In current times, staying in one vocation for 20 to 25 years seems like an eternity for most. Even in the rough world of sports-entertainment, where every match could be a Superstar’s last, a quarter-century is considered an incredibly lengthy career. Take that and triple it, however, and you have the span of one of the greatest female competitors to ever lace up a pair of boots – Mae Young.
Johnnie Mae Young began her professional career in 1939. Already an incredible athlete – she was on her Tulsa, Okla.-based high school wrestling team and a national champion softball player – Young embarked on her chosen livelihood at the tender age of 15.
Throughout the 1940s, she blazed a path for future female grapplers everywhere; with World War II in its midst, many territories that didn’t feature women’s wrestling began to open up those doors, which Young and her contemporaries kicked down.
She remained one of the most active and successful female Superstars throughout the next few decades. Young was the first U.S. Women’s Champion, and her lengthy rivalry with the legendary Mildred Burke was one of the most storied of the time. In fact, in 1954, she and Burke were among the first female competitors to tour post-war Japan.
While she continued to compete, Young’s career was relatively unheralded until the turn of the 21st century. In 1999, she and Fabulous Moolah made an appearance on SmackDown; although it wasn’t the most successful – Moolah was laid out by a guitar while Young felt the Figure-Four Leglock – it began a “second career” for the two legends.
Over the next few years, Young made semi-regular appearances on WWE programming, and was never afraid to take chances that many might be afraid to. After all, how many women – or men, for that matter – in their mid-seventies would survive being powerbombed through a table? In addition, she entered and won the “Miss Royal Rumble” competition in 2000, and stood faithfully at her best friend’s side when Moolah won her final Women’s Championship. Young also had a tryst with Mark Henry during that time that fostered some of the most bizarre moments in sports-entertainment history.
While her appearances are not as frequent anymore, Young still pops up on WWE programming from time to time. Most recently, she entered a Bikini Contest on an August 2007 edition of SmackDown and appeared at Raw XV that December to celebrate 15 years of WWE’s flagship program.
In recent years, Young’s career has gotten the recognition it deserves. In 2005, she and several of her contemporaries were profiled in Lipstick and Dynamite, a documentary film about the early pioneers of women’s wrestling. On March 30, Young will join co-star, trainee and late friend Moolah and “Sensational” Sherri Martel in the highest class of Superstars, as she will become only the third female to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Where Mae Young goes from there, nobody truly knows. One thing is for certain, however: Her chances of competing in a ninth decade come 2010 are as strong as they ever were.