WENDI RICHTER…greatest female wrestler of all time! (click here to read the entire story)
“THE BRAWL TO SETTLE IT ALL”
“145 LBS. OF TWISTED STEEL AND SEX APPEAL!”
Alright- of all the things I’ve ever been obsessed with, Wendi Richter was the first…and I was only 12!
1984 was a great year for two of my favorite things at that time- Music and Professional Wrestling. It got even better when they joined forces and the “Rock-N-Wrestling Connection” was born. It all started on “Piper’s Pit”….I’m sure hardcore WWF fans will remember that!
In case you weren’t around in the mid-1980s’- (or for some reason you can’t remember the mid- 80′s) it went something like this…. (and make sure you watch all the video’s, it’ll make more sense)
and the story line to change Wrestling History forever was set…..
August/Septmeber issue of the “WWF Magazine”
After the dust settled, Cyndi decided to challenge Captain Lou at his own game. They’d settle it in the wrestling ring. Each finding a female wrestler to battle it out. Lou of course, went and found the Champion- The Fabulous Moolah. Cyndi went and found the number one contender for Moolah’s belt…a young lady from Texas named Wendi Richter.
Now…not only is this a Main Event for the night of wrestling at Madison Square Garden, but it was also broadcast LIVE on MTV. It was promoted constantly and had fans tuned in as if it were a Heavy Weight boxing match featuring ALI! The Fabulous Moolah (according to the WWF) had held the Women’s Title for 27 years and 8 months. That gets kinda tricky…. I’ll explain that later.
Then- on July 23, 1984 in New York’s MADISON SQUARE GARDEN- Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper changed all that…..
(PART ONE….Moolah vs. Richter)
(PART TWO….Moolah vs. Richter)
I became instantly hooked! I had occasionally watched wrestling up until then and even people that had NEVER watched professional wrestling, started to tune in. These were the glory days of the WWF. Hulk Hogan, The Iron Shiek, Classy Freddie Blassie, The Junk Yard Dog and the entire list of stars of the WWF became house hold names. And I loved how Wendi’ always entered the ring to the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun“.
I watched faithfully a couple of times a week and got to know all the wrestlers by name. Up until The Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter battled it out against each other that Summer, Women’s Wrestling was pretty much the time when the fans went and got a hot dog or smoked a cigarette. It really had no fan base in the arena or on TV. Moolah dominated all her opponents for almost 30 years and there wasn’t the same admiration for her as some of the Heavyweight male wrestlers like Bruno Sammartino, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Pat Patteson and Bob Backlund.
Wendi Richter changed all that and became a Wrestling Superstar.
MAKE SURE YOU WATCH THE VIDEO’S UP THERE!!!
Wendi enters the ring to defend her WWF Women’s Championship.
The cross promotion for Cyndi’s career and the world of Professional Wrestling was huge. Intially, Captain Lou had been used in Cyndi’s first video and there was more to come. Wendi’s continued success only added more popularity to the sport and also gave Cyndi’s music a new audience. Cyndi’s next video for her hit single of “SheBop” was played heavily on MTV (for all you youngsters out there…at one time- probably before you were born- MTV played ALL MUSIC ALL THE TIME!…ask your parents!)
In the newest video, Captain Lou Albano and Cyndi’s mother were again featured in the video as well as Cyndi’s then boyfriend/manager. Even Wendi had a part as the waitress at the beginning of the video. The WWF even used the photo as part of their trading cards/sticker promotion. Wendi had several in the collection. I’ve got a complete set- somewhere.
WWF Trading Card and Sticker featuring Wendi Richter.
Of course, The Fabulous Moolah was granted a rematch….several infact. I was fortunate enough to see Wendi and Moolah battle it out in my hometown once. I finally pestered my dad long enough that he took me to see them wrestle. It was probably the single greatest moment of my youth. How often do you get to see one of your childhood hero’s right there in front of you? I remember fans cheering really loud when Wendi made her way to the ring as her theme song played. It was even louder when she kicked Moolah’s ass and won! I’ll remember it forever.
Moolah eventually gave up trying to win back her title and focused on finding someone who could beat Wendi. It seemed to get to the point where it didn’t matter if Moolah herself was no longer champion, just as long as Wendi was defeated. The Fabulous Moolah kicked, scratched and cheated as often as she could get away with it while “Managing” several wrestlers such as Judy Martin, Donna Christiantello and The SpiderLady (pay attention to that name). Moolah (or Shmoolah- as Cyndi liked to call her) eventually found a wrestler who fought just as dirty as she always had….
The Fabulous Moolah and Leilani Kai pulled out all the stops that night. Moolah even choked Cyndi Lauper at ringside- Wendi came over to rescue her and Moolah sucker punched her in the jaw. Leilani then went for a pin and snagged the title away from Wendi.
Wrestling fans across America (including myself) were shocked at the way the Women’s Title changed hands. Not only did Wendi lose that night but Moolah had (in a sense) taken the title back from Wendi. But as with anything in the WWF…its all about promotion. The re-match was set for what would become the greatest event in the history of Professional Wrestling…
The Original…Not like the bullshit McMahon produces now.
This was hype at it’s all time finest. Not only did the stars of the WWF compete but there were also lots of famous faces in the audience and as well as guests for the Co-Main Event featuring Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Stars like Billy Martin, Liberace and Muhammad Ali were all part of the entertainment for the final match of WRESTLEMANIA. Just prior to that match though, was what many fans considered to be the real Main Event. The battle for the Women’s World Wrestling Championship Belt...
Photo from the Original “WrestleMania” program.
