Although angles involving men hitting women were used very occassionally throughout professional wrestling history, one of the best-known early examples came in the early 1980s, when comedian Andy Kaufman began "wrestling" women during his performances. He proclaimed himself the "World Intergender Champion" and "defended" his title during his shows — usually, a hired actress or local model in a rehearsed bit; Kaufman would then "select" his female opponent at a given point in his show and offer them $1,000 if they could defeat him (a prize that was never claimed). Although an attempt to bring his act to the World Wrestling Federation didn't work out, Kaufman did gain the interest of Jerry "The King" Lawler, and eventually a storyline was worked out where Lawler would be annoyed that Kaufman never took on male wrestlers ... leading to a feud that gained mainstream media attention and a spot on Late Night with David Letterman.
Intergender matches are actually fairly common in the independent circuit, where most of the men usually aren't as big and beefy as they are in the major promotions, and likewise the female wrestlers tend to be more athletic and less diva-y, which puts them on much more even terms. One such example is Joey Ryan, who after doing an Andy Kaufman impression once before (see above,) has wrestled more than a few women on the independent circuit. In fact, most times is this is invoked, the match in question happens because the woman uses Wouldn't Hit a Girl to get away with interfering in matches and hitting cheap shots on male wrestlers, only for it to come back and bite them when someone finally gets fed up and puts them in a match, usually saying something like, "You wanna act like a man, you got it."
There's also the fact that a region often features very few female wrestlers, so they're left with the choice of either facing the same people all the time or challenging the male competitors. When MsChif and Daizee Haze started their careers in the St. Louis area, they both faced male wrestlers on a regular basis. MsChif even held the GCW Light Heavyweight Title for six months!
Jeff Jarrett is probably the most triumphant example in wrestling, making a career out of breaking guitars over the heads of women.
Roddy Piper, during his crazy heel persona during the height of the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection" era, once knocked down and kicked rock star Cyndi Lauper, then slammed her then-boyfriend David Wolfe on top of her, during an in-ring promo at Madison Square Garden, which involved American Bandstand's Dick Clark presenting an award to Lauper and "Captain" Lou Albano for their work with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. The incident — possibly one of the first times a man-on-woman attack was shown on WWF's television programs — solidified Piper as wrestling's No. 1 heel and facilitated Albano's face turn.
Piper's then-allies, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton, stalked Lauper once again during Piper's famous "War to Settle the Score" match with Hulk Hogan, which aired live on MTV. Hogan regained his bearings and, with the help of Mr. T, ran the heels off.
Miss Elizabeth, the valet (and one-time real-life wife) of Randy "Macho Man" Savage, was often fodder for physical attacks by the WWF's most dastardly villians ... although more often than not, she was merely stalked and/or threatened with serious harm until Savage or another good guy (almost always, Hulk Hogan) ran out to her rescue.
During a 1987 match with Savage (who was cementing his turn into a babyface), The Honky Tonk Man shoved Elizabeth to the mat when she tried to stop Honky and his cronies The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) from breaking a guitar over Savage's head. (Honky was ultimately successful in using his guitar as a weapon, while Elizabeth fled ... to retrieve Hogan and run the bad guys from the ring.)
On at least two occassions — in August 1988 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and again a month later at New York's Madison Square Garden — André the Giant grabbed Elizabeth by the ankle to pull her from the ring apron; before he could grab any other part of her body, Savage ran over and beat Andre away. (Another match from around the same time had Andre grab Elizabeth (he outweighed her by 400 pounds!) by the hair and try to pull her into the ring to maul her, only to be run off by another do-gooder, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, who used his snake to send Andre running off in sheer terror.)
During Savage and Hogan's feud with the Twin Towers (the Big Bossman and Akeem The African Dream[[note]]The One Man Gang having "rediscovered" his "African" roots in a Take That to Dusty Rhodes), Elizabeth's safety was in grave danger many times, the most prominent time coming during a December 1988 taping of Saturday Night's Main Event; the Big Boss Man and Akeem had beaten Hogan to a pulp, then Boss Man grabbed Elizabeth's wrist, handcuffed it and began thinking about using his nightstick ... until Savage ran in to stop the villians.
