People who were around in the 1950s saw the Golden Age of Television, but they didn't know it at the time. It's hard to know something is going to be so special when it's happening, but it doesn't take a hardcore wrestling fan to know that we are in the Golden Age of Women's Wrestling. Some might want to call it a rebirth, but it's never been very healthy. It's either been The Fabulous Moolah vs. Enter Challenger's Name here, women treated as a sideshow, women treated as a sexual object or some combination of the three.
Lita and Trish Stratus showed us that women could be sexy, strong and terrific competitors, but aside from those two ladies there has never been a time until the recent past that there were more than two women who deserved to be admired. The last legacy of the early years of NXT will be that it did more for women's wrestling than anything before. Obviously, there's the Four Horsewomen of Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, but even when you get to the next tier of workers like Carmella, Asuka, Dana Brooke and Alexa Bliss, you've got another four women who are all strong, attractive women who know what they're doing inside the ring.
It's not always been this way and, if history has shown us anything, it won't last forever. Appreciate it while you can because there have been plenty of women who only had to look good to find a spot on television. The Attitude Era is held by many - especially younger people who weren't there - as a Golden Age in wrestling. It wasn't. It was a time of grasping at straws and demeaning women was a time-worn idea the WWE warmly embraced.
It’s not only the full-time wrestling characters. While plenty of women were happy to play whatever role promoters assigned, behind the scenes, there have been women running things that have either held women’s wrestling back, or hurt wrestling as a whole in general. Far too often, they may play characters in the ring and do go as far as to participate in matches, but their real power is behind the scenes helping to pull strings. Often, these women have the company’s, or at least their own selfish interests, in front of what’s good for wrestling as a whole. Of course there are those who never set out to be in wrestling, don’t even seem to particularly be fans of it, but through some act of God ended up having an influence on the entertainment medium we love so much and not in a good way. Using this criteria, we could provide you with a list to read for days, but let’s just take a look at the worst of the worst: are the Top 15 Female Wrestlers Who Ruined Wrestling's Reputation.
Once legally known as Mrs. Marc Mero and now claiming the title of Mrs. Brock Lesnar, Sable represents everything that was wrong and is the walking stereotype of the women’s division during The Attitude Era. If you weren’t there, you can kind of experience it on the WWE Network, but it was one of those things that you had to be there to believe. The Attitude Era was a time when what was once a goofy form of escapist entertainment geared toward families and young children, radically took a turn, became increasingly adult and earning a TV-14 rating. Almost overnight, the show went from Hulk Hogan ripping off his T-shirt to blondes with fake boobs ripping off theirs. Sable gave us the most lasting sexualized image of the Attitude Era at the Fully Loaded pay-per-view in 1998. Facing Jacqueline in a bikini contest, Sable took over her oversized T-shirt to reveal instead of a bikini top, she was wearing nothing but a pair of hands painted on her breasts Since she wasn’t wearing a bikini, she technically lost, but she served a blow to all female wrestling fans - perhaps with the exception of Jerry “The King” Lawler, when she let her puppies fly.
It may seem strange to put the most recent WWE Hall of Famer on this list, but we still think the only reason she was put into the Hall was because WrestleMania was in Texas and it was clearly a Texas-themed roster. Who better to enshrine than a woman who once went by the name Miss Texas? Jacqueline was a decent worker with decent mic skills, but her lasting legacy isn't about her non-descript title reigns or breaking the glass ceiling for African American women. It was for her chest being on display after her shirt was ripped off by Sable. Not only that, she was riding on a referee's shoulders. It was comedy to be sure, but it was one of the most sexual moments in WWE history. Think about that. Think about Charlotte, Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch doing that. It's embarrassing for any woman who has stepped foot in the ring.
13 Mae Young
In the hours after Mae Young’s death, the WWE put together one of its typical tribute videos that brings tears to the eyes, but this one brought more shakes of the head wondering what this one great womens’ wrestler’s legacy would be. She came to the WWE in her 70s as the art-immitating-life sidekick of The Fabulous Moolah, who played the straight man to Young’s crazy old broad routine. Sometimes it was hard to tell if Young could tell she was the butt of the joke, but even if she was always in on it, the joke usually fell flat. One of her more infamous bits was as Mark Henry’s love interest who got pregnant and with the help of Dr. Pat Patterson, delivered a rubber, goo-covered hand. Yup, a hand. Like a human hand. Our grandmother never would have gone for that, nor would she have entered the Miss Royal Rumble contest and pulled down her bathing suit to reveal a less-than-sexy old lady chest. WWE claimed it was all a makeup job, but we think that was just damage control. Mae Young’s elderly years as a wrestling diva are best forgotten for any fan of wrestling...or women.
