How It Started vs. How It Ended: Layla

Hello again everyone, and welcome back to the Rajah.Com exclusive, How It Started vs. How It Ended.

During this month's edition of the column, we’ll take a look back at the WWE career of former Divas division star Layla.

Heating Up

Before rising through the ranks to become a Champion in WWE, former Miami Heat dancer Layla El entered and won the 2006 Diva Search. WWE’s newest diva arrived on the WWE main roster at the 2006 SummerSlam Pay-Per-View, where a host of Divas hazed the newcomer in a backstage segment.

On the Smackdown brand, Layla ran into problems with the likes of Kristal and Jillian Hall, starting the build to the former P.Diddy and Kanye West backup dancers debut match. On December 1st, 2006, the Diva Search winner dropped a clash with Kristal at a Smackdown taping, before duking it out in a tag team tangle with momentary ally Ashley.

During the December 22nd Smackdown taping, Layla and Ashley defeated the team of Kristal and Jillian Hall, resulting in the first televised victory of Layla’s career. Following the milestone achievement, the London, England born Diva entered 2007 on the revamped ECW brand, where Layla’s new career danced into its next phase.

Dance, Dance

The January 23, 2007 edition of WWECW saw Layla align with Kelly Kelly and Brooke, and the trio began calling themselves the Extreme Expose. As is the case with most teams in wrestling, tension eventually tore the trio apart, and Layla, along with Brooke, turned on Kelly Kelly. Afterwards, Layla and Brooke teased Kelly two-times for her relationship with ECW original Balls Mahoney, until Brooke received her release from WWE.

After the Extreme Expose officially dissolved on November 1st, Layla shifted her focus back to the ring, and engaged in a feud with her former teammate, Kelly squared. The heated rivalry lead to Layla’s first "Big Four" Pay-Per-View match at 2007’s Survivor Series Pay-Per-View, where the team of Kelly Kelly, Maria Kanellis, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, and Torrie Wilson defeated Beth Phoenix, Jillian Hall, Melina, Victoria, and Layla El.

Layla continued to be a problem for KK into 2008, and briefly joined forces with Victoria through the early portion of the year, until Layla finally put the square root of Kelly away at Backlash in a 12-Diva Tag Team match.

Once the smoke cleared from her rivalry with Kelly Kelly, Layla received word that she had been drafted to Raw, where she briefly managed William Regal. Layla’s services helped Regal earn an Intercontinental Championship reign that lasted through the early months of 2009, until WWE’s annual draft sent the dancer turned wrestler turned manager back over to Smackdown.

No Flaws Detected

After Layla struggled to gain traction on the blue side of the WWE coin, the trio of Michelle McCool, Alicia Fox, and Layla El defeated Melina, Gail Kim, and Eve Torres in a 6-Diva Tag Team match. In the midst of the bout, Layla found a new ally in inaugural Divas Champion Michelle McCool, and a dangerous alliance was born.

At The Bash Pay-Per-View, Michelle captured the Divas Championship from Melina, and Lay-Cool went after WWE Women’s Champion Mickie James. Layla and Michelle closed out 2009 by body shaming James for weeks, and infamously referred to the modern day Impact Knockouts World Champion as “Piggy James.” At TLC, Layla helped Michelle retain her title, and McCool ran it back with Mickie at the 2010 Royal Rumble. There, Layla entered the arena wearing a fatsuit, in an attempt to distract James, but Mickie thwarted the attempt by Lay-Cool to regain the Divas title.

Following the Royal Rumble event, Smackdown consultant Vicki Guerrero called for a handicapped match between Lay-Cool and Mickie James, who Vicki had previously had issues of her own with. After the handicapped contest, Guerrero became Lay-Cool’s manager, and helped gain the pair an unfair title shot against new Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix.

On the May 14th edition of Smackdown, Layla pinned Phoenix in the two-on-one battle, and became the first Diva Search winner to carry a title in WWE, as well as the first British woman to wear WWE gold.

The self-proclaimed “co-champions” of WWE’s Divas division defeated Machine Gun Kelly Kelly at the July 18th Money In The Bank Pay-Per-View, and Lay-Cool’s shared reign continued until the July 30th edition of Smackdown, where General Manager Teddy Long informed the ladies that there could only be one Champion. In response to the exchange with the Smackdown GM, Lay-Cool cut the Women’s Championship in half, and called the split title their “friendship charm.”

Layla and McCool defended the strap at Night Of Champions in September, where Michelle pinned Melina in a Championship Unification match, thanks to an assist from Layla. Layla successfully defended the WWE Unified Divas Championship against Natalya the next night on Raw, and McCool duplicated the result the following week, but Lay-Cool lost the title to Natalya in a Handicapped match at Survivor Series. Following the match, Beth Phoenix aligned with Natalya, with a history-making tag team match on the horizon.

At TLC 2010, Natalya, Beth, and Lay-Cool competed in the first ever Divas Tag Team Tables match, where the duo of Phoenix and WWE Unified Divas Champion Natalya defeated Michelle McCool and Layla. The trouble for Lay-Cool continued through the 2011 Royal Rumble event, where neither McCool or Layla walked away with the Divas title. In the weeks that followed, inevitable tension grew between Michelle and Layla, so Lay-Cool entered “couples therapy” on the April 22nd edition of Smackdown. McCool eventually launched a surprise attack on Layla, setting up a No Countout, No Disqualification, Loser Leaves WWE match at the May 1st Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View. Layla would go on to win the massive match, before a legitimate injury forced her to the sidelines on May 13th.

Her-story Is Made

After an extended absence from WWE programming, Layla returned to the ring at Extreme Rules 2012, where she defeated Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship. As a result of the huge win, Layla cemented her place in WWE history, and became the first Diva Search winner to carry the WWE Women’s and Divas Championship.

Following Extreme Rules, Layla successfully defended the pink butterfly belt for 140 days, until Eve Torres defeated her at Night Of Champions. The british-born Diva never reached higher than Number One Contender’s status in WWE again, and briefly aligned with AJ Lee, before another extended hiatus from WWE.

The promotion's final Women’s Champion returned at a Live Event in 2014, just in time for the WWE Divas Championship Invitational Match at WrestleMania 30. Over the course of the next few weeks, Layla served as Fandango’s dance partner and ignited a rivalry with Summer Rae in the process. Layla and Summer feuded over Fandango for a while, until both Divas split the difference, and cost Fandango a victory at Battleground.

Days after Layla and Summer Rae’s two-faced tango with ‘Dango, the duo, competing as The Slayers, defeated Rosa Mendes and Natalya at a Main Event taping. With a win under their dance belts, Summer Rae and Layla went on to compete for Team Paige at Survivor Series, where the duo suffered a tough loss to Team AJ.

Following the loss in the Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination match, Layla kicked off 2015 with a surgery, then returned to WWE for a victory over Emma on April 14th. Three months later, WWE announced the multi-time Champion’s decision to retire from in-ring competition, and Layla danced off into the sunset.

That's all for this month's installment of How It Started vs. How It Ended! Stop by next month for an all-new edition of the column, featuring former WWE Superstar Umaga.