Teaching her way to the top
Whether she is with seventh graders and it's science, or she's her own student and it's wrestling, Michelle McCool is a teacher all the way.
The All-American Diva signed a contract with WWE shortly after she participated in the 2004 Diva Search where she emerged as one of the finalists. In the course of just over three years, Michelle left the classroom and worked her way all the way up to becoming the top Diva on SmackDown, as voted by our fans.
"I grew up watching wrestling with my dad and my pap pap, my grandfather," she said. "My dad actually took my brother and my cousin to the first WrestleMania, but thought I was too young."
Michelle never let her father live that down. When she was six years old, the future Diva finally attended a live event and fell in love.
Growing up, the All-American Girl was always outside and playing sports with her family and neighbors.
"It was all boys," she said. "People liked to beat me up a lot."
It's no wonder how she grew to fit the mold of a WWE Diva, finding that special combination of being rough, but elegant.
"I was a girly girl, but I wasn't. I wanted to be outside in the dirt, but cute at the same time."
Michelle is no different today, entertaining our fans as one of the Sexiest Women on Television, but unafraid to take on the toughest of competitors in the squared circle.
The All-American Girl's career in sports-entertainment began in 2004. During her tenure as a school teacher, Michelle caught an episode of Raw advertising that year's Diva Search competition. Her desire to be in the ring was nothing new, however. WWE helped her family bond when she was a child.
"My pap pap passed away seven months before I got into the business," she recalled. "I would have given anything for him to be able to experience this with me."
Michelle was living her dream for two years. Then, she unexpectedly reached the most challenging time in both her career and her life. In November of 2006 while touring Europe with the company, Michelle was diagnosed with a sodium deficiency that landed her in the hospital for 16 days.
"I have the Superstars and doctors to thank for keeping me alive," she said.
She would dedicate the months that followed to getting back in the ring.
"It was a horrible time for me. I hated seeing my family and friends see me suffer like that, but it makes you really cherish the moments you have and be thankful for what you're blessed with."
Michelle credits faith for much of her recovery. Her beliefs helped her through her illness, allowing the All-American sweetheart to bounce back, and even reach a level in WWE that she never thought possible.
"I attribute everything to faith," she said. "God put me here with a purpose and I believe that I'm going to achieve my dreams. I've got faith that I'm going to climb to the top and I believe that I'm going to do just that."
The former school teacher has already tasted the peak of the mountain, recently winning a competition to earn the label of top Diva on SmackDown.
"That's what it's all about -- going out there and putting smiles on our fans faces and inspiring them to chase their dreams," she explained. "I'm just a small town girl who's making it happen and if I can do it, anyone out there can. The fans made me the top Diva on SmackDown and I can't thank them enough."
Like any great teacher, Michelle devotes herself to giving back to the community that provided much to her. The first students she taught enter their senior year of high school in 2008. But just because the Diva traded in her classroom for a ring doesn't mean she has completely left the kids she educated. Michelle still visits often, attending sports events and other activities to support her former students. And if any of those kids want another lesson from their old teacher, all they have to do is watch SmackDown on Friday nights to learn how having faith in oneself can help a person accomplish anything.
"Everything that I put my mind to, I have gone after," she said. "You don't always succeed, you don't always get what you want, but I've always had faith that I can at least get out there and try."
The past four years have been a roller coaster ride for Michelle, but she cherishes each day and lives as if each morning was her last, refusing to take any day for granted.
"I think one of the best things about my job right now is I get to be who I am," she said. "I'm an all-American girl who's a tomboy at heart, who will take no prisoners or let anyone get in her way, but at the same, look good doing it. It's the perfect combination of sex appeal and athleticism."
With her toughest learning experience behind her, earning the honor of being SmackDown's top Diva and her attitude, Michelle's future is as bright as ever.
"I came back stronger," Michelle said, remembering her return after weeks in the hospital and months of recovery. "I came back with more passion and desire. I'm not going to let a near-death experience hold me down."