12 Miss Elizabeth
The “Diva” label of the last 20 years is dead, and while many feel like it was a demeaning label for a sometimes more demeaning style of wrestling (Super Soaker Wet ‘N’ Wild Matches or Lingerie Pillow Fight Matches for example) divas were almost never portrayed as weak women. They were fighting in pudding matches with thongs crammed up their ass, but they were doing it because they wanted to, not because anybody made them. As far as strong women go, they were that and they were a far cry from the pre-diva days of Miss Elizabeth. Announcers gushed at how beautiful the slightly above-average looking wife of Randy Savage was, but it was the look on her face of “I’m scared to be here and I’d rather be anywhere else” that fans picked up on the most. We’re sure living with Savage can’t be easy, but she portrayed herself as little more than a piece of property, which if reports are true, is how Savage often treated her. Shortly before her overdose death, she was brought back to be a member of the NWO, but instead of epitomizing the group’s rebel in-your-face style, she looked like an older version of that women from the WWF 15 years earlier, content to stand behind her man in silence.
11 The Fabulous Moolah
We should probably just go ahead and get the Batman to Mae Young’s Robin out of the way while we have elderly female wrestling personalities on the mind. A WWE Hall of Famer who is now fondly remembered and revered by a generation of women wrestlers who are too young to have seen Moolah live, there was a time when it ws almost impossible to find a female who worked in wrestling who had a good thing to say about the real-life Lillian Ellison. She was the women’s champion for almost 30 years, but that’s because she served as the one legitimate female wrestling promoter in the country from the 1950s through the 1980s. You weren’t going to be a successful women’s wrestler without her, but as far as the title went, she wouldn’t let anybody else have it. It's been well-documented that Ellison was the liaison between the male promoters and the female wrestlers and always made sure that she got a cut of everyone’s money and how if you complained, you were quickly shunned from the wrestling world.
10 Dawn Marie / Torrie Wilson
Dawn Marie Psaltis and Torrie Wilson may very well be the nicest people you’ll meet outside of a wrestling ring and there are plenty of anecdotes to support that opinion, but it’s not their sunny private demeanor this duo is remembered for. The basis for their characters was the same for almost every diva during The Attitude Era: Big boobs and a willingness to parade around thousands of people in a throng. Neither of these women will ever see a Hall of Fame stage and their most infamous storyline will be the reason. Over several weeks of Smackdown episodes, Dawn Marie was seen seducing Torrie Wilson’s (real-life) stepfather Al in a soap opera that should never have made it onto television. It got especially creepy when Al was seen shirtless in bed with Dawn Marie and Wilson kept begging her stepfather to stop. Neither have been seen in years, but memories of Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson will never evoke those of strong female characters.
9 Wendi Richter
This is a case of a woman being too big for her britches and making a generation of female wrestlers unintentionally pay. She could have been THE name that defined a generation of women’s wrestling. Instead, she single-handedly killed off the WWE’s division for a decade. What happened? She thought she was as big as Hulk Hogan. Looking back, it seems laughable. She thought, if Internet lore is to be believed, since Richter thought was attracting so many new fans to the product, her contract should be the same size as the men’s champion at the time, Hulk Hogan. When she became too difficult to deal with, she was fired, taking down what looked like a resurgence for women that didn’t happen until The Attitude Era. Eventually she buried the hatchet with WWE and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Most fans don't recognize the name, but if she'd just been a little easier to work with, the world of women's wrestling would probably have looked a lot different between 1985 and 1995.
