Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
The Fabulous Moolah – The Queen of Wrestling
In a previous article, I wrote a biography on Mildred Burke and how she was the pioneer of women’s professional wrestling and she was, however, it was the Fabulous Moolah who brought it into the mainstream and made it what it is today.
Lillian Ellison, the Fabulous Moolah, got her start in professional wrestling in 1949 and was a valet for the then World Heavyweight champion, the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers. She wore a leopard skin outfit and was known as Slave Girl Moolah. She interfered in many of his matches which in turn gave Rogers many dubious victories. The slave girl persona also served a dual purpose as “eye candy” for the largely male dominated audience at that time as well.
Mildred Burke was the reigning women’s champion at that time as well and Moolah wanted that as well. She remained by Rogers’ side for a few years but soon wanted more. She wanted to wrestle and she wanted to be a champion. Moolah then asked Mae Young and Mildred Burke to train her and eventually took over where Burke left off as she was beginning to retire.
At 5’5” tall and 138 pounds, Moolah wasn’t a giant but she was mean and like Mildred Burke, Moolah was very tough and she won her first Women’s title in 1956 by defeating Judy Grable in a tournament. She went on to hold that title for the next ten years and that is when the NWA/WWWF recognized her as the NWA Women’s World champion, making her the first undisputed Women’s World Champion.
The Fabulous Moolah held that prestigious title for another two years before being defeated by Betty Boucher but won the title back in a few short weeks. She reigned supreme for another two years and then lost the title in Japan to Yukiko Tomoe and then regained it just days later. This time her title reign lasted an unprecedented eight consecutive years, solidifying her name in history as the very best ladies’ wrestler in the world.
From 1968 to 1984, Moolah would lose her title only four times and in1983, the WWF split its ties with the NWA and went national. Moolah had owned the rights to her title and then sold those rights to the WWF when she signed a very lucrative contract with the company.
In 1984, Moolah and the WWF were thrust into the national spotlight when Moolah began a feud with lady wrestler Wendi Richter. Richter was also being managed by pop singing sensation Cyndi Lauper, who got into wrestling after having Captain Lou Albano appear in a couple of her music videos. The Rock and Wrestling Connection was born and on a televised match on MTV, Richter defeated Moolah for the title and held it for the better part of a year and Moolah even failed to regain the championship on the very first Wrestlemania Super Card.
Then in a series of matches afterward, Moolah donned a mask and called herself the Spider Lady and defeated Richter for the title under very dubious circumstances as she regained it without pinning Richter. There was an apparent pre match decision for Moolah to win the title back without Richter’s knowledge and after losing the title in the fashion that she did, Wendi Richter left the WWF forever.
In 1986, Moolah lost the title to Velvet McIntyre in Australia, but, like the Moolah of old, she regained the title after just a few days and held it until July of 1987 when she lost the title to “Sensational” Sherrie Martel and after failing to regain the title from her, Moolah finally retired in 1989. She remained retired until 1999, when she made a comeback and won her tenth title victory when she defeated then champion, Ivory. However, Moolah retired again after losing the title back to Ivory just three days later.
For the better part of thirty years, Lillian Ellison, the Fabulous Moolah, held the Women’s World title for a lot longer than she didn’t have it and no wrestler today, male or female can lay any kind of claim to that or even come close. Moolah was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995 and it made her career come full circle.
She deserves at least that for all she did for Women’s wrestling and she deserves a whole lot more.