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wrestling / Columns

Evolution Schematic 06.20.07: Wendi Richter

June 20, 2007 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina

Writer’s Notes

Every bone in my body is telling me to do a Sherri ES. But I don’t feel I can do her career justice right now. Give me a few weeks to get a run up and my sources together, so I can do her properly, and in one week. For now, I’ll go the exact 180 from it and present the ‘Who’d Wanna Blow Vince…Up?’ series, were I look at a bunch of people who might have blown Vince up for whatever reason. We begin with the original screw-job victim.

Overview

Today, there is an overabundance of female wrestlers in North America. Sure, most of the more well known ones are former models and would probably tap out to a wrist-watch, but there are several high quality, damm fine wrestlers who just happen to have a pair of tits, and aren’t really fat guys. Some are in WWE, others are currently retired, a couple in TNA, hell, there’s even a company, Shimmer, that brings the best of the best of female Indy wrestling together. (I mark for the Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew, I really do.) All in all, women’s wrestling is, while perhaps not full embraced and universally beloved, is pretty much accepted as a part of the business.

It hasn’t always been like this. There have been times, as we have seen in our look back at the WWE Women’s Title, that women’s wrestling, on the big stage, was not respected at all. It tended to go in cycles, some woman or women would hit the scene, cause a big splash, drag everything along with her then once she left, the respect level fell back down. The Jumping Bomb Angels, Alundra Blayze/Medusa, Lita, Chyna, Trish/Victoria/Molly/Jazz. But the first major spike, in the WWF at least, was caused by a 20-something young Dallas woman called Wendi Richter. Wendi, after being involved with Cyndi Lauper’s problems with Captain Lou Albano, rose to such a point that she was the #2 name and face in the company, second only to Hulk Hogan, and was main-eventing shows.

And then a contract dispute ended it all, thanks to Vince McMahon. She never forgave him, and perhaps it… But let’s look at the whole thing before we get to a possible outcome.

Origins- Must…Not…Make….Debbie…Reference…

Wendi was born and raised in Dallas Texas, and thus was a Texan girl through and through, rough and tumble and (positive stereotypes about Texans here). A slightly above average height, stunning good looks and a solid, but still very attractive frame meant she was a prototype ‘Diva’ as we understand the term today. But she didn’t come in on the arm of some hunk of meat and just stand there and look pretty, no, she got into the business and trained under The Fabulous Moolah, at the time (and possibly to this day) the most dominate woman to ever done the boots. Eventually, at the tender age of 18, she debuted into the Wrestling World.

Debut- The Texas Cowgirls.

At first, Wendi, being in your face and unafraid to get tough in the ring was disliked by the fans, which she didn’t mind at all. She soon found a woman to continue her learning, watch her back and form a tag team, the woman being the second Joyce Grable (After the first one retired, a second one popped up…sorta like Doink, but with less make up), the team The Texas Cowgirls. The team was fairly successful, winning the NWA Women’s Tag Team belts (Yes, such belts existed, women used to hold the Cruiserweight position in the business for a time) 2 times, touring America and Japan, having long, intense battles with the team of Velvet McIntyre & Princess Victoria, among others. Eventually, Wendi’s work was noticed by Vince McMahon, and he hired her to spearhead his fledgling Women’s Division.

And when I say ‘work’, I almost certainly mean ‘physical attributes’.

And when I say ‘spearhead his fledgling Women’s Division’, I almost certainly mean ‘spearhead his fledgling Women’s Division in his pants’.

Phase 2- Wait for it…

At first, Wendi’s run in the WWF was fairly uneventful and unsuccessful. Sure, she wrestled, and had some wins and some losses, but no-one cared, she seemed destined to be yet another woman not given a break.

But then, she sure as hell got a break.

Phase 3- Girls Just Wanna Kick Ass.

Let’s set the scene.