Cyndi and Wendi entered the ring and every fan in attendance was on their feet. Women’s Professional Wrestling had finally created a loyal fan base that was able to- as they say in Wrestling- “put asses in the seats!” Wrestlemania was also shown via closed circuit television across the country. The only reason I went was to see Wendi Richter become champion again and hopefully see Cyndi get some revenge on Moolah.
“Shmoolah and Lani Cow” (as Cyndi often called Moolah and Kai) did what they could to keep Wendi from getting the upper hand during the match. Moolah of course got involved and pulled Wendi’s hair from outside the ring as Leilani distracted the referee. Cyndi had to go over and smack Moolah on the head. The action was great!
When it was all over- Wendi was once again WWF Women’s Champ.
Wendi and Cyndi celebrate their victory at WrestleMania-
“THE WAR TO SETTLE THE SCORE”.
Moolah kept trying to get the WWF Women’s Title back from Wendi any way she could. She found some tall goon named “The Spider Lady” who was big but didn’t have a whole lot of wrestling skills. Wendi and The Spider wrestled on several occasions. The only time she ever got close to getting the upper hand on Wendi is when Moolah got involved in the match.
Around this time- there was even a Saturday Morning Cartoon called “Hulk Hogan’s Rock-N-Wrestling” that had several of the WWF Stars included in this short lived animated series. Wendi and Moolah were both featured as cartoons. Wendi’s likness as a cartoon was just as cute as the lady herself……
Now…as “Gorilla Monsoon” used to say- this may have been the begining of the end. Wendi Ricther was a household name. Her likeness was used in a cartoon series, a line of wrestling toys and she was able to fill arena’s as a “Main Event”. Yet she never got the pay or even some of the recognition the men in her field receieved. She was a Co-Main Event at WrestleMania and appeared on weekly televised matches defending her WWF Women’s Championship. Wendi was indeed popular with the fans- so much so that an issue of ProWrestling Illustrted featured her on the cover and dared to ask the one question out loud that all the promoters and booking agents were already silently asking themselves….
“IS WENDI RICHTER MORE POPULAR THAN HULK HOGAN?”
So, Wendi knows she’s filling houses around the wrestling circut and the cartoon series was picked up by a major network. She also (and rightly so) feels she is intitled to more of the profits. I’m sure nothing gets under Vince McMahon’s skin more than having to write a check from his bank account to anyone that is questioning his pay rates. So, rather than deal with the situation at hand- he just gets rid of the problem….
THE ORIGINAL SCREWJOB- November 25, 1985 New York
Check out Wendi’s face at the :10 second mark- Is it just me or does her facial expression show that she knows something’s up? You can also hear the crowd chant “MOOLAH! MOOLAH!” at the :55 second mark- Wendi also says “THAT’S MOOLAH ALRIGHT!” at the 1:27 mark. I can only imagine what Wendi must have been thinking at the point….
After Wendi figures it all out, she goes for blood. The Spider Lady gets Wendi in a small package and Wendi kicks out and is on her side…but the referee STILL KEEPS COUNTING TO THREE AS IF SHE’S ACTUALLY STILL BEING PINNED!!
Vince McMahon and Moolah both got what they wanted.
Wendi pulled a disappearing act for a while and eventually started wrestling in Puerto Rico and made her way back to the States and won a few of the Women’s Wrestling Championship for several other organizations in various parts of the country.
She was still popular with the fans but I don’t think she got the exposure she once had during her reign in the WWF. After it looked like she would never return to the WWF- I pretty much lost interest in wrestling. Her name would occasionally appear in wrestling magazine publications and her stats would be listed and the opponents she beat but I never got to see any of those matches, since most were never televised on the West Coast.
Wrestling fans can FINALLY hear her version of the story by watching the video interview she agreed to a few years ago-
I’ve seen it and it answers ALOT of questions. It especially explains Moolah’s jealousy towards Richter. Although I haven’t yet seen their side of the story- The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young have done a video similar to this. I’m sure Moolah’s version of why she wore the mask that night is what she and McMahon agreed was the truth.
Regardless, Wendi Richter is by far the single greatest female of all time. True, it may be in the record books that Moolah was champion for nearly 30 years- but don’t believe everything you hear on TV. If you do a little research, you’ll find that Moolah was actually DEFEATED for the Women’s Championship FOUR TIMES before she lost a fifth time to Wendi Richter.
The Fabulous Moolah- losing her title for the fifth time.
In 1983, Moolah still owned the rights to the only recognized Women’s Title and was wrestling in the NWA. After joining the WWF and selling the rights to McMahon- Moolah was recognized as the current champion. However- none of the previous defeats or title changes since her original win in 1956 or any losses prior to the rights being sold were ever recognized by the WWF and thus the “Longest Reign in Professional Sports History” legend was born and Moolah took the credit, even though it was nothing more than a lie- since she had been beaten several times.
That being said- I could care less about how many years Shmoolah held the title. Wendi was a class act. She had more than just beauty and a Rock Star manager- she had mad skills and Women’s Wrestling would have never been what it evolved into had it not been for Wendi Richter. Moolah may have been one of the first- but Wendi was by far, the most skilled and the most popular female wrestler of all time.
THANKS WENDI, YOU’RE STILL THE GREATEST!!
special thanks to “WrestleDazzle” on youtube.com for all the great clips used here! Check out more of Wendi Richter and other great ladies at his homepage-http://www.youtube.com/user/WrestleDazzle
UPDATE: Congratulations Wendi !
WWE HALL OF FAME IN 2010!!