8 Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
Sytch was already well on her way to rock bottom when she enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame, yet it never could have been guessed that the woman riding high as Sunny in WWE, would have one of the most spectacular crashes over the next 20 years. Credited as the first “Diva” and the most downloaded woman on the Internet in the early days of AOL, her descent began when she allegedly started abusing painkillers. After developing a reputation for being unpredictable and no-showing indy shows, Sytch’s life really started spinning out of control following Candido’s death. We’d tell you how many times the police have been called on her for domestic disputes or drunk driving, but it would probably be out of date by the time you read this. Legend has it that when Playboy began a yearly feature with a WWE Diva to coincide with Wrestlemania, she was offered the gig first and turned down a six-figure payday. A decade later, she was posing nude on a website owned by Missy Hyatt. Could it get worse, or sleazier, than that? Of course. When this former beauty (note, former… as in no longer) isn’t serving time in jail, she’s doing Skype shows with full nudity for fans willing to fork over the money.
7 Cyndi Lauper
There are some of you who probably know Cyndi Lauper as a colorfully unique oldies singer, but for a few years in the mid-80s, Lauper was huge, as was her involvement in wrestling, but does huge mean positive? In some ways yes. While it's hard to believe today, people like her and Mr. T brought a lot of new eyeballs to wrestling. This was a time when the tradition of territories and small, smoke-filled armories was making way for Vince McMahon's grand design. He needed new eyeballs and let's admit, it's easier to convince somebody who is young and not jaded to sample something new than a grown adult set in their ways. Enter Cyndi Lauper. Somehow, Captain Lou Albano claimed success for Lauper's career after a cameo in her "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" video. He wanted to show Roddy Piper he was a big man, so he brought Lauper out on one episode of Piper's Pit where she went to say Albano had nothing to do with it. Lines were drawn, MTV got involved and Vince McMahon showed the world the future of wrestling was his. A few problems here: 1) Cyndi Lauper was not an old-school fan's cup of tea. It's great McMahon wanted to attract eyeballs, by alienating your base is not good business; 2) She's a horrible actress. She's fine being herself in interviews but watch one of her videos to see how rough she was, or just watch when she's playing "Cyndi Lauper, wrestling manager" and the realism is like a vase full of artifical flowers; and 3) She never gave the vibe she liked wrestling. She doesn't talk about those years fondly. She talks about them like a stripper who had to do what she had to do to get through those years. Maybe she gained a few fans in the process, but for anybody who loves wrestling, Cyndi Lauper is probably the biggest cringe-inducing celebrity to be involved in women's wrestling. It doesn't help than when called to take a kick or get at all physical, it looked faker than that anything we've seen since Jackie Gayda wrestled.
6 Dixie Carter
Our long national nightmare is over and we’ve been saved by the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins. It seems bizarre, but then again, everything Dixie Carter did as head honcho in TNA seemed like it had little grounding in reality. There's a term used for men who have money and give a woman anything she wants: Sugar Daddy. In most cases, it's a rich older man who dotes on a younger woman. He feels the only way a beautiful person have his age will stick around is to lavish her with gifts. He's usually right. In this case, however, Dixie Carter's Sugar Daddy was her actually Daddy, who ran the family company, Panda Energy. Since TNA isn't publicly traded, we'll never know the real figure, but some guesses put her losses as the head of TNA at nearly $100 million. Some also guess that she would have never been able to head down that road unless she had her father wrapped around her finger. Losing that many millions of dollars is an expensive way to tell your daughter you love her. It took nearly a decade before he came to his senses and decided the worst female executive in the history of wrestling needed to be stopped. With the sale of TNA to Billy Corgan and the tape library to the WWE, maybe whatever a Carter-less TNA looks like will thrive.
5 Alundra Blayze
It's time for another Hall of Famer who Vince McMahon has forgiven for her past sins. For every person who feels like they were wronged by the majority owner of the WWE, there is somebody who he has forgiven for wronging him. One of the greatest examples of a woman doing the 100 percent wrong thing for wrestling was during the Monday Night Wars when Alundra Blayze showed up on WCW television the day after her WWE contract expired. Going by her old moniker, Madusa, she took her WWE women's championship and threw it into a garbage can to start and episode of Monday Night Raw. For wrestlers who are trained to respect the business above all else, this was one of the biggest spit-in-its-face moments in history. During her HOF induction, she took the title out of a trashcan and gave it back to the WWE. Too little, too late. After that stunt, McMahon didn't touch women's wrestling for a long time.
