WrestleMania will be huge for the women’s division this year. With three, and possibly a fourth, big matches shaping up for the event, WWE surprised fans with another milestone – a Memorial Battle Royal for the women akin to Andre the Giant Battle Royal for the men.
With the #metoo movement going on at the moment you'd expect @WWE not to name the women's battle royal after someone who has such awful accusations of sex trafficking and more against them. 1 step forward 200 steps back into guess. #FabulousMoolah
— *sleepy dragon* (@Lilyfae) March 13, 2018
The "Fabulous" Moolah was a serial abuser of women in every way possible. She made her career off of the suffering and exploitation of young women who trusted her with their lives & safety. She shouldn't be honored by WWE — they should be ashamed that they enabled her. #RAW
— ash ? (@ashiisms) March 13, 2018
— Danielle Matheson (@prograpslady) March 13, 2018
Stories about Moolah—real name Mary Lillian Ellison—have been shared in interviews, books and documentaries for years, particularly after her death in November 2007. Moolah went to the grave a wrestling dignitary, and so the legend has grown—and accusations against her remain largely unanswered.
According to Newsweek’s research: “The 2017 book Sisterhood of the Squared Circle, by Pat LaPrade and Dan Murphy, provides a cursory explanation of the dichotomy between the acclaim Moolah received as a star (a 28-year title reign and a prime spot in CBS’s Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling) and the experiences that other women had with Moolah out-of-character as Ellison.
Jeannine Mjoseth, one of Moolah’s protogées in the 1980s, wrestled as Mad Maxine. In 2014, she told Slam Wrestling Moolah’s training system was such that women became indebted to her—they trained and lived at her compound and incurred both training and lodging costs. “[She] controlled their lives,” said Mjoseth. And when she did begin to earn from performing on live wrestling cards, “Moolah was taking at least half of what I was earning,” Mjoseth said.
Her account is corroborated by another trainee, Debbie Johnson, who told the website LadySports in 2008 that Moolah “took 30 [percent] of everything we all made before anything else came out of our money. Then she took out our travel expenses, then food, then rent … I worked my ass off for her for almost two years before I ever had money coming to me.” Both Mjoseth and Johnson used the same word to describe Moolah: “Evil.””
Other deeply disturbing allegations include sexual explotation between the women she trained and her husband, Buddy Lee.
The family of Susie Mae McCoy, a black wrestler who went by the name Sweet Georgia Brown and wrestled for Moolah from 1957 to 1972, shared her story in 2006. McCoy’s daughter Barbara said her mother once admitted to her she had been “raped, given drugs and made an addict” during her career. This, the family determined, was a means of controlling McCoy and keeping her dependent on the promoters.
Other accounts of her shady dealings and business practices can be found in this reddit thread.
One of Moolah’s former trainee by the name of Jeannine Mjoseth, who got her start in the business with Moolah as Mad Maxine/Lady Maxine issued the following the statement to Pro Wrestling Sheet regarding the Battle Royal announcement:
“The Fabulous Moolah was a real-life heel. A lot of women paid to train at her school and then went out on the road. They risked life and limb in their matches and she repaid them with the worst kinds of abuses. She skimmed their money, she ignored women who were badly hurt, she pimped women out to creepy men and on and on. She was not a mother figure. She was more like Kali, the Indian Goddess of Destruction. I met her in my early 20s and I had never met such a monstrous person.
I was smart enough to get the hell away from her and start my own independent career in Tampa as part of the Championship Wrestling from Florida. Luna Vachon, Peggy Fowler and I all left together, which I hope put a serious dent in her confidence, if not wallet.
I understand why Moolah was so grotesque. Her family was dirt poor and she determined that she was never going to be hungry again. But it doesn’t excuse her dog-eat-dog behavior. I’d much rather see WWE establish a named match for outstanding wrestlers (and decent human beings) like Susan ‘Tex’ Green, Beverly Shade, Leilani Kai, Wendi Richter, Princess Victoria or Joyce Grable. They all put their hearts and souls into wrestling for decades and helped others along the way.
But wrestling isn’t PC. It’s about generating heat. And you can’t draw more heat than naming a match for The Fabulous Moolah. May she be the last of her kind.”
Though WWE has been making strides in its women’s divisions for a few years now, naming the first Memorial Battle Royal is tone deaf during a time when the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have taken down powerful men in entertainment, sports, and politics for sexual assault and harassment.
Fans have created a petition to rename the battle royal and hope WWE will respond, check it out here.
What do you think? Are you outraged? Who would you name the Battle Royal after? Sound off in the comments below.