The Fabulous Moolah didn't just dominate women's wrestling for parts of four decades, she was women's wrestling. Moolah (Lillian Ellison), who died Friday night at age 84, is unquestionably the most influential and famous female wrestler in history.
Younger fans might know her only as one half of WWE's spirited octogenarians, as she and Mae Young were used as comic relief on WWE programming over the past decade. For those who were around when "Hulkamania" was a new phenomenon in 1984, Moolah is remembered for taking part in WWE's first big mainstream angle, wrestling Wendi Richter - managed by pop star Cyndi Lauper --- on MTV.
I started following wrestling when I was in elementary school in the mid-1970s, and I have vivid memories of Moolah. In those days, there were monthly house shows at the Baltimore Civic Center, and women's matches would be on the card a few times a year. In an era when women's wrestling was not overrun with silicone-enhanced models, Moolah was a heat magnet and knew how to rile up a crowd. Both men and women seemed to truly despise Moolah, shouting words at her that my young ears had no business hearing.
I was too young to know anything about the art of being a heel, but, looking back, I recognize just how talented Moolah was as a performer. Not only did she seem to be as tough as any man, but she had me believing that she probably was mean to small animals and children. That's proof of how good she was at playing her character, because to those who knew Lillian Ellison well, she couldn't have been any sweeter or friendlier. She was known to call people "Darlin' " in her Southern drawl.
Moolah first won the women's title in 1956 at the Baltimore Coliseum, and she supposedly held it until dropping the belt to Richter in 1984. In reality, her 28-year title reign is one of wrestling's urban legends, like Andre The Giant's undefeated streak. Moolah actually lost and regained the belt several times during that span. ' Her final title reign lasted eight days in 1999 when she was 76.
Moolah had a major impact on women's wrestling out of the ring. She not only booked the women's circuit, but also trained numerous female wrestlers, including Richter and Sherri Martel.
My condolences go out to Moolah's friends and family.
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