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Queens of the Ring

Queens of the Ring
Ink and watercolor on 22″ x 30″ watercolor paper

With the WWE Evolution all-women’s event later this month I’m doing paintings focusing on the various women who have influenced and are still influencing professional wrestling. This one features the ladies who paved the way, with selections of competitors through the ages.

Going back to Mildred Burke, the first Women’s Champion and one of the greatest all-around stars of her time. In fact, there was one show where she co-headlined with Lou Thesz and after her match half the crowd left! That time also gave us Mae Young, who wrestled in nine different decades and whose body of work continues to inspire wrestlers today. Also included for that time period are WWE Hall of Famers Cora Combs, Judy Grable and June Byers.

Then on into the 80’s where for the first time I’ve painted Wendi Richter, the second-biggest draw for the first WrestleMania and one of the biggest stars of that time. A lot of people focus on Miss Elizabeth as a focus for that time, rightly so, but there were some damn fierce competitors in the ring during that time.

That gets us to Sheri Martel, who I argue is one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever. She was great in the ring (look up her time in the AWA), had undeniable charisma, transitioned amazingly to being a manager due to that charisma and her speaking ability, and was obviously easy on the eyes. I think any time people use those arguments for Bobby Heenan, they should do the same for Sheri.

Then in the 90’s I’ve got Madusa and Bull Nakano who often outshined the men on the card. Legend has it that Bull Nakano had a match that was so damn good that the men went to Vince and said it was impossible to follow that, leading to the women’s division getting shut down for a bit.

Jump forward a few years into the Attitude Era with Jacqueline and the lady who was the Women’s Champion when I started watching, Ivory. The generation that followed them is highlighted in the painting with Trish Stratus and Lita, as well as Molly Holly who doesn’t get near enough recognition for how damn good she was. On a personal level, I have more affinity for Molly’s rivalry with Trish than the more popularized Trish/Lita feud.

Then on into the Divas era where I’ve included Beth Phoenix, Michelle McCool and Vickie Guerrero. Something I hope sparks conversation with this piece is that I’ve only selected a few representatives for each generation of women’s wrestling here. Some aren’t included as they don’t have a current relationship with WWE, others simply because I only had so much space on this piece of paper. The history of women’s wrestling is far deeper than is regularly talked about and I think it’s rad that so many of the ladies are in this painting and yet there are so many others who left a mark on history.