Viceland’s “Dark Side Of The Ring” presented it’s final episode of its initial season and presented its viewers with “The Fabulous Moolah.” The episode details the WWF Hall Of Famer, who’s real name is Mary Lillian Ellisor, and the somewhat mixed legacy that the controversial women’s wrestler has among the community.
The episode features a number of past female wrestlers discussing both their positive and negative experiences with Moolah, who was one of the biggest trainers and promoters of women’s wrestling talent beginning in the late 1950s through Girl Wrestling Enterprises (GWE) and Lillian Ellison School of Professional Wrestling.
One of the more interesting stories revolves around former WWF Women’s Champion Wendi Richter, who began training with Moolah in the late 1970s after seeing the long-time champion compete at a local event. The native of Dallas, Texas got in touch with Moolah and was encouraged to venture to Moolah’s school in South Carolina.
As Vince McMahon began expanding his WWF empire in the 1980s, he wanted to feature women’s wrestling more prominently on his programming and give the audience a female role model much like they had built Hulk Hogan as a male role model. McMahon chose Richter to be the person that the company pushed.
With her popularity increasing due to her win over Moolah to capture the women’s title in the famous Cyndi Lauper / Rock ‘n’ Wrestling story line, Richter noted that the already evident decline in her relationship with her mentor only got worse. She addresses it in the episode;
“The only thing I can think of why there was so much so much friction is possibly she was jealous of me because I was younger than her and like my father said they couldn’t put her face on a can of dog food to sell it.”
Richter also became unhappy with her place in the company despite being one of its most popular performers. As women’s wrestling increased in popularity, she fought for increased wages to close the gap between what she was paid compared to the top male wrestler’s in the company.
Featured in the episode is what is generally referred to as “The Original Screwjob” as it bares a striking resemblance to Bret Hart’s story. Richter was to face “The Spider”, a female wrestler she had worked with in the past. During the match, The Spider would make a pin attempt, which Richter kicked out after the one count.
With her shoulders up, the referee would continue the three count causing Richter to lose her title. When The Spider’s mask was removed, it was revealed to be The Fabulous Moolah. Richter was furious and left the company for good feeling betrayed by McMahon and the WWF. She assumed it was because she was asking for more money.
Richter and others speculated that it did severe and long-term damage to women’s wrestling, which was on the cusp of something great. Richter would comment that Moolah “held women’s wrestling back probably for 40 years” with her participation in the double cross.
Viceland’s episode does a very good job of balancing the varying opinions of Moolah’s defenders and critics alike. “The Fabulous Moolah” also caps the end of a fantastic series wrestling fans have enjoyed to date and rallying for future episodes and seasons.