Various Feuds; Relationship With Santino Marella (2006–2008)
In early 2006, Maria defeated Victoria in a match. Afterward, she was attacked by Vince's Devils (Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Candice Michelle), but she was saved by Ashley Massaro. During a commercial break that night, Vince McMahon announced a Gauntlet Bra & Panties Match for New Year's Revolution between all five girls that had previously been in the ring. At New Year's Revolution, Maria was the first to enter the Gauntlet match and eliminated Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson before being eliminated by Victoria. The match was ultimately won by Massaro. On April 10, episode of Raw, Maria received a shot at the WWE Women's Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion Mickie James.
Maria teamed with John Cena to take on Edge and Lita in the main event on the February 6 episode of Raw. Maria scored the victory after a spear meant for Cena hit Lita. One month later, Maria lost a singles match to Lita after missing a clothesline and falling prey to Lita's DDT. After the match, Edge was preparing to spear Maria, but Mick Foley ran in to help her. On October 16, Maria won a Fatal Four Way Bra and Panties match against Victoria, Candice Michelle, and Torrie Wilson to advance to the semi-finals in a Women's Championship Tournament. Maria, however, lost in the semi-finals of the tournament to Lita.
On the January 1, 2007 episode of Raw, Maria attempted to interview Kevin Federline but was instead slapped by Melina and called a "bitch". This led to a match between the two later that night, with Melina winning with a roll-up following a failed attempt at a dropkick. At New Year's Revolution, Maria and Candice Michelle ran to the ring during the Women's Championship match between Victoria and Mickie James to stop Melina from interfering, helping their friend Mickie to retain the championship. For two consecutive weeks afterward, Maria had two tag team partners—Mickie James and Jeff Hardy, respectively—to take on Melina and a partner. She lost the match with James, but won the other with Hardy. As a part of her entrance when teaming with Hardy, she mimicked the dance he performs at the top of the entrance ramp, a moment she later claimed as a favorite in her career.
Maria began an on-screen romance with Santino Marella in June 2007. She also resumed competing in the ring occasionally, often jobbing, or losing quickly, in short matches. On the November 5 episode of Raw, Marella was confronted by the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin for criticizing his movie, The Condemned. As a part of the storyline, the argument ended as Marella received a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin, who then went backstage, only to return with a Budweiser beer truck to hose down Marella and Maria with beer.
After former Playboy cover-girl Ashley Massaro's return in early 2008, Kanellis engaged in backstage segments where Ashley suggested Maria should be on the cover of Playboy, including at the Royal Rumble, to the disdain of Marella. As a part of the Playboy storyline, Maria defeated Beth Phoenix on February 18, to "earn the right" to be on the cover of the magazine. During her Playboy cover unveiling, Maria's cover was plastered over with images of Marella. After Marella offered an ultimatum of posing for the magazine or staying with him as a couple, she stated, "No man and no one is going to make this decision for me" and broke up with her on-screen boyfriend. Maria, along with Ashley, (who replaced Candice Michelle) were defeated by Phoenix and Melina at WrestleMania XXIV in a Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjack match. After the match, Maria passionately kissed the Master of Ceremonies, Snoop Dogg.
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