Wrestling biographies can really hit and miss. Books like Have a Nice Day and Hitman: My Crazy Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling are seminal works, entertaining and were key in smartening fans to the wrestling business. Their quality and enlightening perspective are what wrestling books have been chasing since Mike Foley scribbled his wrestling career on legal notepads.
Some have come close to recapturing the blend of insight and crazy stories that made these books so popular. However, others have been less than stellar, written by someone with an axe to grind. Despite the varying degrees of quality, one thing that is missing from the wrestling biography game is the female despective.
It feels like any wrestler who had an iota of notoriety during the Attitude Era has a biography. With the exception of a few histories chronicling the rise of women’s wrestling and a handful of WWE autobiographies, the women’s experience remains an untapped market. As the saying goes, women do everything men do, and they have to do it backwards and in high heels. The wrestling world is no different. Having to deal with the bumps, the hectic schedule, and the added issue of surviving a male-dominated industry. The stories of the women of wrestling are equally, if not more compelling, than their male counterparts. To honour those women of wrestling’s past, here is a list (a by no means exhaustive one) of the women whose stories need to be told.
With her best wrestling days still to come, some might think that it is a little too early for Alexa Bliss to be writing a biography. But Alexa Bliss has faced more than her share of challenges to make for an inspirational read.
While her accolades in the ring cannot be denied, it is Alexa’s life outside of the ring that adds another layer to her story. Bliss has been very vocal about her struggles with her childhood eating disorder. Overcoming her mental health issues, Bliss found solace in fitness. Earning her IFBB Pro card within a year and competed at the Arnold Classic Women’s Bikini class in 2012 and 2013. Bliss reached the pinnacle of the fitness industry, an accolade that some spend their whole lives chasing. Before that, she was a division I cheerleader. Despite her success, Alexa constantly struggled with the burden of expectation she placed on herself.
Inside the wrestling business, Alexa has done everything. She has been a manager, a multiple-time women’s champion. She has played a role in the rise of Niki Cross, Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey. While she may not be as world travelled or have the lineage of her contemporaries, Alexa has a relatability and a past that could inspire those struggling with mental health and eating disorders.
Full disclosure: I am a huge Bayley mark. I still remember the odd luck on a small girl’s face as she noticed we were wearing the same ‘I’m A Hugged’ tee at an NXT show. So naturally, I had to put her on this list.
In my opinion, What makes Bayley more of an intriguing topic than the other Four Horsewomen is her change in character. While all these women have found success as both faces and heels, Bayley has gone from cuddly cute babyface to an uber Karen with a haircut to match. I want to know how such a tonal shift affected Bayley and the thought process in developing the character.
Her early career was equally as interesting. Bayley crossed paths with
Mercedes Martinez and Serena Deeb and even tagged with Mia Yim during her time in Shimmer. It would be great to read about what Bayley thinks WWE saw in her and what ultimately landed a spot in developmental. Obviously, she went onto NXT, where she became a mega-star. Her much-lorded rivalry with Sasha Banks remains one of the defining moments of the brand. Helping to usher in the ‘women’s revolution.’
The most underserved Four Horsewoman, a book highlighting Bayley’s career, would shine a light on a mainstay of the modern era that rarely gets the credit they deserve.
Few people that fall backwards into the wrestling business stick around for long. Terri Runnels is the exception to the rule. Initially working as a make-up artist for CNN, Runnels was flung into the crazy world of professional wrestling.
She acted as a valet to some of the greatest names in professional wrestling, including Mike Rotunda, Ricky Morton, Terry Taylor as part of WCW’s York Foundation. Her run with her husband Dustin Runnels saw her play a pivotal role in developing the Goldust character. Runnels was even granted the freedom to create her own persona, Marlina, an opportunity rarely given to women at the time.
During the Attitude Era, Terri teaming up with Jaqueline Moore and Ryan Shamrock to form Pretty Mean Sisters (P.M.S.) and was involved in a horrendous abortion angle. Two if the bottom of the barrel low points of women’s wrestling, it would be interesting to see what 20 years of hindsight have affected Terri’s view on such angles.
