The Top Ten Female Professional Wrestlers Of All Time

Published: July 1, 2014

 

Many articles have been written concerning the best wrestlers of all time. While most are not "gender specific", female wrestlers are often woefully overlooked. This article will focus on the best females "performers" in the history of the wrestling business.

Obviously, because professional wrestling is "sports entertainment", the term “wrestler” is used loosely and more will be considered than simple won/loss percentage or wrestling ability. In-ring performance is definitely a consideration, but other things such as speaking ability, toughness, staying power, contribution to the industry, and even managing wrestlers and on-screen "executive" or managerial positions will be considered. How "over" a performer was as a face or how much "heat" they drew as a heel are also important considerations.

In short, this is a list of the top female "wrestling entertainers", although in-ring "works" definitely counts for something.

 

Just a quickie lesson for those unfamiliar with wrestling terminology before we get started:


Work - A work means to follow the script. Wrestlers will sometimes speak of working with or working against someone. Although working with someone can be in reference to being on the same side, such as is the case with a tag team, just as often it can be synonymous with working against them. Wrestlers involved in long rivalries will often speak of working "with" the other wrestler when doing shoot interviews. What's a shoot? Glad you asked!

Shoot - Shooting is going off script or breaking character. It can involve going off script in the ring or giving a legitimate interview in which kayfabe is broken. Which brings us to our next term...

 

Kayfabe - This is essentially staying on script, not breaking the role. A kayfabe interview is one in which the wrestler stays in character or presents the scripted events as if they were true to life. In days gone by, wrestlers who, in reality were friends, would not be seen together in public or would even publicly feud outside the ring if they happened into each other in public so as not to violate kayfabe and break the illusion that it all just might be real.

  1. "The Fabulous Moolah" (Mary Lillian Ellison)

    This one is almost a no-brainer. Officially Moolah held the WWF (now WWE) Women's Championship on four separate occasions, including a span of 28 years, lasting 10,170 days. In actuality Moolah dropped and regained the title a very short time later on four different occasions during the 28 year run, but these were at untelevised house shows under the NWA and are not recognized by WWE as official title changes. (WWE actually did not purchase the rights to the Women's Championship until 1983.) Moolah was so dominant, and established a record so unbeatable that the WWE has replaced the Women's Championship with the Diva's belt and now talks about the "longest reigning Diva's Champions".

    The lineage WWE purchased from Moolah is really that of the NWA belt and those title changes are recognized in the NWA time line. Although WWE traces the title back to Moolah's first reign, the NWA title lineage begins when the holder of the original Women's World Championship became NWA's first champion. So, while WWE recognizes Moolah as holding their title for 28 years, the NWA recognizes Moolah as holding their title five times between 1956 and 1983 with the NWA title being vacated when WWE bought the title from Moolah. It is unclear what legal right Moolah had to sell the lineage to WWE or if she were, in reality, selling the WWE the right to use her name to create a legitimate back-history for the title. It should be noted that other wrestlers of that era did tend to refer to the title as "Moolah's championship" rather than referencing the NWA.

    In addition to her long title reign, Moolah's dedication to the industry is rivaled by few, as she not only pioneered Women's wrestling in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but played a role in pioneering different eras in the WWE for all wrestlers. Among these, Moolah played a role in WWE's Rock 'N Wrestling Connection, working against Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper, eventually dropping the belt to Richter in 1984. Moolah went on to play a role in the Attitude Era of the WWE, with many part-time television and pay-per-view appearances in the 1990s.

    Among her many accolades, Moolah was the first female to be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 1995, the Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame & Museum in 2003, and the NWA Hall Of Fame in 2012.

     

    Moolah's legacy, dedication to the business, contributions, and self-deprecating humor make it an easy call to place her at #1.

    Moolah passed November 2, 2007 at the age of 84, but her legacy will last as long as people are still talking about sports entertainment.

     

  2. The Great Mae Young (Johnnie Mae Young)

    Any list that includes The Fabulous Moolah wouldn't be complete without here infamous, Attitude Era partner-in-crime, The Great Mae Young.

    Younger wrestling fans and those and those less-fanatic, for whom sports entertainment may be more of a "guilty pleasure" may be more aware of Mae Young than Moolah. In fact, Mae is the singular reason Moolah is "almosta no-brainer" at #1. If anyone else has a legitimate claim to the #1 spot it would be The Great Mae, who actually trained The Fabulous Moolah.

    Depending on the source, Mae's in-ring career spanned as far as 1939-2010, which would surpass Lou Thesz's record of wrestling in seven decades. Though most historians credit her as tying Mr. Thesz at seven, WWE credits Mae as wrestling in nine separate decades. At a minimum Mae holds the kayfabe record and ties the record in real-life performances. Mae, herself claimed to have wrestled in eight different decades.

    With many of the men overseas, Mae helped expand the role of females in sports entertainment during World War II, and has done as much as anyone to help women claim their rightful place as legitimate wrestlers in a largely male-dominated industry.

