Wrestler of the Week: Wendi Richter

Kimberly Schueler

RondaRousey.com’s Wrestler of the Week series profiles significant wrestlers from the past and present. 

Wendi Richter spent only a brief part of her wrestling career in the spotlight of the WWF, mostly touring the territories. However, her time in the “big leagues” included the highest profile women’s wrestling angle of the decade and a championship win at WrestleMania I, which later earned her an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Richter grew up in Dallas, Texas, where she worked on her family’s ranch, competed at rodeos, and was active in sports. As a young adult, she trained at The Fabulous Moolah’s wrestling school, working under wrestlers like Leilani Kai, Judy Martin, and Joyce Grable. She then made her in-ring debut in 1979.

Usually tagging with Moolah or Grable, Richter performed for organizations like Canada’s Stampede Wrestling, the Mid-South Wrestling Association, the American Wrestling Association, and the NWA. After working a few matches for the WWF, Richter signed with the company in 1983. Her career then really picked up in a way no one could have expected the following year.

Richter played a prominent role in the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection” angle, the years of cross-promotion between the WWF and a section of the music industry that led to significant exposure and financial success for the wrestling company. After Lou Albano appeared as Cyndi Lauper’s dad in the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” video, their relationship turned into a professional wrestling feud. Albano disrespected Lauper, and she challenged him to a match between two female wrestlers of their choosing. She chose Richter while Albano chose Moolah, and at “The Brawl to End It All” in 1984 on MTV, Richter defeated the long-reigning Moolah to win the WWF Women’s Championship for the first time.

Richter and Lauper’s feud then shifted to battling Moolah’s protégé Kai (with Moolah as her manager). Kai defeated Richter—with Moolah’s help—to win the title at “The War to Settle the Score.” Their rematch was set for the first-ever women’s match at the first-ever WrestleMania, and the heroes won. This would be the highest profile in-ring moment of Richter’s wrestling career, in a period that also included an appearance in Lauper’s “She Bop” music video and the Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling.

After the high of her WrestleMania win, Richter’s WWF career took a dark turn later the same year: She was scheduled to defend her title against a masked wrestler called “The Spider” at Madison Square Garden, and during the match, “The Spider” pinned Richter. The champ actually kicked out at one, but the referee counted an extremely fast three and rang the bell.

Richter continued to attack “The Spider” afterward and unmasked her to reveal it was, in fact, The Fabulous Moolah. Given the way Moolah won many of her wrestling matches, this may not have looked out of place to the MSG audience. However, Richter had been scheduled to retain her title and hadn’t expected the fast count. After the show, she booked herself a flight home, left the WWF, and never spoke to Moolah again. Revisiting the incident on the podcast Prime Time with Sean Mooney in 2018, she said, “I just walked… because of how I was treated,” and called Moolah “an evil person.”

Richter continued to wrestle for smaller companies like the American Wrestling Association and Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council, holding the Women’s Championship in both promotions. She went back to college, started working outside of the wrestling world, and officially retired in 2005.

Despite the contentious way she left the company decades earlier, Richter accepted her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010 and made an acceptance speech that had a positive tone. Her last appearance for the promotion so far was on RAW in June 2012 alongside Lauper and Roddy Piper to celebrate the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection.

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