Greatest Female Pro Wrestlers of All Time
Professional wrestling hasn't always been the billion-dollar industry it is today. The humble beginnings of regional shows and circuits go back to the 1940s and 1950s in the United States before evolving into the national and worldwide phenomenons we know today — mostly with the WWE.
Every step of the way in that evolution, women have been doing it in the ring right alongside the men. Over the decades, we've seen the popularity and growth of professional wrestling defined by both male and female wrestling superstars. These are the greatest female pro wrestlers of all time.
10. Nikki Bella
Born: Nov. 21, 1983 (San Diego, California)
Career highlights: Two-time WWE Divas Champion, Rolling Stone Diva of the Year (2015), Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestler of the Year (2015), two-time WWE Diva of the Year (2013, 2015), WWE Hall of Fame (2020)
Bottom line: Nikki Bella's 301-day reign as WWE Divas Champion in 2014 and 2015 is still the longest in history, and she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of The Bella Twins alongside her twin sister, Brie Bella, in 2020.
Bella's fame and success can be credited in large part to the E! reality series "Total Divas," which ran for nine seasons from 2013 to 2019 and gave fans an inside look at the lives of WWE's female stars.
Born: Sept. 26, 1981 (Osaka, Japan)
Career highlights: Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestler of the Year (2017), two-time WWE Women's Raw Champion, WWE NXT Women's Champion, WWE Women's SmackDown Champion, two-time WWE Women's Tag Team Champion, two-time Smash Diva Champion, JWP Openweight Champion
Bottom line: Japanese-born Asuka is the longest-reigning WWE NXT Women's champion in history, holding her title for just over 500 days. She also has been a WWE SmackDown champion and two-time WWE Women's Tag Team champion.
Asuka became the first Japanese wrestler in over 20 years to sign with WWE in 2015 and moved to the company's main draw in 2017, when she was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Wrestler of the Year.
8. Mickie James
Born: Aug. 31, 1979 (Richmond, Virginia)
Career highlights: Five-time WWE Women's Champion, WWE Divas Champion, two-time Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Year (2009, 2011), four-time TNA/Impact Wrestling World Champion
Bottom line: Mickie James broke into pro wrestling at just 20 years old, when she became a valet for NWA in 1999 and worked her way up through the ranks until she signed with WWE in 2005.
James eventually became a five-time WWE Women's champion and was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Year twice in 2009 and 2011.
James is also a country singer. She had a Top 100 album on the U.S. country charts with "Somebody's Gonna Pay" in 2013.
7. Wendi Richter
Born: Sept. 8, 1961 (Dallas, Texas)
Career highlights: Two-time WWF Women's Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (2010), AWA Women's Champion, NWA U.S. Women's Champion, three-time NWA World Women's Tag Team Champion, NWF Women's Champion, four-time WWC Women's Champion
Bottom line: Wendi Richter was a two-time NWA World Women's Tag Team champion in the 1980s before she shot to fame after she signed with the WWF in 1983 and became a two-time WWF Women's champion.
Richter lost her WWF title in controversial fashion and left to wrestle on lesser-known circuits, becoming a champion in both the WWC and the AWA. She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
Born: Dec. 27, 1969 (Rochester, New York)
Died: April 17, 2016 (age 46, Redondo Beach, California)
Career highlights: Two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, WWE Women's Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (2019), PGWA Rookie of the Year (1996), IWF Women's Champion
Bottom line: Arguably the most famous women's pro wrestler of all time, Chyna shot to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the main female wrestler in the WWE's "Attitude Era" alongside wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
Chyna was a two-time WWF Intercontinental champion and WWE Women's champion in her run. During her career, she became the first woman to participate in a Royal Rumble match.
Chyna died of a drug overdose in 2016, at 46 years old, and was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2019.
5. Charlotte Flair
Born: April 5, 1986 (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Career highlights: Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Year (2016), six-time WWE Raw Women's Champion, six-time WWE SmackDown Women's Champion, two-time WWE NXT Women's Champion, WWE Women's Tag Team Champion, WWE Match of the Year (2018)
Bottom line: The daughter of legendary pro wrestler Ric Flair, Charlotte Flair was a high school and college volleyball star in North Carolina before following her father's footstep into the world of pro wrestling.
Charlotte moved up the ranks of pro wrestling until she joined the WWE roster in 2014 and was named WWE Rookie of the Year in 2015. She became a six-time WWE Raw Women's champion before becoming part of the first women's match to headline a WrestleMania match, which she did at WrestleMania 35 for her match with Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey.
Charlotte is a surefire WWE Hall of Famer one day.
4. The Fabulous Moolah
Born: July 22, 1923 (Kershaw County, South Carolina)
Died: Nov. 2, 2007 (age 84, Columbia, South Carolina)
Career highlights: Four-time WWF Women's Champion, WWF Hall of Fame (1995), five-time NWA World Women's Champion, three-time NWA World Women's Tag Team Champion
Bottom line: The Fabulous Moolah was born as Mary Illian Ellison in rural South Carolina in the early 1920s and rose to fame as the face of women's professional wrestling in the 1950s, becoming NWA Wrestling Champion in 1956 and holding her title for a 28-year reign — the longest in women's pro wrestling history.
Moolah became the first woman inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995 and died in 2007 in her native South Carolina at 84 years old. Her legacy has taken a hit over the years as women who came and trained under her came forward with stories of being both financially and sexually exploited.
Born: April 14, 1975 (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Career highlights: Four-time WWE Women's Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (2014), Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Year (2001), Pro Wrestling Illustrated Feud of the Year (2005), WWE Women's Championship Tournament, American Chronicles Female Pro Wrestler of the Year (2006)
Bottom line: Lita helped define WWE in the early 2000s and eventually became a four-time WWE Women's champion. She was also involved in the first three WWE Raw events that included women, including matches against Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon.
One crazy stat about Lita is she's appeared in 20 video games for the WWF and WWE since making her debut on "WWF No Mercy" for the Nintendo 64 in 2000 through "WWE 2K20" in 2019 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That's called a recurring income.
2. Trish Stratus
Born: Dec. 18, 1975 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Career highlights: Seven-time WWE Women's Champion, WWE Hardcore Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (2013), WWE Diva of the Decade (2003), WWE No. 1 Female Superstar of All Time (2021), four-time Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006), Pro Wrestling Illustrated Woman of the Decade (2000s), Baltimore Sun Best Female Wrestler of the Decade (2000s)
Bottom line: Don't get it twisted with Trish Stratus. Her seven WWE championships are the most of all time and put her directly into the GOAT conversation for pro wrestling.
Originally a fitness model, Stratus signed with WWF in 1999 and made the transition to WWE when the company changed names. She was elected to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 and named the No. 1 WWE Superstar of All Time in 2021.
1. Manami Toyota
Born: March 2, 1971 (Masuda, Japan)
Career highlights: Four-time All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling Champion, three-time All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling Tag Team Champion, Gaea Japan Champion, JWP Joshi Puroresu Champion, JWP Joshi Puroresu Tag Team Champion, UWA Women's Tag Team Champion, Wrestling Observer Newsletter Most Outstanding Wrestler (1995)
Bottom line: Widely regarded as the greatest female pro wrestler of all time because of her athleticism and wide array of moves, Manami Toyota's 30-year career spanned across four decades and saw her rise to the top of All-Japan Women's Pro Wrestling.
The worldwide respect for Manami is more remarkable considering she never wrestled in the WWE, winning 32 titles in different leagues throughout the years.
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