When you think of great women’s wrestling, you will be forgiven for not immediately considering the late 1980’s, a time when even the WWF Women’s Championship faded away.
As part of my research for some of the fantasy wrestling here on the site, I reviewed the five-on-five tag team elimination match from the inaugural Survivor Series in 1987. Aside from the Flock of Seagulls type hairstyles, the bout came across as very modern.
Now, if you especially focus on the Irish-Canadian Velvet McIntyre, who was not only wrestling barefoot but throwing huracanranas before Lita had even left middle school, and the Jumping Bomb Angels, who defied wrestling stereotypes by courting favour with fans despite their Japanese origins at the height of economic rivalry with the States, you will see some extremely skilled, fast-paced, big-bumping wrestling action. The Angels were astonishing to watch; way ahead of their time. And commentators then didn’t even know what to call McIntyre’s huracanrana.
Beyond that, though, the women are presented as authentic, credible competitors. For their match, they’re allocated over twenty minutes of Pay-Per-View airtime. In addition, the referees, ring announcer and commentators all take them seriously: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura claim “they hit just as hard as the men” and refer to them as liberated women. They’re not patronised, sexualised, or laughed at; there’s little talk of other WWF storylines aside from a brief mention of the stable of Jimmy Hart (who managed the Glamour Girls). As a result, audience responses were reflected by the live crowd who, though relatively calm throughout most of the match, stay in their seats, save the concession stands for the interval, and pop in all the right places.
If only modern pro wrestling presented women as well as the WWF did in 1987.