WWE announced plans this week to add a new women’s battle royal to WrestleMania, dubbed the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal, in honor of the late multi-time and longest reigning women’s champion, The Fabulous Moolah. However, the announcement has been met with backlash as wrestling fans and media familiar with Moolah’s history call out the company for whitewashing unsavory aspects of her real-life character.
Though the Fabulous Moolah, who died in 2007, is remembered in WWE cannon as a pioneer of women’s wrestling, many who worked with her in her heydey paint a less flattering picture. In addition to the general sort of backstage political intrigue common in the wrestling business, Moolah has been accused of financially exploiting her wrestling students and worse, sometimes forcing them to engage in prostitution, amongst other allegations. These sorts of stories about Moolah are widespread in the wrestling world, and the increasing prominence of the internet wrestling community in overall wrestling fandom makes it harder for WWE to ignore them than it was when Moolah was still alive and appearing on WWE programs into her 80s.
The situation isn’t much different, though in many ways worse, than WWE’s treatment of The Ultimate Warrior. A star in the 1980s and 1990s, Warrior spent many years estranged from WWE and most of the wrestling business before reconciling with WWE in 2013. During that time, Warrior developed a career as a public speaker, espousing a convoluted personal philosophy called “Destrucity” that was charmingly ridiculous. It wasn’t all fun and games though. Denouncing political correctness and espousing puritan morals, Warrior’s conservative message too often verged headlong into bigotry.
In the famous video below, Warrior speaks at the University of Connecticut to a group of students, complaining about leftist politics.
“That homosexuals, homosexuality,” Warrior begins, before a dissident in the crowd interrupts. “Don’t have an orgasm on me, honey.”
“That queers are as legitimate as heterosexuals,” Warrior continued, as the same woman replied: “How are they not?”
“Because queering doesn’t make the world work,” he responded.
But when Warrior returned to the WWE fold in 2013, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, and promptly dropped dead, WWE was quick to name an annual award after him. The Warrior Award, which honors recipients who have “exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior,” is used as a promotional vehicle for WWE’s charity work. But many fans were, and continue to be, unhappy with the use of Warrior’s name and image for this purpose given his history.
Four years later, an eternity in internet time, WWE looks to pull the same trick with the Fabulous Moolah’s legacy, and fans are reacting more strongly than ever. In response, WWE has locked the comments on the YouTube announcement of the battle royal. Will they attempt to ride out the storm of negative publicity, viewing a change as worse for publicity than pressing forward and remaining silent? That remains to be seen, but for a company so adverse to bad optics, which dropped arguably its biggest star of all time in Hulk Hogan when his racist sex tape rant was leaked to the public, it’s baffling that WWE would continue to market itself on the names of dead wrestlers with toxic legacies.