Mary Lillian Ellison, far better known by her ring name, The Fabulous Moolah, spent much of her career as the perennial Undisputed Women’s World Champion. Her lengthy and complicated legacy is more suited to a book than a short article. So I want to instead offer a different take on Moolah. As someone who saw her perform regularly at Madison Square Garden, I’d like to put you in that seat in just what it was like to see her live in her 1970s championship heyday.
On July 1, 1972, Moolah became the first woman allowed to wrestle at the Garden, which had previously banned women from wrestling in the hallowed venue.
She bested Vicky Williams in this historic match.
Now as a young, skinny teen attending then WWWF Garden cards, every wrestler to me was ten feet tall and larger than life. But all I can tell you is that when Moolah walked down that aisle, things got serious right quick. She drew heel heat as much and often even more so than many of the male stars that packed “the world’s greatest arena.”
As Moolah entered the ring, strutting about, arrogantly tossing her hair while flaunting her beloved belt high over her perfectly coiffed head, there was a cascade of boos that rained over her. They rang in my ears nearly a half-century later. For all the supposed experts who are critical of her wrestling skills, they couldn’t even fathom the off the charts level of rage she evoked from the fans from her very presence. You see, we “regulars” knew her m.o.
Whether it was hair or tight pulling, using a foreign object behind the ref’s back, or a dastardly illegal use of the ring ropes for the pin, Moolah was going to do anything and everything to walk out on top. And we, as “marks” in a long bygone pre-Internet era truly believed in what we were watching.
She won time and time again. And man did we ever loathe her.
And when those old school ring announcers inevitably boomed the disappointing but far from the surprising result, “And the winner is…the Fabulous Moolah…” not only was there a sea of boos, but scathing insults hurled at her and even- on occasion- garbage-strewn. Pandemonium reigned as she narrowly escaped back into the dressing room.
And while the women’s tag matches she appeared in would, in fact, have a comedy spot or two, usually involving an “in on the gag” referee being fallen upon by a sea of lady competitors, her singles title matches were ever so serious affairs. Nor was it cheesy T&A. This was champion versus topnotch challenger in a back and forth battle. In fact, her matches had far more gravitas than a George “The Animal” Steele with his outlandish main-event shenanigans versus Pedro, Bruno, and Backlund.
In short, “Moolah’s belt” truly meant something back then. Her appearances and the slim hope that she’d somehow lose it was usually “third from the top” as far as importance on any given MSG spectacular. And the then fifty-cent ever-so simple four-page simple program often listed her as just that. While there have been thousands of words written for and against The Fabulous Moolah, all I can say is that as a kid with stars in my eyes, I enjoyed her work each and every time I saw her throughout the decade.
And even though the “bloom was off the Lilian”- she was no kid at the time, she never failed to work that crowd into a frenzy.
Fabulous Moolah at MSG 1970’s Results
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – July 1, 1972 (19,512)
The Fabulous Moolah defeated Vicki Williams (first women’s match in New York history)
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – July 29, 1972
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah pinned Susan Green at 5:44
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – January 15, 1973
The Fabulous Moolah defeated Joyce Grable
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – June 4, 1973
The Fabulous Moolah fought Jan Sheridan to a draw
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – March 4, 1974 (sell out)
Donna Christianello & the Fabulous Moolah defeated Peggy Patterson & Barbie Dahl
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – May 20, 1974
Peggy Patterson & the Fabulous Moolah defeated Sharon Brooks & Debbie Johnson in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – July 22, 1974
The Fabulous Moolah defeated Vicki Williams
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – December 16, 1974
The Fabulous Moolah pinned Joyce Grable by reversing a body slam attempt into a cradle
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – June 16, 1975
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah pinned Susan Green at 10:16 with a splash after Green missed a splash off the top
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – May 17, 1976
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah defeated Susan Green at 11:14
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – November 22, 1976
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah pinned Joyce Grable at 4:40 by reversing a powerslam attempt into a cradle
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – August 28, 1978 (announced at 22,000 with 4,000 at Felt Forum)
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah pinned Vicki Williams at 5:20 after reversing a monkey flip into a roll-up
WWWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – January 22, 1979
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah & Suzette Ferrara defeated Joyce Grable & Wenonah Little Heart at 8:04 when Moolah pinned Grable
WWF @ New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden – July 30, 1979
Women’s Champion the Fabulous Moolah & Kitty Adams defeated Joyce Grable & Vivian St. John in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match at 17:47, 2-1; fall #1: Adams pinned Grable at 7:54 after Moolah dropkicked Adams onto Grable as Grable held Adams up for a powerslam; fall #2: Grable pinned Adams at 6:20 after reversing a powerslam attempt into a small package; fall #3: Moolah pinned St. John at 3:33 after Grable accidentally dropkicked her partner when Moolah moved out of the way