If, like me, you came into wrestling fandom in the early 2000s, you just can't help but like Mae Young. Even if, like me, you're nowhere near old enough to have seen her in her prime (she made her in-ring debut in 1939) she was a familiar sight in the WWE from 1999 to 2013 where you could only describe her (along with her frequent partner in comedy the Fabulous Moolah) as “the gamest old bird in the business”.
Over her post-retirement appearances in WWE she took part in an evening gown match where she was stripped to bra and panties in her late seventies; gave birth to a hand; gave birth to Hornswoggle; won a bikini contest; got power bombed through a table by Bubba Ray Dudley twice; was one of the many conquests of “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry; performed a strip tease in the middle of a bra and panties match in her early eighties; indulged Gene Snitksy's foot fetish in a backstage segment; got to kiss the Rock, Edge, Eric Bischoff and the Great Khali (with varying degrees of on-stage enthusiasm and consent by the men involved, the Rock loved it); and, was involved in implied backstage group sex to the visible horror of Jonathan Coachman and obvious delight of Mean Gene Okerlund and Pat Patterson (who was probably more interested in Mean Gene in that context but whatever).
Apart from this madness she is the only professional wrestler have wrestled in nine different decades. She was the first NWA Women's Champion (then a regional Florida territory title) and, during the Second World War, was instrumental in expanding women's wrestling whilst the men were away fighting in a similar way to how women's baseball took off in the same period.
She passed away in 2014, aged 90.
The woman's a legend in the industry and now she has a tournament named after her.
This is big. There are two other events named after legendary wrestlers in the WWE right now. There's the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which runs annually on the developmental promotion NXT, the show where Dusty was a beloved trainer and talent developer. Then there's the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, an elimination match which is held at Wrestlemania every year and is generally used to promote the talents of the company's larger, more classically strongman-esque talent. Sadly, the Memorial Battle Royal has slid down the card to the pre-show in recent years but the win is still considered prestigious if a little poorly handled by the bookers.
Now, Mae Young joins this elite no-longer-fraternity. The only words I can think of is, obviously, that much abused but very appropriate chant:
“You deserve it.”