Candice Michelle is facing an uphill battle to defend her Women's Championship against the Glamazon Beth Phoenix this Sunday at Unforgiven. Trish Stratus can relate.
In front of a sell-out crowd in her hometown of Toronto, the former Women's Champion had an emotional standing-ovation send off at last year's Unforgiven. She secured the title for a seventh time in her final match, defeating Lita.
Facing foes of all sizes during her six-year career, Stratus told WWE.com in a phone interview that she sees a little bit of herself in Candice, who has followed the championship blueprint for success Stratus laid out earlier this decade.
Both Divas had backgrounds in fitness modeling before their WWE debuts. Stratus worked as a model in Toronto, appearing in numerous magazines before coming to WWE in 2000. Also a fitness model, Candice was discovered by WWE in auditions for the first Diva Search competition, and made her WWE debut in 2004.
After arriving in WWE, both worked countless hours to train and craft their own unique arsenal of moves in the ring, seeking to transform from pretty face to powerhouse, then eventually Women's Champion.
Stratus said she believes that it's a testament to the training and discipline that Divas-turned-champions go through before reaching the top, and the hard work they go through to prove they're much more than just glamour and glitz.
"It gives me hope. The word ‘Diva,' I like to think, it embodies the whole package. If you look at [the Divas'] athletic backgrounds, we all come from fitness modeling, and training and working out with weights," Stratus explained. "I think that's what makes the difference. Having that athletic background makes for successful women [Superstars.]"
The magic-wand-waving Candice that Trish tangled with two years ago at Unforgiven has matured for the better, the former champ said.
"The Candice I see now has changed a lot, she has more confidence and obviously more experience now," Stratus said. "She's a lot nicer too, it seems … probably because she stopped hanging out with the vicious Victoria."
Looking at the beauties' battle brewing this Sunday in Memphis, Tenn., the Diva of the Decade award-winner believes Candice can topple the Glamazon if she stays focused.
"Candice has to bring her "A" game," Stratus warned. "She needs to keep doing what she's been doing … just keep her energies up and watch out."
Though Divas rarely discuss their weight -- they are ladies, after all -- Candice seems to be at a 25-pound disadvantage to the larger, stronger Glamazon. Stratus warned that the current champion needs to be on her toes against the stronger, determined opponent.
"When [Phoenix] came onto the scene, you sort of sat up and watched. She's gorgeous, she's strong, she's powerful and she's coming here to make a statement," the former champion observed. "I would watch Beth Phoenix, because she's really hungry right now. Beth's been wanting [this title opportunity] for a long time, to come in and prove that she's here to rock the house."
We'll all find out Sunday if Candice can continue to reign as champion, or if Phoenix will rise to the pinnacle of the Diva division live on pay-per-view this Sunday.