Despite what appears to be a recent change in the overall mindset, women in wrestling have been presented as a sideshow, somewhere above little people wrestling, but not as legitimate as men’s tag teams. Women have been presented as every stereotype imaginable: nasty bitch, conniving sexpot, vapid model, overweight bully, defiant lesbian, frigid European, abused wallflower, etc. But this is just what you’ve seen on the screen.
Most of the time, these women are harmless. Yes, Miss Elizabeth seemed to be a meek shell of a person in Randy Savage’s shadow and Terri Runnels brought little more than gigantic fake breasts to the table, but neither were overly offensive. They didn’t advance the idea that women had more of a place in wrestling - something people like Trish Stratus and Lita were doing - but that wasn’t their job. They were paid actresses playing roles.
Behind the scenes, there are a whole other set of women running things that you don’t see on-screen. Sure, they may play characters in the ring, 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.
Finally, 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.
Pulling from all three of those categories, here are the Top 15 Women Who Gave Wrestling A Bad Name.
14 The Fabulous Moolah
Before she became a national treasure, it was almost impossible to find a female who worked in wrestling who had a good thing to say about Lillian “The Fabulous Moolah” Ellison. She was the women’s champion for almost 30 years, but that’s because she wouldn’t let anybody else have it. As the fantastic documentary Lipstick and Dynamite details, Moolah was the liaison between the male promoters and the female wrestlers. If you were a female and wanted to work in wrestling, you had to go through Moolah. She made sure that she got a cut of your money and that you were never on top.
13 The Bella Twins
Nikki has got better as a wrestler, but that’s about the only thing you can say about these Stepford Twins. They left the WWE for a couple years, but after trying to be famous outside of wrestling didn’t work, they came back when E! was going to launch Total Divas and they would be made the stars. Unfortunately, they have become the stars of the Divas division and that has stalled the Divas Revolution more than anything. Brie can do little more than yell, “Let’s Go, Nikki” at ringside and neither can recite any lines that come out sounding like they’re not completely overacting. The twins have done more to hurt the sport than any other women in the last several years.
12 Wendi Richter
She is largely credited for the resurgence of women’s wrestling in the mid-80s and had the second most talked about match on the first WrestleMania show, but she disappeared shortly thereafter and the WWE women’s division didn’t recover for 15 years. What happened? If rumors are to be believed, she thought since she was attracting so many fans, her payout should be comparable to the men’s champion at the time, Hulk Hogan. Apparently she didn’t realize it was Cyndi Lauper standing next to her that helped attract the fans. When she became too difficult to deal with, she was fired. Imagine what women’s wrestling would have looked like today if not for Richter and Lauper.
11 Dawn Marie
Dawn Marie Psaltis may very well be the nicest person you’ll meet outside of a wrestling ring and there are plenty of anecdotes in support of that belief. However, when your entire schtick is that of having large breasts, you’re not doing a favor for the cause of wrestling taking women seriously, especially during her stint calling herself Dawn Marie Bytch. Her most notable storyline, however, will always be seducing Torrie Wilson’s (real-life) father Al in a soap opera that should never have made it onto television. She hasn’t been seen in years, but memories of Dawn Marie will never evoke a strong female character.
11. Rhonda Sing
The current crop of women wrestlers (note, not Divas) at NXT are providing children with a fantastic girl power message. They grew up as wrestling fans, it’s all they ever wanted to do. So they worked hard and made their dreams come true, and aside from having to change their names, it doesn’t seem like they were willing to compromise along the way. And then you have Rhonda Sing. A heck of a worker for a large woman in Canada and Japan, she only found success in WWE when she dressed like a trailer-trash clown as Bertha Faye. It was the wrong message that if you want to make it in the world and are a large women, you can only be successful if you’re a joke.
10 Cyndi Lauper
For those too young to remember, Cyndi Lauper, for a few years in the mid-80s was huge, as was her involvement in wrestling, but does huge mean positive? Today, it would be equivalent to a Selena Gomez or Taylor Swift deciding to work a months-long wrestling angle with multiple appearances. She was the key to the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection” and ushered wrestling into an era where every wrestler was either representing a country, a way of life, or an occupation. Yes, she helped wrestling explode, but if she hadn’t, how would history be changed? WWE wrestling was not very good from the day Hulk Hogan won the title to the day Steve Austin passed out in Bret Hart’s sharpshooter. Cyndi Lauper’s influence cannot be denied, but it can also be seen as the biggest piece of the puzzle in some very dismal years for quality wrestling.
9 Jackie Gayda
You know how when you watch Tough Enough over the last few cycles and somebody wins and then you never hear from them again. Jackie Gayda is the reason why. After winning the second season of the show in 2002, she was rushed to television and put in a tag team match with Chris Nowinski against Trish Stratus and Bradshaw. What followed is what many consider to be the worst televised match in WWE history, with Gayda botching move after move, including selling a second-rope bulldog about three seconds too late. Even Jim Ross on commentary couldn’t cover for this trainwreck. Gayda married Charlie Haas a couple of years later and slowly faded into wrestling trivia history. Seriously, go see how bad that match was and be happy WWE trains it's Tough Enough graduates before sending them into the ring these days.
