Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Mae Young | Bad girl of wrestling, 90

Mae Young, 90, who clawed, punched, and body-slammed her way to fame as one of the top attractions of the spectacle known as "ladies' wrestling," died Jan. 14 at her home in Columbia, S.C.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reported that she had been hospitalized with a kidney ailment and had returned to her home under hospice care.

For seven decades, Ms. Young built a career as a tough-talking bad girl in the world of professional wrestling. She liked being the "heel," the snarling villain who dishes out pain and absorbs the sneers of fans - and who usually takes the fall.

"Truth about it is, I wrestled dirty and I was a tough son of a gun," she said in a 2004 documentary about female wrestlers, Lipstick & Dynamite. "Anyone can wrestle clean, but it's the heel that steals the show."

In her younger years, she was a lissome blonde with a movie-star smile. But she had the strength of a stevedore and liked to toss her opponents - occasionally men as well as women - around the ring.

Through the 1940s and 1950s, she had a long rivalry with Mildred Burke, the perennial champion of women's wrestling, which came to prominence during World War II. By design, Burke, whose husband was a major wrestling promoter, won almost all their matches. But aficionados recognized that Ms. Young, in spite of her devious tactics, had remarkable skills.

Johnnie Mae Young was born March 12, 1923, in Sand Springs, Okla. She grew up playing football, softball, and other sports and always had a fascination with wrestling.

She continued to make appearances at wrestling events well into her 80s. In a swimsuit competition featuring many young female wrestlers in 2000, the 77-year-old Ms. Young was declared the winner after she pulled down the top of her swimsuit and paraded around the ring. Wrestling officials said she was wearing a "prosthetic" covering, but many observers were convinced what they saw was all Mae, all the way. - Washington Post

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