`At the Sound of the Bell,
Come Out Fighting'

Molly (Laurene Landon) and Iris (Vicki Frederick) of the California Dolls, left, get ready to take on the Toledo Tigers, June (Ursuline Bryant) and Diane (Tracy Reed).  

From the Depths of Time, Women Fight for Victory

     The history of women's wrestling surely reaches into pre-history, back to those misty millennia when savage animals were turning into human beings. 

​    As people began living in villages and cities, following the edicts of religion and culture, conflicts that once might have turned deadly were suitably civilized. This was done in two ways: sport and theater. 

​     Sports as we know them today are all regulated versions of much more dangerous historical encounters. 

​     Instead of killing each other on the battlefield with spears and clubs and their bare hands, the Greeks in 776 B.C. competed on the athletic field with javelins and hammers and wrestling moves. That was the start of the Olympics. 

​    Similarly, the jousting tournament was organized to keep hot-headed European knights from killing each other in real battle.​    

​    Today's football games -- soccer, rugby, American, Canadian and Australian rules, etc. -- are all tamed versions of medieval football, or "mob ball," which would pit whole villages against each other in melees that would leave people seriously injured and dead.

​      Lacrosse, in the same way, is the domesticated version of a warlike contest Native North American tribes once engaged in.

​     Even boxing, the most savage of sports, got the Marquess of Queensberry makeover. 

    Modern sports are a way for humans to ​physically compete without killing each other (quite as often).

​    Theater was another way the old blood lust was managed. If sports were rules-based versions of ancient violent encounters, theater gave us ritualized versions of these violent encounters.

​    The origins of professional wrestling are sideshows and touring carnivals in Europe and America, where strongmen would battle it out in feigned fights that featured marvelous feats of strength and hideous shows of violence.

    The crowd loved it, even if they suspected everything wasn't on the up-and-up.

    For though pro wrestling hid for many years behind its "kayafbe" rules, which insisted that everything was real, the violence depicted in the ring was obviously simulated. Only 12-year-old boys and the most gullible of the gullible could accept it as real.

​     Yet that doesn't stop people from enjoying it, or from cheering and booing as if it were real. It satisfies our blood lust, without spilling (too much) blood.

     To finally get back to  women's wrestling, we know the ladies were banned from even watching the Olympics. There is evidence, however, they wrestled competitively in militaristic Sparta and perhaps other ancient cultures.

     Later, the "World's Strongest Woman" might be part of a traveling circus, offering to wrestle someone from the audience for money. The hand-picked opponent was in on the dodge, of course, and that night would set out with the troupe for their next show.

​     Josephine Blatt helped bring the women's game out of these seedy shadows. A touring strongwoman billed as Minerva, she became history's first crowned Women's World Wrestling champion in the 1890s. 

​     The title passed through the hands of women including Alice Williams, Mary Harris, Masha Poddubnaya (the great Russian champion) and Cora Livingstone (who held it from 1910-25), before the modern age began in 1937. That's when Mildred Burke won the title. 

​    In Burke we see something akin to a modern woman wrestler. She was no circus freak, but rather an attractive and even glamorous young woman. 

     Burke brought sex appeal to the sport, and her feud with the lovely June Byers brought catfight appeal. Their 1954 showdown is considered by some the greatest ladies match ever.

     Byers's retirement in 1964 gave rise to the greatest woman wrestler of the all: The Fabulous Moolah.

     Moolah brings the story into contemporary times, having held some form of the title into the 
"Two Women Wrestling," an Italian sculpture from the 17th century, "when Wrestling matches between scantily clad women as well as men were a form of court entertainment."
Female wrestling from 1900 in Tingeltangel, "the first modern nightclub in Montmartre, Paris."
A lovely young woman only identified as "Circus strong woman, 1905."
Two turn-of-the-century strong women. Above, Laverie Vallee, aka Charmion. At right, Vulcana,
or Kate Williams.
The great Minerva, or Josephine Blatt, the first Women's World Champion, shown with some of her toys.
Russian great Masha Poddubnay, right, who won the Women's  World Championship in 1909, poses with another wrestler.
Latvian strong woman Marina Lurs, right, grappling perhaps with Anette Busch.
June Byers, left, and Mildred Burke brought glamour and sex appeal to ladies wrestling, with their grudge match of 1954 considered by some the greatest of all time.
Then came Mary Lillian Ellison, better known as the Fabulous Moolah, who literally owned the belt from the 60s to the 90s.
The Fabulous Moolah faces off against Velvet McIntyre, whose long red hair she just loved to pull
Iris, telling her opponent to bring it on, and the other wrestlers in "All the Marbles" were trained by Mildred Burke.
Manami Toyota, right, perhaps Japan's greatest women's wrestler, faces off against the giant Aja Kong.
1990s, continuing to pin her opponents as ​ wrestling grew from a dusty regional venture into a globally televised powerhouse. She appeared on the first two Wrestlemanias!

     We now live in a golden age of women's wrestling. From giant promotions like the WWE's, to tiny internet-based operations, there's more opportunity today to see women wrestle than ever before. We are lucky indeed.

     Our goal here is to bring as much of the ladies action as we can, 
​​focusing on some of our favorites like Velvet McIntyre and Manami Toyota -- we haven't even discussed the history of Japanese joshi puroresu, not to mention Mexican women's lucha libre.

    And, as always, we'll keep an eye out for great hair-pulling. 

      We include wrestling scenes from the film "All the Marbles." It's fictional, but the action takes place in actual rings and according to professional standards -- as insisted on by the wrestling trainer, Mildred Burke! 

A Rivalry Begins

The California Dolls and the Toledo Tigers battle for the first time.
Come for the hair-pulling, stay for the stomping!

What It's All About: The Hair-Pulling

That's why we're here, folks. Two angry women, digging their hands into each other's long locks -- our lifelong passion!
 We bring you the best we can find. Enjoy!

Camel Clutching Manami 

They couldn't beat Japan's greatest women's wrestler too often, but punish her they did. Here's Manami Toyota in the infamous camel clutch! 

`Ride Her, Cowgirl!'

Lovely long hair is both blessing and curse, especially for a wrestler. Velvet finds this out as "Cowgirl" Wendi goes for a scalping!

The Girls Fight Club Presents:

Girl on the Ceiling

The ceiling -- often referred to as the Mexican or Japanese ceiling -- is a spectacular and painful move. Submission just might be the victim's best choice, but these women don't surrender easy.

`All the Marbles'

Hollywood's gift to women's wrestling fans, with savage action in the ring. Enjoy Molly and Iris's rise to the top of the game.

Bad-Hair Day'

Velvet McIntyre battles the toughest ladies in professional wrestling, women who just can't seem to keep their  hands out of her long red hair. Who can blame them?