Though professional wrestling throughout most of the twentieth century was a massively successful industry based on the fights alone, things began to change quite a bit heading into the 1990s. The sports side of the business was just fine for decades until the entertainment world as a whole began taking on more and more of a role in society and Vince McMahon had a vision of what he wanted the company he inherited from his father to look like in the future, so he rolled with the times. This involved focusing less on the athletic side of pro wrestling and more on what could be marketed, and anyone can tell you that sex sells.
There had been a handful of wrestlers who relied on their looks to sell their character before, but when the World Wrestling Federation began pushing more adult-themed programming we started to truly see legitimate sex symbols as some of the biggest stars in wrestling. No matter the era, if you’ve grown up as a wrestling fan since the 1980s and ‘90s you’ve likely had your share of childhood crushes on WWE programming. Let’s take a look at fifteen of them who have definitely not aged well and wonder how we ever found them desirable.
15 Missy Hyatt
Though Missy Hyatt was widely known for her stints in ECW and WCW as one of the earliest female wrestling sex symbols, she did briefly work with the World Wrestling Federation back in the 1980s and is probably one of the most successful women of her time to work in the industry. Her romantic exploits with countless men in the business have made her a hot topic of discussion among wrestling fans over the years and have unfortunately outshined most of her professional accomplishments. Missy Hyatt was certainly one of the more desirable wrestling women of the twentieth century but as of today she is just looking tired and completely worn out. Old age has been creeping up on her and it is painfully obvious that Father Time has not been kind to her.
14 Dawn Marie
After Vince McMahon purchased World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling he merged the two companies with his own under the WWE umbrella and officially had a monopoly on pro wrestling. To his credit, however, he did welcome many individuals under contract with those two companies to join him in taking the business forward and one woman who had a massively successful run with WWE was Dawn Marie.
Dawn was a big star in ECW, but it certainly wasn’t because of her wrestling skills. Her smoking good looks are what helped Dawn Marie make it big and in WWE they took her even further than she could have dreamed, but to see her in 2017 it is hard to remember a time when she was considered a childhood crush for anyone.
13 Terri Runnels
She made her debut with the World Wrestling Federation under the name Marlena as the wife, both on screen and off screen, of Goldust. She was also famously choked out by Chyna when the latter made her debut, but later Marlena became known by her real name, Terri Runnels, and under that moniker would find most of her success. It certainly wasn’t that Terri Runnels was an amazing wrestler; in fact, she rarely got into the ring. Terri went down as one of the most popular managers of the Attitude era and the usually scantily clad Diva was a childhood crush to millions of young boys around the world.
Time has hit Terri Runnels pretty hard, though, and she no longer looks like the bombshell she was back in the ‘90s.
Back around the turn of the century WWE’s women’s division was almost exclusively filled with women who were so hot they could melt the iceberg that sank the Titanic. One of these women whom you may have forgotten about is Tori, the lover of the Big Red Machine Kane who turned her back on him to become romantically involved with his former best friend turned archenemy, X-Pac. This made Tori one of only a handful of women who were ever a part of D-Generation X alongside Chyna and Stephanie McMahon, and with her revealing, skin-tight leather outfits, she was one of the best things about any episode of Raw or SmackDown during the Attitude era.
Unfortunately, Tori’s looks haven’t stayed with her and time has taken its toll.
It would be hard to argue that Sable won’t go down as the sexiest woman in the history of professional wrestling. That is entirely what Sable’s appeal relied on, her sex appeal. She wasn’t very skilled at all as an in-ring performer and she didn’t exactly possess the charisma of a Trish Stratus, but Sable’s looks alone allowed her to coast into an incredibly successful career in wrestling and, under the WWE banner, she even graced the cover of Playboy Magazine on multiple occasions. Every man and young boy in the world was drooling over Sable in the late ‘90s, but it’s doubtful anyone is drooling over her now as the real-life wife of Brock Lesnar is looking older and wider than she did at the height of her WWE tenure.
For all of this talk about sex symbols and childhood crushes in WWE, the buck stops at Tammy Lynn Sytch, otherwise known as Sunny. When wrestling fans were lucky enough to have Sunny working for the World Wrestling Federation they realized that she was the stuff dreams are made of. There will likely never be another woman as desired as the woman whom many – including herself – consider the original WWE Diva. However, since retiring from wrestling long ago she has fallen a long way, known more now for her constant legal troubles and substance abuse. She famously talks a lot of trash about those in the wrestling business on social media, but her personality isn’t the only thing that’s ugly; Sunny’s looks have also taken a huge hit as she is now many times the size she was in the ‘90s.
9 Shawn Michaels
There have obviously been a plethora of women to come through WWE who have been considered sex symbols and as a result have been childhood crushes to so many wrestling fans. However, as we have discussed, there have also been a fair share of men to have been seen in the same light. Perhaps the most notorious male sex symbol in WWE history was the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, who broke out on his own in the early 1990s to embark upon a wildly successful Hall of Fame career as a “sexy boy.” Michaels was always a big hit with women, even posing for Playgirl Magazine at the height of his career, but unfortunately in 2017 Mister WrestleMania is starting to look more like a scrawny, beaten down old man.
