For those who don’t know much about wrestling in the golden age, women’s wrestling wasn’t thought of at that time. There were not much women to be involved in the sport. But one woman changed all that, and her name was Mildred Burke. She was one of the pioneers of women’s wrestling who helped build women’s wrestling from the ground up, and for that we have her to thank. A former World Champion and a proud member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, and the WWE Hall of Fame, she has built an incredible legacy and laid the foundation of legendary women’s wrestlers in the process.
She also was a pioneer of intergender matches, where legend has it that she faced over 200 men during her career, but only lost to one of them. Today those kinds of matches are rare, unless it’s El Rey Network’s hit series Lucha Underground. If Mildred Burke was alive today, she would have been amazed at how the sport has come a long way since her heyday.
From her battles with the likes of Mae Young and June Byers to teaching the basics to the likes of The Fabulous Moolah and Bertha Faye, Mildred was one of a kind. Throughout her storied 20 year career, she was force not just in the ring, but also at the Box Office as well. She was on posters, magazines, newspapers, television, you name it. She wrestled in storied sporting arenas like the Dallas Sportatorium and the Cleveland Arena. In her day, she was a popular face in women’s wrestling.
While Mildred Burke has long since passed on in this world, her legacy lives on through the women of the sport. Some women in my opinion have the same qualities of Mildred Burke; Beauty, Toughness, and Excellence. If you look at Trish Stratus during the 2000s, you might know what I am talking about. Trish was the standard of women’s wrestling in WWE, and always the toughest woman there is. A former 7 time Women’s Champion, she defined excellence to the highest degree. She had many great battles in the squared circle, but her rivalry with Lita was historic because of the storylines these two did, and the matches they put on. She’s one of women’s wrestling’s true icons, and is one of the greatest women who stepped for in the ring, like it or not.
Same holds true for Chyna, believe it or not. She was physically imposing, willing to beat someone up whether it’s a man or a woman, and dominating the Women’s wrestling scene in WWE’s Attitude Era, and she was the symbol of girl power in that particular era. In 1999, she beat Jeff Jarrett to win her first of three Intercontinental Championship reigns, and she proved that women do belong in the ring with the men. Chyna was the first woman to hold a singles championship in a promotion, and also held the WWE Women’s Championship as well. Somewhere along the line, Mildred Burke would be proud.
Cheerleader Melissa is another name that comes to mind. Although she is one of the many talented women to never wrestle for WWE, she is a trailblazer in her own right. While Mildred Burke had the looks, skills, charisma, in her time in the ring, Melissa has all of those. Looks, skills, charisma, she’s got it. A SHIMMER original and a two time SHIMMER Champion, she got involved in TNA Wrestling in two different characters, Raisha Saeed and Alissa Flash. After her short TNA run, she went on to make wrestling history by becoming the first woman to win a major championship in a wrestling promotion, winning the River City Wrestling Championship in San Antonio, Texas in 2010. Everyone knows Chyna was the first woman to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship, but no one was able to win a top title in any promotion. Melissa did as did Sexy Star on Lucha Underground just last year.
Nowadays, we see her on Lucha Underground as Mariposa, the evil Moth sister of the Martinez clan along with Marty “The Moth” Martinez. While her nickname throughout her career is “The Future Legend,” but Melissa is a legend and a true pioneer of women’s wrestling in the modern era. She brings a high impact style, she is in a class all her own. She deserves to be mentioned along with Mildred Burke, and both changed the way women’s wrestling was made.
I also see some of Mildred’s qualities in Taya Valkyrie as well. A two time AAA Reina De Reinas Champion, her first reign was the longest championship’s history, an astonishing 945 days; she has built credibility as a women’s wrestler in this generation. She is also a fixture on Lucha Underground, and she has faced off with some men in the ring. While you may say Taya is the total package, she is still getting started on building her legacy.
What Mildred Burke built in the world of women’s wrestling, others helped building that legacy to the highest degree. While some of the names I mentioned might have qualities of that of Burke, they have solidified their legacies to the highest degree. Some might dispute that, but there is one thing that is not up for debate; Mildred Burke was, and still is in my opinion, one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time.