WWE have made an active effort in the last few years to give their women’s division the same level of legitimacy as the men’s. Match types such as Hell in a Cell, the Money in the Bank ladder match, the Royal Rumble, and the Elimination Chamber have seen female instalments alongside the male ones. This year, at WrestleMania, the women’s counterpart to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal will go down, and it’s named after an equally fitting legend of the sport.
The Fabulous Moolah is an icon in women’s wrestling, a trailblazer, that’s what the WWE have told us for years. Except that’s all a crock of shit. Yes, much like The Ultimate Warrior and the pitiful use of his “memory” at the Hall of Fame every year, The Fabulous Moolah has been privy to some rather heavy revisionist history by Vince McMahon’s wrestling giant.
WWE have free reign over the canon of professional wrestling, we only know what they want us to know. This can be as simple as harmless claims that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a bigger draw than The Rock, even though all available data points towards Rocky holding most of the company’s ratings and gate records. But sometimes, there is a cover up of some dark dealings in wrestling’s underbelly. We’ve all heard about Jimmy Snuka allegedly murdering his girlfriend and Vince himself covering it up. This is a company who would rather hide heinous actions than confront them in the name of good business.
This brings us to Moolah, a woman who most fans will remember as the silly old lady who came out with Mae Young during the Attitude Era for tasteless, but often quite funny skits. She was portrayed as a stalwart legend in women’s wrestling who still had the passion to come out and entertain people in her advanced age. Her eye-watering near 30-year long reign as the NWA Women’s Champion puts every other lengthy title reign in the dust, and she even won it in the WWE at 76 years old. This makes her the oldest champion in the history of professional wrestling.
The fond memories of Moolah’s antics endeared us to her, but what lurked beneath was a tale so dark that it could be a David Fincher film. The truth of Moolah’s title reign is a story we’ve all heard before; through relentless political leveraging and burying of other talent, Moolah ensured that her spot as the top dog of women’s wrestling went unchallenged for longer than a lot of modern fans have even been alive.
Okay, so that kind of backstage behaviour isn’t exactly uncommon in wrestling. Moolah may have held back a lot of talent, but then so did many other legends of the business. We’ve all heard about Shawn Michaels and his manipulation of power to ensure he was the most protected man on the roster, but he’s still fawned over as an icon. What makes Moolah so special? Well, you have to delve into what she got up to outside of her own wrestling career to learn the horrific truth.
Throughout Fabulous Moolah’s tenure as a teacher, she abused, stole from, and pimped out her students. You read that correctly: The Fabulous Moolah was a sex trafficker. An early example of Moolah’s ways can be found with Sweet Georgia Brown, an African-American wrestler who was promoted by Moolah using racially negative means. She was presented as someone who escaped a life of picking cotton to live out a life of luxury as a wrestler. So, to clarify, The Fabulous Moolah used race-baiting to sell one of her students as the Civil Rights movement was starting to take shape.
On top of this, Brown only ever saw a miniscule percentage of the earnings promised to her by Moolah, who only paid her in cash and refused to let her set up a back account so she could invest her money. Then there are the allegations of rape at the hands of Moolah’s husband, who is believed to be the father of possibly all of Brown’s children through sexual assault.
If you were a student of Moolah’s, you were her property. She did whatever she wanted with you both in the ring and outside of it. Everyone who came through her school was convinced by Moolah to let her book them, and in doing so, she created her own monopoly over women’s wrestling. Nobody could get over except her, she was the only one that mattered. There’s a reason why The Fabulous Moolah is one of the only women’s wrestlers from the 50s through to the 80s that you ever hear about, it’s because she made sure she was the only one anyone knew.
The late Luna Vachon has gone on record saying Moolah would send her students to promoters and force them to have sex with them for money (which of course, she took the lion’s share of). So not only was she an egomaniac, she took advantage of young girls sexually for profit. WWE are now celebrating their female talent by paying homage to someone who actively tried to destroy women’s wrestling just so she could get over.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of The Fabulous Moolah’s ways. With a quick Google search, you yourself can go down the rabbit hole of her past (be warned, it only gets worse). But even with just the broad strokes, it paints a vivid picture of what kind of a person she was. This was someone who sabotaged and destroyed the lives of countless individuals for money and fame. The Fabulous Moolah doesn’t deserve to be remembered as anything more than an affront to professional wrestling. The only thing that should bear her name is a police report.