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Nov-05-2007 06:44

History Making Female Wrestler, The Fabulous Moolah, Dead at 84

On June 24, 1995, she was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame, becoming the first female wrestler to enter the Hall of Fame.

The Fabulous Moolah
Photo courtesy: WWE

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Mary Lillian Ellison, better known by her ring name The Fabulous Moolah, died Friday night in Columbia, S.C. She was 84.

The WWE in a statement said in the world of women’s wrestling, there will always be one irrefutable legend that stands head and shoulders above the rest: The Fabulous Moolah.

She was the longest reigning champion in the history of her chosen sport, or any sport for that matter. And with more than 50 years in the business to her credit, she established a legacy that will never be forgotten, making her name synonymous with female wrestling.

Ellison grew up near Blythewood, South Carolina, the youngest of 13 siblings and the sole girl. She was 8 when her mother died of cancer, and by age 10, she was already working at her cousin’s cotton farm.

In the late 1940s, she began wrestling for Mildred Burke’s husband Billy Wolfe, the dominant women’s promoter of the time. Ellison debuted as “Slave Girl Moolah” in 1949, serving as the valet for the Elephant Boy (Tony Olivas). By the early 1950s, Moolah was a valet for the legendary “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, providing eye candy for the male audiences while assisting Rogers against his babyface opponents. Following her divorce from Long, she dated country singer Hank Williams for a year.

Within a few years, she began wrestling under the name Fabulous Moolah. On September 18th, 1956, Moolah defeated Judy Grable in a 13-woman battle royale to win the vacant Women’s World Title (although June Byers still held claim to the NWA Women’s Championship after beating Burke three years earlier).

Moolah successfully defended the belt against the top female wrestlers in the world, while also continuing to befriend some of the biggest celebrities of the day, including Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. In addition, she also opened a women’s wrestling school where she trained and promoted a variety of new female wrestlers, most notably the Lady Angel.

In 1983, Vince McMahon began expanding the WWF nationally, and he offered Moolah a lucrative deal for the rights to her Women’s World Title. Moolah agreed to appear exclusively for the WWF and thus became the WWF Women’s Champion.

The following year, pop music superstar Cyndi Lauper began a verbal feud with heel manager "Captain" Lou Albano that brought pro wrestling into the mainstream culture in an angle that became known as the Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection.

When it was finally time for Lauper and Albano to settle their differences in the ring, a big matchup was scheduled with Albano representing Moolah against the challenge of Lauper’s young protégé, a beautiful challenger named Wendi Richter.

In vintage WWF fashion, history was rewritten as Moolah was portrayed as having held the Women’s Title uninterrupted for the previous thirty years (which was nearly true since all of Moolah’s past title losses totaled to just a few weeks of not holding the belt since 1956).

After much buildup and a tremendous amount of hype, the Fabulous Moolah finally lost the championship in the most anticipated women’s matchup in history when she was defeated by Wendi Richter on July 23, 1984 in the main event of “the Brawl to End it All,” which was broadcast live on MTV.

After losing the title to Richter, Moolah's glorious career seemed to have come to a close; she then trained Leilani Kai, who beat Richter for the title in February 1985.

Richter won it back at WrestleMania, but when Richter’s relationship quickly soured with the WWF, Moolah donned a mask as the Spider Lady, and regained the belt on November 25, 1985 in a controversial decision (Richter was never told she would be losing the title, and fell victim to a real-life "screwjob" finish).

Moolah was unmasked by Richter after the match. Richter promptly quit the WWF after this match, while Moolah continued to dominate the promotion’s lady’s division for another 2 years (excluding a 6-day reign by Velvet McIntyre during a tour of Australia in 1986) before finally losing the belt to Sherri Martel on July 24, 1987.

She would retire from full-time competition shortly after the loss to Sherri, though she would captain a team at the inaugural Survivor Series.

Her team (Moolah, Velvet McIntyre, Rockin' Robin, and the Jumping Bomb Angels) defeated champion Martel and her team (Leilani Kai, Judy Martin, Donna Christanello, and Dawn Marie).

As women’s wrestling rose to new prominence in Japan during the 1980s and 90s, the division slowly faded into oblivion in the U.S. as the Fabulous Moolah disappeared into retirement.

On June 24, 1995, she was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame, becoming the first female wrestler to enter the Hall of Fame.

Yet when the industry hit another popularity boom in the late 1990s, Moolah and fellow lady legend Mae Young re-emerged on the September 9, 1999 episode of SmackDown! when Jeff Jarrett invited Moolah into the ring. He then proceeded to crack a guitar over Moolah's head.

Moolah and Young began appearing regularly in comedic roles as the women’s division made a comeback with new stars like Chyna, Lita, Ivory, and later Trish Stratus.

On the September 27, 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw, Moolah and Young defeated Ivory in a "Handicapped Evening Gown Match".

This led to a title match at No Mercy on October 17, 1999, and the 76-year old Moolah defeated Ivory to regain the Women's Title, thus becoming the oldest WWE Women's Champion ever (though she lost the title back to Ivory 8 days later).

On the September 15, 2003 edition of RAW, Moolah was scheduled to be in a match against Victoria. Moolah had been promised a match for her 80th birthday. After Moolah's victory, the "Legend Killer" Randy Orton came out and gave Moolah an RKO. Moolah and Mae Young made another appearance at New Years Revolution 2006, during a Bra and Panties Gauntlet Match attacking Victoria and stripping her of her top.

Moolah and Young, along with several other lady wrestlers, starred in the 2004 film "Lipstick and Dynamite" which is a documentary about the women wrestlers from the 1950s era. They appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote the film.

DANIEL SMITH November 18, 2008 3:19 pm


Debbie Johnson November 7, 2007 4:40 am

I worked for Moolah in the early 70's,she loved wrestling more than anyone I have ever met,My sympathies go out to her daughter and Grandchildren. RIP Lil!!!

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