A look back through history: The Original & NWA World Women's Championship, Part Three
After a week's break, I'm back with Part Three of the history of the NWA World Women's title!
Welcome to part three of our look back through history at the Original and NWA World Women’s Championship!
As I was away last week visiting family this part was delayed but we’re back at it again now and we are going to pick up right where we left off last time!
When we left off, Fabulous Moolah had just ended her incredible reign as champion when she defected to Vince McMahon’s WWF, selling the Championship to Vince in the process. This in turn caused the NWA to vacate the Championship, facilitating the need for a new title belt to be made.
The design of the title has changed numerous times over the years, as you can see in the image below:
Moolah’s belt, which replaced the version held by June Byers, seemed ornate in nature, with red jewels adorning silver plates, and a picture of Moolah in the middle. By contrast, the 2nd design was more akin to the men's World Title of the time, having a similar theme but looking more like the WWF Intercontinental Title.
Design number three, whilst plain looking with simple gold plates, portrays a look of prestige and honour, whereas the fourth design was clearly a way of trying to modernise the look of one of the oldest titles in existence, as it was brought up to date to look like it belonged in the 21st century.
While it is tricky to know which title preceded which, all four of them were held by some of the best women’s wrestler outside of the mainstream scene.
We start off today in February 1986, just over two years since the title was declared vacant after Moolah’s defection, the NWA board decided to hold a battle royal to determine the new World Women’s Champion. In that nine-woman match on February 12th, 1986, Debbie Combs would emerge the victor.
Deborah Szostecki, to give her real name, was born into the business as her mother, Cora, was also a professional wrestler. Born on April 18th (great day for a birthday...) of 1959, she made her debut at the age of just 16 for Lanny Poffo’s International Championship Wrestling promotion. It was here that she met a certain young Macho Man, whom she then dated for around five years.
Despite making her debut for ICW, it was her mother who trained her. Cora was no slouch in the ring herself, being a former four-time NWA United States Women’s Champion and two-time NWA Southern Women’s Champion. She was also a legacy induction to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018.
Where did Cora train you ask? Well, take a guess...
Billy Wolfe was of course her trainer! And so, Cora passed on her knowledge to her daughter, Debbie.
During her career, Debbie worked with all the major promotions, taking in spells with the WWF, WCW, AWA, as well as the NWA, before becoming president of the Women’s Pro Wrestling promotion in the 1990’s, which gave chances and opportunities to many of the women’s wrestlers that would frequent the scene in the coming years.
Debbie had a very successful career, winning numerous championships across America. A list of her titles is below:
- 3-time NWA World Women’s Champion
- AWF Women’s Champion
- 3-time IWA Women’s Champion
- MCW Women’s Champion
- NAASW Women’s Champion
- UCW Women’s Champion
- 2-time USWA Women’s Champion
- WWA Women’s Champion
- AAWF Ladies Champion
- SSWF Women’s Champion
- WWWA Women’s Champion
In addition to this list of accolades, Combs has also been inducted into the St Louis wrestling and Professional Wrestling Museum Hall of Fame in the last two years, cementing her legacy. Debbie is still with us today, as she retired in 1998 and now works for the Davidson County Sheriff’s office in Nashville.
Sometime in 1987 though, Debbie Combs vacated the title when the Kansas promotion she worked for withdrew from the NWA, but this seemed like a pointless move as she won back the vacated title on April 10th of 1987. She would then hold the title for seven years before losing to Bambi sometime in 1994.
Before you ask, no she did not lose to the motherless cartoon deer from Disney, but rather to Selina Majors, who wrestled under the name of Bambi.
Selina debuted in 1986 for the Powerful Women of Wrestling promotion, which at the time was nationally televised. In those early days she feuded with a young Alundra Blayze, then wrestling under the name Madusa Miceli. In 1988 she would leave POWW and join Continental Wrestling Federation as a valet for Tom Prichard, but in 1990 she got her biggest break to date when she joined World Championship Wrestling.
During those days, WCW would recognise the Ladies Professional Wrestling Association Champion as the World Women’s Champion, and so Bambi challenged for that title at certain points. Her stint with WCW was not a long one though, as by 1991, they had all but eliminated their women’s division.
With that, she would return to the independent circuit, where she would then spend the majority of her career, taking in spells with Ladies Major League Wrestling, the aforementioned LPWA, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and Women of Wrestling. While not officially retired, her last documented match was in 2018 for the Peachstate Wrestling Alliance when she took on Danielle Jeantet for the PWA Women’s Title.
A look at her impressive Championship wins shows a successful career though:
- 2-time NWA World Women’s Champion
- CCW Women’s Tag Team Champion (with Lisa Moretti)
- 3-time IWA Women’s Champion
- 3-time LMLW Women’s Champion
- 2-time NWA Blue Ridge Women’s Champion
- 3-time NWL Women’s Champion
- 3-time NDW Women’s Champion
- PWF Women’s Champion
- RWF Women’s Champion
- SAPW Women’s Champion
- VWA Women’s Champion
- ACW Women’s Champion
- BTW Women’s Champion
After briefly losing the title to Peggy Lee Leather sometime in 1994 (the dates are pretty sketchy at this time) she was able to win it back on July 26th of the same year. From here, she would embark on a near two-year reign as champion. She would lose the title on May 9th, 1996, to Malia Hosaka.
Malia was born in Hawaii in 1969, but was often billed as hailing from Japan. She was trained by Killer Kowalski and debuted in 1987.
Hosaka can actually be considered an ECW Original, as she appeared at the NWA Bloodfest show in October of 1993. On that show she defeated Molly McShane, and would make one further appearance for them in that year, where she replaced Madusa to take on Sherri Martel.
