Pioneering female professional wrestler Mae Young has passed away aged 90.
To date, Mae Young is the only professional wrestler in history (male or female) to have had documented matches in nine different decades. She began wrestling in 1939, at the onset of the Second World War and her last match took place in 2010.
Young, real name Johnnie Mae Young, was originally billed as ‘The Amazing’, ‘The Queen’ or ‘The Great’ Mae Young but was ultimately far better known simply as Mae Young. She enjoyed one of the most celebrated and unique careers in the history of professional wrestling.
Young’s wrestling debut came whilst she was still a teenager, after starring in the boy’s amateur wrestling team at school. During World War 2, she became a popular attraction, inspiring many other women to become professional wrestlers.
In 1951, Young was crowned as the first ever NWA Florida (National Wrestling Alliance) Women’s Champion and eventually became the NWA’s first United States Women’s Champion.
During the 50’s, Young wrestled for the WWWA (World Women’s Wrestling Association), bringing credibility and popularity to Women’s wrestling. She remained a draw throughout her career.
Modern day wrestling fans know Young best for her stint with the WWF (World Wrestling Federation – now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) from 1999-2000, in which she played a more comedic role. However, despite being nearly 80 years old, Young was still highly active as a wrestler. She participated in matches and storylines with her best friend, The Fabulous Moolah, another pioneer of Women’s wrestling and multi-time Women’s Champion (who had been partly trained by Young).
Mae Young would appear on WWE television, playing a number of roles from comedy character to respected veteran, throughout the next decade, with her final appearance being a celebration of her 90th birthday in 2013.
Memorable moments from her WWE tenure include being kissed by The Rock, giving the ‘Bronco Buster’ finisher to former WCW (World Championship Wrestling) boss Eric Bischoff, being beaten up by Tag Team wrestlers The Dudley Boyz and becoming ‘pregnant’ by Olympic weightlifter and former World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry. “She will be missed as much as anyone I’ve ever known!” said Henry.
In 2008, Mae Young was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Since the announcement of Young’s death, tributes have flooded in from the wrestling world. Former WWE Champion-turned actor The Rock said, “She is a wrestling pioneer. I truly had deep affection and respect for ‘Auntie Mae’ Young”
WWE boss Vince McMahon said, “Her longevity in sports entertainment may never be matched, and I will forever be grateful for all of her contributions to the industry. On behalf of WWE, I extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper wrote, “”May Young was a wonderful lady! When I started in the business May teased me a lot. Love you May!” Multiple time WWE, WCW and NWA Champion Ric Flair called Young “An incredible person and pioneer of the wrestling business” Whilst, in an emotional Tweet, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts wrote, “Nobody, male or female, loved & respected the wrestling business more than her. True legend.”
Mae Young will be remembered by her fans as a pioneer and a female icon, as well as a charismatic performer with a great sense of humor. She was genuinely among the toughest human beings, be they male or female, to ever step between the ropes.