Pioneers: 15 Women That Revolutionized Wrestling Before The Current Movement

Women's wrestling has undergone somewhat of a revolution as of late. Not only is the female side of things in WWE better than it ever has been before, it's at a point where it is on a level playing field with the men's roster. In fact there have been occasions since this revolution officially began that the women have outshone their male counterparts at certain shows. In the past the women of WWE were seen merely as eye candy. They would accompany men to the ring, compete in bra and panties matches, sometimes be humiliated as part of a story line. To sum it up professional wrestling was very much behind the times. Nowadays women are judged on their wrestling ability, and it is making for some incredible matches and molding some even more incredible Superstars.

All of that being said, women revolutionizing pro wrestling isn't exactly a new thing. It actually taking on a permanent basis and having a large crop of great female wrestlers in one place is, but for years before them women have been trying to change the tide in the wrestling business. Trish and Lita regularly tore the house down together, before them Chyna made sure she was seen as equal to the men in WWE, and even before her Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah forced their way into a male dominated business. All five of those women will feature on this upcoming list along with ten others that revolutionized Women's wrestling before there was an official revolution.

15 Molly Holly

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During the early 2000s you of course had the likes of Lita and Trish Stratus, who we will most certainly get to, but one Superstar who often gets overlooked is Molly Holly. Molly doesn't get anywhere near the credit she deserves for her time as a professional wrestler. She began her career in WCW as Miss Madness, a valet to Randy Savage. It was when she came to WWE following her time with the Macho Man that she really demonstrated her worth. While the tail end of her WWE career saw her unnecessarily humiliated by having her head shaved among other things, that doesn't define her time there. Molly looked different than the stereotypical models being hired by the company based on looks alone. She could wrestle and proved that, not only winning the Women's Championship but also the Hardcore Title.

14 Ivory

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Ivory rose to prominence in pro wrestling circles during the 1980s performing for a promotion called the Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling, or GLOW. In the late 90s she was picked up by WWE and at first was treated very much like the rest of the women under Vince McMahon at the time. Ivory debuted as one of The Godfather's hoes and acted as a valet to a number of male wrestlers. She was a trained wrestler however and was hell bent on showing WWE and the fans that she was more than just eye candy. That persistence saw her rise to the top of the Women's Division, winning multiple championships and also taking part in the first ever Women's Hardcore match in WWE history.

13 Mae Young

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We may be in the midst of a Women's revolution right now, but females performing as well as, if not better than their male counterparts is not exactly new. WWE Hall of Famer Mae Young began her wrestling career in the 1930s, and along with the legendary Lou Thesz is the only performer to have wrestled in seven different decades. It's just a shame that Mae isn't around today to see the giant leaps forward Women's wrestling is currently taking. Despite growing up in a completely different time, Young demonstrated that she wasn't going to let her gender hold her down. Her brothers taught her to wrestle and by the age of 15 she was competing on her school's boy's wrestling team.

12 Nicole Bass

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The late Nicole Bass was a female wrestler and body builder who most certainly did not fit the mold of what people believed a woman in the business should look like, not at the time she was involved with it anyway. Partly down to that reasoning her run in WWE was a lot less successful than it could have and perhaps should have been. The accusations of sexual harassment made by her that led to Nicole's departure from the company didn't help either. Before she made her way to WWE though she competed in ECW. While there Bass made a name for herself in a company that was very much male-centric. Although her time at top companies was short, it speaks volumes about how different she was to the norm that she is still remembered today.

11 Victoria

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It would appear that even the most talented of wrestling females breaking through in the late 1990s/early 2000s had to be a hoe for The Godfather if they wanted to make it in WWE. It's how Ivory got her big break, and it's also how the extremely talented Victoria got her foot in the door. Someone who was convinced to train to be a wrestler by the late, great and legendary Chyna was always going to be much more than a Diva. Victoria was such a talented performer that like Mickie James, she has been rumored to make a return recently as even at 46 she is still in impeccable shape and has not retired from in ring competition. She would most certainly fit right in to the Women's roster WWE has today.

10 Kharma

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TNA is not given much credit for well, anything at all really. However when it comes to the Women's Revolution they may not have started it per se, but they were definitely ahead of the curve when compared to WWE. The female roster at TNA is referred to as the Knockout's Division and Kia Stevens, otherwise known as Kharma or Awesome Kong depending where you've seen her perform, had a lot of success under that banner. During her short stay in WWE though her talent was very much wasted. Her stature and physicality did not fit in with the WWE mantra at the time and there simply wasn't a roster of female wrestlers there that could compete with her. In the present day she would most likely thrive in WWE and it's a shame that her timing wasn't quite right.

9 Madusa

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Much like Kia Stevens, Debra Miceli was also well known for a couple of different monikers. Madusa in WCW and Alundra Blayze while in WWE. When it comes to female performers Miceli very much blazed a trail, pun intended. She was the first woman to ever be named PWI's Rookie of the Year, a title later bestowed on Stone Cold Steve Austin. She was also the first foreign woman to ever compete for All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling and the first to hold WCW's Cruiserweight Championship. A lot of firsts for Alundra which is why she truly was ahead of her time and paved the way for many of the women we watch on WWE television today. A recent and deserved addition to the WWE Hall of Fame.

