This week is “Women’s Evolution Week” in the WWE. The organization plans to celebrate the WWE Women’s Revolution, which launched in 2015, as well as highlighting the trailblazers who paved the way for the women of today.
Over the last three decades, the WWE has overlooked the female superstars of the 1980s whilst giving the men of that same era plenty of credit.
In celebration of WWE’s Women’s Evolution Week, Women’s PW takes a look at ten standout female champions from the 1980’s. These women were the true pioneers and trailblazers of the WWE Women’s Revolution.
The women of the 1980s competed in several historical matchups and events, having two titles to fight for, which included the WWE Women’s Championship and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. Both titles were then referred to by the WWE’s former moniker, WWF.
Take a look back at ten standout female WWE champions from the 1980s.
Arguably one of the WWE’s biggest superstars of the 1980s, male or female, in her prime Richter’s popularity was compared to that of Hulk Hogan.
In 1984, with Cyndi Lauper in her corner in the main event of The Brawl To End It All, Richter notably ended The Fabulous Moolah’s “twenty-eight-year reign” to capture her first WWE Women’s Championship. This match was broadcast on MTV and landed the channel their highest-rated segment up until that point. She would eventually lose the belt to Leilani Kai but recaptured it in the semi-main event of the first-ever Wrestlemania event on March 31, 1985.
Richter left the WWE in 1985 after falling victim to “The Original Screwjob”. She would eventually reconcile with the organization and in 2010 was officially inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Leilani Kai is one of the most prolific female superstars of the 1980s, a former two-time WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion, as well as a former WWE Women’s Champion.
She played a pivotal role in the WWE’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection and in 1985 defeated Wendi Richter to capture the WWE Women’s Championship at ‘The War To Settle The Score’ event in Madison Square Garden. She would eventually drop the title back to Richter in the semi-main event of the first-ever Wrestlemania.
Following her run with the singles title, Kai would eventually find huge success in the tag team division. Teaming up with Judy Martin to form “The Glamour Girls”, with Jimmy Hart in their corner, the pair would capture the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles and successfully defend it on numerous occasions. The duo performed at marquee events whilst champions, including the first ever Survivor Series event back in 1987.
In 1988, Kai and Martin would drop the titles to The Jumping Bomb Angels at the first-ever Royal Rumble event. Both teams would continue feuding and The Glamour Girls eventually regained the titles later that year at an event in Ōmiya-Ku, Saitama, Japan. This would be the ladies’ final reign with the belts before the company decided to retire the division. Kai would leave the WWE shortly after. She would briefly return in 1994 to challenge Alundra Blayze for the WWE Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 10.
Leilani Kai was a major player in the WWE Women’s Division in the 1980s and is without a doubt deserving of a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.
“Sensational” Sherri Martel
Sherri Martel didn’t waste much time when entering the WWE and in 1987, within months of her debut, captured the WWE Women’s Championship by defeating The Fabulous Moolah at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas, USA. She would go on to reign as the champion for fifteen months, defending the belt against the likes of Velvet McIntyre and Debbie Combs. During her reign, she notably headed “Team Sherri” at the first ever WWE Survivor Series pay-per-view event. She would eventually drop the title to Rockin’ Robin at an event in Paris, France.
When the WWE phased out its women’s division in 1990, Martel remained with the company and turned her attention to managing male wrestlers. During this time she notably managed the likes of Randy Savage and feuded with other female managers including Miss Elizabeth and Sapphire.
In 2006, Martel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. On June 15, 2007, Sherri Martel sadly passed away at the age of 47. Her legacy still lives on in the world of professional wrestling.
The Fabulous Moolah
The Fabulous Moolah played a key role in the introduction of the women’s division in WWE during the 1980s. After capturing the NWA Women’s Champion, Vince McMahon purchased the belt in 1983 and immediately crowned Moolah as the organization’s first-ever WWE Women’s Champion.
Moolah’s first major program whilst champion in the WWE came against Wendi Richter. After much buildup and hype, the Fabulous Moolah lost the championship to Richter on July 23, 1984, in the main event of The Brawl to End It All, which was broadcast live on MTV. Moolah would eventually turn her attention to managing and aided Leilani Kai in her championship victory over Wendi Richter in February 1985. Richter would win the belt back from Kai at the Wrestlemania 1 event in March of that same year.
Moolah would once again capture the WWE Women’s Championship in November 1985 by defeating Wendi Richter in a match that has since become known as “The Original Screwjob”. Moolah eventually lost the belt to Velvet McIntyre during an Australian tour in 1986 but would win it back just one week later. In 1987, Moolah dropped the belt to “Sensational” Sherri Martel and after an appearance in the inaugural Survivor Series event, would leave the company.
