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Johnnie Mae Young (March 12, 1923 – January 14, 2014) was an American professional wrestler. She wrestled throughout the United States and Canada and won multiple titles in the National Wrestling Alliance. Young is considered as one of the pioneers in women's wrestling as she helped to increase the popularity of the sport throughout the 1940s and during World War II. In 1954, she and Mildred Burke were among the first female competitors to tour post-war Japan.
Beginning in 1999, Young had a high-profile "second career" in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later Entertainment/WWE). Young was part of a recurring comedic duo with best friend The Fabulous Moolah in appearances on WWE televised events. She is a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum and the WWE Hall of Fame.Contents
Johnnie Mae Young was born in Sand Springs, Oklahoma on March 12, 1923. She was the youngest of eight children (one died at birth). Her mother Lilly Mae Young was a single mother (her partner left to find work and never returned) living during the Great Depression. Young's oldest sister Inie was severely disabled by whooping cough at a very young age. Young was an amateur wrestler on her high school's boys' wrestling team at the age of fifteen. Her brothers Fred, Eugen, Lawarence, and Everett taught her to wrestle and helped her join the team. Young also played softball with Tulsa's national championship team.Professional wrestling career Early career (1939–1999) I learned to wrestle amateur in Sand Springs so I never heard of women professional wrestlers but one day I heard in tulsa paper there was going to be a women's world championship match come to town of Oklahoma so I immediately got at home with my brother and I shout hey let's you and I go over cause I am going to challenge that champion named Mildred Burke, so I went and there was a promoter (Billy Wolfe) at that time and I told him I want to challenge the world's champion Mildred Burke, he said you can't do that cause you never wrestle a wrestling match, I said yeah but I beat her, I can beat her so the only one who was Burke's adversary at the time, he broke over that there was only two other girl wrestlers in the whole world that was Gladys Gillem and a girl with the name of Elvira Snodgrass so I asked the wrestling coach in Sand Springs and I said I want to try out to be a professional wrestler so it brought Kill'em Guillem over and he put me in one corner Gladys in another so he snailed the bell and I run over her taking her down like a bull and beat her in just seconds, then Billy put me against Elvira Snodgrass and I also beat her in seconds, so then Billy says to me well he says I think I may make a girl wrestler of you. Young in 2008 during her WWE Hall of Fame speech of induction.
While still in high school, Young went to a professional wrestling show and challenged then-champion Mildred Burke when she visited Tulsa to wrestle Gladys Gillem. Because the promoters told her she could not wrestle the champion, she wrestled Gillem in a shoot fight, beating her within seconds. After the fight, promoter Billy Wolfe wanted Young to become a professional wrestler. She left home two years later to wrestle professionally. Young later travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina where she met and trained with The Fabulous Moolah and also met Ed "Strangler" Lewis whom told her "I don't like girl wrestlers, women should be in the kitchen, but after seeing you, you was born to be a wrestler."
There have been conflicting reports as to the year in which Young began her career. Young claimed her first match was August 20, 1939, while WWE said she "started her professional career" this year. However, Young also once said her first match was March 22, 1940. According to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, historians have been unable to find any records that she began in 1939 and that her first match was most likely in 1941. Meltzer wrote, "In reality, Young is believed to have competed in seven decades, matching the record held by Lou Thesz. You really couldn’t call 2010 match anything resembling a pro wrestling match, even giving as much leeway as possible. While she always claimed to have started in 1939, at 16, historians researching have been unable to find any records of her wrestling prior to 1941, when she turned 18 and went on tour with Billy Wolfe’s troupe."
In 1941, Young, along with Mildred Burke, opened up Canada for female wrestling. In Canada, they worked for Stu Hart. She was wrestling in Memphis, Tennessee on December 7, 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, which led to the United States entering World War II. During the war, Young helped women take advantage of the fact that the men were fighting overseas by expanding their role in the sport.
She fought under the nicknames of "The Queen" and "The Great Mae Young", but she used her real name for most of her matches. During the 1950s, she wrestled for Mildred Burke's World Women's Wrestling Association (WWWA). In 1954, Young and Burke were some of the first females to tour Japan after the war. In 1951, she became the National Wrestling Alliance's (NWA) first Florida Women's Champion. Five years later in September 1956, she participated in the battle royal to determine the new NWA World Women's Champion after June Byers was stripped of the title, but the championship was won by Young's friend The Fabulous Moolah. In 1968, she became the NWA's first United States Women's Champion.
