Multiple times during the WWE Women’s championship match at WrestleMania 32, JBL definitively declared that the current generation of women’s wrestling represents the best that we have ever been treated to as wrestling fans. Without a question, the athleticism, charisma and pure roster depth has contributed to create an exciting division, where in the past, maybe the conditions weren’t ideal for the ladies to succeed.
Considering all of the great women to grace the sport, we couldn’t help but wonder: Which of the women wrestlers of previous eras would readily fit in to the current climate and excel in this environment where the ladies are now in the spotlight?
Not all of the legends of this division, including a few Hall of Famers would be able to fully adapt to all that’s required of the athletes in the modern era of sports entertainment. Despite their ability, they just may not represent a fit in the current wrestling climate. But we can certainly think of 21 who would have been great if their careers had lined up to coincide with the emergence of the ladies to the forefront of the mat game.
21. Beth Phoenix
The dust has hardly settled on the mat career of Beth Phoenix, but the Glamazon certainly carved an impressive swath during her ring career. It could be argued that her efforts largely paved the way for the current crop of ladies atop the marquee. Beth got her start under trainer Ron Hutchison, who is responsible for Edge, Christian and Trish Stratus. The right start gave her a solid foundation for a tremendous ring career … and we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her factor into the mix again in the near future, bringing her physical prowess to shake up the whole division.
20. The Magnificent Mimi
While the WWE’s current “PG” rating may exclude the cross-over appeal of stunning Divas appearing in photo shoots for men’s magazines, Magnificent Mimi was a trailblazer in this regard. In the late 1980s, she was featured in a sizzling photo shoot which set the tone for many who would follow. Mimi was trained by the late Billy Robinson, and those skills saw her deliver some great performances under the AWA banner in challenges for the Women’s Championship.
T18. The Jumping Bomb Angels
When Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki emerged onto the scene in the WWE in 1987, they immediately turned heads and brought visibility to the WWE Women’s Division (wresting the Women’s Tag Team Championship from the Glamour Girls). The high flying dynamic style that both members of the team brought to their matches reminded many WWE fans of the British Bulldogs, and there is little doubt that they would still stand out today had they come along twenty years later.
17. Molly Holly
A graduate of the Malenko school of wrestling, Molly Holly truly set herself apart from the pack in the WWE; first as a fan favorite alongside Bob & Crash Holly, then as a superhero sidekick for the Hurricane. But it was as a solo star that she truly broke out as a WWE Women’s Champion and carved her own place in wrestling history. Molly elected to leave the sport on her own terms, though we believe that if she were to make a return, she’d have all eyes of the industry upon her.
Victoria made a splash as soon as she arrived in the WWE, more than a decade ago and quickly demonstrated that while she was outranked by some of the more experienced talent on the roster, she wasn’t to be outclassed. Her track record in both the WWE and TNA speaks for itself, and even with a knee injury that requires her to wear a brace, she could still mix it up in the new school of women’s wrestling.
15. Akira Hokuto
Akira Hokuto had already established herself as an international superstar for 10 years before fans in North America had the opportunity to see her dominate in WCW. Winning multiple championships in Japan and Mexico, Hokuto was recognized multiple times by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter for five star performances against some of the toughest challengers around. She defeated Madusa to become the first WCW World Women’s Champion and captured the attention of the wrestling world with both her deadly repertoire and stunning beauty.
14. Malia Hosaka
Wrestling fans who only know the major organizations never got the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Malia Hosaka, whose career has been primarily rooted in the independents. Hosaka was an active fixture of the wrestling scene in the 1990s and even as recently as 2015, she was still dominating the competition in Vancouver, BC’s Girls Gone Wrestling promotion. Still as deadly as ever, Hosaka could have been a pivotal player in the women’s wrestling division in today’s climate.
A true success story in professional wrestling, Tina Moretti was one of the few ladies to have started with the glam women’s organizations of the 1980s and excel to become one of the sport’s top stars. Trained by Mando Guerrero, Ivory dominated against competitors of multiple generations during her WWE tenure. Always in peak physical condition, she would readily match up with the likes of Becky Lynch or others of today’s roster who are known for their aggressive, take no prisoners attitudes.
12. Wendi Richter
Even with her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame a few years ago, there will always be debate about what might have been had Richter had been allowed to reach her full potential. In the 1980s, Wendi Richter represented a significant jump forward for women’s wrestling and a migration away from the stronghold on wrestling that had been held by the Fabulous Moolah for an extended period of time. Given a deep roster of like-minded, young and hungry competition, we believe that Richter would be a force to be reckoned with even in today’s environment.
11. Bull Nakano
Rugged and versatile, Bull Nakano was one of the few women’s wrestlers in the 1990s to break into the North American scene. In battles against Madusa (aka Alundra Blayze), Nakano enjoyed a lengthy run in the WWE, even when the women’s division was limited to a single opponent to wage war against. Imagine the carnage that she could create in a full roster of talented ladies that could test her skills to the limit. The possibilities give us goose bumps.
