DARK SIDE OF THE RING S1E6
THE FABULOUS MOOLAH
Starring: Dutch Mantel (Narrator), Mary Austin, James Cornette, Victoria Otis, Wendi Richter, Barbara McCoy, Michael McCoy, Kenny McCoy
Producer: Ed Hatton
For the last episode of season one of the smash hit Dark Side of the Ring, the producers decided to focus on The Fabulous Moolah. The controversy about Moolah that picked up steam around WrestleMania in 2018 made her a perfect subject for the series.
For those that may not have followed wrestling as long as others, Moolah was the Women’s “Champion” from the 1950s until the 1980s. In that time, Moolah was the only girl in town. She trained many of the women who thought they wanted to get into the wrestling business. Moolah’s career had been one that has been steeped in legacy and accolades for overcoming the barriers in a male-dominated sport. However, since her death, the WWE attempted to name a women’s battle royale in her honor. But tales of nefarious behavior and actions against the women she trained has come forward.
To say that wrestling, in general, has a colorful past would be an understatement. It is why a series such as Dark Side of the Ring has so many stories to pull from. It is that very reason that the story of Fabulous Moolah is one that is both interesting and muddied. Much like the previous episodes, the episode about The Fabulous Moolah’s life and career. It’s filled with talking heads telling stories about their encounters or rumors they have heard about Moolah. Unlike most of the other episodes, the talking heads, in general, cannot agree to a consensus what Moolah’s legacy should be. In some cases, the people who were the harshest in their assessment of Moolah were also the ones to defend her legacy the most.
Early in her career, Moolah and her husband, who was a promoter within the wrestling business, would allow women to come and live on their ranch while training them to wrestle. Moolah, however, did not allow women to live there for free. Instead, the women were charged rent, and also Moolah and her husband would take 25 percent of any money the women they trained earned.
Within the industry, this was not uncommon for a booker to take a certain percentage from each of the people that worked for them. Much of the questions about Moolah came from the size of the amount and in what would happen if one of the girls who was living in the home couldn’t bring in money. Vickie Otis specifically tells her story of being injured and unable to wrestle. While she was unable to wrestle, Otis claims that she was encouraged to show men that Moolah had set her up with a good time.
While some rightfully had issues with the way that Moolah acted outside of the ring, others had more issues with some of her in-ring antics. In the mid-’80s, the WWE, then WWF, was about to enter into what is known as the Rock and Wrestling era. They had a deal with Cyndi Lauper. They made appearances on MTV. The company even had its own Saturday morning cartoon. Hulkamania was at its heights. Vince McMahon wanted a woman to become just as big of a worldwide phenomenon. Enter Wendi Richter.
Wendi was the perfect All-American rock and roll woman. McMahon took the belt off of Moolah and put it on the younger and more athletic Richter. Eventually, McMahon soured on Richter. He hatched an elaborate plan to get the belt off of Richter and back on Moolah. This is where Richter’s problems arise with Moolah. She felt that Moolah had been the one that got into McMahon’s ear and convinced him to put the belt back on Moolah. Richter and several of the other women blame Moolah for setting wrestling back for years as she retook the title.
The producers of Dark Side of the Ring did an excellent job finding people to interview that had various opinions of Moolah. Some of the people, including the daughter of Sweet Georgia Brown, had nothing nice to say about Moolah in or out of the ring. Others saw her as the victim. It was well known that her husband had been cheating on her and abusing her. For some of the people who had come out with accusations against Moolah, it is a shame that they did nothing about it while Moolah was still alive. For others, even in death, it is important that despite the negative accusations, she is still raised as an icon and a trailblazer within the business. Princess Victoria may have put it best when she said, “You can’t take away her history because she was an asshole.”