    Mae's self-deprecating, comedic appearances with WWE in 1999, 2000 and from 2002 to 2013 cemented her legacy as one of the most influential female wrestler's of all-time.

    Mae's accomplishments include an NWA Women's World Tag Team Championship reign, as well as several minor title reigns. She was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame & Museum in 2004, the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2008, and won a WWE Slammy Award in 2010.

     

    Mae once (only half-jokingly) promised to still be appearing on WWE at 100 years old, but sadly passed away January 14, 2014, ten years shy of this lofty goal.

     

  3. Chyna (Joan Marie Laurer)

    Okay, some might argue that her wrestling career doesn't merit this position, but this is not so much a case of length of service, but what she accomplished in a very short time.

    Many female wrestlers have been referred to as "Tougher than most of the men" by their male counterparts, but when with Chyna, it simply did not need to be mentioned.

    Not only was Chyna the only female member of Degeneration X, she was at least among the top three most intimidating members of the faction. Could anyone argue that they would rather meet Chyna in a dark alley than Billy Gunn, The Road Dogg, or X-Pac? To understand the magnitude of this compliment, the statement literally takes nothing away from the aforementioned male wrestlers.

    Chyna turned out to be far more than the perfect valet for which Triple H could draw heat - she was a bonafide wrestler. No, not a "female" wrestler, just a wrestler. Perhaps her most significant accomplishment was becoming the first, and only, woman to capture the WWE Intercontinental Championship, which is among the most prestigious wrestling belts of all time, even more so than the "World" titles of many smaller promotions.

    After wrestling on the independent circuit from 1995-1997 and WWE from 1997-2001, Chyna had brief stints in New Japan Pro Wrestling (2002) and TNA (2011).

    Chyna had three reigns as the WWE Intercontinental Champion and one stint as WWE Women's Champion. She also held the Women's Championship once in the IWF. In 1996 Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked her as #106 in the Top 500 Wrestlers (not female wrestlers) of the year.

     

    Many believe that, despite deep differences with WWE management, Chyna will one day take her rightful place in the WWE Hall Of Fame.

  4. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley (Stephanie McMahon Levesque)

    Many would argue that the "Billion Dollar Princess" lacks work inside the ring. Stephanie's official, in-ring record is 11 wins, 10 losses, and two draws which includes a record of 1-2 on pay-per-views. We should, however, remember that wrestling is an entertainment business, and few people in the industry have had the impact or screen-time of Stephanie McMahon. WWE fans have literally watched her grow up on SmackDown! and Raw, going from being "daddy's innocent little girl" to the menacing, evil architect of the "McMahon-Helmsley" era, as well as becoming the power behind The Authority.

    Beyond kayfabe, Mrs. Lavesque is a real life principal owner of WWE with a net-worth well in excess of $75 Million.

    Apart from being key to many WWF story lines since the Attitude Era, the h McMahon character has quite a few accolades of her own including a WWE Women's Championship reign, a Slammy award, winning PWI Feud Of The Year on three separate occasions, and being named PWI Most Hated Wrestler Of The Year in 2013.

     

    Stephanie has also managed the likes of Triple H, Kurt Angle, Test, Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, The Shield (Reigns, Rollins, Ambrose), Kane and many others.

  5. Lita (Amy Christine Dumas)

    Like Chyna, Lita tends to be thought of as a wrestler, rather than a “female wrestler” and is legendary, despite a relatively short-lived in-ring career.

    Lita had a notorious sex-appeal that she was not afraid to use, yet she is best remembered for her in-ring talent and a competitive spirit that rivaled that of any wrestler (male or female) on the roster.

    After a short run on the independent circuit in 1999, Lita signed with ECW and made the jump to WWE that same year. She officially retired in 2006 but makes intermittent appearances with various promotions, including WWE.

     

    Major accomplishments include four separate runs as WWE Women's Champion, being named PWI Woman Of The Year in 2001 and winning PWI Feud Of The Year in 2005. Perhaps the most monumental of Lita's accomplishments was her induction into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2014.

  6. Trish Stratus (Patricia Anne Stratigias)

    After entering the WWE as a manager/sex-symbol Trish Stratus wasn't satisfied with the role of simply attracting the 18-35 year-old demographic. It could be said that she "just couldn't get no Stratus-faction".

    Trish began wrestling part-time initially, but would go on to become the second-most prolific WWE Women's Champion of all time in terms of title reigns, second only to Moolah. Trish has seven reigns to her credit. (While Moolah has only four official reigns, she actually held the title on eight occasions counting the history WWE overlooks for purposes of kayfabe). Stratus held the Women's title a total 828 days, 289 days longer than the wrestler occupying the #3 spot for number of days as champion.

     

    All told, Trish would compile many accolades in addition to her reign as Women's Champion including being one of only four females to win the Hardcore Championship, being named WWE Diva Of The Decade (2000s), being named PWI Woman Of The Year four times in five years, winning PWI's Woman Of The Decade (2000-2009), and being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2013.

