USA Women's Wrestling 1990 - 2000.
American wrestling in the 1990's saw a massive change in the way that women were used in the American wrestling product. With WCW and WWF / WWE being the major promotions for wrestling during this era in the states. Women's wrestling at the start of the 1990's in the WWF / WWE was non existent with the WWF women's title being declared vacant in 1990. Most American women's wrestling talent were instead involved in Tor Berg's LPWA during the yeas 1989 to 1992.
The LPWA promoted by
Tor Berg originated in 1989 and at the time held the distinction of being
the only all female professional wrestling promotion outside of Japan. The
LPWA had a live TV show that ran throughout the USA and was also televised
in a number of countries around the world.
(Australia showed LPWA on SKY TV)
The LPWA roster included such known
stars as Madusa, Terri Power (later to become Tori in the WWE) Magnificent
Mimi, Malia Hosaka, Misty Blue and Candi Divine. Japanese wrestlers like
Harley Saito, Eagle Sawai, Mitzuki Endoh and American Japanese star Reggie
Bennett. Former WWF champions Wendi Richter, Lei Lani Kai, Judy Martin,
Desiree Peterson, Noriyo Tateno and Rockin Robin. Mexican luchadoras La Gata
and Alma Alvarez. As well as legends like Susan Green and Susan Sexton (who was LPWA's longest reigning and most celebrated champion)
On the 23rd of February 1992 the LPWA held a payperview titles "Super Ladies Showdown". The show however only drew 400 people and the PPV had a low viewer rate which led to a quick demise for the company.
American women wrestlers Head to Japan
The American scene without the WWF / WWE offering women's wrestling appeared to be in a down phase for women's wrestling and a few of the women wrestlers packed their bags and went to Japan in hope of broadening their career prospects and better their skills. One American Madusa Micelli headed off to Japan and not only captured the IWA World title in Japan but at the end of 1990, she was voted "All-Japan Inspirational Wrestler of the Year." Debbie Malenko was another that followed suit and left to make her mark on the Japanese pro wrestling scene.
Debbie Malenko made her Japanese wrestling debut in March 1991. During her time in Japan she was able to successfully capture the ALL JAPAN TAG TITLES: with partner Sakie Hasegawa in 1992 and the ALL JAPAN SINGLES in 1993. Unfortunately in March 1993 Debbie was forced to vacate the title due to injury. Her last match was in March 1993 which was just before the WWF (WWE) decided to bring back their WWF women's title in America at the end of 1993. With the LPWA appearing in trouble in 1992 a couple of other American women started to go to Japan for stints in the Japanese women's promotions. These women were Terri Power who went on to become Tori in the WWE, Reggie Bennett who went on to receive a big push in Japan and Magnificent Mimi who went on a brief stint.
THE WWF / WWE NEW WOMEN'S DIVISION
The WWF / WWE reinstated the women's
division and created a tournament at the end of 1993 to find a new women's
champion. Back from Japan the talented Madusa Micelli was renamed Alundra
Blayze and became the new women's title holder when on the 13th of December
1993 she defeated Heidi Lee Morgan in the tournament final. Once Madusa was the WWF / WWE
women's champion the WWF then brought in one of Madusa's Japanese rivals.
Bull Nakano in story line was brought in by Luna Vachon. Bull Nakano battled
with Alundra a number of times before defeating her on the 20th of November
1994 in Tokyo, JAPAN.
The WWF decidedly looked like a two women only division as Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano continued to battle it out with Alundra Blayze succeeding in winning back the title on the 3rd of April 1995. As soon as Madusa won back the title Canadian star Rhonda Sing who had made a name for herself in Japan under the guise of "Monster Ripper" turned up to attack her. Rhonda first appeared very much like her "Monster Ripper" character but was very quickly reworked into a new colorful but silly gimmick by the name of Bertha Faye by the WWF / WWE.
Bull Nakano disappeared from the WWF / E and Bertha Faye quickly slotted into the two women division story lines. Bertha Faye in August of 1995 won the title which Alundra reclaimed once more on the 23rd of October 1995. The WWF were not inventive in reactivating their women's title and the WWF never looked much more than a 2 woman roster during its 1993 to 1995 revival. There was no doubting both the popularity and ability of Madusa but the interest became stale as the WWF did not supply the champion with enough different opponents to keep the audience captivated. When you consider the men's division had ample men to run interference during matches and create twisting story lines the WWF / WWE women's division had normally only two women and for a large part of the time only one of the two women (Madusa / Alundra Blaze) spoke. By the end of 1995 the WWF expressed no interest in continuing the title and Alundra Blayze (Madusa Micelli) left for WCW.