In late 1991, Roberts — who ironically saved Elizabeth from sure mortal injury three years earlier — once slapped the WWF's most beautiful woman during a match against Savage at the This Tuesday in Texas pay-per-view event. Roberts, who in 1991 had turned into a demonic heel and immediately began targeting Savage by calling him (in essence) a wimp and coward, beat Savage severely before Elizabeth begged Roberts to stop. Roberts was apparently amused and aroused by Elizabeth's groveling ... until he quickly grew tired of it, grabbed Elizabeth by the hair and slapped her hard across the face. (Gorilla Monsoon angrily shouted, "This is disgraceful! This is despicable!" as pro-bad guy color commentator Bobby Heenan, himself stunned at what was happening, teased, "He's gonna DDT Elizabeth!")
Averted by Ted DiBiase – the "Million Dollar Man," one of Savage's fiercest enemies during the Macho Man's WWF title run, never so much as made a threat toward Elizabeth, much less even acknowledged her; his focus was solely on winning the title. (Although Virgil once did restrain Elizabeth while DiBiase and André the Giant gang-beat Savage).
While the WWF's announcers routinely and roundly condemned male wrestlers who even so much as mildly threatened Elizabeth with harm, they enthusiastically cheered whenever villainous female valet/wrestler Sensational Sherri was struck by a male wrestler, most often after she tried interfering on Savage's behalf during his matches (Savage took on Sherri as his valet-manager after his falling out with Hulk Hogan, over Hogan's friendly behavior toward Elizabeth.) The most frequent Sherri-beaters were Hogan (who once struck Sherri with her own loaded purse at SummerSlam 1989), "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan (at least once) and most often the Ultimate Warrior.
In the Ultimate Warrior's case, his most extensive beating of Sherri came during his 1991 steel cage match against Savage at Madison Square Garden. Sherri repeatedly interfered in the match on Savage's behalf, causing Warrior to repeatedly beat her back or smack her head against either the steel bars or Savage's head. After Sherri ultimately caused Warrior to lose the match, he stalked Sherri and, after shoving aside numerous WWF officials and security officers, grabbed her by the neck and press-slammed her as hard as he possibly could to the mat. (Fortunately, real or kayfabe, Sherri was not seriously injured.)
Sherri also was spanked by André the Giant in a 1991 skit that aired on WWF Superstars, although this was a comedy skit — Sherri was trying to seduce Andre, who quickly put her against the bar and swatted her behind five times — and not an attempt to inflict life-threatening harm.
Averted on a 2007 episode of Raw. Following a match pitting divas Candice Michelle vs. Melina where another diva by the name of Ashley Massaro interfered ... the Great Khali (a 7-foot-3, 450-pound brute) came to the ring for no apparent reason other than to grab Ashley by the neck and shake her like a rag doll. Khali teased slapping Ashley — a full two feet shorter and 335 pounds lighter than Khali — across the head with his trademark brain chop move, a move that would surely have killed her had he struck her with Real Life force ... but Jerry "the King" Lawler ran in to take the slap as Ashley was pulled to safety.
The "HLA Show," - an episode of Monday Night Raw in which WWE spent the entire show shilling the fact that there would "hot lesbian action" in the ring. After the girls came out and kissed each other, Eric Bischoff proclaimed that they hadn't been sufficiently entertaining and had his goons 3 Minute Warning run in and beat them up.
On a metal level, Jamal of 3 Minute Warning decided to stiff the girls for real and gave one of them legitimate rib and back injuries.
In a 2006 match on Raw pitting 375-pound Samoan brute Umaga (Eddie Fatu) against the incredibly sexy Maria (all of 125 pounds, and a future Playboy model), Umaga slammed Maria and did his trademark turnbuckle squash (a move where light was clearly shown, although the "impact" was played up) before he teased using his trademark thumb poke to the throat move to strike Maria's throat (which surely would have been fatal had Fatu mistimed the move and actually struck Maria's neck). Fortunately, John Cena ran in to make sure Maria would not next be seen lying in a casket at a funeral home in her hometown of Ottawa, Illinois.
Bubba Ray Dudley had a thing for power bombing people through tables. He only drew the line at 80 year old grandmothers, that is until one provoked him.
Most of the old ECW roster would attack women, though in some cases it was in defense, as some of them would frequently interfere in matches and go for a Groin Attack with a cane (such as Beulah McGillicutty).