As an instructor, her students included Ric "The Equalizer" Drasin and The Fabulous Moolah.World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment/WWE Early storylines (1999–2000)
Young made her World Wrestling Federation (WWF) debut on the September 9, 1999 episode of SmackDown!, seated at ringside with The Fabulous Moolah, Jeff Jarrett invited Moolah into the ring and smashed a guitar over her head before Young was also attacked by Jarrett and put into the figure-four leglock for trying to help her. After this appearance, both Young and Moolah began appearing regularly on WWF televised shows. Young's televised in-ring debut took place on the September 27 episode of Monday Night Raw, where she competed in a handicapped evening gown match along with Moolah against then WWF Women's Champion Ivory, where Mae got stripped from her gown before Moolah picked up the victory. At No Mercy on October 17, Young managed Moolah during a championship match against Ivory, where she successfully captured which would become her last wrestling title before passing away in 2007. At Survivor Series on November 14, she made her in-ring WWF pay-per-view (later renamed WWE) debut where both Young and Moolah competed on an eight-woman tag team match along with Debra and Tori against Ivory, Jacqueline, Terri Runnels, and Luna, with their team coming out victorious.
At the Royal Rumble event on January 23, 2000, Young competed and win on the Miss Royal Rumble 2000 swimsuit contest, afterwards, Young flashed her breasts but it is known that she was wearing a prosthesis and did not actually exposed herself. At the end of 1999 and through the 2000, Young developed a storyline along with "Sexual Chocolate" Mark Henry where she started dating him, which included a kayfabe pregnancy and attacks by The Dudley Boyz, specifically Bubba Ray Dudley who performed powerbombs on Young through tables twice in consecutive episodes of Raw - the first being in the ring and the second, in which Young was originally bound to a wheelchair, being off the entryway stage as what has been described as the most famous or notorious powerbomb in WWE history. Young was 77 years of age at the time, but expressed enthusiasm for the stunt. Her "child" was eventually delivered and found to be nothing more than a bloody rubber hand. On April 2, Young made her WrestleMania debut, accompanying The Kat at WrestleMania 2000 to her match against Terri Runnels in which she was subsequently defeated due to Mae's distraction by kissing the special referee, Val Venis, before getting retribution and attacking Runnels and her manager The Fabulous Moolah.Sporadic appearances (2002–2007)
On the July 29, 2002 episode of Raw, Young returned along with longtime friend The Fabulous Moolah to promote Moolah's new book: "The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle" before being attacked by 3-Minute Warning by orders of general manager, Eric Bischoff. On the September 15, 2003 episode of Raw, she accompanied Moolah into which came to be her last wrestling singles match before passing away, where she defeated Victoria before being attacked by Randy Orton and an infuriated Victoria. On June 15 at Bad Blood, Young appeared during a segment along with Stone Cold and Eric Bischoff where she stripped herself in the ring and performed a bronco buster on Bischoff before receiving an Stone Cold Stunner from Cold.
In 2004, Young was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum as part of their Lady wrestler category class of that year. On the September 23 episode of SmackDown!, Young teamed with Moolah and defeated Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson.
On March 23, 2005, Moolah and Young appeared on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien show to promote their 2005 documentary in which they starred in an about their 1950s heyday along with several other lady wrestlers of their era. On January 8, 2006 at New Year's Revolution, Young re−appeared along with Moolah during a bra & panties gauntlet match where she stripped herself before being attacked by Victoria as she left the ring, which led to both women retaliate and rip off Victoria's shirt. At WrestleMania 22 on April 2, Young appeared along with Moolah during a backstage segment with Snitsky.
At WrestleMania 23 on April 1, 2007, Young appeared during a backstage segment along with several other WWE superstars and hall of famers. On the August 24 episode of SmackDown!, Young made a special appearance winning a Divas bikini contest. Mae's last appearance with Moolah before her death came at SummerSlam in August 2007, both appeared during a backstage segment along with Vince McMahon and Raw's general manager, William Regal, two months prior to her friend's death.WWE Hall of Fame (2008)
On March 29, 2008, Young was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2008 class. At the ceremony, she was inducted by fellow wrestler and friend, Pat Patterson.Retirement and final appearances (2008–2013)
On the 800th episode of Raw which took place on November 3, 2008, Young competed in a 16-Diva tag match, where she was defeated and pinned by Beth Phoenix, this was Young's final match inside a wrestling ring.