8 The Kat
Whether you remember Stacy Carter as Miss Kitty – the petite southern blonde who managed Jeff Jarrett in 1999 along with Miss Debra – or as The Kat – the devilish little Women’s Champion who wore wigs of all colors and rarely wore more than what could be considered lingerie on live television, you likely cannot have forgotten her if you were coming of age during her run with the company. In one of the most infamous scenes in the history of WWE pay per view, The Kat won the Women’s Championship in a swimming pool match at Armageddon ’99 and, just moments later took off her top for the live cameras.
The Kat was one of the most desirable WWE Divas of her time, but one look at her now shows that her time has passed.
7 Val Venis
Vince McMahon and WWE got a lot of negative feedback – and are still getting it to this day – for its treatment of women during the company’s most popular time period, known as the Attitude era. In the late 1990s, women were almost exclusively used to sell sex to the masses while the actual wrestling was left up to the men. To be fair, however, there were a handful of men treated this way. Though they still wrestled matches, some of the male WWE Superstars were also considered sex symbols and nowhere was this more evident than with Val Venis, a character whose story was that he was a former adult star.
Val Venis was known for his catchphrase – “Hello, ladies!” – which had the women in the audience burning up, but his wrinkles and bald head aren’t getting anyone hot today.
6 Wendi Richter
For those who grew up as wrestling fans in the 1980s, there certainly wasn’t a large collection of women to fawn over. While women were not at the center of a lot of storylines throughout the decade, when they were featured it was in a purely wrestling capacity. They weren’t marketed as sex symbols, which actually makes the many years that followed feel like a step back in the women’s equality movement in wrestling, but that doesn’t mean the ladies of the ‘80s weren’t beautiful and admired by those who watched them at the time.
One of the biggest female wrestling stars of the decade was WWE Hall of Famer Wendi Richter. She was beautiful and charming, and she always had the crowd behind her. But today even Wendi’s sweet southern accent and colorful attire couldn’t make her as gorgeous as she once was.
5 Miss Debra
Debra Marshall will go down as one of the ultimate childhood crushes in WWE history. When the World Wrestling Federation embarked upon the more adult-oriented Attitude era and started having its female workers take off their clothes for the camera, few women got the attention that Marshall, who was known on screen as Miss Debra, did when she was the manager of Jeff Jarrett. Her assets were always busting out of her top and her skirts were super short, revealing a pair of the best legs in the business.
Miss Debra also helped Jerry “The King” Lawler make the phrase “puppies” famous if that tells you anything about how desirable men found her. There aren’t likely many of them who still do, though, as she has definitely aged since retiring from wrestling.
Before the term “anti-Diva” was used in marketing by Paige as a different sort of WWE woman a few years ago, perhaps no one could have embodied the term better than Lisa Moretti, formerly known to wrestling fans as Ivory. During the Attitude era, Ivory was one of a very small group of women who could actually wrestle a match. While other women were coasting on good looks, they had very little in the way of charisma and even less in the way of athleticism, but that’s where Ivory picked up the slack. That’s not to say she wasn’t beautiful though, and Ivory competed in her fair share of bra and panties matches.
Ivory was super hot as well, but that’s just not the case anymore for this former multiple time WWE Women’s Champion.
3 Randy Orton
Most of the male fans of professional wrestling might shake their heads at the idea, but Randy Orton has been a sex symbol in his own right throughout his wrestling career. Upon his debut around the same time as John Cena back in the early 2000s, Randy’s boyish good looks had women (and some men) swooning over him. He was most definitely considered a childhood crush for some of the younger generation of wrestling fans, but this legendary multiple time world champion’s best days are behind him, at least as far as his looks go. Though Randy Orton is still relatively young and has many more wrestling matches ahead of him, he is no longer the handsome young man he used to be and is starting to resemble his old man, “Cowboy” Bob Orton.
2 Alundra Blayze
Women’s wrestling has famously had an uphill battle over the past several decades, but it could be argued that no time was rougher for the ladies of the ring than the roller coaster ride they were forced to endure throughout the 1990s. The WWE Women’s Championship was retired on at least two occasions, dropped due to a supposed lack of interest, but if there is one woman who kept the train moving it was WWE Hall of Famer Alundra Blayze. Blayze won the Women’s Championship three times before jumping ship to WCW to compete as Madusa, where she famously dropped the WWE Women’s title belt in the trash on live television. She was as hot as they come at the height of her wrestling career, but as seen in her WWE appearances in recent years her looks have begun to fade.
1 John Cena
First, there was Bruno Sammartino. In the ‘80s we had Hulk Hogan and in the 1990s we had “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Ever since the early 2000s we’ve had the one and only John Cena as the face of the WWE and it is unclear if the company will be able to repeat the formula of building an iconic star after he has retired from the ring. Since the moment Cena arrived on the scene he has been an unstoppable force and a favorite of Vince McMahon, but he has – perhaps unintentionally – been a sex symbol as well. Women have been fawning over Cena for years and, if you’re of the younger female generation he was likely a childhood crush of yours.
When you see Cena on television now, though, you’re likely wondering what you were thinking as he has clearing begun to age and the boyish good looks that helped make him a star are no longer there.
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