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Wrestling / The Fabulous Moolah

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Mary Lillian Ellison (July 22, 1923 – November 2, 2007) was an American professional wrestler, better known by her ring name The Fabulous Moolah.

She began her career working with promoter Billy Wolfe and his wife, wrestler and trainer Mildred Burke, as Slave Girl Moolah, as well as working as a valet for "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, accompanying him to the ring while providing eye candy for the male audiences and assisting Rogers against his opponents. On September 18, 1956, Moolah defeated Judy Grable to win the NWA World Women's Championship, after which Vince McMahon, Sr. dubbed Ellison with the name The Fabulous Moolah. She would go to become the most prominent holder of the title for approximately the next 30 years.

In 1983, Vince McMahon, Jr. began expanding the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) nationally, and Moolah sold him the rights to her Women's World Championship, thus becoming the first WWF Women's Champion. The following year, Cyndi Lauper began a feud with manager Captain Lou Albano that brought professional wrestling into mainstream culture in a storyline 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 match-up was scheduled with Albano representing Moolah against the challenge of Lauper's protégé, Wendi Richter. After much buildup and hype, the Fabulous Moolah lost the championship when defeated by Richter, who had Lauper in her corner, on July 23, 1984 in the main event of The Brawl to End It All, which was broadcast live on MTV. Prior to the match, the WWF promoted Moolah as holding the championship for the previous 28 years, meaning that (for WWF at least) she held the longest title reign by any athlete in any professional sport.

After losing the title to Richter, Moolah aided Leilani Kai in defeating Richter for the title in February 1985. Richter won it back at the inaugural WrestleMania, but when Richter's relationship with the WWF soured, 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 known as "The Original Screwjob" (to differentiate it from that other screwjob), and promptly quit the WWF afterward. Moolah continued to be champion for another two years—excluding a six-day reign by Velvet McIntyre during a tour of Australia in 1986—before losing the belt to Sherri Martel on July 24, 1987.

Afterwards, Moolah went into semi-retirement, only making very sporadic appearances (during which she became the first woman to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995), until in 1998, she and longtime friend Mae Young re-emerged in the WWF (later renamed World Wrestling Entertainment, then WWE), appearing regularly in comedic roles. This time saw 76-year-old Moolah defeat Ivory at No Mercy 1999 in October 17 to regain the WWE Women's Championship, thus becoming the oldest WWE Women's Champion ever, though she lost the title to Ivory eight days later. She continued making appearances alongside Young until her death on November 2, 2007.

Tropes related to The Fabulous Moolah:

