Italian-born Debrah Ann ‘Madusa’ Miceli carved a career in wrestling that women today aspire to do. Noted trainer Eddie Sharky initially trained Madusa in 1984. Her early years on the independent circuit earned her an astounding $5 a match by her own admittance. After a couple of years of trying to find her way, Madusa joined Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association.
It was while there where she was engaged in her first notable rivalry. Sensational Sherri Martel was as fierce a competitor as any woman competing at the time. Early on, her time against Sherri helped set the stage for her career, her challenges, and who she would become. Her name came about not because of the Greek mythological origins that it suggests but because she is Made in the USA. M-A-D-U-S-A.
It was against Sherri and in the AWA when Madusa Miceli was born. Although her time against Sensational Sherri may have been filled with respect, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also ‘hell’ for Miceli.
“Sherri and I are having a match, and she looked at me, and she said, “You just do what I say, Micelli.” And this is right before the match in the dressing room, and I’m looking at her thinking, “Is she for freaking real?”
So, we’re out there, and she’s beating my a**? We were wrestling, and she beat the hell AND the crap out of me. I mean, she was just beating me up. So, finally, I got back to the room, and it was an adjoining room with two doors.
I knocked on the door, and it was like a freaking elephant came running at the door, and it was still closed! She threw herself at the door and was like, “Just shut your G*****n mouth, shut up, and if I wanna talk to you, I’ll talk to you.
But I’m gonna beat the sh** out of you tonight, and I’m gonna beat the sh** out of you for every friggin’ weekend I have you.” And it was holy hell for a year of wrestling Sherri. But I had so much respect for her; I looked up to her, I kept my mouth shut, and I took it.” – Madusa on working with Sensational Sherri Martel.
Martel’s departure from the AWA left a void for Madusa. She would take on other roles during her time in the AWA. First, she would accompany ‘Mr. Magnificient’ Kevin Kelly as his manager. Madusa would manage Curt Hennig during his time as AWA World Heavyweight Champion, and she would defeat Candi Divine as the AWA Women’s Champion. Miceli’s loss of the AWA Women’s Championship would then follow with her joining a faction.
The Diamond Exchange led by Diamond Dallas Page would bring Madusa and Curt Hennig into the fold along with Badd Company. The accolades for Madusa professionally would continue as she would be the first female to capture PWI’s Rookie of the Year award for 1988.
For anyone to demonstrate growth, they need to build on their skills. In order for Madusa to grow as a competitor, she needed to challenge herself by facing women of different disciplines both in North America and abroad. So in 1989, Madusa would travel to Japan and compete in a six-week tour of All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling at the beginning of that year.
After the match, I was introduced to promoters from Japan, who invited me to go to Japan and wrestle with All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling. I knew how important it was to go to Japan, to hone my craft, as well as earn respect and legitimacy within the business.
I spent three years in Japan and, while there, again, lost everything due to a unscrupulous management, and again was forced to start all over again and reinvent myself.- Madusa during Cauliflower Hall of Fame induction.
Her success in capturing titles wasn’t relegated to strictly the United States early on in her career. She would capture the IWA Women’s Championship defeating Cigusa Nagayo. While the reign was but a day, for a gaijin to come to Japan and capture the title even so briefly had to leave her even with a modicum of gratitude. Her loss didn’t offset her desire to improve. Madusa would learn various MMA disciplines such as Kickboxing and Muay Thai, adding to her repertoire in the ring.
Madusa’s three-year deal with All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling would prove to be the first one ever by a non-Japanese woman in the company’s history. In Japan, Madusa would forge a rivalry with the late Luna Vachon, including a mixed tag match leading to Luna having her head shaved in the process.
World Championship Wrestling
As the 1990s began, it was difficult for Madusa to have a singles run once she joined World Championship Wrestling as there really wasn’t a distinct women’s division there at the time. Instead, she played more of a role as a valet and manager as part of the Dangerous Alliance alongside Paul E Dangerously. And while she would eventually battle Dangerously toward the end of 1992, it didn’t really capitalize on the in-ring skills that Madusa possessed.
