Given their patterns with this type of thing, it should come as no surprise that for Women’s History Month, WWE honored the late Mae Young with a video feature this week. As with her protege turned roommate The Fabulous Moolah, her run in WWE as a senior citizen and constant presence as an in-house legend has led to her being put out as a pioneer and a role model. Well, about that…
Putting aside the fact that she wasn’t as significant of a star in pro wrestling during her heyday as WWE portrays, Young was, as legend had it, notorious for robbing men (usually married ones so they wouldn’t report it) that she met in bars, and finding ways to get out if it if she did get caught. A 1949 article in the Reno Evening Gazette reports one such case where “[the] alleged victim, identified as Elmer J. Nelson, 38, was treated at Washoe general hospital early this morning for multiple bruises and lacerations of the face and forehead.” Nelson told police that “The next thing I knew, these two guys were in an argument with me. Then they held me down on the floor and that girl (Miss Young) began kicking me in the face.”
Young admitted that something took place, but argued that there was justification: ‘‘Maybe I did work Mr. Nelson over a little,’’ she’s quoted as saying at the time in a Young obituary syndicated by the Washington Post in 2014. ‘‘He made advances to me. Improper advances.” Your mileage may vary as to what exactly that means, especially in a 1949 context, but it helped her evade charges.
The same obituary notes that “Other wrestlers recalled stories, whether true or not, in which she left battered men abandoned on the side of deserted highways.”
Moolah wasn’t any better. It’s long been wrestling lore that her Girl Wrestling Enterprises booking agency was, if not outright a scheme to pressure trainees into prostitution, then dangerously close to one. Susie May McCoy, a Moolah trainee who wrestled as Sweet Georgia Brown, told her children that she was expected to undress if someone knocked on her motel room door at “strange hours,” or else she would be beaten. McCoy’s daughter also witnessed a woman, implied to be Moolah, assault her mother over a minor perceived slight.
In 2014, Jeannine Mjoseth, a Moolah student who had a short career as Mad Maxine and Lady Maxine, didn’t mince words about her mentor in an interview with Slam! Wrestling, the wrestling site operated by Canada’s Sun Media newspaper conglomerate. “Moolah did send girls out to this guy in Arizona and pimped them out,” she recalled. “I actually spoke to him on the phone and asked him what he was looking for. He said, ‘If I’m spending all this money, you know what I want.’ That was part of Moolah’s way of making money. She was just a bad person. Moolah didn’t have a good bone in her body.”
Over the years, while Moolah was generally loathed by other female wrestlers, she was well-liked by men in the business and considered an especially savvy political operator. In light of what’s out there about her, you shudder to think exactly why that was the case.
Because of their longevity and willingness to work with WWE throughout the Attitude Era and beyond, Young and Moolah have long been held up as the classic icons of women’s wrestling by WWE. We shouldn’t have expected any different during Women’s History Month.
David Bixenspan is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, NY. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbixand view his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix.