For 10 years between 1999 and 2008, seven WWE divas appeared on the cover of nine issues of Playboy magazine. This collaboration started during the peak of The Attitude Era and ended when the wrestling company became publicly traded and opted to return to a family-friendly format in order to attract more advertisers.
Looking back, it was a pretty bad time for feminism in wrestling. These days, you’ve got women like Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch prove that you can be an amazing wrestler who happens to be pretty instead of the old formula of being good-looking and needing almost no wrestling ability. Despite the WWE’s change in philosophy toward Playboy appearances, it’s hard to believe many in the current crop of divas would be willing to pose had the offer been made. What’s even more fascinating is that the women’s roster today were young girls who fell in love with wrestling when it was going through this phase.
Along with WWE’s change of attitude, Playboy underwent a big change in early 2016, eliminating nudity from its magazine altogether, saying that PG-13 magazines like Maxim and the wealth of photos on the Internet made it increasingly obsolete. It’s strange to not see the magazine wrapped in plastic hiding behind the 7-11 cashier anymore. Not only will you not see clothing-free WWE superstars in the magazine, you won’t see anybody in their birthday suit. We understand having to make business moves, but it’s a shame such an American institution that started with Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s came to an end.
Thankfully, everything has been saved for posterity and we can look back fondly on a time when WWE and Playboy worked together. Along with those seven divas, there were several other women who started with the magazine and then went to the WWE. Here, we present an update on these ladies. Some are listed twice, representing the fact they appeared on more than one cover. We know you’ve been wondering about Hugh Hefner’s WWE Cover Girls: Where Are They Now?
15 Torrie Wilson
Prior to landing her first wrestling gig in World Championship Wrestling and becoming a megastar in WWE, Wilson was a successful fitness model and fitness competition competitor. It undoubtedly helped her as a wrestler, although her matches certainly ran more to the bra-and-panties variety as she was never able to hold a candle to people like Trish Stratus or Lita in the ring. Her willingness to appear in Playboy twice for WWE probably didn’t help in the “take her seriously” department among many in the company, but she was employed there for seven years. The end came after nursing an injury. She simply never returned, so the WWE casually let her go. Wilson tried to go the Hollywood route, but it never really paid off as she’d hoped with her biggest gig being a runner up to Lou Diamond Phillips on a reality show. These days, Wilson’s most visible project is a website where she promotes a healthy lifestyle, balancing good eating with exercise and a good mindset. It’s unclear what her plans for the site are since it hasn’t been updated in a long time. One this is clear though. Even though she’s now north of 40 years old, she still looks as good as the first day she came to work for the WWE.
Maryse Ouellet has had the longest connection with the WWE of any on this list, but never appeared for Playboy while working for the WWE. The Miz’s wife returned to the WWE after five years to accompany her husband to the ring since the day after WrestleMania in 2016 when he captured the Intercontinental Title from Zack Ryder, appeared on the cover of Playboy’s Girls of Canada calendar for 2007 and appeared in a few of their newsstand specials, but never actually appeared in the magazine. She was introduced to WWE through the Diva Search. Despite being cut sixth-to-last, she was offered a contract and worked with the WWE through being released in 2011. During her time off, she earned her real estate license and moved to Los Angeles, California. She was also added to the Total Divas cast in 2016.
Since we’ve got two listings for Sable, one in tribute to her solo Playboy appearances and the other for her tag-team pictorial with Torrie Wilson, it gives us a little more time to consider the odd road this women has taken through wrestling. First, she was married to Marc Mero, a horrible wrestler who now makes his living as a motivational speaker. After divorcing him, she hooked up with - of all people - Brock Lesnar, whom nobody would confuse with being a positive thinking motivational speaker. We haven’t heard much from her since her marriage to Lesnar, who is 10 years younger than her, since the duo became a couple. They have a couple of kids together and it seems like any outside entertainment gigs are a permanent thing of the past as she approaches her 50th birthday. It’s hard to believe Sable is already halfway to 100 years old. It’s even harder to believe she’s Mrs. Brock Lesnar.
Joanie Laurer is one of those trainwreck yet fascinating stories showing just what drugs and alcohol can do to a career, and a life. Trained by Killer Kowalski, the brutish Chyna was often accused of taking male hormones or steroids, but it was simply her genetic makeup by all accounts. She debuted as Triple H’s bodyguard and had a real-life relationship with the future WWE CFO. Her wrestling style was one of brawling and she is the only woman to essentially be treated like one of her male counterparts, even winning the Intercontinental Title from Jeff Jarrett the night he infamously held up the company for his future pay-per-view earnings. We’ll get into her sickening descent in the other entry. She agreed to get a bit of facial reconstruction surgery and install breast implants to make her look more feminine with the award being the Playboy cover, which went on to be one of the best selling issues ever. Go figure. She was given a second cover a couple of years later.
11 Christy Hemme
Winner of the 2004 Diva Search, Christy Hemme once again proved that the WWE should look to developmental when looking for future women’s grapplers and not toward modeling agencies. Hemme probably can thank Playboy for extending her WWE career since she agreed to the pictorial shortly after winning the Diva Search. Between the time it takes to agree, shoot the pictorial, have it come out and be properly marketed, she was able to hang around the WWE and build to a championship match at Wrestlemania 21 with Trish Stratus. She failed to win the belt and was shortly thereafter sent down to OVW for real training, but that lasted only a few weeks. She made the move to TNA where she wrestled a little, managed a little and ring announced a lot. Between April 2014 and April 2016, she was a part of the creative team before leaving the company. Hemme was married in 2010 and her first child will turn two in January 2017.
10 Candice Michelle
Candice Michelle, who the WWE invariable hired because she was good looking and showed the willingness to put her body on display after appearing in a couple of Cinemax late night adult programs. She was probably also hired with the cover of Playboy in mind since she appeared on the cover eight years into the WWE-Playboy relationship. The raven-haired beauty seemed to actually catch the wrestling bug after joining WWE and worked hard to become a decent wrestler, eventually gaining the respect of the fans in a way most of the women who were there only for their looks couldn’t. Unfortunately, toward the end of her WWE run, she became injury prone and was released in 2009. Best known in mainstream public as the GoDaddy.com girl before Danica Patrick took over the gig, Michelle has begun to make a few nostalgia appearances with WWE and is married to a chiropractor with whom she has three children. She still looks as good as ever despite closing in on 40 years old.
9 Ashley Massaro
We’re going to give Massaro props right up front for doing the right thing. Despite having recently appeared on the cover of Playboy just a year earlier and showing no sign of slowing, Massaro requested her release from the company so she could go home and take care of her sick daughter. It’s too bad that happened because we think Massaro might have had a Hall of Fame career. Discovered through the typical Diva Search, Massaro was a forerunner to many of the women today showing that she could be a rough-and-tough tomboy who was also feminine and sexy at the same time. She appeared on Survivor during her WWE run but was voted off after only six days, so the WWE never used it as a marketing tool. Massaro claims to have been sexually assaulted during one of the Tribute to the Troops oversea trips and is one of the many former wrestlers who joined a 2016 class-action lawsuit against the WWE stating that they didn’t do enough to protect wrestlers from head injuries back in the day.
8 Maria Kanellis
If we were going to pick the diva who seemed to have the best attitude, or at least seemed to like wrestling and have the mindset of a fan, we’d go with Maria Kanellis, one of the many from the infamous crop of 2004 Diva Search contestants. When voted out of the competition, she flipped off Carmella DeCesare, something every fan wanted to do from Day One. Thankfully that wasn’t the end for her as she went on to a healthy career appearing for the WWE for five years. Unfortunately for her, divas don’t have the shelf life of their male counterparts and her 2008 Playboy appearance - the last of its kind for a WWE diva - may have helped extend her career. Following her release she popped up in Ring of Honor where she spent another five years to be with her real-life boyfriend (and now husband) Mike Bennett. The only woman on the list still involved full-time with wrestling, Kanellis was last seen in TNA with her husband. Her career is probably winding down sooner than later and we think she deserves Hall of Fame consideration having lasted this long in wrestling.
Many see Sable as the first woman to ever intentionally cross the nudity barrier inside of a WWE ring. Her big reveal is the famous bikini match that she lost because the only thing she was wearing from the waist up were a pair of hands painted over her breasts. This was the kick-off as Sable leading the diva charge in the eye candy. Despite being a horrible wrestler, she at least appeared to take it seriously unlike so many of the other divas at the time who were there for their hair and chest. She never had a problem participating in any skin-revealing stipulation matches, but never went as far as the hands stunt again. Her Playboy appearances guaranteed good placement on the Wrestlemania cards the years she posed and looking strictly at her resume, you could make an argument that if Sunny is in the Hall of Fame, Sable deserves a spot. We have a feeling Mrs. Brock Lesnar would likely turn down that opportunity since she has never made a public appearance with her husband, nor granted any interviews where she talked about her time in the WWE.