During her later career, Terri was given the role of ‘handler’. Mentoring younger talent like the Hardy Boyz and a very troubled Perry Saturn. A man who, by his own admission, never worked a match sober his entire WWE run. Terri appeared to take an almost motherly role in supporting new talent, keeping them on the straight and narrow (relatively speaking). A rarely explored side of wrestling, we know that Tim White looked after Andre and Heenan was paired with Flair,
At WWE, when it was at its most popular when toxic masculinity ruled the locker room. If Dark Side of The Ring is anything to go by, Terri has some stories to tell. While a tell-all is probably too salacious, the duality of a valet and wrestler’s wife is a unique perspective that few others can offer.
Jazz is a wrestler who rarely gets her due. While hardcore fans know her, Jazz’s underutilization in WWE means many fans aren’t familiar with Jazz and her journey.
Jazz was rocketed into the world of wrestling thanks to her impressive look. Honing her skills in ECW, Jazz was one of the few women with wrestling training. From there, she continued to learn under The Junkyard Dogg, one of the most beloved Black wrestlers, before making her jump to WWE.
She continued to flourish and travelled the world, working for Shine, the NWA, Chikara, and Impact Wrestling. Married to fellow wrestler Rodney Mack, Jazz has the rare accolade of having a relationship that has endured the hardships of the wrestling business. The two have formed a lasting relationship and continue to train talent in their wrestling school, The Dog Pound, alongside Thunder Rosa.
With Jazz announcing her retirement recently, the former two time WWE champion wants to cap off her career with a world tour. After which, there would be no better time for Jazz to reflect on everything she has accomplished.
Another journeywoman on the list. It feels like Ivory was at the right place at the wrong time.
A staple of the Attitude Era, Ivory (along with Jaqueline Moore and Luna Vachon) was one of the few competent wrestlers when bikini and evening gown matches were at their height. Appearing right before the resurgence in women’s wrestling with the arrival of Trish Stratus and Lita. Ivory’s contributions to wrestling are often overshadowed by her more famous contemporaries.
Yet her journey is equally fascinating. Ivory got her break wrestling for the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, a promotion that shot back into public consciousness after the success of the hit Netflix series of the same name. Working in GLOW’s various off-shoots and even a brief stint in Herb Abrams’ ill-fated UWF. Ivory’s early career is unique. Enshrined in pageantry and the sports entertainment style of wrestling, compared to heading to Japan to carve out a name for herself.
Despite not having an array of opponents that could match her wrestling skills. While at the WWE Ivory made the most of every opportunity. She was a utility player, trusted enough to work with Chyna, an 80-year-old Mae Young and even Cindy Margolis. Later she took a role as a trainer in Ohio Valley Wrestling and even helped in the second season of Tough Enough.
With a reputation as a solid hand, Ivory’s story is one that rarely gets the opportunity to be told. Biographies are reserved for champions. The stories of journeymen like Dean Malenko or Jerry Lynn fall to the wayside as they just don’t have the star power as their peers. Ivory is the exception. As a multiple-time women’s champion, her popularity matches her skill. Combine that with her connection to GLOW, Ivory’s time in the world of wrestling deserves to be told.
At one point in time, if you heard the name Alundra Blayze or Medusa, one moment would instantly spring to mind. The one that can be found in every Monday Night Wars and Attitude Era documentary. A pissed off Medusa fresh off being future endeavoured from WWF, dumping the women’s title in the trash on Monday Night Nitro. Until recently, this was considered the defining moment of Alundra Blayze’s career. But Blayze was so much more than a hotshot angle dreamed up by Eric Bischoff.
Raised by a single mother, Blayze has memories of living on food stamps and welfare. From there, she fell in love with wrestling and transitioned into the life of an indie wrestler earning a measly $5 a match. Heading to the AWA, she quickly won the women’s championship and became the first woman to win PWI’s Rookie of the Year.
One of the first, Blayze, headed to Japan, where she had the lumps knocked out of her learning the Japanese strong style. Other Americans managed to ride it out for a year. Blayze surpassed them all, staying for three. Her reward was the respect of her contemporaries and massive popularity. One so strong that Blayze even returned to Japan as the WWF champion. As the only American woman on the card, Blayze put her title on the line against wrestling legend Bull Nakano at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe super-card, in front of 42,000 people inside the packed Tokyo Dome.
