Before there was Chyna, Bull Nakano, Madusa Miceli and Cheerleader Melissa, there was Johnnie Mae Young. Her name may not be linked with the echelons of female pioneers, but today’s professional female wrestlers can thank Mae Young for paving the way for them to enter the ring.
Young died on Jan. 14 at her home in Columbia, S.C., accorded to a spokesman from World Wrestling Entertainment. She was 90.
Born in 1923, "The Great Mae Young," began wrestling at age 15 when she joined the boy’s wrestling team at her high school in Tulsa, Okla. She began her professional career in 1939.
In 1941, she worked to open up Canada to female wrestlers, and during World War II, while many men were overseas, she was integral in expanding women’s role in the sport. She was among the first female wrestlers to tour post-war Japan in 1954.
Among her signature moves were the Schoolboy Pin, the Scoop Slam, and the sassy Bronco Buster, in which she would jump upon a seated opponent and bounce about, often in a sexually suggestive way.
Young was the first-ever NWA United States Women's Champion and at the age of 77, she took home the crown in the Miss Royal Rumble 2000 Bikini Contest. She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
With no shortage of charm, wit and irreverence, Young continued to perform throughout her career, while also training other wrestlers — notably, her longtime friend Lillian Ellison, known as "The Fabulous Moolah."
"Her longevity in sports entertainment may never be matched, and I will forever be grateful for all of her contributions to the industry. On behalf of WWE, I extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends," said Vince McMahon, the chairman and chief executive of WWE.
"There will never be another Mae Young," he added.
See a tribute to “The Matriarch of the Mat” in the video below.
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