10. Misty Blue Simmes
You couldn’t pick up a wrestling magazine in the 1980s without seeing a photo or a story on Misty Blue Simms, especially in the American northeast. Misty Blue was regularly featured as a pinup in the newsstand publications and her ability between the ropes was not eclipsed by her sex appeal. Misty Blue, while dominant on the independents was rarely seen in the larger companies, but put her tenacity to work in the current women’s division and we guarantee she would have earned her spot on the roster.
9. Rockin’ Robin
A former WWE Women’s Champion, Robin was a second generation wrestler and sister of Hall of Famer, Jake “The Snake” Roberts. She established her own reputation, though as a tough customer in battles against the likes of Sherri Martel as champion and demonstrated her skills as a singer as well. We saw Robin in the past few years at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas and she looks like she would still give the top ladies a run for their money. In her prime, tested against any of the other second generation ladies, Rockin’ Robin’s talent stands up.
8. Terri Power
Her run in the WWE as a valet for X-Pac by the name Tori, is largely forgettable. WWE fans never got to see her performances in Japan and in the LPWA where her accomplishments between the ropes vaulted her to the forefront of wrestling fans’ minds among the best of her era. Trained by sound mat technician Brad Rheingans and also mentored by Roddy Piper, Power spent only two years in the WWE, though much of that time was spent as a manager/valet. Unleashed and implementing the skills we witnessed from her earlier work, Terri Power and Tamina Snuka might really deliver a barn burner.
7. Velvet McIntyre
British Columbia’s Velvet McIntyre was one of the busiest ladies in the sport in the 1980s, touring internationally wherever her schedule could take her. In fact, she was scheduled for an international tour of the middle east when she was called to appear at WrestleMania 2 to oppose the Fabulous Moolah (she almost didn’t take the pay per view booking). Many people forget that Velvet unseated Moolah briefly for the WWE Women’s Championship during a tour of Australia later that year and among her peers. Velvet was regarded as one of the best. If she were just bursting onto the national scene now, Velvet would fit right in with her stunning good looks and high flying style.
6. Luna Vachon
Among a field of second generation wrestlers, Charlotte may be the daughter of the dirtiest player in the game, but Luna was influenced by two of the roughest and most ruthless competitors to every grace the squared circle – her father Butcher Vachon and uncle Mad Dog Vachon. Luna saw action in feuds with Sherri Martel and Sable (most notably during her WWE run) but maintained one of the most aggressive schedules outside of the national spotlight as well. Luna, on the scene now, would create global havoc.
We have to imagine that as Jacqueline was gracefully taking her bows as a Hall of Fame inductee, that what she really wanted most was to get down to that ring and mix it up with a roster of gals that really know their stuff. While Jacqueline did enjoy success in the WWE during her career, her road to get there was certainly not a conventional one. In her formative years in Memphis, she often found herself wrestling against men as often as women, and was even ranked in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 list with a class of her male counterparts. Jacqueline excelled under adverse conditions, and we have little doubt she would still emerge as one of the all-time greats if she’d been tested against the array of talent that is now available.
4. Sherri Martel
It’s almost unfortunate that Sherri Martel’s ring career is almost eclipsed by her tenure as a manager/valet for Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase and Shawn Michaels. Sherri Martel is one of few ladies to hold both the AWA and WWE World Women’s Titles and she enjoyed one of the longest runs with the company. Sherri’s over the top charisma rivalled that of even outrageous and over the top personas like the Macho Man, and some of her interviews still resonate strongly in our memories. How would Queen Sherri fare against the best of today’s generation? We suspect she would still reign supreme.
3. Trish Stratus
Canada’s Trish Stratus made an interesting career shift from fitness model to professional wrestler, and her professional achievements continue to mount as an actress, entrepreneur and mother. Yet another product of the Ron Hutchison school in Toronto, Trish Stratus became one of the most iconic ladies of the Attitude Era of the WWE – without posing nude for Playboy or appearing on camera wearing only body paint. Stratus didn’t rely on her cover-girl good looks, but instead became one of the grittiest and most resilient characters to step foot between the ropes. If Trish were just reporting for work on her first day today, we expect her competitiveness and determination would still set her apart from her peers.
As Madusa or as Alundra Blayze, this Minnesotan made her impact felt wherever she appeared. She dominated the AWA, continued that trend in Japan, was a marquee attraction for over a year in the WWE and even found ways to stand out in the ego-driven environment of WCW. Madusa helped to usher ladies professional wrestling from an undercard attraction to a level that would allow ladies to migrate to a long-term contract with a single organization. The opportunities that the current generation enjoys can be partly attributed to the work that Madusa did to lay the groundwork since she was awarded Pro Wrestling Illustrated rookie of the year in 1988. We saw how she tested herself against the best and never shied away from a challenge during her run, if she were to approach the current women’s division with that same fervor, the ladies on the roster would be in for the fight of their lives every time they stepped through the ropes.
Lita made no secret of the fact that she was covered in goosebumps watching the Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania and heartily congratulated all three competitors. Lita came into the WWE through a rather unique path, first learning the trade in Mexico, then spending time in ECW and paying her dues as a manager before creating the opportunity to establish her reputation as a competitor. If not for her neck injury, we can’t escape the feeling that Lita would still be climbing through the ropes to wow audiences with her high risk style and infectious energy.