Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Guest Article: The Women of WWE - Part 1 (Lily Lestrange)

It's a pleasure to welcome Lily Lestrange back to! I hope you enjoy this series looking at how WWE has presented it's women's division over the years.


At the start of the year there was a big push for the "Diva Revolution" in WWE, where the company decided that after years of doing wrong by the division they should probably try and give the ladies more than a 3 minute match on Raw every Monday, if at all. As we've seen as the year has progressed, it's been one big failure; sure, they're getting longer matches but a decent singles match is few and far between for the women, instead they're being grouped up in threes and pitted against each other in poorly written, poorly executed stories and matches. Of course, people automatically blame the writers, it's what fans have become comfortable with when anything doesn't go the way they want it to but this time they may have a point. There is a lot of good - and a lot of bad - talent in the women's division and it's a pity that despite the fuss they've been trying to make about them "pushing" them, nothing has really come of it. Even throwing NXT's most prominent women into the mix with Paige, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte has done nothing for them.

It's not always been this way though and people seem to forget that. It's not always been this bad. People tend to look at wrestling past with rose-tinted glasses but honestly, pinky promise, it wasn't always like this. The women's division used to be good and brimming with talent, hence the reason I've decided to dedicate this series of blogs to the great ladies of WWE's past, present and future. As much disdain as I have for distinguishing "women's wrestling" from regular wrestling I felt it was necessary for the purpose of these blogs. As the title suggests, with this one I'm starting from the very beginning.

Mae Young

     Mae Young's involvement in the early days of the WWE was scarce but she's too bad ass not to mention and it didn't feel right including her in the later Attitude Era parts when she belongs with the late and greats. Most people remember Mae for her ridiculous antics at that time: when she wasn't groping the Rock, she was being stripped to her skivvies in the middle of the ring, sleeping with the big man Sexual Chocolate (and subsequently giving birth to his hand-child) or being powerbombed through a trio of tables by Bubba Ray Dudley. She was as mad as tits on a fish and that's why people loved her, she just didn't hold back. She was truly one of a kind. Who else can you say wrestled on the night of Pearl Harbour? Who else has had a career that spanned over 70 years? In a time where women were meant for the kitchen she was busy beating up other girls and changing the way that women were seen in the industry. She was a revolutionary in her own right. Mae helped shaped the world of wrestling into what it is today because of her determination and passion for the industry, and that passion stuck with her from her years as a scrappy teenager right up until January 14th of last year when she passed away at the grand old age of 90.

Fabulous Moolah

     Moolah was another one to completely change the world of wrestling. As Mae Young's protegee, she broke down many a barrier in the industry: she was one of the first women to be on a Wrestlemania pay-per-view, she was the first woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, she is the oldest champion (male or female) in sports history and she has technically had the longest title reign in wrestling history with a whopping 27 years as the WWF Women's Champion (the very first WWF Women's Champion at that). The only title reign I can think of that comes close to that is Bruno Sammartino's but that was paltry compared to Moolah's at only 11 years. Her wrestling career didn't last quite as long as Mae Young's but still, wrestling for 58 years isn't to be sniffed at in the slightest. Moolah came from an era where women had to sleep their way to the top but she refused to do it. In her early WWE career she was part of the original screwjob (no, not Montreal) in Madison Square Garden in 1985, where Wendi Richter dropped the women's title to Moolah without ever being told that she was losing the belt. Moolah appeared that night with a mask on and went out with the name "Spider Lady", without Richter knowing it was her. During the match, Spider Lady hit Richter with a Little Package and pinned Richter's shoulders to the mat; Richter kicked out at one but the ref - who was apparently in on it to - kept counting to three and awarded the
win to this masked stranger. Richter furiously attacked her and tore the mask off to reveal it was Moolah who had cheated her out of her title. It's possibly the biggest and most infamous story in the history of women's wrestling but it doesn't get spoken about as much as it should because let's face it, it was a pretty big deal.

After years of making random appearances she returned in 1998 with her pal Mae Young to partake in the shenanigans that Mae was. She had an 8 day reign with the WWE Women's title in 2003 after defeating Victoria and then subsequently got RKO'd by the man himself, Randy Orton. Mae took a powerbomb at 76 and Moolah took an RKO at 80 so there's no doubt that they're both hard as nails. Her last appearance in the WWE was during a backstage segment in August 2007; she passed away only a month afterwards.

Wendi Richter

Wendi was from a later era than Moolah and Mae Young but she still played a big part in laying the ground rules for women's wrestling. The first ever women's match on a Wrestlemania pay-per-view was Richter vs. Leilani Kai, with Moolah in Kai's corner and Cyndi Lauper in Richter's. Richter won the match and regained the Women's title from Kai, after losing it to her the month before. Prior to that she was the one to end the longest title reign in history by defeating Moolah at The Brawl To End It All in Madison Square Garden. That match saw MTV hit it's highest ratings in it's history at the time.

The story goes that the relationship between Richter and the WWE broke down and that's why the screwjob came around, with Vince McMahon being behind it all (of course). Apparently after what happened with "Spider Lady", Richter never spoke to Moolah again. Over the years of wrestling each other she felt betrayed, and quite rightly so; her and Bret should form a club. From there she left the WWF and had no involvement in wrestling up until 2005 when she was inducted into the Hall Of Fame by Roddy Piper. She was evidently still hurt by the actions of Vince and Moolah, hence why she retired (and said so herself in a shoot interview) but she willingly accepted her - well deserved - spot in the Hall Of Fame. Richter is the only one of the three women I've mentioned that is still alive and kicking at 54. Her last appearance on a WWE show was when she was in the ring with Cyndi Lauper on Monday Night Raw; it was the one where Lauper smashed her gold record over Heath Slater's noggin.

And there we have it; three of the great WWE women who laid the bedrock for the generations of women to come. There are a lot more that could have been mentioned - Mildred Burke could have a blog of her own - but I'm trying to keep it along the lines of WWF/WWE content so they didn't make the cut but their contributions to wrestling will never go unnoticed. These ladies mentioned so far are the ones who set the standards for today's wrestlers, who should be looking to go above and beyond the accomplishments of what these three have done.


Check out Lily's other work....


Next week....Marnix van der Kraan debuts on ATPW.

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