Hall & Layla. Match Rating: 6/10

Judgment Day – Mickie James* vs Beth Phoenix vs Melina:

So although Beth Phoenix had gotten her rematch against Mickie, things hadn’t gone down so well. Melina had attempted to interfere on Beth’s behalf – but ended up whacking the Glamazon with her shoe instead. The next week, Beth responded by walking out on Melina during a tag match. A huge backstage brawl ensued, effectively putting Melina on the road to a face turn. For some added spice, Beth and Melina were put into a triple threat match for Mickie’s title. Interestingly enough, with the major feud being between Melina and Beth, Mickie could very easily have become the third wheel in this match. But she wasn’t at all. As the commentators said “I’m impressed with the offence of Mickie James; she’s everywhere”. Mickie pulled off some great moves and really shined. In fact I think this fourth title reign is where we saw a lot of her best work. Melina meanwhile told a great story with how she stood up to Beth. It was cool to see her doing the right kind of transition between heel and face in the match. Speaking of Beth, she was on fire too. After months of the stoic Glamazon, she finally let loose some great intensity and passion. The double backbreaker spot was a thing of beauty. The only downside is that Mickie hits Melina with her DDT to retain rather suddenly. The match was short but definitely sweet.

Winner and STILL WWE Women’s Champion: Mickie James. Match Rating: 7/10

One Night Stand – Melina vs Beth Phoenix [I Quit Match]:

Thankfully after Judgment Day, Melina and Beth were far from done. Melina properly made a transition to the babyface side and continued to feud with Beth. WWE just happened to have a PPV based around all ‘extreme rules’ themed matches. So for once including the Divas in this, Beth lay down the challenge for an I Quit Match. Though it should be noted that this is really just a submission match. The women will simply tell the referee they quit, rather than speak the words into a house microphone. And rather than the usual street fight/brawl these matches usually are, the women keep it to wrestling. But that’s fine with me – because this is a brilliant display of wrestling. Melina busts out some unorthodox holds right off the bat – and one of the best spots is Beth trapped in a Muta Lock but dragging herself to the ropes and tumbling out of the ring, without the hold breaking. The announcers do a fantastic job selling the story behind this match – and they seem genuinely invested in it. They make a huge deal over how Melina has really taken the fight to Beth more than anyone in the past has. Melina comes quite close to winning, with multiple arm bar combinations. However Beth powerbombs her and has to bend her practically in half – and ultimately Melina gives up. Both women really shined in this match, especially Beth. Her personality was on full display, especially when put against someone equally as fiery as Melina. I’d call this the best Diva match of 2008.

Winner: Beth Phoenix. Match Rating: 8/10

Night of Champions – Mickie James* vs Katie Lea Burchill:

Since Beth Phoenix and Melina were off having their own feud, Mickie James needed a new challenger. Enter Raw’s newest Diva; Katie Lea had debuted as the kayfabe sister of Paul Burchill, with a controversial angle. Katie Lea and Paul often flirted at an incestuous relationship in their promos – but it was quickly dropped due to the PG switch. With immoral thoughts of her brother no longer troubling her, Katie Lea turned her attention to Mickie. This match didn’t have much story behind it – as WWE seemed to be a little on and off with their booking of the feud. Nonetheless Katie Lea competes in sadly her only real PPV bout for WWE. The match is quite a good one, with some nice basic manoeuvres used. The story early on is Katie Lea trying outsmart the champion with quick pins – before she targets Mickie’s arm. The psychology is good, with some nice selling from Mickie. But Katie’s overall offence seems a bit bland. I think the same problems that Beth had fell on Katie too; she was put into the spotlight far too quickly – before she’d properly had a chance to connect with fans or developed an identity in the ring. This is probably why her push would be stopped and started, on one week and off the next. Within a few months, she’d be irrelevant and packed off to ECW. She’s a Diva that probably could have benefited in 2010 – as creative were planning to move her to Smackdown just before she was released. Sadly this one match is all she really has to show for her WWE run. And her TNA one wasn’t much better either.

