Thursday, January 30, 2014

"The Great" Mae Young

 Despite often being the oldest superstar on the roster, Mae Young always lived up to her last name.  How would an elderly woman do the things that she did?  Why would she?  Certainly a woman of such an advanced age would be content watching the next generation of her rough profession?  Not "The Great" Mae Young.  If someone was taking a powerbomb off a stage through a table, it was her.  Perhaps she should have been nicknamed "Mae Young-At-Heart."

When Mae passed away on January 14th at the age of 90, it was not unexpected.  Due to various stories of ill health and an erroneous report of her death a few days earlier, the wrestling community had already begun to say their goodbyes.  It was the fact that this tough-as-nails woman could possible be mortal that stunned most fans.  As she often spoke of her wish to compete at the age of 100, most of us thought that the legendary female grappler would be around forever.

Although she competed in nine different decades, much of the existing career of Young is from her WWF/WWE career that began in 1999.  As the tag team partner and companion of The Fabulous Moolah, Young's appearances on Raw, Smackdown, and various pay-per-view events catapulted her from an unsung legend to one of the most beloved characters in the history of the company.

Little footage is known to be available of Young's early career.  Even photos from her wrestling days are few and far between.  Many fans are surprised to see that Young was a beautiful young woman whose toughness probably took many off-guard.  She was often seen wearing a crown even into her WWF days and was sometimes billed as "Queen" Mae Young.  The May 1969 issue of Wrestling Revue magazine featured a multi-page spread on the "Queen."  It's hard to believe that Mae was already three decades into her career at that point.

The stories told by Young herself and those who were around in her earlier career certainly paint a picture that mirrors her later years.  Wild, unflinching, and even pioneering seem to best describe Mae's days on the road, and we'll probably never begin to hear the craziest tales surrounding her life and times.  If ever a wrestler's life could translate into an entertaining motion picture, it just might have been Mae's.

Her wild past aside, Young seemed to truly enjoy the admiration of her peers and fans.  It has been said that her 2008 induction into the WWE Hall of Fame was one of the greatest days of her life.  Showing off her ring recognizing that honor, as well as her ring from the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, was something that she loved to do.  Though some observers may only view her induction as reliving her often hilarious WWF/WWE exploits, the educated fan recognizes that this honor was for a woman who succeeded at her craft at a time when it was not a popular vocation for her gender to participate in.

Mae is often associated with The Fabulous Moolah, but many of Moolah's students did not have the same association with Young.  Although Mae trained many wrestlers (including Moolah) during her career, she was not part of the golden age of Moolah's school that produced such women's wrestling stars as Donna Christanello, Toni Rose, Judy Martin, Leilani Kai, and Joyce Grable.  The west coast-based Young instead came to live at the Moolah estate in the early 1990's.  Although Christanello lived there for a number of years, it was Katie Glass, aka midget wrestler Diamond Lil, that Mae became particularly close to.  Our thoughts go out to  Ms. Glass at this time.

Every wrestling entity and even some mainstream news outlets have paid their respects to Mae Young in an outpouring not seen since the passing of Paul Bearer in 2013.  While it is undoubtedly a testament to her famous WWF/WWE role of the past fifteen years, it also gives hope to myself and many other true wrestling fans that her earlier contributions to the business will continue to be learned.  Godspeed, Johnnie Mae Young, and "Muah!"...

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