There’s a lot to cover with Beth Phoenix. This might be a long one. She packed an extraordinary amount into her six year career, playing every conceivable role, fighting men and women, inventing angles, being a workhorse, and having more legitimately great matches than any other woman of the Divas Era. She also had more of my personal dream matches than any other wrestler.
When I say dream matches, I mean right from the word go. Beth lowkey debuted in 2006 at the arse end of the Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James storyline, for reasons. Her first match was a tag opposite Victoria and within two seconds of them touching I IMMEDIATELY needed all the Beth vs. Victoria matches. The good news is this wish was granted the week after. The bad news is that Beth broke her jaw in it and disappeared and there were never any more Beth vs. Victoria matches.
Those first main roster appearances were merely a tease, both of Beth herself and of the feeling of wanting her to wrestle everyone in sight.
A full year later she returned with A CAPE, the Glamazon persona and a monster heel push to match, steamrolling the roster on her way to beating Candice Michelle for the title. The Candice feud is amazing. A-MA-ZING, particularly for the way that Beth went into it as a bit of a stiff, and came out of it as a confident, dominating monster, completely transformed. Candice deserves all the credit in the world for that, but that’s another song.
Once she put the pieces together, Beth was a fucking force. She had unbelievable timing, knowing exactly when to let someone run around her and when to cut them off, and when she cut them off she was merciless. BAM clothesline! BAM backbreaker! BAM mid-air catching slingshot backdrop driver from HELLLLLLLL!
She brutalized smaller girls like Maria, Candice and Kelly Kelly. She had a long-running rivalry with Mickie James where they amassed a laundry list of killer matches. Mickie was her perfect foil, a hard working babyface who could push her to the limit before being caught and splatted. And Beth did splat her, and everyone else. She was dominant as all get out.
And then she looked at Melina sideways.
Beth Phoenix Dream Match Alert.
Now Melina, once again, was the baddest motherfucker on the planet. Her and Beth were both heels but after a three-way with Mickie at the end of 2007 I IMMEDIATELY needed all the Beth vs. Melina matches. Then one day Melina cost Beth a chance to regain the title which she had just lost to Mickie in an EPIC match in London. Beth was understandably pissed, and paid her back a week later by walking out on their tag team match and then chewing Melina out backstage for good measure.
This was TERRIFYING. Beth was banging on and Melina was getting hotter and hotter and I was fearing for Beth’s ENTIRE life. Melina finally snapped and hit her but Beth just picked her up above her head and DRILLED her into a locker over and over until she stopped moving and was probably dead.
THIS WAS TWICE AS TERRIFYING. Beth had dominated all the women for almost a year, but absolutely nothing she did was as scary as taking the legitimately frightening and mass murderous Melina and just annihilating her to death like it wasn’t nothin’.
From there they engaged in basically one big brawl for the next month. They would scrap constantly and crowds would be eating it up and chanting “LET THEM FIGHT!” and it was all so completely violent and awesome. So they let them fight at the One Night Stand PPV, I Quit, where Beth literally had to bend Melina into unnatural and suspiciously pretzel-like shapes before she said the words. If you can find me a better heel vs. heel match in company history, bring it to me. This thing is UNBELIEVABLE.
Beth sure did love twisting Melina around like she was Play-Doh though. It reached a level at their rematch at Royal Rumble 2009 when Beth picked up Melina’s foot and beat her in the back of her own head with it, which I’m pretty sure broke all of the known laws of physics. Beth also specialized in pulling off other wacky ass feats of strength, like picking two people up at once into a DOUBLE BACKBREAKER.
Or like, you know, beating up men.
Like The Great Khali, whom she eliminated from the Royal Rumble. Or CM Punk, whom she lariated the shit out of during that match. Or Santino Marella. Be still my beating heart.
Beth deserves a shit ton of credit for the Glamarella angle. We love to heap praise on male wrestlers like Chris Jericho or Mick Foley for writing their own storylines. Well, Beth came up with Glamarella. I feel like she can dine out on that one for quite a while.
It was a perfect pairing. Santino was the goofiest wrestler in history. Beth was very dominant, and very serious, and when Santino made an open challenge to ANYONE, she took that seriously too. She beat Santino up and pinned him to win the match, then she flexed at him and he BUMPED ALL THE WAY TO THE FLOOR IN FEAR. My man. (If you watch this back, the people go apeshit when she wins and Beth is so overjoyed that they pulled it off just like she dreamed it that she can’t stop beaming. Bless.)
AND THE NEXT WEEK IT GOT A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER.
