Dark Side of the Ring Review — “The Fabulous Moolah” (2/2)

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Hello! Today, I bring you the 7th edition of a series looking at the TV show Dark Side of the Ring. Because of the volume of the subject of The Fabulous Moolah, I made it a two-part edition. If you have yet to see the episode, you can find it in the link to the first part below.

  1. “The Killing Of Bruiser Brody”
  2. “The Match Made In Heaven”
  3. “The Montreal Screwjob”
  4. “The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino”
  5. “The Last of the Von Erichs”
  6. “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #1″


The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #2

Previously, we detailed the Original Screwjob of 1985. Today, we’ll be looking at a variety of subjects in no particular order.

Jim Cornette Expanded View

During Dark Side of the Ring, we listen to Jim Cornette share his thoughts on The Fabulous Moolah. In the video below, he gives his thoughts on WWE pulling the naming of a WrestleMania battle royal after fans complained to their sponsor Snickers. Here are the highlights:


– Cornette doesn’t think Snickers should dictate to WWE, but isn’t surprised it happened. He does a good job of defending Stephanie McMahon, because to her, Moolah & Mae Young were grandmotherly figures who never gave her the impression they would do anything underhanded in their heyday. He also knows Vince McMahon, Michael Hayes, and no one on the writing team would know, or care, to see anything bad with the way Moolah did business.


– Apparently, Mae Young mugged guys when she was younger after going on dates with them. Therefore, implying Mae was not exactly the nicest person in her prime; but no one seems to care about that.

– Moolah’s business practices were inherited from Billy Wolfe, who was by comparison, a far worse person to be leading women’s wrestling. He was known for sexual harassment of his girls and leaving his ex-wife Mildred Burke penniless due to the way her contract was worded. Wolfe helped to form women’s wrestling, and should be credited… but he was a nightmare compared to Moolah.

– Women’s & “midget” (that’s what they were called back then) wrestlers were naturally shoehorned in to being part-time attractions across several territories. It needed someone to make a stable and manage the talent across promotions, and the practice remained this way for decades. Therefore, promotions were more likely to take the word of the leader of the stable (Wolfe/Moolah) than any of the lowly talents.


– Moolah became the new Wolfe after her husband Buddy Lee was ousted out of the business. She was such a draw due to her increased power, that she trained and booked her stable of women. But she wasn’t the most athletic, so her girls never excelled to the degree they could stand out as equals to the men. Promoters always used her girls, and she had such a rapport with management. Because of the way women wrestlers had been perceived for decades (and still are to a degree, from some people), she wasn’t up for rocking the boat. The main thing is she could get bookings for herself and the stable, but always knew her place and didn’t want to jeopardize anybody’s position by pushing for equality.


– Moolah taking a big share of girl’s money was the norm. No one questioned it because she had worked her way in to the position, and no one cared enough to ask how she took care of them. It’s like how wrestlers used to take chair shots to the head. Seems dumb now, but if you keep smashing someone over the head with a chair… it can lead to brain damage (CTE). Same thing applies for smoking in public places, or women’s wrestling being controlled by one individual. Nothing was made in to a big deal because it was normal.

– Cornette thinks there is no chance Moolah pimped any of her girls out in the modern era. It’s totally believable in the 50s though, because Billy Wolfe controlled the female talent and was known for sexual harassment. She could have been ordered by him to pimp these girls out or face losing her bookings, but it’s impossible to say for sure. There is also Buddy Lee, who didn’t last in wrestling, probably because he was being underhanded with the girls.

Yes, Moolah may have taken much of their money, but pimping girls out and forcing them to drink/take drugs sounds farfetched to Jim. Personally, I think if this were the case, way more of the girls would have admitted it by now, especially after her death. But it’s only been said by a couple of girls, and there are more former wrestlers saying they were never pimped out, raped, drugged, etc.

– The neglect warrant on her daughter in her early wrestling career is brought up. Mary Carroll appears on Dark Side of the Ring but does not talk about it. Instead, she remembers her Mother as being loving and defends her legacy to this day. Cornette thinks that would be pretty stiff to neglect Mary, even for Moolah. He does not dispute it happened, but it’s hard to say what the circumstances were, as the warrant was issued back in 1956.

– Moolah’s compound apparently had many horror stories, but several girls have disputed they were mistreated. Cornette says it wasn’t only women though, as she also trained a few guys; but they did not bring this up on the episode and Jim does not provide any names. Wendi Richter & Princess Victoria talk about their time at the compound, but we’ll get to their comments later.


