wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Most Important Women To 20th Century WWE

March 5, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook
Chyna Raw 1-11-99

March is recognized in the United States as Women’s History Month. It’s when we celebrate all the accomplishments that women have achieved through the years and hope for even more in the future. 

Much like the real world, wrestling has seen great strides towards equality by women in recent years. WWE’s Women’s Evolution has raised the stakes and upped the game to another level. We all know the greatness of today’s female talent, and we know there’s plenty of hope for the future.
Today, we look towards the past. Women were overlooked for most of twentieth century pro wrestling, including in what became the world’s biggest company. Today’s fans complain when women only get a match or two in a two hour show. Yesterday’s fans were lucky if they got a women’s match or two once a month. 

Let’s look back at some of the women that were able to make an impact in the World Wrestling Federation during the twentieth century. The ladies that came along before the likes of Trish Stratus & Lita started the ball rolling for WWE Divas. Here are who I feel to be the seven most important women to pre-2000 WWE. 

7. Alundra Blayze

I’ve always thought that Alundra/Madusa’s biggest opposition was timing. She had the misfortune of being a talented female wrestler during a time where no mainstream North American wrestling promotion had any real interest in promoting women’s wrestling, and experts had actively spent time diminishing the importance of it. She did manage to have an interesting feud with Bull Nakano while WWF Women’s Champion, but other than that her tenure was pretty non-descript.

Our main WWF-related memory involving Alundra Blayze? You know the answer to this:

Yep, when she threw the championship in the trash. In her defense, it’s not like the WWF was using it anyway.

6. Sable

The mid to late 1990s saw the company play more into sexuality than it ever had prior. They decided to appeal to the horny teenage male demographic, which I was a member of at the time. Beautiful women were put on television in very little clothing showcasing lots of skin in order to keep kids like me (and their fathers) from changing the channel.

It worked pretty well. Sunny was one of my first crushes as a young lad. There’s definitely an argument for putting her on the list, but the fact is that Sunny’s popularity was surpassed by that of
Sable during the late 1990s. I should probably act like I didn’t know what Sable’s appeal was to wrestling fans, as other pundits & experts over the years have done, but I know exactly what it was.

Maybe the method to Sable’s success doesn’t deserve merit on a list like this, but the reaction she & other women of the time period got led to the resurrection of the Women’s Championship & more of a willingness to hire women in general. I think these things are important.

5. Sensational Sherri

Sherri started her career as a wrestler, winning multiple regional championhips. She arrived in the World Wrestling Federation in 1987 and immediately achieved similar success, defeating Fabulous Moolah for the Women’s Championship. As the company deemphasized women’s wrestling, Sherri found a spot as a valet to her liking. She was the Macho King’s Queen and went on to manage Shawn Michaels while Shawn was becoming the Heartbreak Kid.

I don’t think there’s been a more complete woman in pro wrestling than Sherri Martel. She could get it done in the ring & on the microphone. No valet has added more to their wrestlers’ performance than Sherri did. Her physicality added a lot to Savage & Ted Dibiase’s matches, and her credibility with the audience built up with Randy & Ted, men accepted as top stars, helped put Shawn in their category. 

4. The Fabulous Moolah

Many would argue that the best thing to do would be to leave Moolah off of a list like this one. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t a fan even before all the behind the scenes stuff came out. The next good Moolah match I see will be the first I’ve seen. However, you have to give credence to Moolah’s importance to the WWF back in the 1980s. She brought the Women’s Championship to the company, and became part of one of the biggest angles of the Rock N’ Wrestling Connection.

Without Moolah’s involvement, Cyndi Lauper is probably managing some dude. Wouldn’t have been the same.

3. Miss Elizabeth

Randy Savage was the hottest free agent in wrestling when he arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. Every manager (and there were a lot of them there) wanted him in their stable. After weighing his options, Savage chose the services of Miss Elizabeth, who became the first woman featured as a manager/valet by the company. Elizabeth was also Savage’s wife off-screen, so she may have had an advantage over the other managers there.

Elizabeth became beloved by fans and was billed as the First Lady of wrestling. At first, she got sympathy from fans & announcers for Savage’s abusive personality, but once Savage became a good guy they both gained tremendous amounts of popularity. Elizabeth was the first woman to play a role in world championship storylines when Savage challenged for and later defended the title. Their on-screen breakup eventually led to one of the company’s most emotional moments of all time when they got back together. Elizabeth was front & center for many of the company’s most memorable moments of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

2. Chyna

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WWE saw nothing quite like Chyna before she arrived in 1997 as the bodyguard of Hunter Hearst Helmsley. A woman that could fight with the men on their level? The closest any woman had come to that was Sherri Martel when she worked as a valet, and nobody ever suggested she compete in the men’s division. Sherri was more devious, attacking men from behind or going for their eyes, things like that. Chyna would just run men over.

This didn’t exactly make some of the male wrestlers backstage too happy. Some balked at the idea of letting a woman beat them up. Hadn’t been done before in wrestling. Enough finally went along with it, and Chyna became the first woman to do a number of things. Enter the Royal Rumble. Win the Intercontinental Championship. Chyna proved that women could be treated as equals in wrestling.

Honorable Mention: Linda McMahon

The thing keeping Linda from making this list? She was never somebody that people clamored to see on WWE television. However, she was incredibly important behind the scenes as one of the top executives in the company. Plus it kind of goes without saying that if your name is “McMahon” you’re important to WWE. Better to give these spots to people without that advantage, right?

1. Cyndi Lauper

Back in 1984, Lauper was one of the biggest music stars in the world. Her songs were all over the radio and her videos were constantly being played on MTV. One of those videos, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, featured the WWF’s Captain Lou Albano as Cyndi’s father. Albano had met Lauper & her manager David Wolff on an airplane, Wolff was a big wrestling fan, and the match was made. After Albano appeared in the video and things went well, Lauper returned the favor by doing an angle with the WWF. She came in to oppose Albano, and they would pick lady wrestlers to face off at Madison Square Garden. Albano went with long-time Women’s Champion Fabulous Moolah while Lauper chose young up & comer Wendi Richter.

As we know, Richter got the upset and defeated Moolah to crown the first new Women’s Champion in approximiately ninety-seven years. It aired live on MTV, and that didn’t happen because of the Fabulous Moolah’s mainstream appeal. The success of that match led to Cyndi making more appearances, generating more interest and getting even more famous people involved. The buzz led to the first WrestleMania, and the rest is history.

So when people these days tell you that musicians have no place in wrestling, they don’t know what they’re talking about. A wildly popular female musician with no wrestling training was a big part of the WWF taking over the wrestling world.

Can Bad Bunny be today’s Cyndi Lauper? Probably not on the same level given all the other options of entertainment these days, but WWE certainly hopes he can be.