Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday's Earful: The Brawl To End It All

By: David Schultz

Today marks the 25th anniversary of The Brawl To End It All - a battle between WWF Women's champion The Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter. The event, broadcast live on MTV, marked the beginning of the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection that would catapult Hulk Hogan into an uncharted stratosphere of fame for a professional wrestler. The woman at the center of the hoopla, the event's most important participant, wasn't even participating in the match. Pop star Cyndi Lauper, a newcomer on the road to winning the next year's Grammy for Best new Artist, was in the corner of the challenger, cheering her on to defeat a champion who had held onto her belt for nearly 30 years.

On the strength of She's So Unusual, her bubbly debut, and the widespread appeal of her perky video for "Girl's Just Want To Have Fun," Lauper was one of the hottest female singers of the time. Encouraged by her manager/boyfriend David Wolff, Lauper became involved with the WWF, appearing on Piper's Pit with Capt. Lou Albano to refute the portly manager's claim that in addition to appearing as Lauper's father in her video, he was solely responsible for guiding her successful career. Like most things in the world of pro wrestling, it got physical and Lauper ending up beating on Albano with her handbag.

With Lauper managing Richter and Albano managing the legendary Moolah, the match was high on spectacle but low on real wrestling, especially by today's standards. After pushing Richter into the corner face first, Moolah planted Richter's shoulders to the mat with a reverse sunset flip. Unbeknownst to Moolah, whose shoulders were pinned to the mat, Richter lifted her right shoulder up before the three count. Only when the ring announcer proclaimed that Richter had won the match did people realize that history had been made.

The broadcast snagged a phenomenal rating for the fledgling video channel, at the time its largest, and sadly may have planted the seeds for non-video, non-music related programming amongst the network heads. While it didn't exactly help Lauper's career, it really didn't do any damage to it either. She would make an occasional appearance for the promotion over the next couple months, culminating at the original Wrestlemania, where she, Mr. T, Liberace, Billy Martin and Muhammad Ali would feature prevalently in the organizations inaugural version of its yearly extravaganza.

A quarter century later, professional wrestling has grown from a series of regional promotions into a field dominated my Vince McMahon and the WWE (nee WWF) through a chain of events that can be traced directly back to Cyndi Lauper's appearance. It's an unlikely legacy for the diminutive singer, who's name is no longer uttered or remembered in pro wrestling circles with the respect that it deserves.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!