This countdown is about the kayfabe era of ladies wrestling, back when professional wrestling was sold as a legitimate contest between two athletes, rather than sports entertainment. These women are the best, based on the impact they have had over the evolution of professional wrestling world-over, and on the way their careers have started/ended trends and eras.
A video version of this Top 10 female wrestlers list has been uploaded to YouTube.
The post-kayfabe era was so different and for true wrestling fans such a completely altered experience, that in our opinion, the women who have made it to the top during those times, should go into an entirely different top 10. We do acknowledge the accomplishments of wrestlers like Lita, Trish Stratus and Mickie James though, and we do intend to feature them in a future countdown.
10. Luna Vachon
A professional wrestler hailing from a wrestling family, Luna Vachon represented a true revolution in women’s pro wrestling. The way she stepped away from the shadow of the male members of her family and the way she established her wrestling persona as a brand was nothing short of revolutionary indeed. In hindsight, her gimmick/antics may seem far out there, but they did indeed work, and they made her a legit competitor against men and women alike. Her personal fashion sense and emphasis on fitness heralded a new breed of strong female wrestler, a far cry from the valets and eye-candy of the past. Even though her life ended tragically in an untimely manner, the legacy she’s built in the ring will last forever.
Our Luna Vachon HoF Entry.
9. Mitzi Mueller
Mitzi Mueller was one of Britain’s best-known professional lady wrestlers - something of a British Wendi Richter - who didn’t just promote the sport through her skills and immaculate image, but who also actively went on television to protest the absolutely appalling decision of a British court to ban women’s wrestling from UK television. Even though she wasn’t particularly popular or known in the US, she was a true trailblazer for the sport in Europe.
8. Diana La Cazadora
Diana La Cazadora is one of Mexico’s best, although she hardly ever receives the recognition she deserves. To say that she knows how to move in the ring is probably an understatement. She is one of the luchadoras who regularly wrestles in the US too, and is thus directly responsible for bringing quality lucha libre action to US audiences. She’s genuinely involved and she always looks like she loves to be in the ring. Although she is still active, and thus not a pure kayfabe era performer, she’s made this list thanks to the impact she’s has had over the sport in Mexico and because of the level of dedication she’s shown to the squared circle over so many years.
Our Diana la Cazadora HoF entry.
Like most other women on this list, Madusa (Debrah Miceli) needs no introduction. The current monster truck driver once represented the cutting edge of women’s wrestling on a global level. With a Japanese stint under her belt, Madusa dominated the US ladies for a number of years, and who could forget her infamous WCW stunt, which saw her toss the ladies belt into the bin on Monday Nitro. Fully deserving of a HoF induction, Madusa will hopefully mend the fences with WWE soon, to finally receive her due pro wrestling recognition.
Madusa’s contributions to the ladies wrestling scene are obvious: for a short while there, it is safe to say she was the main face of the ladies side of the sport.
Our Madusa HoF entry.
6. Manami Toyota
From a technical perspective, Manami Toyota can be considered the best pound-for-pound female professional wrestler ever to step through the ropes. Her wrestling skills couldn’t be matched by anyone (with the possible exception of a few of her Japanese peers) and her in-ring acrobatics will have all first-time viewers forever sold on Joshi Puroresu. If you’re interested in what a technically unparalleled professional wrestling match looks like, run a search on her and take a peek at one of matches.
Our Manami Toyota HoF entry.
5. Sherri Martel
WWF Women’s Champion and the face of ladies’ professional wrestling at the highest level for a number of years, Sherri Martel’s contributions to the popularity of women’s wrestling cannot be overstated. Her WWF feud and matches with Rockin Robin were nothing short of sensational. Some of these bouts took place in Europe, so Sensational Sherri can certainly be credited with pushing ladies pro action into realms where professional wrestling has never really been particularly popular. Her life ended tragically early, Sherri Martel has forever etched her name into the annals of pro wrestling history.
Our Sherri Martel HoF entry.
4. Lola Gonzales
The First Lady of Lucha Libre, hailing from a genuine wrestling dynasty, Lola “la Dinamita” Gonzales, was the face of Mexican ladies pro wrestling for several decades. She wrestled in Japan, but she never really made it north of the border, something which should take nothing away from the fact that she was indeed one of the most skilled and high-profile ambassadors of ladies pro wrestling, with a major influence over Mexico’s Lucha Libre scene. Lola was also one of the most popular female wrestlers ever to set foot in the squared circle in Mexico. The only word suitable to describe the length and the quality of her career is “monumental”.
Our Lola Gonzales HoF entry.
3. Devil Masami
Devil Masami was without a doubt one of the poster-faces of ladies pro wrestling in Japan. Her ring presence second to none, and her skill-set the envy of everyone ever associated with wrestling in any way, Devil Masami’s place in professional wrestling history is safe. One of the best in Japan, she could automatically be considered one of the best in the world. She is a true joshi trailblazer, who has opened up the road for other women who would reach legendary status in Japan and world-over.
2. Wendi Richter
The Queen of the Ring, Wendi Richter has done more for the popularity of professional wrestling than possibly any other single wrestler out there, with the exception of Hulk Hogan maybe. At the center of the Rock’n’wrestling phenomenon, Richter brought wrestling into the mainstream, while putting an end to the Fabulous Moolah’s reign and iron grasp on the ladies’ side of the sport. With all that in mind, it is truly disappointing how little credit she gets these days from wrestling fans.
Our Wendi Richter HoF entry.
1. Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison)
The famous and infamous Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison) needs no introduction to fans of wrestling. Her contributions to women’s professional wrestling are obvious, the only question is whether these contributions were positive or negative. In light of newly emerged testimonials, one has to conclude that Moolah indeed came close to destroying women’s wrestling at one point. Even if she represents the dark side of wrestling, she certainly has her place in the history of the sport…
Here’s a relevant article in this respect:
Our Fabulous Moolah HoF entry.
Obviously, there are scores of big names from the US, Japan, Mexico and Britain that we could not feature here, that would’ve deserved mentioning as well. This is after all but a top-10 countdown though, so there was no way to include everyone. At the end of the day, all the women who have made a career out of this rough-and-tumble sports-entertainment genre have had some sort of an impact on the wrestling scene, which is exactly why I’m trying to have as many of them covered in our Hall of Fame section as possible.
As far as honorable mentions go, we’ll have to go with:
(Selina Majors) She’s worked for every major US promotion all the way to David McLane’s WOW, trained new talent and has essentially been involved with women’s professional wrestling all her life. I was always under the impression that unlike many other female wrestlers, she was in it for the love of the sport itself, rather than the exposure and the potential to move on to acting/stunt-work/something else down the line.
Like Bambi, Malia Hosaka has been involved with professional wrestling all her life. Ignoring the fact that she was the one who got me hooked on ladies wrestling to begin with, Malia Hosaka’s career has spanned several decades and a massive number of promotions, from small-time regional organizations to the national/global scene. She’s travelled all over the world too, promoting the ladies’ side of the sport, so she has indeed actively impacted the way women’s wrestling is currently shaping up.