By Steve Slagle
Ladies wrestling, much like its male counterpart, has had many ups and downs over the last 100 years. But unlike mens wrestling, the female that have donned the tights over the years had a much tougher battle just to be noticed, let alone being "pushed." Lillian Ellison, aka The Fabulous Moolah was (and remains) one of the prime figures in the history of Women's professional wrestling, and without her, that history would be drastically altered. Much like Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan often "carried" the world of wrestling on their shoulders as legitimate superstars, The Fabulous Moolah was the representative of the female version of pro wrestling for some 30 years, and is arguably the greatest Women's champion to ever wrestle. Moolah was talented and knowledgeable, devious and vicious, courageous yet cowardly, and she could "work" the crowd like few others, male or female. In other words, she possessed all of the qualities it takes to be a champion pro wrestler?
Originally, Ellison began her career in the 1950's as a valet and manager, most notably for "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. As "Slave Girl Moolah" she often helped Rogers obtain a crooked win, as well as providing visual entertainment for the predominately male audiences. The reigning World Ladies Champion was, of course, the great Mildred Burke (pictured, right). Burke had a lock on the Women's World title that was overwhelming and complete. She held the World title for years, then decades, and was clearly the most dominant force the young genre of pro wrestling had ever seen. But when Moolah came along, just as Burke was fading away, Women's wrestling found its new icon in Lillian Ellison's small but powerful frame? She won her 1st version of the World title in 1956, defeating Judy Grable in a tournament. Nearly 10 years later, Moolah was recognized as the NWA Women's World titleholder, making her the undisputed Women's champion. She only held that distinction for 2 years, until she was defeated by Betty Boucher. Moolah recovered, though, and regained the World title just weeks later. The Fabulous One remained champion for another 2 year, before being beaten by Yukiko Tomoe in Japan on March 10, 1968. As was the case with Boucher, Moolah regained her title just days later. This time, she went on to hold the World title for 8 consecutive years, proving that she was a the best ladies wrestler in the world.
Much like the NWA World champion (whomever it may have been) Moolah traveled from NWA territory to NWA territory, defending her strap against that region's top female wrestler. She logged countless thousands of miles, not only in the U.S., but Canada, Japan, Mexico, Europe, and other points across the globe. Moolah was never "the girl next door" and her evil ring character wouldn't think twice about taking an illegal shortcut to gain the victory. During her 8-year reign, Moolah fought every worthy contender, and maintained her ironclad grip on the title belt, by hook or by crook. Finally, in 1976 at Madison Square Garden, Moolah was upset by Sue Green for the World Ladies championship. Yet, once again, Moolah was only separated from her title for a few days, as she regained the title in a rematch, again in New York. She held her title (which was, by this point, literally -- and legally -- owned by Ellison) for another two years before dropping the strap to Evelyn Stevens in Dallas on October 8, 1978. Two days later, Moolah once again had her gold title belt back. She kept is for another 5 uninterrupted years before her life -- and the world of pro wrestling -- was suddenly changed forever? In 1983, Vince McMahon, Jr. was taking his newly-purchased WWF national, and he offered Moolah a fabulous (pun intended) deal so financially lucrative that she could not refuse. Lillian Ellison sold her rights to the Women's World Title to the World Wrestling Federation, and agreed to appear exclusively for the WWF. After signing her exclusive deal with the WWF, Moolah was a prominent (and much-hated) WWF Women's champion, and she dominated her competition. The NWA's loss was the WWF's gain, and Moolah was a huge part of the WWF's initial rise to national prominence. She was an integral figure in the "Rock `N Wrestling" angle that drew the first major national headlines for the WWF. When Wendi Richter defeated Moolah for the WWF Ladies World title, it started a feud that would bring both women into the mainstream celebrity newspapers, mainly due to Wendi's famous "manager" Cindy Lauper. Lauper was in Richter's corner against Moolah at the inaugural Wrestlemania, and at various high-profile WWF events, including appearances at WWF cards held at New York's Madison Square Garden. Unlike her previous separations from the title, Richter was able to defeat Moolah in rematch after rematch. Finally, after a year of being an ex-champion, Moolah regained her title in a very controversial match. As the Spider Lady, Moolah received a more-than-gracious call by the referee, that resulted in the stunned Richter losing her title without actually being pinned. In a moment very reminiscent of the recent Bret Hart WWF title controversy, it seemed (and was later verified by Richter) that the title had been literally stolen from the popular and unsuspecting champion by a pre-determined decision unknown to Richter. Soon after, Richter left the WWF forever. But Moolah remained?and continued to dominate. She held the WWF Women's title for nearly another full year before being defeated by the up-and-coming Velvet McIntyre on July3, 1986 in Brisbane, Australia. McIntyre only the held the WWF Women's title for a few days before losing to Moolah in another Australian rematch. The aging Moolah would then hold the title for one last year before being defeated by "Sensational" Sherri Martel on July 24, 1987 in Houston, TX. The defeat marked the end of Moolah's reign as World Champion -- a reign that remarkably stretched some 30 years. Surely, no one has ever done more for the world of ladies wrestling than Lillian Ellison, and no champion -- of either sex -- can claim a longer World title reign than that of the legendary Fabulous Moolah. We at The Ring Chronicle recognize her great accomplishments in and out of the ring, and proudly induct the most dominant woman the world of wrestling has ever known, The Fabulous Moolah, into TRC's Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame?
The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle
Lillian Ellison, known in the ring as the Fabulous Moolah, is one of wrestling's pioneering veterans and heroines, both in and out of the squared circle. When wrestling first caught the attention of the public, Moolah had a ringside seat. Appearing on the scene in 1949 as a "valet" for some male wrestlers, she was introduced to the crowd as a "slave girl" dressed in revealing leopardskin. But the woman who got into the business for the "moolah" wouldn't remain a valet for long, and soon Moolah turned her humble beginnings into a successful and long-lived career.
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