It was at this time where change was needed for Miceli. A change of environment and new opportunities also lent themselves to Madusa joining the WWF(E) and being rebranded. Madusa was gone, and in her place, Alundra Blayze was born. Dawning tights with flames that tied into her last name, Miceli would have an impactful two-year run in the company. She would revive a dormant division and be thrust into a position to capture the WWF Women’s Championship. On December 13th, 1993, Alundra Blayze defeated Heidi Lee Morgan to become the new WWF Women’s Champion.
She encouraged an outreach of Women’s talent Internationally and Domestically.
Miceli’s reign also saw the influx of talent. One of which such names was the legendary Bull Nakano. Bertha Faye would also join the company and be another threat and champion, defeating Blayze in the process. After winning and losing the titles on separate occasions, Miceli would win it a final time in October 1994.
However, with the company stating financial reasons for their inability to keep Miceli would be stripped of the title after leaving to rejoin WCW. In one of wrestling’s most controversial moments, Miceli would still possess the WWF Women’s Championship and appear on WCW television, throwing the title in a trash can on national TV. The title was once again retired until it was revived a few years later. More than two decades later, Miceli wouldn’t appear on screen in the WWF/E.
Over the next six years, Madusa would end her career with World Championship Wrestling. Upon her return, she used the Madusa name once again. Her debut was met with the rekindling of a rivalry from her early days in the industry. Madusa would attack Sherri Martel during the Sherri/Col Robert Parker’ wedding’. Unfortunately, her first match against Martel in WCW led to a loss.
The company then brought in other former rivals from Madusa’s past, such as Bull Nakano. This all appeared to open the door to establishing a women’s division and a WCW Women’s Champion. However, despite contending for the championship, she ultimately came up short. She would lose a title vs. career match, leading to her being off-screen for two years with WCW.
When Madusa did return to the screen, it was a part of Randy Savage’s Team Madness. Savage would be surrounded by his valet Gorgeous George, Madusa, and a young Miss Madness (the future Molly Holly in the WWF/E). She would later compete for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
After being eliminated in the tournament, Madusa would reenter the tournament against Evan Karagias. What began as simply a match led to her managing Karagias who would later capture the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
Then, in what was a swerve of sorts, flirting with Nitro Girl Spice led to her hitting Karagias low and Madusa capitalizing with a pin and a title win. Madusa’s victory made her the first woman to capture the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
Madusa’s would later engage in a feud with ‘Oklahoma’ in an evening gown match. She would later lose the Cruiserweight title to Oklahoma later that month. For Madusa Miceli, she had to endure a great deal of setbacks professionally. She fought to achieve in an industry that didn’t allow her too.
In many ways, she was ahead of her time. She would carry that knowledge on as she became a trainer at WCW’s Power Plant. Her brief feud with Torrie Wilson would be the last that she would be a part of in WCW.
When the decision was made for Vince McMahon to purchase WCW, Miceli left World Championship Wrestling. She would officially retire in 2001 as the direction that women’s wrestling was headed didn’t reflect where the direction she felt it should be headed.
While she understood what sold and what didn’t, there was a line to which she wouldn’t cross. Miceli’s morals and self-worth one’s women of today are inspired by. She was proudly willing to take a stand against injustice in women’s wrestling.
“If I want to prance around in my undies, everything all hanging out, I’ll do it in the privacy of my own home, in front of my boyfriend,..Sex sells.
I’m no dummy,” “I’ll show some skin. But there’s a line there not worth crossing. It’s there somewhere.” – Madusa on leaving the industry,
It would be fourteen years after her retirement and more than two decades since her departure from the WWF/E. Would fences be mended between the two as she would be inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame? Madusa’s Hall of Fame induction reopened to doors for her and professional wrestling once again.
In 2015, Miceli became the commissioner of Women’s Wrestling promotion Stardom in Japan. A few years later, she was brought in to introduce AEW’s Women’s tag team tournament cup tournament.
Madusa’s life outside the ring had seen her involved in racing Monster trucks. Once again, making a difference in an industry often dominated by men. While it could be said that Milan-borne Italian also faced obstacles moving from various foster homes, it wouldn’t define her.
She showed strength and perseverance to overcome personal and professional obstacles to make those around her and herself better. Madusa was always meant to stand out as someone women can look up to.