  7. Alundra Blayze (Debrah Anne Miceli)

    Alundra Blayze is infamous for one of the most notorious moments in wrestling history - Trashing the WWE Women's Championship on National TV after defecting to rival promotion WCW and leaving WWE as the reigning champion. WWE claims to have deactivated the title before the incident, but regardless the WWE Women's Championship would remain inactive for nearly three years.

    Best known as Alundra Blayze for her time in WWE, Debrah Miceli's accomplishments are numerous and include the following world championship reigns: WWE Women's Champion (three times), WCW Cruiserweight Champion (first female to win this traditionally men's title), IWA Women's Champion (two times), AWA Women's Champion, IWCCW Women's Champion.

     

    Perhaps her most notable accomplishment is that in 1988 she became the first female ever to be named Pro Wrestling Illustrated Rookie Of The Year while wrestling as Medusa Miceli. Wrestling notables Chris Benoit and Scott Steiner were among the runners-up for this honor.

  8. Wendi Richter

    Wendi Richter succeeded The Fabulous Moolah as WWE Women's Champion, becoming the second woman to hold the title, and ending Moolah's 28 year run.

    Richter played a major role in the Rock 'N Wrestling Connection Era, teaming with Cyndi Lauper as her manager and working against Moolah. Her kayfabe work with Moolah would eventually turn shoot in what has come to be known as "The Original Screwjob". After regaining her title from rival Lelaini Kai, Richter was scheduled to wrestle a masked opponent known as The Spider Lady, normally portrayed by a wrestler Richter had worked against before whose build was significantly thinner than that of The Fabulous Moolah. However, a shorter, huskier-than-usual, masked "Spider Lady" went off script and pinned Richter. Although Richter quickly turned over after the count of one, the referee delivered a quick count and declared The Spider Lady the winner and new Women's Champion. In a shoot of her own, Richter then attacked and unmasked her opponent, revealing it to be Moolah, whom Richter suspected it to be all along. Richter left the WWE and never spoke to Moolah (her original trainer) again.

    Richter continued to wrestle the independent circuit for a while and eventually found her way to the AWA, a promotion which legitimately rivaled the WWE at the time. It is there that she would win the AWA Women's World Championship from Medusa Miceli (who went on to become the infamous Alundra Blayze).

    When all was said and done Richter had been WWE Women's Champion and WWC Women's Champion twice each, and had single reigns as Women's Champion in the AWA and NWF. She also had two Women's Tag Team World Championship Reigns in the prestigious NWA prior to her time in WWE.

     

    Hall Of Fame inductions include the WWE in 2010, and Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame & Museum in 2012.

  9. June Byers (DeAlva Eyvonnie Sibley)

    June Byers was a pioneer in women's wrestling and worked with other wrestling pioneers throughout her career.

    Byers is recognized as the first AWA Women's Champion, and held the original Women's Championship even prior to the NWA, a title which goes back to the late 1800s and is considered the predecessor and genesis of the wrestling lineage that lead to the NWA belt. This is the lineage from which many other championships derived their legitimacy, including the AWA, and the Moolah Title, which eventually split from the NWA and became the WWE Women's Championship. Byers was not only the first AWA Women's Champion, but was in possession of the original Women's title at the time the NWA title was created, thus making her the first NWA Women's Champion as well. Although Byers held that belt previous to Moolah, the establishment of what would become the Moolah/WWE belt is traced to Moolah securing the NWA title.  Thes lineages actually run concurrent and, therefore, all Women's titles that can trace their lineage back to the original title will find Byers in their respective predecessor time lines.

     

    Despite her legacy and influence upon all major Women's professional title lineages, Byers' solitary Hall Of Fame induction to date is the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum, Class Of 2006, which took place 18 years after her passing.

  10. Mildred Burke (Mildred Bliss)

    Mildred Burke is recognized as the World Women's Champion (the original, independent title) three times in the 1930s. While some consider her to be the first NWA Women's Champion, she is not officially recognized in such a capacity.

    In 1938, Burke wrestled June Byers for the Original Women's title in a best two of three falls match. The match was stopped after each competitor scored one fall and Byers was declared the first NWA Champion while Burke became the first Women's World Wrestling Association (WWWA) Champion.

    Burke actually was at odds with the NWA over their discrimination against women at the time and founded the WWWA. Like June Byers, all legitimate Women's lineages run through her, although she did not hold titles in the bigger offspring brands like NWA and AWA, as did Byers.

     

    Burke never lived to see her accomplishments recognized as they should be, and she passed away in 1989. However, she was posthumously honored with inductions into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall Of Fame (1996) and Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame & Museum (2002).

So there you have it:  The Top Ten Female Professional Wrestlers Of All Time?  Will even one wrestling fan 100% agree with this list?  Not likely.  As with any subjective undertaking, it is bound to generate more controversy than civility.  So let's be honest.  There's really no way to pick a Top Ten in this situation as there are just too many performers who are legitimately deserving; but this is my list, so I get to choose.  The good news is, if you disagree you can log on and make your own list! What are you wating for?