Blayze abandoned the wrestling business after her career ended in 2001 and continued to succeed in everything she did, whether dog grooming or monster truck driving. It wasn’t until her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015 that Blayze stepped back into the wrestling spotlight. Now Blayze helps other women recognize the power of their brand and the financial side of being independent contractors. Much like how Have A Nice Day provided insight into becoming a wrestler, Blayze’s book could teach would-be wrestlers how to establish themselves as indie wrestlers.
Blayze set a precedent, one that was replicated time and time again. Luckily this is one biography we might not have to wait long to read, with ECW Press announcing a planned autobiography released in 2023.
The importance of Jaqueline cannot be understated. As one of the few Black wrestlers during the Attitude Era, she, D’Lo Brown and Charles Wright were the only Black performers who weren’t former NWA champions, third-generation superstars or signed to a million-dollar contract. She was a mainstay of the women’s roster who helped inspire the likes of Bayley, Bianca Belair, Sasha Banks, and Naiomi. Even playing a pivotal role in helping show Trish Stratus the ropes.
As a woman who made appearances in WCCW, USWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, WCW, WWE, TNA, and even Atsushi Onita’s FMW, Jaqueline is undoubtedly the most well-travelled woman on this list. Her globe-trotting career saw her manage and wrestle a who’s who of wrestlers greatest legends.
With a tough as nails reputation and being viewed as ‘one of the boys,’ Jaqueline’s biography would be a wild ride and an insight into a Black woman’s journey through pro-wrestling.
Arguably the most significant women’s promotion of all time, All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling is a much-lorded promotion that revolutionized Joshi wrestling. At its height when women’s wrestling was non-existent in the States, AJW was the place for women’s wrestling, influencing countless wrestlers.
The company has a rich history stemming from the 1960s. One that involved a mandatory retirement age of 26 and a tumultuous end in the mid-00s after the company’s owners went bankrupt. During that period, AJW produced huge stars like Bull Nakano, Aja Kong and Akira Hokuto. It is responsible for 19 Wrestling Observer 5 Star matches (if Dave Meltzer’s opinion is your sort of thing). A number that WWE is still chasing. With star Manami Toyota being responsible for 13 of the 19. The influence of AJW continues to be felt today yet like everyone else on this list it rarely gets the credit it deserves when it comes to its influence on women’s wrestling in America.
However, a book on the most prolific women’s promotion may be more complicated than you think. A lot of information has been lost to time, especially AJW’s numerous untelevised events. Then there is the painstaking task of translating any material from Japanese to English. There may be some challenges, but that would not prevent an author from writing a compelling book on a promotion that shaped women’s wrestling.
Honourable mentions: Sherri Martell, Nancy Benoit, Miss Elizabeth
Sadly the wrestling world is littered with women who have left this world too soon. Nancy Benoit, Sherri Martell and Miss Elizabeth all played pivotal roles in wrestling and were defining figures during their time. I have left them off this list because, unfortunately, the thoughts and opinions of these women have been lost to drugs, alcohol, and murder.
While it is not too late for their stories to be told, such a biography would come with its own set of problems. A second-hand account would come with the added challenge of portraying such women objectively. While trying to treat the sad nature of their untimely passing with dignity. The two goals are inherently contradictory and would inevitably clash. It doesn’t mean that these women are any less deserving. Just, the ends result would never match hearing a first-hand account.
This is just scratching the surface of the women in pro-wrestling. My list is by no means definitive. There are countless other women equally deserving of having their stories told.
As the female empowerment movement in the wrestling world continues to grow, it is equally important to honour the women of the past. While Hall of Fame spots and legends contracts are all well and good, giving these women a platform to share their experiences would be even better. These women lived the life of wrestlers while dealing with the added bullshit of surviving in a male-dominated industry. Such a perspective has rarely been explored and is at risk of being forgotten.
But what do you think? Who’s biography would you read? Sound off in the comments, and be sure to let us at Women’s Wrestling Talk know whose biography you’d like to read next.