Women's wrestling for a majority of the 20th Century was a successful and popular
business, but usually considered more of a sideshow attraction than a genuine athletic
spectacle. This unfortunate understanding gave more credence to the belief that women
wrestlers were there more eye candy and filler during a regular show. Former wrestler
Billy Wolfe, in the 1930s and '40s, etched more of a workable business out of women's
wrestling, created a stable of grapplers, and even started up a gymnasium to train young
women in the arts of wrestling. But the positive aspects Wolfe was bringing to the
business were meshed with a whole lot of scandalous behavior. His reputation was less
However, he was the main provider of women wrestlers in the United States, and because
the "girls" were popular and a draw, promoters wanted to utilize them. Mildred Burke, as
the touring champion, gave a great deal of credibility to the women's - but remember, the
perceptions in many cases were already established. Women had obstacles to climb that
were impossible in professional wrestling.
The members of the National Wrestling Alliance were not opened minded, despite
realizing how successful women's wrestling had been. The "girls" were under the control
of Wolfe, and possessed no independent voice. Wolfe's decisions were final, and the
NWA went along with the measures he employed.
One example of how the NWA viewed women's wrestling as second-tier "attraction" is that
they didn't allow the World Heavyweight Champion to be booked on the same shows as
women wrestlers. That really meant that the integrity of their prized championship,
members felt, would be degraded if on the same bill as a "girl" wrestler.
|National Wrestling Alliance & Women's Wrestling