Beth came out again to continue the fight with Santino… or so she probably thought. They grabbed a waistlock, wrestled around for a minute, and then stopped. And stared. Santino grabbed her hair and waited, giving her every chance to fight him off. But Beth grabbed him back, and THEY KISSED for like 1.7 seconds before breaking apart, bewildered. Santino tried REALLY HARD not to look too pleased in case she beat the shit out of him again. And Beth looked like she had no earthly idea what had remotely possessed her to do that. And it was all so EXCELLENT.
As their relationship developed from there it was clear just how perfect a pairing it was. Santino Marella is the greatest comedian in the history of WWE, don’t @ me. Beth Phoenix might be the greatest straight man in company history as well. They were gold together. Santino just Santino’d all over the place with his hi-jinks, and Beth was there to roll her eyes and show that she did, somehow, like this guy, but she maybe wasn’t entirely sure… why. Beth was basically his heavy, saving him from trouble, carrying him on HER shoulders, and just generally being the dominant one. Very Chyna-esqe, but Beth was VASTLY better than Chyna in every single way, and frankly, Santino was way better than Triple H as well.
Anyway, at no time was this dynamic more apparent than during the mini feud they had with Batista.
BETH PHOENIX DREAM MATCH ALERT.
For a fun few weeks Santino kept mouthing off about Batista and landing himself in hot water, squealing and cowering whenever he came face to face with Big Dave. Beth, on the other hand, stepped up to him and slapped him in the face. When this happened I LOST ALLLLLL OF MY SHIT AND I IMMEDIATELY NEEDED ALL THE BETH VS. DAVE MATCHES. Sadly, that was one that never materialized.
There was one that did, however.
Soon after Gail Kim returned to WWE in 2009, her and Beth were in a random six-man and within half a second I did immediately need all of the Beth vs. Gail Kim matches. They brushed past one another a couple times – a tag match here, a battle royal there – and I was completely sold but they never had a singles match, and I became obsessed with this white whale of a match I thought I’d never see. Every time it came up, that was my #1 dream match.
Finally a whole two years later, Superstars in 2011 proved it was the king of all the C Shows and randomly booked my dream match, just like that. I went embarrassingly ballistic. And after all that anticipation, Beth and Gail went out there and ran absolutely stark raving wild for a whole four minutes and made all my dreams come true. They even shook hands afterwards like they knew they’d just delivered a workrate dream match for the people. And they did. Nobody has ever been more excited about a four minute C Show match than I was watching Beth Phoenix vs. Gail Kim.
Again, this is the beauty of Beth, the idea of her facing really anyone at all is exciting. Having a tiny little thing like Kelly or Maria to beat up? Interesting! Having a worker like Mickie or Gail to run around with? Sounds good! She wants to step to some male wrestler? Sign me up! She wants to give Jack Swagger’s Soaring Eagle mascot a Glam Slam for no apparent reason? Go nuts Beth!
That really did happen, by the way. Beth was so keen to do comedy that sometimes I wonder if she was just a classic stooging heel trapped in Beth Phoenix’s body. But really I think it just shows her incredible versatility. Being a bigger, powerful woman in a sea of Divas, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Beth Phoenix to just be the monster heel. And she was so fantastic at it. But she was capable of so much more, and always wanted to show it. She could switch from dominant heel to bumbling around and getting rolled up, and still turn around and dominate again without losing her credibility. She could talk and act and show vulnerability and cry when needed. She could do ALL of the comedy, and was the perfect straight woman. And she was a super fun dominant babyface, but could also sell and garner sympathy, even with smaller opponents.
She even ran as a tweener for a while, straddling the line. What most people don’t remember about the Piggie James angle is how involved Beth Phoenix was – as Laycool teased the shit out of Mickie, Beth was caught in the middle, deciding who she’d rather beat up. After a few months of crowds begging Beth to do the right thing, she gave in to temptation and became a good guy.
From the jump Beth knew what the people really wanted: moves that spin around and fiery babyface comebacks. Her first move as a face was to bust out an AIRPLANE SPIN, and I mean, you just can’t beat that. She also added the GIANT SWING, and just generally had a bunch of fun spinning people around in a circle and lariating their heads off.
Plus, look at that sweet face. Who wants to boo this woman anyway?
Beth was a lot of fun as a babyface. My favorite part was how she became like a big sister to the other faces on Smackdown – Kelly Kelly and Tiffany. She’d team up with them and save them from beatdowns and ruffle their hair affectionately. One time during a tag team match, she did all the damage and then gestured to Kelly to say, “here, you can have this one”, and let her tag in and take the pin, like a present. ADORABLE.
