Let’s do it: let’s talk about intergender wrestling. Matches between men and women are a topic often avoided among wrestling fans, because it can be so explosive. But it’s a part of wrestling that hasn’t gone away, and has even reached more prominence on shows like Lucha Underground.
It’s also a part of many independent promotions, of course. Current NXT up-and-comer Abbey Laith, for example, was the Grand Champion of Chikara, the top title of that male-dominated company. Ruby Riot also engaged many intergender matches there and at other companies. Frequent NXT guest and Mae Young Classic competitor Candice LeRae is famous for her intergender matches, at PWG and elsewhere.
And while many people have said that intergender wrestling will never return to WWE, they’ve now been proven wrong with an intergender match on Smackdown, between Becky Lynch and James Ellsworth. It wasn’t much of a match, but it did happen. So this seems like a good time to look back at intergender wrestling at WWE, as well as at the two companies that WWE absorbed earlier this century, WCW and ECW. Maybe by exploring the history, we can better understand why so many people think of intergender as such a bad, distasteful idea.
The earliest intergender match in WWE that I could find was between Luna Vachon and Matt Knowles, on a 1998 Raw. Goldust (Luna’s onscreen partner at the time) beat up Knowles before the match started, but Luna did get the pin. There had been earlier matches in WCW involving Jacquelyn and Madusa (more on them shortly), but the arrival of intergender wrestling to WWE wasn’t all that impressive. But things were about to ramp up in a big way.
It was in 1999 that intergender wrestling really blew up. The frequency of these matches increased in all three major companies at the time, until by the end of the year it was happening nearly every week. Part of the reason for the boom was the general atmosphere of the era. With three companies on national television, they were all getting whatever attention they could by pushing whatever envelopes they could find to push. The other factor was a trio of women, one at each company, who were seen as formidable enough to take on men, and who were comfortable doing so. I’m going to take a minute to focus on each of them.