Cyndi Lauper was a popular, if slightly eccentric young woman, rising up the Pop Charts with her unique vocal style and even more unique dress sense. In 1984, she was a somewhat hot performer, and she wanted to use that power for good…any maybe increase her hotness a bit. So, she turned to Pro Wrestling. She, and her manager, set up some charity wrestling events to raise money for MS research, and she made some appearances with wrestlers, Hulk Hogan accompanying her to the 85 Grammy’s as her ‘bodyguard’ for one, appearances on MTV with Hogan again later in the year.

Then came time to film her first music video (she was soon to become an MTV favourite, given that she was such a unique style and look, she set herself apart from the pack) for ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, she asked Captain Lou Albano, as a really odd looking older man, to play the role of her overbearing father in the video. He agreed and filmed the clip, Cyndi managing to lock him in a hammerlock at one point in the video.

So, after the video became hugely successful and her career was skyrocketing, Roddy Piper invited her onto Piper’s Pit to be interviewed. She agreed, turned up, got interviewed and was then interrupted by Captain Lou. Lou hollered and screamed, taking credit for success due to his appearance in her video, then insulting her entire gender with some sexist, chauvinistic comments. Cyndi, enraged, challenged him to find a woman to manage, and she’d find one to manage, and the two could fight and prove…well not much, but bragging rights and an apology from Captain Lou would be on the line. Captain Lou, a veteran manager who had taken many men to gold in his life, happily accepted, thinking he would wipe the floor with whoever the pop star chose, his confidence improved when he managed to get the then WWF Women’s Champion, The Fabulous Moolah to agree to be his wrestler, his victory was assured since his charge had held her belt for ’28 years’. Cyndi went for youth, a desire to succeed and a fellow young girl whose name ended in ‘I’ in, of course, Wendi. The two women fought at the first major televised ‘Event’ WWF ever had, “The Brawl to End It All”, shown and hyped a lot by and on MTV. The match main-evented the show, and to the shock of many, arguably the most hyped match in WWF history ended with Wendi Richter, after Cyndi prevented Lou’s interference and in fact socked Moolah one, Wendi pinned Moolah and won the WWF Women’s Title, and there was much rejoicing and a hell of a lot of press.

Phase 3b- The first title reign.

Captain Lou apologized, and he and Cyndi reconciled as Wendi, as the youngest Woman’s Champion ever, began defending the Women’s title against all comers, Moolah, Judy Martin, Penny Mitchell, Black Venus, anyone who wanted a shot. Her popularity grew and grew as she fought and kept her belt, and she became a public face of the company, getting in the Hulk Hogan cartoon show, being a role model for all the young female Hulkamaniacs while being pleasant on the eyes. Moolah got a second shot at Wendi, but managed to get Cyndi banned from ringside due to her attacks from before. Wendi managed to beat Moolah clean as Cyndi watched backstage, then the two celebrated in the ring and Cyndi got some revenge by shoving Moolah’s face in a birthday cake.

But then when 1985 rolled around, trouble loomed. While Cyndi and Lou had made up, at a special event to celebrate her success and generally to publicly apologize set up by Lou, after handing her a gold record, Roddy Piper emerged, smashed said record over Lou’s head, and then kicked Cyndi in the face, which of course brought out Hulk Hogan, and a match was set for another MTV Supercard, this time The War To Settle The Score. However, while this was going on, Moolah had trained another protégée, like at one point years ago Wendi was Moolah’s protégée, by the name of Leilani Kai. Kai was set to get a title shot at the War show, and Cyndi felt she had to even the odds for her good friend Wendi, since Kai had Moolah. So, despite also managing Hulk Hogan along with Captain Lou in the main event, Cyndi managed Wendi in her title defense as well. It did not go well.

For Moolah had realised Wendi’s weak spot. So, after direct interference in the match failed, Moolah went to Plan B. Just as Wendi was set to retain her belt, Moolah attacked Cyndi, choking her out. As Cyndi began to pass out, Wendi naturally went to check on her friend. One quick roll up later, and Leilani Kai was YOUR new WWF Women’s Champion.

Phase 4- You Hawaiian Bitch!

Luckily for Wendi, her rematch clause was in full effect, and there was this big, huge event within the eligible period, called Wrestlemania. And so, with Cyndi by her side, Wendi stepped into MSG a challenger.

She left a champion and a hero.