Winner and STILL WWE Women’s Champion: Mickie James. Match Rating: 7/10

Great American Bash – Natalya vs Michelle McCool:

Well now we get to the history in the making. Due to an increased amount of Divas on both Raw and Smackdown, WWE decided to add a second women’s title. The WWE Divas’ Championship would be for the Smackdown women to feud over – and the two participants above won special ‘Golden Dreams’ matches to earn their spots. At the time Michelle McCool was being promoted as this loving life babyface. Meanwhile Natalya was new on the scene and getting pushed as this 3rd generation badass. At the time Michelle was also utilising a Brazilian Heel Hook as her finisher – making this a battle of the submission moves. On paper this might sound like a MOTY candidate. And in the first few minutes, it seems like that’s what we’re going to get. Some good hard work was going on…and then it just ends. It ends so suddenly. It’s almost like Attitude Era short. It’s really annoying, because this is a match that needed to be special. It needed to be long, aggressive and hard-fought. It was certainly building that way. But nope, WWE didn’t think a match to decide the first ever champion needed more than five minutes. They’re only girls so who cares, right? I guess Chris Jericho absolutely had to interrupt Michelle’s celebration to cut a two-minute promo on how Shawn Michaels’s career is over. Yeah, look how that worked out. This match was actually very good – but it was way too short and not very memorable.

Winner and FIRST WWE Divas’ Champion: Michelle McCool. Match Rating: 6/10

This PPV would also see none other than Alicia Fox involved in a high profile angle. Foxy debuted as the wedding planner of Vickie Guerrero – who was about to tie the knot with Edge. But footage had surfaced of Edge making a pass at Alicia in secret. Alicia actually made her presence known during the match, running down to the ring. She tries to help Edge use the belt to hit Triple H – but Vickie appears as well and the two get into a huge brawl. Edge sets up a spear but everyone moves out of the way and he hits Vickie instead. It’s kind of astonishing to think that Alicia Fox actually got to main event a PPV. And it’s mostly just sad to think that she’d be sent back down to FCW and then packed off to ECW as a valet.

SummerSlam – Kofi Kingston* & Mickie James* vs Beth Phoenix & Santino Marella:

So since Night of Champions, Mickie had continued her feud with Katie Lea – often teaming with Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston, as Paul Burchill was after his title. After that program ended, in came ‘Glamerella’. Beth Phoenix had answered a challenge and defeated Santino in a match. After that, the sour Glamazon sweetened up – as they formed a power couple. Their first order of business was to challenge Kofi and Mickie for their respective titles. So if Beth or Santino got the win, Santino would become Intercontinental Champion and Beth would become Women’s Champion. The match is pretty fun, if a little paint-by-numbers. The women start off, the men fill the middle and the women come in again for the hot tag. Mickie and Beth do work quite well together; much better than they did back when Beth was first champion. The improvement in Beth’s ring presence is very notable – and she’s able to match Mickie’s personality with more of her own. As this is intergender rules, we do get to see some girl on guy action. Beth doesn’t get to do too much to Kofi, aside from a couple of kicks and a wristlock. But Mickie gets some nice offence in on Santino. Towards the end she even hits him with her DDT. But Beth attacks her from behind and hits the Glam Slam – giving Glamarella two titles.

Winners and NEW WWE Women’s Champion: Beth Phoenix, and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Santino Marella. Match Rating: 7/10

Unforgiven – Michelle McCool* vs Maryse:

So after the Great American Bash, Michelle McCool enjoyed her first reign as Divas’ Champion. It seemed like she would continue to feud with Natalya – but then Nattie was abruptly dropped from the spotlight. Michelle’s new challenger was a little known Diva Search contestant who had been seductively welcoming viewers to Smackdown – much in the same way that Sunny had done years ago. Maryse had stepped into the ring and put herself forward as the top heel on Smackdown – and here was her title match. It was also Michelle’s first title defence, as well as the first time she would have to lead the match as the more experienced Diva. There’s a nice chemistry between the girls for the majority of the match. It’s interesting to see them both taking turns working on the other’s leg. They even throw in a couple of nice spots on the outside. Things get a little sloppy towards the end – and the closing moments aren’t so good. But overall it’s a good effort. Maryse at this point in time was well on her way to becoming the full package; she was beautiful, she had personality and she was getting ever better in the ring. However once she won the title and suffered her knee injury, her wrestling would also suffer. She would become a shell of her former self – and never reach the heights she once had in the ring. As such she would gradually fade from the spotlight into a valet and character role – before getting released in 2011, in a mutual decision on her and WWE’s parts. So this remains one of her best performances. Michelle is able to get the win with a Gordbuster.

Winner and STILL WWE Divas’ Champion: Michelle McCool. Match Rating: 7/10

No Mercy – Beth Phoenix* vs Candice Michelle:

So everyone’s favourite Go-Daddy Girl returned from her two injuries. They shot Candice straight to the top of the list – giving her a victory over Beth Phoenix. The feud that followed was not an interesting one at all. WWE seemed to half-ass what could have been a really hot return angle for Candice. Also not helping matters was how rusty she looked in the ring. It looked very much like she had been brought back before she was ready. She does perform quite well in this one though. True some of her forearms and kicks look incredibly weak – and Maryse outshined her at Unforgiven. But it’s an improvement over their other No Mercy match. Beth targets Candice’s surgically-repaired shoulder and that adds a nice bit of psychology to the proceedings. The match is fine; not bad and not amazing. Candice was clearly not as good as she used to be – or was simply still rusty from so much time off. The closing moments were nice and decisive though – as Santino breaks up a pin on Beth, Candice dropkicks them both and gets a near-fall. But Beth reverses the Candy Wrapper into the Glam Slam for the victory.