8 The Fabulous Moolah

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The Fabulous Moolah is mostly remembered by modern fans as the comedic character she portrayed in WWE in her later life alongside her best friend Mae Young. While it was entertaining and actually saw her win the Women's Championship one last time, she was so much more than that. WWE credits Moolah as being the longest reigning Women's Champion in history, holding the title for almost 30 years before being defeated by Wendi Richter in 1984. That alone warrants her place on this list but of course there's more. It's all well and good being a terrific female wrestler in the present day, but like her friend Mae, Moolah had to make her way in the business when it was almost entirely male dominated. All of that led to her becoming the first woman to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

7 Jacqueline

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Despite being renowned for her wrestling ability and holding the USWA Women's Championship an astounding 14 times, WWE Hall of Famer Jacqueline still had to jump through many of the same hoops as all of her female counterparts when she made it to the big time. Upon her arrival at WCW she was actually branded as two stereotypes. Not only was she made a valet rather than a wrestler, it was to Harlem Heat, grouping multiple black performers together which is sadly still a trend that exists to this day in pro wrestling. Jacqueline powered through however and went on to have a Hall of Fame career with WWE. Like Madusa she managed to win the Cruiserweight Championship, but was actually the only woman to do so while it was under WWE's banner.

6 Mickie James

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Those of you who watch WWE right now will know that Mickie James is very much a part of the continued push of WWE's Women's Division. Famous for her first run with WWE during which she held the Women's Championship five times, Mickie clearly couldn't resist returning to the ring in order to compete with this fresh crop of great talent. First it was just an NXT match with Asuka but clearly James re-caught the bug and is now back for good. I imagine Mickie is enjoying this latest run more than anything she has done before, as even though she had a few formidable opponents when she was first with WWE, it was nowhere near the level of talent that she has challenging her today.

5 AJ Lee

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As a fan who saw basically everything AJ Lee had the opportunity to do while with WWE, it absolutely pains me that such a talented pro wrestler is not only retired, but is missing out on such a fantastic time for women in WWE right now thanks to her early retirement. AJ was so good that there is a legitimate argument to be made that she triggered what we now call the Women's Revolution. The work she did with Paige in 2014 can most certainly be ear marked as the beginning of the uprising of women in WWE. The pair had a long and great feud that saw them stage some fantastic matches. Before that AJ would bounce around different male Superstars as their story line girlfriend and while that was the focus of much of her work, her in ring ability is what the spot light should have been focused on.

4 Natalya

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While AJ Lee didn't quite hang around long enough to enjoy the fruits of her labor, Natalya most certainly did. Even though she's a third generation Superstar and the first female to make it through the famous Hart Dungeon, when she arrived on the scene in WWE she was labelled a valet to fellow Harts and even worse had to ride through a flatulence gimmick. Credit to Nattie she powered through all of that stereotypical and down right poor booking and her raw wrestling ability was given the opportunity to show through. In 2017 she is the leader of the ladies locker room having the tenure that she does. She can go with any other woman in that locker room and fair play to her for sticking it out until the getting got good.

3 Trish Stratus

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Trish Stratus is one of the greatest female wrestlers the business has ever seen. Yet her path to WWE was very different to a lot of the other entries in this list. Rather than being a wrestler for years who had to prove to WWE that she was more than merely eye candy, Trish was one of the many women who was hired on looks alone. Before joining WWE she was a fitness model and her beginnings with the company were solely based around her being attractive, the most infamous story line being her affair with Vince McMahon. As time went on though Stratus demonstrated that she had clearly been training, and training hard. Trish went on to become an incredible wrestler, win the Women's Championship a record seven times, was the first woman to main event Raw along with Lita and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

2 Lita

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Speaking of Lita, without the female member of Team Extreme and fellow WWE Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus probably wouldn't have reached the dizzy heights that she did. Vice versa for Lita also. The pair's WWE careers ran tandem and together they did things for Women's wrestling that paved the way for the females who perform today. It wasn't plain sailing for Lita. Although she will undoubtedly be remembered for the good she did with Trish and her time alongside the Hardy Boyz, she too was exploited by WWE. The most suspect story lines she was involved in being her live sex show with Edge and the awful period where her paths crossed with Kane and she was pregnant with his baby, strictly within the realms of WWE of course.

1 Chyna

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Even including the incredible female talent plying their trade in WWE right now, there has still been nobody quite like Chyna when it comes to Women's wrestling. In 2016 the wrestling world tragically lost Chyna far too soon, before she had even made it into the WWE Hall of Fame, something we are still left waiting for. During the Attitude Era Chyna didn't only compete on the same level as her male peers, she surpassed some of them and fought against them. There have been many firsts mentioned on this list but none are as impressive as The Eighth Wonder of the World's. Chyna was the first woman to ever enter a Royal Rumble match and also the first, and to this day only, female to ever be Intercontinental Champion.

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