On June 24, 1995, The Fabulous Moolah became the first female wrestler to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Moolah returned to the WWE in 1999 and notably defeated Ivory to capture the WWE Women’s Championship for the fourth time, she would lose the title a week later.
The Fabulous Moolah sadly passed away on November 2, 2007, at the age of 84.
Wrestling is in Rockin’ Robin’s blood. As the daughter of Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith, she is a second-generation wrestler. Her brother Sam Houston and half-brother Jake “The Snake” Roberts are also wrestlers.
After Moolah retired from full-time competition following the infamous screwjob over Wendi Richter, the WWE needed new stars to forefront the division. Robin was brought in as the likeable, popular babyface. She would compete in the first ever women’s Survivor Series Match as a member of the winning team.
On October 7, 1988, Robin ended Sensational Sherri’s fifteen-month reign as WWE women’s champion by defeating her in Paris, France. She would then go on to defend the championship multiple-times and at marquee events such as the second-ever Royal Rumble event back in 1989. At Wrestlemania 5, still women’s champion, she performed “America The Beautiful” to open the show.
Robin went on to reign and defend her championship until 1990. After her departure from the organization, the title was vacated and the women’s division became inactive for multiple years. This puts an end to the era of the WWE female wrestlers of the 80s, before the belt was re-introduced with Alundra Blayze in 1993.
Judy Martin competed with the WWE for the entirety of the 1980s and in that time, notably became a two-time WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion, along with Leilani Kai.
As part of ‘The Glamour Girls’ with Leilani Kai, Martin dominated the women’s tag team division for many years. Performing at historical events such as the first ever Survivor Series and Royal Rumble PPV’s. The duo certainly paved the way for many future heel tag team greats including LayCool (Layla & Michelle McCool) and The Iiconics (Peyton Royce & Billie Kay).
Although she did not capture a singles title, Martin was also a prominent part of WWE TV as a solo competitor. She notably feuded with Rockin’ Robin for the WWE Women’s Championship, losing to her at the second-ever Royal Rumble event back in 1989.
The Jumping Bomb Angels
Noriyo Tateno & Itzuki Yamazaki, aka The Jumping Bomb Angels, were trailblazers in WWE’s original women’s tag team division. In 1987 they burst onto the scene in the WWE’s first-ever Survivor Series event, becoming the sole survivors in the first-ever women’s Survivor Series match. Following the big win, fans were very much behind The Jumping Bomb Angels and their popularity reached an all-time high.
In January 1988, The Jumping Bomb Angels defeated The Glamour Girls in a two out of three falls match at the WWE’s first-ever Royal Rumble event to capture the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. They would hold on to the belts for 136 days before losing them back to Kai & Martin at an event in Saitama, Japan.
Fighting out of Dublin, Ireland – Velvet McIntyre is a trailblazing women’s wrestler who, along with Leilani Kai, is the only woman from the 1980s who can say she held the WWE Women’s and WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.
McIntyre was a staple in the WWE’s original women’s tag team division in the 1980s. She was one-half of the organization’s first-ever female tag team champs, along with Princess Victoria, and after the reign ended due to Victoria leaving the organization, she began her second reign with Desiree Petersen.
The “original Irish lass kicker” would eventually shift her focus to singles competition. In 1986, McIntyre defeated The Fabulous Moolah to successfully become the first-ever Irish-born woman to win the WWE Women’s Championship.
Princess Victoria is a history-making trailblazer who will forever be known as one-half of the WWE’s first-ever female tag team champions, along with Velvet McIntyre. During her reign with the belt, she and McIntyre successfully defended against the likes of Wendi Richter & Peggy Lee and Despina Montages & Leilani Kai. The duo’s 574-day reign as champs came to an end in late 1984 after Victoria suffered a career-ending injury and was forced to retire from the sport.
Before her run with the tag team title, Princess Victoria had also achieved great success in singles competition. She owns notable wins over the likes of Wendi Richter and Leilani Kai. In 1983, she challenged The Fabulous Moolah for the WWE Women’s Championship at Madison Square Garden but was unsuccessful in capturing the belt.
Fighting out of Copenhagen, Denmark – Desiree Petersen is a former WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion who held the title with Velvet McIntyre for a total of 237 days.
Petersen also enjoyed success in singles competition. In 1985 she was involved in a major solo feud against Judy Martin, which was also spotlighted during her interview with Vince McMahon on Tuesday Night Titans in June 1985. In 1988 she feuded with Sherri Martel for the WWE Women’s Championship, but was unsuccessful in her attempts to capture the title.
Sherri Martel, Wendi Richter, and The Fabulous Moolah are the only women who actively wrestled for the WWE during the 1980s to have been inducted into their Hall of Fame. Richter was the latest to be inducted back in 2010.
Wrestling fans, who are your favorite WWE female champions from the 1980s? Let us know in the comments section below.