Winner and STILL WWE Women’s Champion: Beth Phoenix. Match Rating: 6/10

Cyber Sunday:

For the second year in a row, Cyber Sunday took place around Halloween – so it was time for yet another Divas costume contest. The list of participants include: Michelle McCool as an army brat (yay), Katie Lea as a vampire (nay), Lena Yada as a ninja (yay), Candice Michelle as Marilyn Monroe (nay), Beth Phoenix as a gladiator (yay), Jillian Hall as Batgirl (nay), Kelly Kelly as a sailor (nay), Tiffany as a naughty nun (yay), Layla as Princess Leia (yay), Maria as a bunny (nay), Maryse as a French maid (yay), Eve Torres as a Ninja Turtle (yay), Brie Bella as Cleopatra (yay), Natalya as a cop (yay), Victoria as a banana (serious yay) and Mickie James as Lara Croft (yay). Mickie James gets the win for her costume. After a little brawl in the ring, the faces stand tall. My personal winner would be Eve or Brie for their costumes.

Survivor Series – Team Raw vs Team Smackdown [Traditional Survivor Series Match]:

Things at this point weren’t too rosy on Friday nights. Michelle McCool was enjoying her reign as champion, but not her feud with Maryse. Likewise she was also having one or two problems with Maria. This really didn’t help matters when a Raw vs Smackdown match was announced for Survivor Series. Team Smackdown was led by Michelle and featured Maryse, Maria, Victoria & Natalya. Team Raw was captained by Beth Phoenix and consisted of Mickie James, Jillian Hall, Kelly Kelly & Candice Michelle. Kelly scores an early lead for Raw, eliminating Victoria by surprise – but she is quickly dispatched by Maryse. The latter meanwhile couldn’t keep her problems with Michelle to the backstage area – and they get into a brawl in the middle of the match. Michelle’s tension with Maria also comes into play – resulting in the Divas’ Champion being the second eliminated from her team. Maryse once again evens the odds by eliminating Mickie (in the worst elimination of the match). Raw takes back the lead as Jillian helps Candice eliminate Natalya with a spear. Jillian herself is then sent packing by a Maria victory roll. Candice then makes short work of Maria with a northern lights suplex, and she is then forced to tap out to a Figure 4 Leglock – leaving Maryse alone with the Glamazon. Although Maryse tries her hardest to stand up to Beth, she’s quickly put away with a Glam Slam. Sloppy in places but still quite fun – definitely something different.

Survivor: Beth Phoenix. Match Rating: 5/10

Armageddon – Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly & Maria vs Maryse, Victoria, Natalya & Jillian Hall:

WWE decided to close the year 2008 with a quasi-rematch from Survivor Series, dropping Candice and Beth from the picture. Also the girls would be getting into the holiday spirit – as it’s a Santa’s Little Helpers match. The nerve of WWE; making people *pay* to see Divas in sexy costumes twice in one year! The faces are in red, while the heels are in green (presumably to evoke The Grinch). We get to see Mickie vs Natalya early on, but it’s Kelly who gets the most ring time. Some things she does well and some things she doesn’t – as is expected with her. Maria of all people is the hot tag and does some okay stuff with Jillian. Michelle then tags herself in and lays Jillian out with the Faith Breaker. It was a rather weak match, just there to get the Divas out there in sexy outfits. But it did at least further the storyline between Michelle and Maria.

Winners: Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly & Maria. Match Rating: 4/10

So the year 2008 offered up quite a lot Diva-wise. There were more Diva matches than ever on PPV. And mostly all of them had a purpose. Divas got time, Divas got storylines and Divas had good matches. Adding a second women’s title also offered up a lot more variety in terms of what matches made it to PPV. I think that 2008 was probably the closest a year has come to recreating the Golden Era of 2002-2004. The year wasn’t without its own problems of course – but overall it was a good one. It ended on a high note for both Raw and Smackdown. On Raw, Melina returned from her injury with a new impressive moveset – and immediately set her sights on Beth Phoenix. Meanwhile Smackdown crowned a new Divas’ Champion in Maryse on the last show of the year. And Michelle McCool turned heel right before our eyes. Things looked up going into 2009.

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