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Cracked candy shell?
Quick question: What do you do when confronted with an uncontrollable force of nature bearing down on you at an alarming rate of speed? For most people, the answer is to move swiftly out of the way. But if you happen to be reigning Women's Champion Candice Michelle, the response is to meet that force head-on -- especially if it's her opponent at Unforgiven, Beth Phoenix.
"I'm never going to back down from anybody," the Women's Champion said of Phoenix. "I have the confidence to go out, be strong and stand up to people who think they can't be stood up to."
Despite such bluster, one can't help but notice the apprehension that has overcome Candice's face lately. First, when she watched Phoenix dispose of 11 challengers at SummerSlam's all-Diva Battle Royal, and more recently when the Glamazon crushed Maria during a match that lasted less than a minute on last Monday's Raw.
Phoenix hoisted Maria effortlessly above her head and slammed her to the mat, leaving a broken, beautiful Diva in her wake. After witnessing such devastation, could Candice be having second thoughts about defending her championship against Phoenix?
Initially written off by some close-minded critics as just another pretty pretender to the throne, Candice has proven through sheer heart and determination that she deserves her hold on the gold. Her victory over Melina at this year's Vengeance: Night of Champions to capture the title was the culmination of her transformation from one-dimensional GoDaddy model to well-rounded, elite Diva. But Candice knows that securing the Women's Championship and retaining it are two very different things.
"People are going to come after me. That's part of being a champion," explained Candice. "They're going to take stabs at you, they're going to jab at you, they're going to try to knock you down any way they can."
Or simply steamroll over the top of you. Phoenix has displayed such dominance as of late that Candice might be forgiven for having reservations about stepping into the same ring with her. But to even suggest such a thing riles the former Playboy cover girl.
"I'll always stand up to defend my Championship," said Candice, her brow furrowed into an irritated V. "This is not about people walking all over other people anymore."
While she says she respects her opponent's abilities, Candice also insists she's ready to take on the Glamazon and give her a taste of her own punishment.
"If I get hit with anything, I'm sure I can come back," said Candice. "Believe me, I'm going to stay champion."
To find out who will emerge as the next Women's Champion, tune into Unforgiven on Sept. 16 on pay-per-view.