6 Carmella DeCesare
If you’ve ever been looking for the person who clearly had the least interest in ever working for the WWE, on par with Dennis Miller’s Monday Night Raw guest hosting, we introduce you to Carmella DeCesare. The WWE probably thought they hooked a big fish when Playboy’s Miss April 2003 and the 2004 Playmate of the Year showed up at the 2004 Diva Search. Despite their best efforts to rig the contest in favor of DeCesare, she was runner up to Christy Hemme. As is the WWE way, though, they hired half of the contestants including DeCesare who was genuinely disliked by the audience and it wasn’t heel heat. It was X-Pac “get out of the ring” kind of heat. Apparently, WWE officials figured this out quickly enough. She entered into a brief feud with Hemme, leading to their five-star lingerie pillow fight classic, but was released a few weeks after that Taboo Tuesday match. These days, she’s left both Playboy and wrestling behind. She has four children and is married to former Cleveland Brown quarterback Jeff Garcia.
5 Karen McDougal
Probably the least well-known of anybody on this list, McDougal was the Playmate of the Month in December 1997 and went on to be 1998’s Playmate of the Year. She was voted by Playboy’s “readers” as the second sexiest playmate of the 1990s. Her WWE connection began in 2001 when she appeared in a series of commercials for the failed XFL football league. One was deemed to risque to air, but actually became part of a halftime show presentation. More directly, McDougal was part of the 2004 Divas Search, making it to the TV special held live on Spike TV which narrowed the field down from 28 to 10 contestants. Unfortunately for McDougal, who looked amazing in a black bikini, she was eliminated just before the contest was whittled down to the final contestants. A one-time girlfriend of Bruce Willis, McDougal maintains one of those “I was once young and sexy” websites, but hadn’t done much else in the public eye over the last five or six years.
4 Taryn Terrell
Terrell is largely known in wrestling circles for her work in TNA’s knockouts division between 2012 and 2016 where she was almost always part of the championship picture and in the lead female storylines, but longtime fans will remember her two years in WWE as Tiffany. Her character first appeared as the assistant to general manager Teddy Long before slowly segueing into a wrestling role. Just as things were going well, she was released from her contract due to a situation with her then-husband, Drew McIntyre. Prior to joining WWE in 2008 she appeared in Playboy several times, debuting in the January 2007 College Girls issue. Once she got traction in WWE, the magazine continued to release photos of the beauty taken prior to her signing. Her last appearance was in a special issue released in November 2010, between her WWE and TNA stints. Since she left wrestling, Terrell has been working as an actress and stuntwoman, also taking time to get remarried and have a child.
Chyna was arguably the most popular wrestler to ever appear in Playboy, based on number of copies sold, and she was easily the most successful wrestler on this list. No other woman in history can claim an Intercontinental title reign. Sadly, she’s also the one person on this list whose demons lead to her death in April 2016. Her descent was well-documented with rambling videos posted to YouTube and an appearance on Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew in 2008 that revealed an upbringing that included a lot of estrangement from her family. It looked like her post-wrestling career might be decent with a recurring role on 3rd Rock from the Sun, but things fell apart and the highest-profile thing she did after the WWE was a series of five adult films between 2009 and 2013. Shortly before her death, she was living in Japan, teaching English and trying to get her life back together. There has been some debate if she’ll ever find a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, where she absolutely belongs. With her checkered post-wrestling choices, it might be easier to induct her in death than it ever would have been in life.
2 Torrie Wilson
Now that we’ve caught you up on what Torrie Wilson has been doing since she left the world of WWE, we thought we’d revisit one of the worst storylines ever presented by the WWE, which is saying a lot from a company that once had Triple H, dressed as Kane, humping a mannequin in a casket at a funeral parlor. As the Attitude Era started sputtering, Wilson got into a storyline feud with Dawn Marie. The rift came because Dawn Marie starting dating Al Wilson, Torrie’s stepfather. Here’s the kicker...it was her real-life stepfather. He couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, but was always game to try anything, including getting stripped to his underwear and faking the sexy time with Dawn Marie. Apparently, this led to some real life animosity between the two divas. It should have led to animosity from both toward the WWE for hiring Al or thinking it was a good storyline. Al was the lucky one, getting killed off, while the women had to continue working for the company.
1 Everybody Who Said No
Every male wrestling fan - and probably a few females one - have that list of divas who they would have really liked to see in the page of Playboy, but never made the jump. Some, like Victoria, said they would have liked to pose but were never asked. Many simply came too late after the last diva pictorial in 2008. These days, the magazine has stopped featuring ladies in their birthday suits. Then there were all the ones who were asked, or came out before they were formally approached, and said they wouldn’t do it. This lists includes Sunny, Lita, Trish Stratus, Stacy Keibler, Michelle McCool, Melina, Debra and Sharmell. Despite having appeared in a WWE-produced video in a wet T-shirt before she became super-famous, Stratus said she thought she could be sexy without taking her clothes off. It’s hard to argue with her on that one, but we still wished she had a different opinion.
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