Phase 5- The second title reign.

It was at this point that Wendi’s career REALLY took off. With the help of her friendship with Cyndi, Wendi was set as one of, if not the #1 beloved person in the company not called Hulk. Things were good for her, and for the division. Everything was coming up Wendi.

And then money got in the way.

Phase 6- The Contract Dispute.

To this day, it is unknown exactly what transpired on November 25th, 1985. We have the outcome, the shocking revelation, and the different sides, but as they say, Understanding is a three edged sword, your side, my side, and the truth. So let’s look at those two sides.

According to Wendi, she was preparing to go out and defend her title against Spider Lady, a sort of female version of Doink The Clown, a masked persona that took over any female body it could get it’s hands on (so actually, more like an ironic, weaker version of Venom). Regardless, she was preparing, and, according to her, she suddenly got a contract thrust at her, and was ordered to sign it. She asked for time for her and her lawyers to read it. This was refused, she was told to sign it there and then. She refused in turn, then headed out to defend her title. She was then beaten by Spider Lady in shady circumstances with a fast three count, Spider Lady turning out to be Fabulous Moolah. Vince screwed her out of the belt, then fired her for not signing the contract when told.

According to Vince, Wendi was asking for Hogan-level money, and was making life difficult for everyone by being a bitch. She refused to wrestle, made outrageous demands, so on and so forth. So, for the good of the company, he said she’d get Hogan level money, screwed her out of the title with the help of the ref and Moolah, and then paid her Hogan level money before firing her.

The truth? As I said, no-one outside of those two really know. Suffice to say, the end result was the same. Wendi lost her belt, and was out of the WWF, for life.

Phase 7- Obscurity.

Wendi would again hit the trail, working in smaller American companies, wrestling in Puerto Rico, brawling all over Japan. After a few years, she once again emerged onto a major stage, albeit with a much reduced popularity.

Phase 8- The AWA period.

She debuted in the AWA in 1988, going after their dominate champion, Madusa Miceli and her AWA Women’s Title. After a few shots at the title, she finally won it in November 88. She held the belt for over a year, defending it against such threats as Madusa, Candi Devine, Magnificent Mimi, The Dazzler, and Judy Martin. She also joined the Team Challenge Series, joining Sgt. Slaughter’s Snipers. However, seeing the signs of a sinking ship, she left, vacating the title in December 89.

Phase 9- Back to obscurity.

Wendi took a sabbatical from the business for a while, getting a degree, working outside the industry. She was lured back for a few months…

Phase 10- LPWA. No, I don’t expect you to have heard of it.

The Ladies Professional Wrestling Association, a sort of proto-Shimmer, was formed in 1990, and Wendi was lured back by an old friend and fellow former WWF Women’s Champ, Rockin’ Robin, to team up and go after the LAPW Tag Belts, as held by The Glamour Girls, Leilani Kai & Judy Martin, going by The Queen’s Court at the time. But after failing to get revenge on Kai and her partner, Wendi left before the company’s sole PPV and subsequent closure.

Phase 11- Retirement, of a sort.

Wendi then left the business for good, focusing on her other careers now, although she still makes the occasional appearance at Reunion and Legends shows.

Today- Could she hold a grudge that long?

Today, one could argue that while Bret Hart has every right to hate Vince, Wendi has so much more. Bret is still admired, revered, looked upon fondly, and is in the WWE Hall Of Fame. But Wendi? She’s forgotten, pushed aside, talked down, and generally not given the respect she deserves. Could she have taken advantage of Vince’s state to take him out for good? After all, she has connections…

Conclusion

Despite the WWE’s failure to, you must recognize and understand Wendi’s role. She was the very first WWF Woman to make it big, to be a star. Without her, there would be no Lita’s, no Trish’s, no Victoria’s, no anyone. Wendi was the first star female wrestler, as opposed to star female talent. Wendi was a wrestler first, a woman second. She blazed the trail, allowed others to bust it wide open thanks to her work.

But as long as Vince has a say, and the tape libraries, that will be forgotten. All over money. As it always is.

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Mathew Sforcina
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