With March being Women’s history month, there’s no better time to highlight some of the most important women figures in wrestling. Having already taken a look at the Spider incident a few months back, I wanted to use the opportunity to take a look at another shootish moment in wrestling, this time involving Madusa: known in the WWE as Alundra Blayze. Months before The Outsiders “crashed” WCW Nitro, Madusa arrived at WCW, and made a moment that would go on to define an age of wrestling.
To get briefly into the history with Madusa (actual name Debra Miceli), she established herself in the AWA and All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling in the late 80’s, which followed a brief appearance in WCW. However, it was her introduction and role in the early 90’s in WWE that cemented her as one of the more important women in the history of wrestling. With the Women’s Championship being defunct since 1990, WWE planned to revive the division, and the belt, and have Madusa be the figurehead of it. After changing her name to Alundra Blayze, as she owned the copyright to the name Madusa and WWE was not in a hurry to pay for it, she quickly won the new Women’s Championship. Here is where she really begins to establish a legacy, as she tells management to go out and hire more women to compete with her for the belt, which brought Bull Nakano into the company. The Blayze/Nakano feud, and the matches therein, are arguably the strongest women’s matches in the company up until the end of the Attitude Era into the Ruthless Aggression era nearly a decade later.
While this feud, and eventually feuds with other wrestlers like Bertha Faye, brought some much needed gender diversity to the product, WWE started to struggle financially. With this, management felt that the Women’s division was waning interest, and Blayze was let go while still holding the championship. What quickly followed for Blayze went along with the recent trend of wrestler’s leaving or fired from WWE, as she made her way to WCW in the same month she was let go (December 95). From all accounts, it doesn’t appear that there was a significant amount of ill will (other than what you would expect from a fired employee) between WWE and Madusa, so it’s hard to not look at the events that followed with a bit of suspicion. In her debut, Madusa “crashed” WCW Nitro, showing up behind the announce team. In a moment that would go down in history, she proclaimed her name as Madusa, and, as she left the WWE still champion, brought out her championship belt from the rival company, and threw it in the trash.
It’s important to remember the wrestling fan universe of the time. While there was a semi “smark” community, it was nowhere close to today, and the idea of kayfabe mystique still existed. This moment of a wrestler showing up on a rival companies show weeks after being let go, a firing which was not terribly publically known, and more or less calling out her former employer, is shocking. With the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW still in it’s infancy, this moment became one of the sticking points between the all too real matchup of the two mega corporations. Again, Madusa didn’t seem to be non-kayfabe that angry at WWE (this is conjecture though, she may have been), so she states looking back that the idea was Eric Bischoff’s (President of WCW), and that it took some pushing from him for her to actually go through with putting the belt in the trash. Regardless, even today the moment seems shocking , as cross promotional barbs at that time (would change quickly with the attitude era) were rare, and WWE responded by blackballing Madusa for 20 years.
What makes this moment especially important is that, in terms of direct conflict on screen of WCW and WWE, this was the first major event. We tend to look back at that time and give almost all the credit for the spark of WCW popularity to Scott Hall and Kevin Nash jumping ship from WWE to WCW in 1996, and “invading” Nitro in what seemed like an actual WWE invasion. While this is certainly important, it’s not giving nearly enough credence to Madusa’s debut months earlier. As WWE became stale with campy and cheesy characters, WCW was quickly establishing itself as an “edgey,” in the mid 90’s, sense alternative, and the whole movement is defined by Madusa throwing that belt in the trash. Looking back now, there may not have been enough credit paid to Madusa due to Hall and Nash quickly returning to WWE following the absorption of WCW. As history is always written by the winners, WWE would reflect on the spark of the Monday Night Wars rarely mentioning the still blackballed Madusa. It’s a troubling moment, but with clear heads now, we can start to set this right.
Madusa was rightfully placed in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, where she recalled her famous moment in her acceptance speech where she took the belt out of a trash can, and declared herself the reigning WWE Women’s Champion. Madusa is one of the most important figures of 90’s wrestling, and WWE wrestling in general, for a variety of reasons. Taking the belt moment aside, she also established women’s wrestling to a level it really hadn’t been, even beyond the rock n wrestling days of Wendi Richter. Whether overtly stated or not, she set the groundwork for women like Trish Stratus and Lita, going up to the names today of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch; and changed the face of wrestling for a generation.