– Cornette says Moolah is a pioneer, following in the footsteps of Mildred Burke. Some might question how she did it, but she wasn’t doing anything overly shocking for the era. Most fans brought up in this day and age know more about wrestling history than those producing it, so it would’ve come as a shock to WWE when Snickers got involved. He doesn’t know for sure if Moolah did anything illegal, but he isn’t about to demonize her for making a living in the only way she knew how. She lived the gimmick, and if she didn’t take care of the girls, someone else could have come along and exploited the girls in a far more harmful way.


Scandals

Much of the negativity surrounding Moolah flourished from former wrestlers sharing their experiences. Mad Maxine is one of the more well-known talents who wrote a book on her short-lived pro wrestling career. However, Maxine does not class it as an autobiography; more like a fictional novel loosely based on her time in wrestling. She did it this way to not slander some of her former colleagues, but Moolah’s name remains unchanged. It’s not a “tell all” book, but provides reasonable insight in to how Moolah ran her camp.


Maxine talks about the way Moolah tried getting her to sign a contract without reading it, and how she didn’t appreciate her creating her own character & look. Also, Maxine notes how she could never do photoshoots on her own, as Moolah needed to be involved. It got easier for her after leaving the WWF for Championship Wrestling from Florida. You can read this interview in more detail at the link, and a recent statement with Pro Wrestling Sheet under that:

Mohawks, Moolah, and Her Unforgettable Story

“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. Moolah 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.”

PurpleGato42 (Reddit) Compilation

Listing every single known scandal in Moolah’s life would blow up this post and probably require a third edition. Therefore, I am giving major kudos to PurpleGato42 of Reddit for compiling this extensive list of scandals in one place. Incredibly well done, this highly recommended read sheds light on some things Dark Side of the Ring failed to mention. It may also cover other things I already mentioned. As stated, the post is LONG, but also includes credible sources:

“In light of the controversy surrounding The Fabulous Moolah and her life, I decided to find everything I could on the subject and typed up this 6,000 word super post listing every terrible thing that Moolah has ever done with videos, interviews, quotes, and different sources to back everything up.”

The Fabulous Moolah


Defendants

One of the biggest defendants of The Fabulous Moolah is Matt Riviera. Why? Well, it’s not exactly clear. Still, he & Nigel Sherrod went about promoting interviews asking her daughter and girls who trained at the camp about Moolah’s character. None of them agree that she ever drugged or pimped any of them out, and the only person who would have involved drugs and prostitution was Buddy Lee. She was protecting the girls from that kind of thing.

Mary states that there’s jealousy from those who weren’t good enough to make it, who wanted to exact revenge by making up stories to harm her Mother’s legacy. She reminds us about the effort her Mother put in to getting a women’s match at Madison Square Garden. Fans should go straight to the horse’s mouth and talk to her or some of the girls, and not just believe everything they read on the internet. The girls are irate about these allegations. “Glamour Girl” Judy Martin is seen crying in a video below, despite Moolah allegedly screwing her, Leilani Kai and the Jumping Bomb Angels out of a WrestleMania payday. 30% taken from their pay was fine, as that’s what the girls signed and they got everything that was owed to them.

Brittany Brown says she was one of the nicest women she ever met in and out of the ring. She’s disgusted that the McMahons caved in to what happened with Snickers. Diamond Lil says that whoever said Moolah pimped them out is crazy. Winona Littleheart was with Moolah over thirteen years, denying any claims from Luna Vachon about having her pictures taken while underage. Peggy Lee feels sick that Moolah’s called a pimp, because it implies her and others were prostitutes.

In the third video, Leilani Kai tells us a story about when she & Velvet McIntyre eavesdropped on a meeting between Moolah & Arnold Skaaland. They were talking about the money she would give to the talent, which was $150 for each girl. Three weeks later, each girl got only $50 a piece, so Leilani & Velvet weren’t the same with Moolah after that, but there wasn’t anything they could do. She was also against Moolah becoming the manager of the Glamour Girls, just because she knew what would happen.

Kai confirms that Moolah told them to drop the belts to the Jumping Bomb Angels in Japan and later denied saying so to management. She went to Japan to get out of “the misery” of working with her (Moolah). All of this, while stating the following in the first video: “She had never once drugged any of us, she was a champion, she was a booker, and she was a great legend. And she deserves to be honored for eternity”. This tells me that Leilani Kai saw the good and bad in Moolah, but she wasn’t as bad as some have described.