  • Canon Discontinuity: The Women's world title had continuity between multiple companies. Her first title reign wasn't recognized by the NWA. To counter this, the WWF decided her first title reign hadn't ever ended (not for twenty eight years anyway). If you just look at things as they really happened, then her longest title reign was seven years.
  • Cat Fight:
    • For better or worse, this was how Moolah wrestled most of her matches - in part owing to her age, as it was easier for her to roll around and pull hair than to pull off anything more complicated. Many of her students were taught accordingly, both because it was what she was used to and because she was unwilling to let anyone wrestle better than her. This has been credited with contributing to the stagnation of womens' wrestling in the US for years.
    • Moolah sold pictures of her students in apartment cat fight poses for Bill Apter's magazines, after Stanley Weston convinced a reluctant Apter that Sex Sells. This lead to an "Apartment Wrestling" boom in the 1970s. Previously "apartment wrestling" had mostly been something done by bored pro wrestling fans who weren't trying to make money or entertain anyone other than themselves, similar to Backyard Wrestling. In fact, prior to Moolah's commercialization of the concept apartment was a misnomer, as the most common participants were stay at home wives in the rooms of their own homes.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If you were looking for expert mat technique, dazzling feats of agility or stunning displays of power, you might want to look a little further. If you wanted closed fists, scratching, raking, hair pulling, fish may have found what you were looking for.
  • David Versus Goliath: Moolah was the first women's junior heavyweight champion Jack Pfefer crowned but the rest of the NWA promoters didn't care for weight classes among women, managed to find a woman twenty eight pounds lighter than Moolah in Betty Boucher, and had her feud with and take the world women's title belt from Moolah. Inverted when the giant Sue Green ended one of Moolah's later title runs.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Anyone who managed to pin her before 1990 had done this.
  • Dirty Old Woman: During her later years, though nowhere near as much as her best friend Mae Young.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Enacted against her with some elements of Misplaced Retribution. Before she went to Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Corporation, she was nearly stabbed by an angry fan for kissing the Mexican wrestler The Elephant Boy on the cheek while she managed him. It was said the fan mistook Elephant Boy for a black man and back in the day, fans would often attack wrestlers they didn't like and weren't open to that kind of "interracial" contact.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Sherri Martel spent a year or two at Moolah's South Carolina school, but was booted out for clubbing every night. Oddly, these two would go on to have great matches in the WWF, with The Fabulous One putting her protege over at Houston in 1986.
    • Stu Hart, of the somewhat known wrestling school The Dungeon, referred students that he could not or would not teach to her school, such as Desiree Peterson (this was before Natalya trained in the Dungeon in 2000 — it was probably because of Stu's advancing age and the fact that Nattie is family.)
    • Moolah's influence in the WWF and women's wrestling as a whole started to wane in the late 80's after the Jumping Bomb Angels fiasco. At the time, Vince was hoping to compete with (or absorb) All Japan. Moolah was called in to manage the aforementioned tag team, which was a big mistake. She couldn't make heads or tails of the Japanese style and proceeded to dismantle the dynamic that made Angels great; the duo soon fled the WWF and Vince would never quite get a foothold in the country, which likely led to his phasing out the women's division altogether.
  • Evil Matriarch: Kind of had to be portrayed as one after the Spider-Lady fiasco.
  • Evil Mentor: The Spider Lady was originally Moolah's apprentice. Afterwards she became known as a jobber.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: She's already showing her age in even most of her black and white photos but she was able to distract Buddy Rogers' opponents when she was his valet, so she clearly was at some point.
  • Lady of War: Prior to becoming a fierce villain of the ring and definitely prior to becoming a cougar.
  • Leotard of Power: Sometimes under a vest or jacket.
  • Making a Spectacle of Yourself: In the Rock n' Wrestling era, she comes out looking like Ted DiBiase's grandma, with giant dollar-signs bolted onto her specs.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Jim Cornette described her and the women she trained as "salty". This translated to the ring when she became the oldest champion in the WWF after defeating Ivory. Ivory won the belt back but still had to lose two matches to Moolah for that to happen. (The first was a handicap match with Mae Young.)
  • Old Master: The commentators were quick to remind us why Moolah clocked three decades as the women's champ: she ran her own school, "trains constantly", and could out-think her opponents by predicting their moves. So when Moolah laid out women half her age, it was still somewhat believable. Not so much when she pinned women a third her age.
  • Pet the Dog: In a Passing the Torch moment, Moolah volunteered to drop the USA Women's Title belt to Panther Girl Ann Casey. It was widely thought Casey's career was dead after she was shot six times, so Moolah helped her surprise comeback along.
  • Signature Move: The Moolah Whip, which is where she would grab someone by the hair and whip them through the air by it.
  • Squash Match:
    • Defeated Velvet McIntyre at WrestleMania 2 in a mere 1:25.
    • Moolah also won the belt in 1999 at age 76, when she defeated Ivory at No Mercy 1999 in 2:50, in a match that saw Ivory's only offense of note being a dropkick at the beginning of the match.
  • Start My Own: Girl Wrestling Enterprises, which she stopped running after she started working with Vince Jr
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: What The Spider Lady was originally supposed to be, but Moolah wore the Spider Lady mask in a very controversial match with Wendi Richter. After filming, Moolah saw Wendi was out for blood, and beat a hasty retreat to the airport (not even stopping to change out of her ring gear).
  • Student–Master Team: Twice an NWA World Woman's Tag Team Champion alongside Toni Rose, one of many listed among her trainees.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: She and Mae Young fought against each other many times over the years but they were also life long best friends and were practically inseparable.
  • Wrestling Family: Her daughter wrestled as Pat Sherry.
  • You Go, Girl!: She wrestled the first women's match in Madison Square Garden after the ban on women's wrestling was lifted in New York. Some claim the woman who fought and repelled the ban was Titi Paris, with Moolah and the McMahons slipping in to take credit after the fact, but if that's true all that means is that they invoked this trope for good publicity.