Last month Candice Michelle became the second woman to win the WWE 24/7 Championship and that moment came 15 years after her first foray into wrestling. Michelle was a part of the 2004 Diva Search and while she didn't win, it did eventually lead to her becoming a WWE Superstar.
She reflected on that experience when she joined Lilian Garcia's podcast.
"I was doing modeling in LA and my agent calls me and says that he isn't sure if I was interested in this [Divas Search]. He was this surfer dude who lived by the beach, but WWE is having this Divas Search contest; the winner wins $100,000 and a one-year contract. I grew up watching WWF every Monday night with my stepdad Ken," said Michelle. "We loved it, went to the shows. I had a Hulk Hogan doll. I'm athletic and it's acting and modeling all in one, I am their girl.
"I auditioned and was in the Top 10 or 8, and being in the industry, that one hurt when I was cut. I thought that I was perfect for the role. I may not have been perfect as the winner but I was perfect for the company and so about a month later they called me and offered me a contract. I never knew that training on the indies existed. To me, these [WWE Superstars] were superheroes, cartoon characters, like, how do you become that character? It was something I didn't know how you would go after it so when I was released from the Divas Search, I thought that I was done. When Johnny Ace called me, I think it was a month or three weeks later he had offered me a three-year contract so I knew from then that it was on."
Michelle made great progress from being just a model-turned-wrestler into a legitimate wrestler. She was even named PWI's Most Improved Wrestler of the Year and Woman of the Year in 2007, which she is very proud of.
"That was awesome because once again what people don't see. They think when you get that they say that it is their looks or Vince McMahon likes her right now, or she's gifted, talented or lucky; these things don't exist in life so whoever thinks that? I would go into the arena at house shows two hours early because I wasn't trained," said Michelle. "So, as they were setting the ring up I would get in there with the refs and I would learn and I would come home and I would pay $3 to rent this ring that had broken down chicken coops and the boards were broken and I would get in there and train. It was all those things where I was literally the most improved. People want to take that title away or that award away or that prize, but it's like, I earned that, I literally put in the work for that so it was awesome to be honored for that."
Before winning the 24/7 Championship, Michelle's only other WWE title was the Women's Championship which she held for over three months. However, despite that accomplishment, she points to something else as the biggest highlight of her WWE career.
"My biggest highlight was when I was in my storyline with Beth Phoenix. There was a point where it was going so good; it was when I really grasped the philosophy of a wrestling match," revealed Michelle. "When you come in from Hollywood, they don't train you on anything. You figure everything out, there is no protocol or TV beforehand; they throw you to the wolves.
"Obviously, I had no idea on the philosophy but I actually remembered when I was working with Trish Stratus, she made it look so easy. But she made it look so easy because she put in so much work and I didn't give her the respect that she probably deserved at that time because I thought I could do it too. But then when you get in there you are like, 'Woah!' But when you get the philosophy that is when the crowd gets it."
Michelle knew that she and Phoenix were really creating something special when some of the WWE agents moved off their planned men's matches to help out their feud instead.
"That was the moment when Arn Anderson and Ricky Steamboat saw what Beth Phoenix and I were creating. They came to us; it was a house show overseas. They were the top agents and they left some of the top matches to come to work our match and really explain that concept to us and that is when it clicked to me," stated Michelle.
"For me, as the babyface and her being the more Glamazon character, I had to be willing to sell everything she did to me. That was what made me the underdog and what made people want to fight for me. I don't think the wrestling fans grasp in words, they grasp in feeling and heart is that we are all the underdogs at some point and desperately want the comeback. And so when I am down so bad because literally she can beat the crap out of me and if I have any fight or flight left it's like, 'hey, I can do that at my job or school.' And maybe it's not the words that come to mind but the feelings, which is why billions of people watch because it's not just the storyline, it's the hope and the concept, philosophy that you can put in your life.
"When the audience feels that you feel it and when you get to a point in the match where it wasn't scripted. Beth and I were listening to what the audience wanted. How long is she going to hold me in that hold? When is that audience going to get behind me? That's not a given. You don't just go out and they love it, you work for all of it. That is when it becomes really special."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory w/ Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.