At WrestleMania XXV on April 5, 2009, Young appeared during transmission as the special guest time keeper for the 25-Diva battle royal, which was won by Santina Marella.
On the November 15, 2010, "Old School" edition of Raw, Young wrestled and won a Falls Count Anywhere handicap match against LayCool, thus becoming the first person ever to wrestle over the age of 80, the first person to wrestle in nine different decades and her final stipulated wrestling match.
At WrestleMania XXVII on April 3, 2011, Young appeared at backstage during a segment along with Dwayne Johnson "The Rock" and Eve Torres. During the May 2 episode of Raw, Young was a "birthday gift" from Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler to The Rock, while Ziggler and Guerrero laughed at Rock, he responded by kissing Young.
On the April 10, 2012, Young made an appearance on SmackDown: Blast from the Past, kissing The Great Khali. Young made a brief appearance on the July 23 special episode of Raw, Raw 1000 during a backstage segment with AJ Lee and Layla where she was escorted by a man dressed in a giant hand costume whom claimed to be Young's "son" who was born at the conclusion of the 2000 Mark Henry storyline. On September 24 episode of Raw, Young took part and appeared in one of Kane and Daniel Bryan's "Anger Management" skits. On the December 31 episode of Raw, Mae Young was warming up for her match with then-Divas Champion Eve Torres and began experiencing stomach cramps as it was later determined that she was once again pregnant and gave birth to "Baby New Year," played by Hornswoggle.
Young's last on-screen appearance took place on the March 4, 2013, episode of "Old School" Raw, where she was celebrated by various WWE superstars for her 90th birthday, before the celebration was interrupted by CM Punk. Later at backstage, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and WWE executive Triple H presented Young with a personally monogrammed Divas Championship belt.Other media
Young appeared in one WWE video game. She made her in-game debut and appearance at WWF No Mercy as an unlockable character. Young has been also featured on the mobile game for iOS and Android, WWE SuperCard.Filmography Film Year Title Role Notes 2004 Lipstick and Dynamite, Piss and Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling Herself Documentary Television Year Title Role Notes 2003 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Ms. Edwards Episode: "A Person of Interest" 2005 Late Night with Conan O'Brien Herself Guest Personal life
As a sign of friendship for meeting her longtime friend The Fabulous Moolah, she called her "Lilian" while Moolah referred to her by Young. In 1991, Young quit the wrestling business and moved to California to become a Christian evangelist and take care of her mother, who was sick. She later renounced her evangelist lifestyle. In 1991, she moved in with The Fabulous Moolah and Katie Glass at a house in Columbia, South Carolina, an arrangement which lasted until Moolah's death in November 2007.Death Mae Young's gravestone in Columbia, South Carolina
On December 31, 2013, it was reported that Young had been hospitalized. The Charleston Post & Courier erroneously reported that she had died on January 9, 2014. Young's death was announced by the WWE on the morning of January 14 after having died at her home in Columbia, South Carolina. Young's remains were interred at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Columbia, South Carolina, possibly in the family graveplot shared with her longtime friend Lillian "The Fabulous Moolah" Ellison and midget wrestler, Katie Glass.Legacy Mae Young Classic Main article: Mae Young Classic
On April 1, 2017, WWE announced that a women’s tournament would be taking place in the summer of 2017 at a press conference during WrestleMania 33 weekend and that there were going to be a total of 32 wrestlers competing.
The tournament was named after Young as an honour to her and it was exclusively for women from both NXT and the independent circuit, it took place on July 13, and 14, 2017 and the final match will take place on September 12.Posthumous honors
On January 14, 2014, the exact day of Mae's death, WWE pay tribute to her with a posthumous video which included highlights of her career, and another one six days later on January 20. On January 16, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling dedicated their live Genesis episode of Impact Wrestling to the memory of Young. On January 17, SmackDown was also dedicated to her memory. Two weeks later, Shine 16 dedicated to her a 10 bell memorial salute.
On March 20, 2017, WWE honored Young during their Women's History Month, a video was released where she was credited as the women pioneer of professional wrestling and was praised for her tough contributions into the wrestling business by the late Fabulous Moolah, Ivory, Beth Phoenix and Pat Patterson.In wrestling