Fabulous Interviews

In this last section, I would like to look at two interviews. The first is The Fabulous Moolah character in the role of manager for Ladies Champion Leilani Kai. In the other, she is answering questions as herself in front of an audience. Moolah is not working for any promotion as she had recently retired from the ring, so it’s purely for her own benefit. I believe they are good examples of the talent she was on-screen, and the values she maintained off-screen.

Fabulous Moolah’s Champion

This is hard to digest for a few reasons. First, this interview should be about putting Leilani Kai over, but guess who comes out in front and takes all the spotlight? Moolah. She sits closer to Vince McMahon, like she is the real star here and Kai is only there to stay quiet and look pretty with the title. Moolah says she brought the best… after her of course. So you’re managing the Women’s Champ, yet you can’t put her over yourself? That’s classy.

To Vince, this is all about Moolah finding a new client to overcome Wendi Richter; and not about Kai becoming champ. The only name they bring up on the screen is Moolah’s, and Kai hasn’t been allowed to say anything yet. When Vince asks her about Cyndi Lauper, Moolah says she physically “attackted” me. Kai’s sitting there, waiting patiently to be noticed. We watch the match where Kai won the championship, and even then it’s more about Moolah attacking Cyndi Lauper.

They barely manage to pan the camera back from Lauper to see Kai get the pinfall. When the referee hands the championship to Kai, Moolah rips it away and holds it up like she won. Moolah does eventually give it to Kai, who holds it up in celebration… but no one cares to acknowledge her. After panning to Lauper again, we do finally get recognition when Finkel announces Lelani Kai as the new champ. We go back to the studio.

At the 7:10 mark… I don’t even know. It looks like they are going for a high five, but Moolah completely psyches her out. I’d be pissed if I were Kai and she pulled that crap on me on worldwide television, but Moolah’s controlling the money so you gotta’ deal with her whatever. According to Moolah, when Kai won… it was “true championship”. What the hell does that mean?! Even Vince sounds confused. We’re over 7 minutes in to this segment, and Vince finally asks the champion how she feels. Kai shares how little she cares about the fans.

Of course, she is quick to acknowledge the fact that all she needs is Moolah by her side. I will admit that Moolah manages some decent heat at the end, by insulting Cyndi Lauper’s look and musical talent. Still, where’s Wendi Richter in all this? Why is there no mention of the former champ? They are taking home the money and that’s all that counts. Moolah ends the segment by physically interacting with her champ, which I guess makes up for the psyche from earlier. In the end, the segment was 95% Moolah, 5% Kai, and this is on the road to WrestleMania I. Can you see why some female talent loathed having to work with Moolah?

Moolah Q+A

The video is a little long, but I found it interesting for several reasons. Let’s go through my notes:

-Moolah had been retired for about a year by the time this interview took place. She was not affiliated with any wrestling promotions, and the last company she worked for was the AWA in 1988.

-You can tell why she gained such rapport with wrestling promoters. She can be soft spoken and has natural charisma.

-Moolah claims to be the undefeated World Women’s Champion, which isn’t true. She lost the title, depending on how you want to look at it (some reigns are not recognized by the NWA), a maximum of five times between 1956-1983. She also claims that her title represents the champion of champions of all promotions… yet, she sold her original title to the WWF in 1983.

-Within the first ten minutes, we can establish she’s here mostly to plug her two wrestling schools. Also, there is the Ladies International Wrestling Association for retired female wrestlers. One of the biggest lines to take away is: “They (lady wrestlers) have no retirement funds. If they don’t save their money when they get it… like I did, then you don’t have it.”

-I think it’s funny how they talk about insurance policies in 1990. There’s been talks for years about wrestlers forming some kind of union, and the fact they don’t get any kind of health insurance as freelancers. Moolah recognized this issue before most.

-When asked how she kept the title for so long, Moolah tells them it’s a secret. She is retired… so there is no reason, but does let us in on one thing. It’s because of “good living”, eating well, not drinking, exercising and sleeping properly etc. She contradicts this statement by saying she’s a country girl and eats what she likes. Moolah loves cakes, chocolate, and lasagna.

-They briefly talk about the Spider Lady match. Moolah says she had chased Wendi Richter for a title shot for over six months, but this contradicts Richter’s account that Moolah was the only one getting regular title shots during her reign. She felt screwed because Wendi won it from her by a fluke, which isn’t exactly true, but it was a controversial decision. Moolah fought Wendi as the Spider Lady because she apparently wouldn’t sign a contract to face her, and that’s the explanation she gives.

