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The Fabulous Moolah- Female Wrestler and the First Goddess of the Squared Circle

Updated on April 18, 2012


Many articles were written about the Fabulous Moolah upon her death in 2007. CNN, the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, The State, and Sports Illustrated all celebrated the life of Mary Lillian Ellison, better known as the Fabulous Moolah. The entire wrestling community and fans everywhere mourned the death of Moolah.

Mary Lillian Ellison was born in Tookiedoo, South Carolina on July 22, 1923, youngest of 13 siblings and the only girl.

At the young age of eight, her mother died of cancer. Despondent over the loss of her mother, Moolah’s father, Henry Lee Ellison started taking his daughter to wrestling matches to pull her out of her funk. 

It worked! She was fascinated by Mildred Burke, the dominant female wrestler at the time.

Slave Girl Moolah with Elephant Boy Tony Olivas
Slave Girl Moolah with Elephant Boy Tony Olivas | Source

The Early Years


By the late 1940’s Moolah began wrestling for Burke’s husband, Billy Wolfe. During this time she met Wrestler Johnny Long, fell in love and married him. Long trained her and introduced her to various promoters. In 1949 she began her career as a valet for Elephant Boy Tony Olivas, as Slave Girl Moolah.

She got the name when a promoter told her Lillian Ellison was not a very good wrestling name. He asked why she became a wrestler to which she replied. “For the money. I want the moolah.”

By the early 1950s, Moolah was a valet for “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, providing eye candy for the male audiences while assisting Rogers against his opponents. Following her divorce from Long, she dated country singer Hank Williams for a year, according to Wikipedia.

Within a few years, she began wrestling under the name Fabulous Moolah, just as Burke was reaching the end of her long career. On September 18, 1956, Moolah defeated Judy Grable in a 13-woman battle royale to win the vacant Women’s World Title.

Over the next ten years, she was the most popular female wrestler and befriended many celebrities including Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The Fabulous Moolah is considered to have held Women’s World Title longer than any other female in wrestling history.

Moolah's Protégé - Lelani Kai
Moolah's Protégé - Lelani Kai | Source

The Brawl to End it All

In 1984 in the “Brawl to End it All” Moolah lost the title to Wendi Richter, a wrestler backed by singer Cindi Lauper.

After her defeat, Moolah went into semi-retirement, opening her own women’s wrestling training center in Columbia. Among her protégées was Lelani Kai who beat Richter for the title in February 1995. On June 24, 1995, Moolah was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame.

In the late 90s the popularity of women’s wrestling began to wane.


The Comeback

On September 9, 1999 Moolah donned a mask and entered the ring as the mysterious Spider Lady. According to Wikipedia, “during the performance, Jeff Jarrett proceeded to smash a guitar over Moolah’s head.”  Moolah and fellow veteran Mae Young began appearing regularly in comedic roles as the women’s division made a comeback with new stars like Chyna, Lita, Ivory, and Trish Stratus. On the September 27, 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw , Moolah and Young defeated Ivory in a ‘Handicapped Evening Gown Match.’ This led to a title match at No Mercy on October 17, 1999; the 76-year old Moolah defeated Ivory to regain the Women’s Title, thus becoming the oldest WWE Women’s Champion ever

The Fabulous Moolah died on Nov. 2, 2007 at the age of 84 from a blood clot that formed from shoulder surgery. She was laid to rest in Columbia, South Carolina’s Green lawn Cemetery.


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