Along Came A Spider: The Original Screwjob

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Brian Damage

When you hear the word “screw job” associated with the WWE, we immediately think back to the Survivor Series in 1997. It was at that event where WWE chairman Vince McMahon concocted and executed a plan to take back the WWF title from its then champion Bret Hart against the challenger….Shawn Michaels.

With the help of referee Earl Hebner, Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart for the title and sent Bret packing to WCW. That happened 17 years ago this November. Another screw job occurred close to 30 years ago (in November as well)….this one took place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It too was for a WWF title…the female version. It also sent the former champion packing out of the company. Before we get to that fateful November night….a little background on the participants…

The Fabulous Moolah

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Moolah was/is considered by many to being perhaps one of the toughest and smartest women in the history of professional wrestling. She certainly was one of the most successful having held a version of the women’s world title on and off for 30 years. Moolah has worked every aspect of the business, from wrestling, to managing, to booking to training….Moolah did it all. She was a Vince McMahon Sr favorite and as we would later find out…those who were loyal to Vince Sr…would be repaid with Vince Jr being loyal to them.

Wendi Richter

Wendy Richter

Wendi coincidentally, was one of the students trained by Moolah…or at least trained at Moolah’s school. According to Richter, Moolah just took Wendi’s money…it Moolah’s other students that actually trained her. The thing that made Wendi stick out from other female wrestlers of her generation…was she didn’t have the prototypical look of a wrestler. She had certain good looks and a more feminine side that interested Vince Jr.

The Rock N Wrestling Connection

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When Wendi signed with the WWF in 1983, Vince Jr. was just starting to take over and wanted to take the company national. He saw a very marketable look with Richter and wanted to make her his top female performer. Wendi became an instant star for the WWF and with help of her manager Cyndi Lauper…got even bigger.

She was making up to $1,500 a week from her wrestling with a portion taken out to pay Moolah who taking a booking fee for Richter’s services. This angered Wendi as she claimed that Moolah had nothing to do with getting her a job with the company. Vince Jr agreed and starting paying Wendi directly…instead of sendinga check to Moolah first. That started a legitimately heated rivalry between the two that would last for the rest of Wendi’s WWF tenure.

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The national exposure helped Wendi become extremely popular….she had T shirts, dolls and was a part of the WWF’s cartoon. What it didn’t give her, was any substantial money. According to Wendi, she didn’t get a dime off of royalties for any piece of her merchandise. She began to complain to Vince about paydays and getting more money. Vince would continue to promise her the moon…yet the money never came.

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At the very first Wrestlemania, while the men in the main event (Hulk Hogan, Mr T, Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff) netted $50,000 for their match….Wendi only received a $5,000 payday for being the co main event. So Wendi continued to complain about disparities in money.

The Screwjob

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Somewhere along the line, Vince Jr had to choose between Wendi Richter and Fabulous Moolah. The two women were bitter enemies and things weren’t getting any better. Add to that, was the fact that Wendi continued her pursuit of better paydays and as we alluded to earlier…Vince Jr was always loyal to the wrestlers who were loyal to his father. So the decision was made to strip Wendi of the WWF women’s title.

Instead of asking her to drop the belt to Moolah…which probably would have received a NO…a plan was hatched to have Moolah wear a mask and “shoot” on Richter inside the ring. November 25th, 1985 in Madison Square Garden….Richter was booked in a match against a wrestler known as ‘The Spider Lady.’

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The Spider Lady wasn’t anyone new…..the gimmick had been used earlier in the year with Moolah as Spider Lady’s manager. The original wrestler under the mask was a wrestler by the name of Glendine. With that being said, Wendi had no reason to be suspicious that something more sinister was awry.

When Wendi arrived at the Garden, she saw Glendine backstage…but also spotted Moolah. Wendi then realized something wasn’t right. The match went on…with Wendi defending her woman’s title. The match seemingly started out normally…but the Spider Lady began being stiff and then put Richter in a small package..which Wendi was able to get her shoulder up at the count of 1…the referee continued his count to 3. Richter then unmasked Spider Lady revealing it to be Moolah…who was now the champion.

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The Aftermath

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After the match, Wendi Richter grabbed her bags and stormed out of MSG still in her wrestling gear. She hailed a cab and went to the airport…never to return to the WWE/F as a wrestler again. Wendi did continue her career with stints in Japan and the AWA…even winning the AWA women’s title. She has since retired, went back to school and became an occupational therapist.

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In some ways, she was able to forgive Vince and the WWE as she agreed to be inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

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