Hosaka joined WCW in 1996 when they re-established their Women’s Division, and while she was in and around the title scene, she was never able to capture any WCW gold in either the Women’s or Women’s Cruiserweight titles.
By 1999, Hosaka had signed a development contract with WWF, and was used on Raw in June of that year when, posing as a fan, she answered an open challenge by Ivory for her WWF Women’s Championship. Before the match could happen though she was attacked by Nicole Bass.
The story goes that WWF had plans for her to have a “Rocky Balboa” inspired character, but they didn’t bank on fans recognising her from her WCW run. As a result of this, the angle was ditched. She was briefly considered to partner the soon to debut Essa Rios, but ultimately that role went to Lita, and she was released soon after. Hosaka would wrestler for TNA on June 18th, 2003, and since then has been active on the independent circuit. While she retired in 2012, she returned to the ring in 2014, becoming SHINE Tag Team Champion with Brandi Wine.
While Hosaka won twelve titles during her career, she unfortunately holds the record for the shortest reign as NWA World Women’s Champion. Just 24 hours after winning the championship from Bambi, she would lose the title to Debbie Combs for her third and final reign.
Debbie held the title until 1997, although she was officially stripped of the title in 1996. Despite my best efforts, I cannot seem to find a reason why she was stripped of the title. Some say it was due to the Attitude Era effectively killing off legitimate women’s wrestling at the time in favour of more edgy, sexy content, but in any case, it would be four years before anyone held that championship again.
The title was revived at the NWA 52nd Anniversary show on October 14th, 2000, where Strawberry Fields would defeat Leilani Kai for the vacant title. Unfortunately, the title would be vacant again just a month later after Fields was forced to relinquish it due to injury, which led to the title being vacant for almost two years again.
When the title was once again up for grabs, and wrestler by the name of Madison was the winner.
Details on Madison are thin on the ground, but what I was able to find out is that she had only been wrestling for less than a year when she won the championship on 23rd August, 2002.
Trained by Michelle Starr and Chance Beckett, she held the NWA World Women’s Championship twice, as well as a single reign as NWA Canadian Women’s Champion, before retiring in 2007. Her first reign was ended by Char Starr on October 26th, 2002, but she then regained the title on December 6th, when she would lose to Leilani Kai at NWA:TNA’s 35th weekly Pay-Per-View.
Another product of Fabulous Moolah’s training, and by extension Billy Wolfe, seeing as Moolah herself was trained by Mildred Burke, Patty Seymour began her training in 1975 at the tender age of fifteen. She was given the name Leilani Kai by Moolah after she noted she looked “a little Hawaiian”, despite being born in Florida in 1960.
After honing her craft around the world for a decade. Kai would join the World Wrestling Federation in 1985, and avenge her trainer's loss to Wendi Richter for the Women’s Championship by becoming champion herself. Her reign as WWF Women’s Champion would be a short one at just 41 days, before losing the title back to Wendi Richter at the historic first Wrestlemania event on March 31st, 1985. This gives Leilani the distinct honour of being the first Women’s Champion to enter a Wrestlemania event.
Following this, she would be part of the “Glamour Girls” with Judy Martin, winning the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship in August of 1985, and were part of Sherri Martel’s Survivor Series team to face Moolah’s team in 1987.
After a near two-and-a-half-year reign, the Glamour girls lost the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championships to the famous Jumping Bomb Angels on January 24th, 1988, but regained them five months later, holding them until they were abandoned in 1989.
After leaving WWF, Kai would move on to LPWA with Martin and win their tag team championship, but she did return to WWF for Wrestlemania X, unsuccessfully challenging Alundra Blayze for the WWF Women’s Championship.
After winning the NWA World Women’s Championship in March of 2003, Kai would defend the title all over America, but was stripped of the title fifteen months later after she had no showed several events, thereby forcing NWA’s hand. After this, Kai was less active in ring and began training other wrestlers, but she made sporadic appearances on the independent scene. To this day, she is considered to be “semi-retired”, with her last documented match being almost six years ago.
With the title vacated once again, a new champion needed to be crowned. This time however, NWA did not wait years to crown a new champion, but rather crowned a new champion on the same day Leilani Kai was stripped of it. June 19th, 2004 saw Kiley McLean emerge as the new NWA World Women’s Champion.
McLean had been an avid fan of wrestling throughout her childhood, watching it with her grandfather. When he sadly passed away, McLean lost interest in wrestling until her adulthood.
It was only when she attended a Virginia Wrestling Federation open house that she would consider training as a wrestler. J.T. Smith, at the time a trainer for VWF, would ask McLean to enter the ring and take some bumps, and they were so amazed with her natural abilities that they would then begin to train her for a career in the squared circle.
McLean’s career would only last seven years after debuting in 2000, but in that time, she won several accolades:
- NWA Virginia Women’s Champion
- Virginia Wrestling Federation Women’s Champion
- RAM Ladies Champion
- GWA Women’s Champion
- GWA West Women’s Champion
- All-Star Ladies Champion
- All-Star Hardcore Ladies Champion
- NWA World Women’s Champion
It should also be noted that McLean did appear on an episode of Monday Night Raw in 2007. Does anyone remember the “Rosie O’Donnell v Donald Trump” match from January of that year? Well, McLean played the fake Rosie O’Donnell, while Ace Steel played the fake Trump.
It was shortly after this that McLean retired from in ring competition, but her lone reign as NWA World Women’s Champion ensures her name will remain in the history books forever, and will no doubt have made her grandfather very proud.
McLean’s reign as champion was a good one at 308 days, but as with all good things, they eventually have to come to an end, much like this article...
Thank you once again for reading and joining me on this trip down memory lane. Next time out we will pick up in 2005 and learn more about the names that once held this illustrious title.
Thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you next time!