Friday, March 11, 2011

In History: Johnnie Mae Young

This is the 68th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

Johnnie Mae Young, often known as Mae Young, was born March 12, 1923. (Happy 88th birthday to her!) She is a professional wrestler and currently a WWE Ambassador.

Young was an influential pioneer in women's wrestling, helping to increase its popularity during World War II and training many generations of wrestlers. She wrestled throughout the United States and Canada, and won multiple titles in the National Wrestling Alliance. She is a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the WWE Hall of Fame.

Here's something wild: Young holds the distinction of being the only professional wrestler to wrestle documented matches in nine different decades, having her first in 1939 and her latest match in 2011.

Young was an amateur wrestler on her high school's boys wrestling team at the age of fifteen. You have to wonder how common that was back in, what, 1937? Her brothers taught her to wrestle and helped her join the team. Young also played softball with Tulsa's national championship team. While still in high school, Young went to a professional wrestling show and challenged then-champion Mildred Burke when she visited Tulsa to wrestle Gladys Gillem. Because the promoters told her she could not wrestle the champion, she wrestled Gillem in a shoot fight, beating her within seconds. After the fight, promoter Billy Wolfe wanted Young to become a professional wrestler. She left home two years later to wrestle professionally.

In 1941, Young, along with Mildred Burke, opened up Canada for female wrestling. In Canada, they worked for Stu Hart, a wildly popular wrestling figure and the patriarch of perhaps the most famous wrestling family. During World War II, Young helped women take advantage of the fact that the men were fighting overseas by expanding their role in the sport.

She fought under the nicknames of "The Queen" and "The Great Mae Young", but she used her real name for most of her matches. During the 1950s, she wrestled for Mildred Burke's World Women's Wrestling Association. In 1954, Young and Burke were some of the first females to tour Japan after the war. In 1951, she became the National Wrestling Alliance's first Florida Women's Champion. In 1968, she became the NWA's first United States Women's Champion. Young, along with several other lady wrestlers, starred in the 2005 film Lipstick and Dynamite, a documentary about the women wrestlers from the 1950s era. (If you have Netflix, this documentary is on the instant queue!)

Young still shows up on WWE from time to time, still going strong after all these years.

Championships and accomplishments:

Championship Wrestling from Florida: 
NWA Florida Women's Championship (1 time)
National Wrestling Alliance
NWA United States Women's Championship (1 time)
NWA Women's World Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Ella Waldek
World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment
WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2008)
Miss Royal Rumble 2000
Slammy Award for Knucklehead Moment of the Year (2010) Defeating Lay Cool at Old School Raw
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
Class of 2004
You can read more about Young at WWE's website.

1 comment:

Sheila Luecht said...

Pretty amazing. I had no idea that women were wrestlers so far back in history. Thanks for this piece.


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