The Fabulous Moolah: First woman in Wrestling Championship
Born in South Carolina in 1923, Moolah’s saw tragedy at a young age when her mother died when Moolah was only eight years old. To cheer her up, her father began taking her to local wrestling matches.
Seeing Women’s Champion and WWE Hall of Famer Mildred Burke inspired her to chase the dream of one day becoming a wrestler – and Women’s Champion – herself. When Did She start Training?
In 1948, she began training with Burke’s then-husband, notorious women’s promoter Billy Wolfe. Wolfe was infamous for his abusive relationship with his women trainees and stars, often sleeping with them in exchange for spots on his cards.
This abusive relationship ultimately let to Mildred Burke finally leaving him, where she was blackballed in most of North America. Burke headed to Japan in the early 50s and laid the foundation for women’s wrestling in the East (her WWA laid the groundwork for All-Japan’s Women’s Pro-Wrestling).
Moolah would only last a year in Billy Wolfe’s camp before the abuse took its toll on her. She ventured out on her own in 1949. She soon assembled her own crew of girls, but Wolfe’s stranglehold on the North American circuit made finding work hard.
When Success kicked in...... Her big break came when Boston promoter Paul Bowser agreed to use Moolah’s girls instead of Wolfe’s for his cards, and soon other Northern promoters followed suit, including Vince McMahon Sr.‘s Capitol Wrestling in 1955. In 1956, these promoters – all NWA allied – announced a tournament to crown their own Women’s Champion – away from Wolfe’s designate – and The Fabulous Moolah was their woman.
Sadly for women’s wrestling – which had been a main event draw for years during the 1930s through 1940s – the Fabulous Moolah, while rejecting of Wolfe’s tactics, turned to most of them throughout her own career.
She had worked out a deal where she owned the NWA Women’s Championship title and booked it herself wherever she went. In doing so, she monopolized the title to herself.
She held the NWA Women’s title four times in the near 30 years she controlled it’s booking and lineage, dropping it only a handful of times. Once for 13 days to Bette Boucher in 1966 (ten years into her first reign), once on a Japan tour to Yukiko Tomoe for 23 days (she won it back at the end of the tour) in 1968, and finally to Evelyn Stevens for two days in 1978.
In total, she held it for over 11,000 days from 1956 to 1983, before she signed exclusive to Vince McMahon Jr.‘s WWF, in a deal that saw her sell the Women’s Championship to be used by the WWF (who immediately took it off her and put it on Wendi Richter).
During those three decades, pioneers of women’s wrestling such as Judy Grable, Penny Banner, and even her hero, Mildred Burke, and best friend, Mae Young, were denied the opportunity to wear the championship gold.
From a business perspective, Moolah was arguably the most successful women’s wrestling trainer in the country, if not North America. Girls flocked from all of the country to work with her.
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