WCW WOMEN'S WRESTLING DIVISION
As the WWF women's division lay dormant Madusa surfaced in WCW and at the prompting of Eric Bishoff threw her WWF title into the trash can on a Nitro episode. WCW then copied the same path that the WWF had done and brought in Bull Nakano to battle Madusa in a title less division. The matches were nothing new to the American wrestling viewers however and WCW decided to negotiate with Japanese promotion GAEA to create a women's division A eight woman tournament begun using the GAEA women in which Akira Hokuto appeared twice. ( as herself and under a mask as Reina Jabuki) In the tournament final Akira Hokuto managed by Sonny Ono and accompanied ringside by her husband won against Madusa to become the first and only WCW women's champion in history.
WCW Women's Cruiserweight Division
With the popularity of the WCW's men cruiserweight division in their mind and the GAEA promotion having a number of smaller women to use WCW introduced a women's cruiserweight division which was taken out by Toshie Uetmasu. The WCW cruiserweight belt was never to be defended in the USA again however as Chigusa Nagayo promoter and wrestler of GAEA had a falling out with Eric Bishoff which ultimately led to the end of the women's division in WCW. The finish of the alliance was signaled when Madusa lost a loser retires match to Akira Hokuto and the women's division was never to be seen again.
WWF / WWE REINSTATE THE WOMEN'S TITLE
In the late 1990s the popularity of
Reno Mero (Sable) re ignited interest in a women's division. In a WWF /WWE
story line Sable at war with her husband Mark Mero is faced off against
ON the 15th of September 1998 Jacqueline defeated Sable for the vacant WWE tittle.
The rest of the 1990's saw the title change a number of times : Sable 15th Nov, 1998, Debra 10th May 1999, Ivory 8th June 1999, Moolah 17th October 1999 and Miss Kitty on the 12th of December 1999.
THE MAJOR SHIFTS IN WRESTLING AFFECT
WOMEN'S WRESTLING: To compare
wrestlers like Madusa and Akira Hokuto to Miss Kitty or Debra basically
shows how much of a shift occurred in women's wrestling in America. Talent
and Ability were sadly replaced with a new form of T&A. Some would see ECW's
use of women as for a reason for the shift. Alternatively one could see the
target audience as a reason for the change. No longer were women and
children embraced as a part of the viewing audience but a new strong focus
on targeting a male 15-35 age bracket instead was developed. Other
promotions followed what ECW were doing. ECW were known for using women not
from within the wrestling industry but form the adult one. The focus for
women was taken off the empowered woman who in wrestling was equally skilled
to that of any male to that of the more demeaning task of the valet that
carried the clothes, lost them (often on purpose) or was to beat up by a
male counterpart and wrestle in whatever was mixed up (mud, gravy etc)
Even Madusa the leading American wrestler of the mid 90's became a valet accompanying Randy Savage to the ring with females Mona (Miss Madness / Molly Holly) and Gorgeous George. In 1999 WCW used a few independent stars for a women's division : Brandi Alexander, Lexie Fyfe, Little Jeanne, Dee Dee Venturi, Ronda Sing and Mona saw a brief resurgence in women's wrestling.
The Exception to the rule
The only one to really survive this trend was perhaps Chyna (Joanie Laurer) who was the first woman to be used extensively in the men's division. Chyna (Joanie Laurer) was similar in build to the men she worked against. She started in the WWE as a bodyguard to Triple H and in Degeneration X quickly became a rather unusual focus. Her story line to begin with in the WWE was not very dissimilar to one that WCW used with Jacqueline where she stood ringside and took a shot at any poor unfortunate that ventured outside the ring. Chyna was in a league of her own. She was first woman to compete in both the Royal Rumble and the King of the Ring tournament and in October 1999 Chyna became the first ever female Intercontinental Champion. For women's wrestling in general however Chyna was not a icon of it but was really a extreme example that did not comfortably fit into it. A point proven when the WWE decided to place Chyna in the women's division and basically annihilate everyone in it.
ALSO SEE WOMEN WRESTLER'S FAME OF FAME FOR USA 1990-2000 FOR MORE DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF THE decade's TOP STARS