-Moolah touches on the fact that the WWF won’t book women’s wrestlers. This is true, because nine days after this interview, the WWF Women’s title was deactivated during Rockin’ Robins reign. She claims the NWA isn’t doing so either, but Debbie Combs was recognized as the NWA Women’s Champion in 1990. Candi Devine also wrestled as the last AWA Women’s Champion til the promotion closed the following year.

-Commenting on all women promotions like GLOW and POWW, Moolah says she can’t say what she thinks on TV. However, she will say they are good actresses & comedians, but they are not wrestlers. They share too much skin and it’s disgusting. The women should use their brains, not get involved, and stay professional.

-She refuses to answer the question about what her toughest time was with a promoter. Probably her time with Billy Wolfe?

-When a fan asks if she believes the WWF has become too much of a circus, Moolah doesn’t hold back. She thinks the WWF has become too much of a cartoon and isn’t about the wrestling anymore. Moolah believes in pro wrestling, and they should stick to that. Comics are comics and she doesn’t see it. Still, her favorite male wrestler is Hulk Hogan (who is one big living cartoon). This is surprising… when we consider that Moolah returned to the WWF with Mae Young to do mostly comedy skits.

-She does not hate any of her opponents and loves the competition of professional wrestling. Also, she feels sorry that Sherri Martel is having to be a manager and isn’t wrestling anymore.

-Moolah encourages young girls to get in to wrestling and join a school, any school. Wrestling is good for them. If anyone wants to learn at one of her schools, she will train boys and girls.

The Fabulous Moolah


Conclusion

This is a difficult subject to close because there is no definite answer. And there is never likely to be, because she has long since passed and much of what happened has been lost to history. Through my research, I have learned that Moolah probably isn’t as bad as some have made out. There is insufficient evidence to suggest she was drugging or pimping girls out. I’m not in the business of saying someone is guilty before they are proven as such, and this case applies. Unless more evidence can be presented to prove that Moolah mistreated her girls, made them take drugs, and forced them to perform sex acts, then I will have no choice but to believe stories like those told by relatives of Sweet Georgia Brown.

However, I do also believe she assisted with the growth, and steady decline of women’s wrestling. Her stranglehold on the business turned its ugly head in the mid-80’s, around about the time fans were desperate for a new champion like Wendi Richter. Had she allowed mother nature to take its course, and put over the next generation of talent, women’s wrestling may not have fallen as drastically as it did. Sexually motivated guys loved the women of the Attitude Era, but they were eye candy and couldn’t be taken seriously. It was only when Moolah truly stepped back, could other women be allowed to become superstars. Trish Stratus & Lita got the ball rolling. But in reality, women’s wrestling should not have been held back so drastically.

Women’s wrestling might not have been a thing at all had Moolah not advocated for them in the early days. It’s impossible to say, but she was leading the charge and should always be recognized in a positive light for putting in the hard work. Moolah will always be seen as exceptionally harsh in business, but it’s not like the girls didn’t understand what they were signing up for. No one was forcing them to put pen to paper. It sucked if you wanted to get over without Moolah, but at least there was something for women’s wrestlers. Something is better than nothing, even if it could be a little harsh to deal with.

The Fabulous Moolah is both a pioneer, and a motivated individual through her rough upbringing and experience in the business. How can we hate her for wanting to make a living? Do we have the right to judge her, when we cannot understand hard she worked to get to where she was? And is it right to demonize a woman for so-called crimes that have been stated, but have never been outright proven? Of course, if she did some of these things, then I would feel sorry for anyone who had to go through that. But surely, if this was a prominent thing, why would so many decide not to speak up about it long after her death?

It’s a tough one alright, and can only be answered by the way you perceive it. The Fabulous Moolah deserves to be recognized, but I don’t think WWE should label her as a saint. She wasn’t a devil either, but she controlled people’s lives for her own gain. How many of us would have done something similar? Would we turn down extra money and allow someone else to take our spot? If we can live in luxury by holding on to a spot with all of our might, do we choose not to give up?

These are questions we have to answer ourselves when we talk about the controversial figure known as The Fabulous Moolah. This has been crazy long, and I thank you for taking the time to experience this detailed second parter! I hope to see you again soon, for another edition of Dark Side of the Ring soon.

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