Our mother taught us it’s never good to speak ill of the dead, but now we’re getting into the Mount Rushmore of women leaving a black spot on the face of wrestling. How do we sum up Joanie “Chyna” Laurer’s post-WWE career in any positive turns? Is not being the most insane person on a season of VH-1’s “Celebrity Rehab” a thing to brag about? She was introduced to wrestling as the tough-girl enforcer bodyguard for her real-life boyfriend Triple H, and her nude debut moment on television, while tame for the era, was the first step toward sexualizing a character that eventually spilled over into her real life. Following that mooning and a boatload of plastic surgery to give her a softer, more feminine look, Chyna posed for Playboy twice and performed in numerous adult movies, the most notorious with Sean “X-Pac” Waltman. Trouble with drugs and rambling Internet monologues did nothing to help Laurer long after her time in a wrestling ring was done. These final imprints prior to her death have caused many to forget she had a recurring role on the TV show “3rd Rock from the Sun” and looked like she was going to be the first major wrestling-to-Hollywood female crossover. What could have been an amazing life became a tragic warning to all. We’d like to say otherwise, but in the end, Chyna did give wrestling a bad name.
3 Stacy “The Kat” Carter
Mention Stacy "The Kat/Missy Kitty" Carter and two things immediately spring to mind: She was Mrs. Jerry Lawler in real-life during her brief WWE career. That's second only to the fact she was the first woman to expose her breasts to a pay-per-view audience. Sable displayed hands painted on her chest first, but Carter was the first to show a completely unobstructed view. When she was eventually let go because there is just so much the WWE can do with a tiny woman who had no talent, Lawler took a stand and left with his wife. It wasn't until a few months later, according to the autobiography "It's Good to Be King" before he realized she was cheating on him. She could have stopped him from leaving with her, but she didn't and he had to ask for his job back and look like a dope for defending her honor. The WWE has blurred out her chest flash on the Network, which is good because kids are watching, but this woman was OK with showing her boobs to a live audience of all ages. It's one thing to be a stripper in a gentlemen's club, it's another to do it in front of children. Technically, isn't there something illegal about that? Whatever the case, she's long gone from wrestling and the memories of Stacy Carter are not wholesome and positive.
2 Missy Hyatt
This list, and most of WWE’s reflections back on their programming might make you think that The Attitude Era was the first time women presented the formula of strong, sexy and maybe just a little bit easy on television. Until then, it was either wallflowers like Miss Elizabeth or asexual grapplers like The Fabulous Moolah. The first true “Diva” label has to be award to Missy Hyatt. Hyatt worked as a manager or valet in mainly southern promotions for years in the tail end of the territory years. You’d think she would have been perfect for the WWE, but a lackluster multi-appearance audition as the host of a Piper’s Pit-like segment kept her out of the WWE during its time of rapid expansion. Once her shot at the big time evaporated the aging, and increasingly plastic Hyatt, bounced around the indies and launched a nude photo website she posed nude on. Call her a wrestling sexual revolution groundbreaker, but we’re going to pretend we don’t know who you’re talking about.
1 Stephanie McMahon-Levesque
We like Stephanie overall, despite her less-than-stellar attempts at wrestling over the years. Next to her husband, father, John Cena and The Undertaker, she has been one of the few constants in WWE programming for nearly two decades. Depending on the strength of the women’s (and sometimes men’s) rosters at any given moment, she can hold her own as a character with the best of them. But this isn’t just a list about how characters are presented on television. It’s also about those who have shaped the business. We don’t know what she’s like in the halls of Titan Tower, but she represents the corporate side of WWE more than any other non-wrestler in the company. She’s great at it, whether it’s talking about programs for cancer awareness, literacy or anti-bullying. The problem is when she steps off-screen to represent WWE. She has more power than any woman in the history of wrestling but it just makes wrestling seem even more fake than necessary when she’ll slam half the roster with an in-ring tirade to begin RAW, then be shown appearing at an elementary school handing out books in a vignette. It just doesn’t make sense and if she’s going to be part of WWE programming for the next two decades, she needs to be either her fictional persona or the real-life corporate representative on-screen. As long as she can’t decide, it reminds the viewer WWE is a fictional show, and while we all know its scripted, we also like to pretend its not for a few hours on Monday night. Stephanie McMahon-Levesque kills wrestling’s fantasy and has burned kayfabe to the ground worse than not only any woman, but any person to ever appear on a WWE TV show.