In CHIKARA, Mike Quackenbush and Daizee Haze played with this trope. Daizee absolutely beat the hell out of some guys a few times in the match and every time it looked like they were going to fight back, she invoked Wouldn't Hit a Girl and pleaded for mercy. Finally, Quack knocked her flat with a palm strike. He proceeded to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment as the fans were evenly split between booing him and chanting his name. As for Daizee, she nearly pinned Quack with a schoolboy a bit later, and followed that by dropping Lince Doradoright on his head.
However after Dorado followed Haze into the dreaded BDK, the faces have had less of a moral problem fighting back, playing this trope straight for the majority of the roster.
Since that time, CHIKARA has dropped even the idea of separate divisions for men and women, instead allowing both genders to compete against each other. King of Trios 2012 had several all-female teams, and even one mixed-gender team (Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, and Manami Toyota.)
Chyna ran absolutely rampant over most of the men on the WWF roster — until "Stone Cold" Steve Austin kicked her in the gut and gave her the Stone Cold Stunner. In a later shoot interview, Chyna credited Austin with making her career by making it OK for men to hit her.
Stephanie McMahon has taken repeated slaps and punches from several wrestlers in storylines, most notably Triple H (her future real-life husband) and her father Vince McMahon; she has also had matches against Brock Lesnar, and has taken several "stunners" from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It has also been implied that she was attacked by Lesnar (during his 2012 feud with Triple H).
Ironically, The Undertaker's initial Heel-Face Turn was set up when he stoppedJake Roberts from striking Miss Elizabeth with a chair. In the fall of 1998, the Undertaker began using a Satanic gimmick as leader of a faction called the Ministry Of Darkness, where he routinely tormented, struck and choked women ... and even tried to marry Stephanie McMahon against her will (by tying her to a cross)!
Kane has had many angles where he has also tormented women, most notably Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres. One of wrestling's most infamous angles, involving "Katie Vick," implied that Kane killed the beautiful young woman, although this was merely a psychological game by Triple H (with whom Kane was feuding at the time).
During Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho's 2008 feud, Jericho ended up punching Shawn's real-life wife Rebecca and legitimately busted her lip. Jericho spent weeks bragging about it and mocking Shawn and Rebecca, causing Shawn to go into Tranquil Fury and give him a hellacious No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at Unforgiven 2008.
Randy Orton infamously used the RKO on Stacy Keibler and Trish Stratus, and once gave Stephanie McMahon a DDT from the second rope. Yet these cannot compare to his RKO'ing of The Fabulous Moolah, a woman nearly 60 years his senior (she was 80 and he was 23 at the time)....although he did visibly go easier on her, making the RKO look more like a DDT.
Abyss from TNA has no problem with Black Hole Slamming women, and once chokeslammed Daffney Unger through a board covered with barb wire.
Sierra Rose of the Utah promotion UCW: Zero frequently competes in intergender matches. What's more is that she normally plays the Heel (women usually play the Face in intergender competition). Any hesitation her male opponents have about hitting her goes away pretty quickly as she rakes eyes, pulls hair, slaps and will use steel chairs to try and win.
When Madusa won the WCW Cruiserweight title off Evan Karagias, the match they had was mostly high flying action with very little actual hitting. However Madusa slapped Karagias in the face and he responded by socking her in the jaw.
Madusa also got entered in a 32 person tournament to crown a new WCW Heavyweight Champion (the title having been vacated) and got matched up against Meng in the first round. At first Meng held back a little bit and spent more time trying to intimidate her than beat her up, but when Madusa actually hurt him a bit with a missile dropkick, Meng used the Tongan Death Grip on her.
Eddie Colon bashed the heads of Destiny and Black Rose together when they ganged up on his sister, Stacy.
One important fact that underlies all of this is that, during training, women likely wrestle men more than they wrestle other women. Due to female wrestlers being fewer and farther between than men, most wrestling schools likely only have a scarce few female trainees, possibly even only one (see Natalya's status as the only female graduate of the Hart Family Dungeon.) Not only do the female wrestlers often train with men, they're also more likely to be trained by men (WWE's trainer for their Divas was Fit Finlay for several years,) who inevitably have to teach by example. Likely most female wrestlers you see have been in at least one match with a man.