Male vs Female Wrestling
by Ron Farrar (Ace Sports promotions)
Mixed bouts have been held throughout the long history of wrestling. In Sparta it was normal for young girls to train and engage in bouts with young boys of a similar weight. The girls wore a brief apron from the waist, whilst the boys appeared nude. Athens and the rest of Greece frowned upon this form of the sport but the state of Sparta did actually encourage it, though, even there open public bouts of the mixed variety were not allowed at the State Olympics. Later times saw the Roman arena replace the Olympics and there mixed bouts became a common sight. At first it was mixed single bouts where professional wrestlers took on professional women wrestlers but soon this deteriorated into bouts where captives and convicts were used. Besides the few single bouts teams of men would take on teams of women gladiators in battles to the death. An even more popular form was women versus male midgets, again often to the death. The enlightenment of Rome under the Emperor Constantine saw and end to this form of murder which had departed so very far from the sport it has originated from.
Male versus female bouts are recorded throughout history, by Captain Cook in his travels in the Pacific, on the subcontinent of India and very occasionally in the prize ring in Great Britain in the 1700s.
In more modern times, the 1950s, the southern states of the U.S.A. saw the rise of the modern mixed tag match. The format of this is two teams, each consisting of a man and a woman wrestler opposing each other. The rules state that the bout be started by the two men and when a tag is made both opponents withdraw and they are replaced by their partners, thus the contestants are always members of the same sex. Though this was the original idea it often failed in practice and the result was male vs female. With the spread of the right of women to wrestle in public throughout the entire U.S.A. so spread the mixed tag and its popularity. With the increasing disappearance of female wrestling on the cards of big U.S. promotions so the mixed tag has also gone too.
With the resurgence of pro-wrestling in Great Britain after the war and the rise of Joint Promotions women did not appear in the British ring until the mid or later 60s. Mixed tag was the first to be seen in the Lincoln/Norfolk area in the late 60s represented by the local independent promoter there. With the inception of the British Wrestling Alliance things were set for a change and very soon after the set up of the organisation and its championships sorted out by eliminators, some member promoters began to stage mixed bouts.
The early bouts pitted Sue Brittain against several male opponents, masked and unmasked, including BWA heavyweight champion, Bob Courage, Baeuregarde, Mr X, etc. She was soon joined in this form of combat by Vicky Montrose, Belle Starr and such. These were single bouts fought over eight three minute rounds with two falls, two submission or a knock out to decide the winner. In cases where the woman was of equal weight the result was totally open, but it soon became apparent that where the skill was equal and the man had the weight advantage the bout tended to be one sided, so the girls tended to lose by disqualification rather than be pinned.
This soon proved a great attraction with the public but unfortunately the male wrestlers' wives hardly saw it as a public form of entertainment seeing a top girl wrestler holding their husbands by his privates or hitting him so hard that she was disqualified but he was not very happy for the rest of the evening.
Mixed tags introduced at the same time grew in popularity too and were less marred by this aspect. Soon an official BWA Tag Team Championship recognised by all BWA promoters was organised and eventually after eliminators was won and held by Sue Brittain and Mike DeMain. This form of mixed combat was every bit as popular as the normal single sex tag and progressed throughout Great Britain. It was based on the US idea of only single sex opponents being in the ring at the same time, but, as there, did not work out every time.
One of the best female wrestlers against men was Jane St John. This girl never lost a single match against any lightweight male she fought. In single contest she beat such lightweights as Ian Leeds, Billy Donnegan, Nicky Price, etc. Her favourite move with these men was to lift and body slam them two or three times which often brought the complaint from them that the first lift was by a part rather in front than between the legs! Close observation by several refs never spotted this so her victories were upheld.
With the demise of wrestling the idea of mixed contests seems to have disappeared. The last I ever saw was the very final bout of Lady Satan. She had been booked to appear for an independent promoter and as the BWA had dissolved she accepted. Her booked opponent backed out of the match and no other aspiring girl was prepared to face her. So on the night the independent promoter found himself with one lady wrestler. A veteran wrestler from the early 70s, Pedro the Gypsy, offered to take on Satan and thus her very last bout was against a man. Lady Satan, sensing her days were ending, decided to go out on a disqualification rather than a loss, wrestled for four rounds then delivered a low blow that stopped the bout but left her walking out unbeaten.
Mixed bouts now seem to be the farce called Martial Arts films where a goodie, male or female, will take on six or ten villains of the opposite sex in a pantomime ballet. [eg Red Sonia - ed]
Done properly mixed bouts are an honourable and historic part of wrestling. The first thing is one must disregard the idea of the lady being given the advantage. She must be honoured and respected as an opponent who may be better than oneself. Skill, pleasure and a desire to win must be uppermost in the mind of both opponents.