*heart eyes emoji*
The only thing about this little ray of sunshine run is that it ended so soon and so tragically. Beth won the Women’s Title off Michelle McCool at Extreme Rules 2010 in a fun plunder match, but a couple weeks later she did her ACL and had to have surgery. Of course, fate would have it that the next week SmackDown was IN BUFFALO where she entered as the newly-crowned champion hometown hero, only to lose the title and be left laying on one leg crying miserable tears. I can’t even.
By the damn way, can we just stop to appreciate that Beth Phoenix was working on a busted ACL and SHE STILL PICKED UP TWO WOMEN ON HER SHOULDERS IN A DOUBLE BACKBREAKER ON ONE LEG.
Speaking of can we just, she had barely been back from this injury a month before DYING FOR OUR SINS at TLC in the first ever women’s Tables match vs. Laycool. A lot happens in this match but the main thing was Beth Phoenix bumping on her head to her absolute death over and over. She went full Trish here. In fact, when called upon Beth always did lean in and take some terrific shots; there’s a moment at Extreme Rules vs. Michelle where she eats shit on a pile of ironing boards (don’t ask). Beth could take some big bumps yo.
Now of course, that Tables Match involved Natalya too, and we gotta talk about Beth and Nattie. They were fun as a babyface powerhouse team in late 2010. They were AWESOME once they turned heel in the summer of 2011, became the Divas of Doom and went after Kelly Kelly. They were the perfect foils for Kelly as they railed against “Barbie dolls” in the division, and my God, those Beth vs. Kelly matches were just… *kisses fingers*
Beth and Kelly had amazing chemistry. The 2011 series was outstanding, subsequent matches were really good too, and even early on when Kelly was much greener, they always had fun with Beth just beating on her. This is what I’m talking about with Beth – even if I’m not specifically shouting DREAM MATCH, she just matches up so well with so many people in really exciting ways.
Back to the Divas of Doom, man, they literally invented a submission move just so they could tie all the pretty girls in knots and shove a mic in their faces while they screamed and cried. Wild. On a related note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Beth and Nattie had also taken to wearing bomb ass dresses on telly every week, calling themselves Pinup Strong, and there’s a moment one day on Smackdown where Nattie is beating up Kelly on the floor and Beth is sitting on the stairs in a dress watching on looking incredible and I’m pretty sure this 20 seconds of TV added about five years to my lifespan.
Somehow Beth and Natalya existed on TV together for over four years without ever facing each other one on one. Oh yes, Beth Phoenix Dream Match Alert.
When Beth was heading out the door in 2012, serendipity lead to her having one last SmackDown TV taping in Buffalo, and it was there in her hometown that she and Nattie finally got to have a match. You can see just how over the moon they are, and as tradition held they went absolutely stark raving wild for four whole minutes, including the one and only time in her career that anyone kicked out of the Glam Slam. A parting gift from Beth Phoenix. She had a couple more matches after that, but having her moment with Nattie in the ring and crying it out with her afterwards was about as appropriate a sendoff as you could get. Like so many of these women, she went out on her shield, putting the work in.
Beth always put the work in, she was a trooper. She is also a total sweetheart and I’m so happy for the last couple of years where she’s got to go into the Hall of Fame (best speech ever, don’t @ me either), be in the first Women’s Royal Rumble and now get this commentary gig. She deserves it all.
So this week was in celebration of a great wrestler. Next week will be… not that. And guys, trust me, you ain’t ready.
Check it out:
Candice Michelle vs. Beth Phoenix – Women’s Title (No Mercy 2007)
Beth vs. Mickie vs. Melina – Women’s Title (Raw, December 31st 2007)
Beth Phoenix vs. Mickie James – Women’s Title (Raw, April 14th 2008)
Beth Phoenix vs. Melina – I Quit (One Night Stand 2008)
Beth Phoenix vs. Melina – Women’s Title (Royal Rumble 2009)
Michelle McCool vs. Beth Phoenix – Women’s Title Extreme Makeover Rules (Extreme Rules 2010)
Beth & Kelly vs. Laycool (Smackdown, April 30th 2010)
Beth & Natalya vs. Laycool – Tables Match (TLC 2010)
Beth Phoenix vs. Gail Kim (Superstars, June 30th 2011)
Beth Phoenix vs. Kelly Kelly – Divas Title (Night of Champions 2011)
Beth Phoenix vs. Eve – Divas Title (Vengeance 2011)
Beth Phoenix vs. Natalya (Smackdown, September 28th 2012)