8 Dixie Carter
She could have taken her father’s money and made TNA into the definitive No. 2 promotion. Instead, she squandered millions on bad idea after bad idea and competes more with Ring of Honor over who is the No. 3 promotion, after WWE and NXT. It’s really a shame since it seems like she has a love for wrestling, but you’ve got to wonder if someone who has a track record for making so many poor decisions over so many years would be allowed to stay in that position if it wasn’t her family’s money funding her hobby. At any other company in the world, she would have been fired long ago. If there were glimmers of hope that TNA was going to survive, that would be one thing, but it appears this captain is going down with her ship.
7 Stephanie McMahon
First, in her defense, she has to carefully tread the triangle of lines between an on-screen character, a corporate employee/manager and working for her father. Anybody who has to balance those three things deserves a break, and in all truthfulness, she has been one of the consistently best heels on-camera over the last 10 years. The problem is when she steps off-screen, drops the character and represents WWE as its Chief Brand Officer or whatever her title is. She has probably more consistently broken kayfabe than anybody else in wrestling ever. You’d also assume for all the girl power philosophy she’s been spouting that she would have steered wrestling away from its years of T&A and toward the NXT-style presentation of women much, much earlier. She has more power than any woman in the history of wrestling and towing the line is not what’s best for business.
6 Tammy Sytch
You’d have made a lot of money if you bet on the public decline of Tammy Sytch, because when she was riding high as Sunny in WWE, it couldn’t have been guessed what a steady decline her next 20 years would look like. 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 using drugs with her partner, Chris Candido. 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. 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.
5 The GLOW Girls
There was a tremendous documentary made about GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) a few years ago that all wrestling fans should watch simply to get a handle on how cartoonish wrestling was in the mid-to-late 1980s. A non-touring company, GLOW existed simply to sell advertising revenue on its syndicated television show, which was a mix of wrestling matches and comedy skits. Perhaps the only positive to come out of the organization was the discovery of Lisa Moretti, who would go on to be known as Ivory in WWE. Full of women who could neither wrestle, nor perform comedy, this short-lived group was a black eye on not only women’s wrestling history, but wrestling as a whole.
4 Kelly Kelly
As the Attitude Era was winding to a close, WWE decided to revive ECW as a third brand on the heels of two successful pay-per-view shows. It was a poor copy of the original and never was this seen more in the hiring of then 19-year-old Barbie Blank, a model who would go by the name of Kelly Kelly and serve as little more than the brand’s eye candy. When ECW failed, she moved over to the Raw/SmackDown brands and for the next five years bored fans with her lack of talent and personality. She recently resurfaced on the reality show WAGS, focusing on the life of wives and girlfriends of sports celebrities, which makes Keeping Up with The Kardashians Emmy-worthy in comparison.
3 Stacy Carter
The Attitude Era promoted women as little more than big hair and boobs. That’s fine. A little sex appeal never hurt anything. Stacy “Miss Kitty/The Kat” Carter, also known as Mr. Jerry Lawler for a time, crossed a line that up to that point had only been crossed in the pages of Playboy magazine and not on WWE programming. After an evening gown swimming pool match at a December 1999 pay-per-view, Carter whipped off her bra, exposing her breasts to not only the viewing crowd, but thousands in attendance. She’d repeat this as another pay-per-view a few months later. Sadly this, along with Lawler quitting WWE over her firing, is her legacy in professional wrestling.
2 Missy Hyatt
You could say she was an innovator, showing up with the breasts and hair 10 years before WWE ever caught on that was a recipe for eyeballs, but if you believe any of the dozens of shoot videotapes wrestlers have done, she lived the character. Coming on at the end of the territory system, Hyatt worked as a manager or valet in mainly southern promotions for years, almost always as the top heel’s girlfriend. After a failed attempt at joining WWE following a miserable tryout doing an interview session called Missy’s Manor, the aging valet bounced around the indies and even launched a website she posed nude on. Who knows exactly how she acted behind the scenes, but there are dozens of shoot videos which might allow us to make a fair assumption.
1 The Hogan Women
You’ve got the world’s most self-absorbed racist who thinks he still has what it takes to get in the ring although he’s not far from 70. His son once almost killed a guy drag racing near their home. His former wife ended up divorcing Hogan and hooking up with a 19-year-old friend of her daughter, who's completely untalented and whose one facial expression is “deer in headlights.” Since we’re only focusing on females here, we’ll call the Hogan women the biggest black mark on wrestling, but the whole family deserves the award, which is saying something since neither Brooke nor Linda ever competed inside a wrestling ring. Between the reality shows and the tabloid headlines, this duo did more to make wrestling look bad than any two women could claim.