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Mae Young

Johnnie Mae Young, the grand lady of professional wrestling, spent more than eight decades working in the industry in what amounted to two distinct careers. A pioneer in the sport, she was there when ladies' professional wrestling rose to prominence in the 1940s. She often wrestled alongside perennial champion Mildred Burke in the 1940s and 1950s, playing the heel who almost always lost. Young reveled in playing the “bad girl” and said that she preferred to fight for real in the ring.

Along with Mildred Burke, Young helped establish women's professional wrestling in Canada, where she worked for Stu Hart. She wrestled for the National Wrestling Alliance throughout the 1950s and 1960s and became the first United States women's champion in 1968. She continued to wrestle and to train wrestlers until 1991, when she left the business to become a Christian evangelist.

Although she was considered a pioneer in the profession, her career had become rather unheralded by the time she "retired." This would all change in 1999, when the WWF (later the WWE) came calling. Looking for someone to partner up with the Fabulous Moolah, the WWF turned to Young, Moolah’s former trainer and then-current housemate. The two 76-year-old ladies were used for comedic segments on TV broadcasts and pay-per-views. Young quickly gained a reputation for being willing, even at her advanced age, to do anything that was asked of her. Anything. From taking bumps in the ring to being slammed through a table, power bombed off the stage, or paired up “romantically” with the decades-younger Mark Henry, there was seemingly nothing that Young would do in the ring. The highlight, or lowlight, of this period was a pregnancy storyline (at age 76) that ended with her giving birth to a bloody hand.

After Moolah died in 2007, Young continued to make occasional appearances for the WWE. Her final appearance was in 2013, when the wrestlers on RAW celebrated her 90th birthday. She was scheduled to appear on the January 3, 2014, edition of RAW but fell ill in the preceding days. On January 9, it was reported that her organs were failing and that she had been removed from life support, and erroneous reports of her death emerged. Young would have none of that. Tough until the very end, she exited Earth five days later, on her own terms. Ed V and Gerard Tierney get 5 points each (2 for hit + 3 for duet).

--Ed V

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