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The ladies of the '80s
WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel pays tribute to some of the great WWE women of the 1980s, including Fabulous Moolah, Wendi Richter and Miss Elizabeth.
Through the years, WWE has had its share of talented and amazing individuals that have performed and entertained the masses that comprise the WWE Universe. And a select part of that group are those from the female side of things. Recently, within the hallowed halls of WWE.com, there were a few water cooler discussions as to which decade had the best overall crop of female competitors. Well, in this article, I am going to zero in on the decade that launched WWE into a major force in sports and entertainment, the decade that produced “the ladies of the ’80s.” ( PHOTOS)
In the early part of the decade, the legendary Fabulous Moolah was the human equivalent of a fine wine getting better with age. The then-Women’s Champion dominated her craft over such opponents as Princess Victoria, Peggy Lee and Velvet McIntyre. However, the winds of change were starting to blow as 1984 began, as arguably the most impactful WWE women’s moment of the decade was to unfold, thanks to a young Texas girl by the name of Wendi Richter.
In contrast to the crafty and deliberate ways that Moolah operated, Richter was full of vim and vigor. Richter represented a girl who just wanted to have fun, and through her association with singer Cyndi Lauper, they did just that. Fast forward to July 23, 1984. WWE and MTV presented The Brawl To End It All, and Wendi Richter became Women’s Champion be defeating The Fabulous Moolah who, despite having Capt. Lou Albano by her side, was dethroned. ( WATCH)
The Richter-Lauper association was a very good one, as it was one of the signature pieces of what became the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection." Lauper's tenure with WWE was a feather in the company’s cap. The pop star recruited Albano to be part of her “Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun” music video, and things gravitated from there. There was a bump in the road on Feb. 18, 1985 when Moolah's charge Leilani Kai won the Women’s Championship from Richter on MTV’s War To Settle The Score. That reign did not last long, though, as Richter (accompanied by Lauper) regained the title from Kai at the first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985.
Another lady who hit a grand slam in her first WWE at bat was Sherri Martel. Having honed her craft in various wrestling organizations in the early-to-mid-80s, Martel entered WWE on July 24, 1987. Untouted, she went right into the frying pan and came out as the new Women’s Champion, defeating The Fabulous Moolah (who had regained the title from Richter under the disguise as Spider Lady). As many thought that her win over Moolah was somewhat sensational in scope, Martel took that adjective to heart and renamed herself Sensational Sherri. Her in-ring style was aggressive yet cunning, and she was always ahead of the curve as it related to her title defenses.
Of course many WWE fans probably remember Sherri more for her managerial exploits that picked up steam in the early 1990’s. And her foray into managing might have been in part to her dethroning at the hands of Rockin' Robin on Oct. 7, 1988.
A second-generation competitor, Rockin' Robin brought energy and exuberance to the Women’s Championship. Her firebrand style brought many fans into her camp. And did you know that at WrestleMania V, Robin opened the event by singing "America The Beautiful"!
WWE's ladies division was so active during the '80s that there was a Women’s Tag Team Championship. Probably the most recognizable holders of that honor were Judy Martin and Leilani Kai, collectively known as The Glamour Girls. Managed by "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, the platinum-haired duo generally had little trouble disposing of their opponents, until two imports from Japan arrived on the scene.
Now the names of Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki might not ring a bell, but WWE fans might very well remember them as The Jumping Bomb Angels. These two took WWE by storm, and were hot on The Glamour Girls’ trail. This rivalry led to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where on Jan. 24, 1988, at the first Royal Rumble event, The Angels ascended to the heights of becoming Women’s Tag Team Champions by defeating The Glamour Girls in a best two-out-of-three falls bout. Many veteran WWE pundits feel that contest was one of the greatest women’s matches ever held in a WWE ring.
Finally, there was one woman who made a huge impact in the '80s, yet she never competed in a match. Her skills were of the variety of being the beauty and brains behind the brawn. When she debuted in 1985, she was a veritable unknown, but she made an immediate impact on virtually everyone that she came in contact with.
Miss Elizabeth was introduced to the WWE Universe by Macho Man Randy Savage. When Savage entered WWE that same year, the fraternity of managers at that time were all offering a king’s ransom to secure Savage’s services. But the Macho Man said thanks, but no thanks, as he had chosen someone else. Enter Miss Elizabeth. She said very little, did very little, yet added so much by being at the Macho Man’s side. She also did have her differences with Savage at the time when he and Hulk Hogan were collectively known as The Mega Powers, and even wound up in the corner of The Hulkster for a period of time. Of course, fast forward to 1991, and there was reconciliation with Savage at WrestleMania VII, and their eventual wedding at SummerSlam that year.
So when you chronicle the decade of the '80s, the argument can certainly be made that the females that participated both in and out of WWE rings carved their niche accordingly, and were the harbingers of things to come going forward.