In early 1999, I was a smiley six-year-old who had only just discovered the wrestling world. I was completely and hopelessly in love with every bit of it that had stolen my whole heart. There was something about it that felt like nothing I had ever seen before, like the fairy tales my mother told me at night but with real life men and women acting like super-heroes under the brightest of lights and in front of the rowdiest of crowds. There weren’t many women involved that mini-me could look up to save for the Nitro Girls, who I loved in a way all their own. I desperately wanted to see girls on screen who could kick ass as much – if not more so – than the boys.
Lucky for me, early in the year a legend was to return to WCW. I don’t recall my specific reaction to Randy Savage all these years later, but I do remember seeing Madusa, Gorgeous George, and Miss Madness on my screen and smiling a smile of such pride and excitement at their arrival. They were beautiful, but more than that, they were strong. I didn’t doubt for a moment that they couldn’t get into the ring with the men and handle business, and at times they did just that! I distinctly remember a Miss Madness top rope hurricanrana on a now faceless superstar that wowed me in particular. My heart nearly leapt from my chest when she flew through the air so seamlessly and brought that man to his knees.
She’d later wrestle and was able to showcase talent from a woman in the ring my little eyes had never before seen. For me, it was a beautifully impactful time. A woman could do this thing I loved, and she could do it while still being herself. She could wear dresses and wrestle barefoot and still be just as much of a terror as a man in tights or a woman in boots. She represented the wild child I felt I was in my own heart, and I looked at her as everything I could be if I wanted to be.
Unfortunately, in 2000, with WCW failing, she disappeared from my weekly escape and I wondered if I’d ever see her perform again. I was heartbroken over her departure and didn’t quite understand why things had to be the way they were. She was a favorite and at the time, there was no one better! Remember those first loves in the business? We would die fighting for our favorites willingly and would seek out any who believed different. How crazy to realize twenty years later and many of us still act this way.
Finding WWE after WCW’s demise, I was delighted to see the woman who had captivated my little heart once again! I remember the first time I saw her on screen again. BIG tears. There she was! She may have had a different name, but she walked with the same confidence and wore the same smile that warmed my heart as she always had. The matches and feuds she would have as Molly Holly are still some of the most memorable that I have as a fan, even all these years later. That speaks volumes in a business constantly evolving and attempting to top itself. It is proof that passion always plays, and Molly had an abundance.
Whether a heel or face, Molly consistently owned her character and her path in the business. Straddling a time in which the wrestling business still did not value women near as much as they now do, she was an important figure in this particular era for many reasons, not the least of which were her dedication and raw undeniable talent in the ring. During an era that remembers legendary women like Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, and Gail Kim a great degree, Molly’s influence and place in history cannot and should not be discounted even a little.
She brought a legitimate feel to the division while a part of it. When I saw her on my screen, I was confident that even though the campy gimmicks could and probably would – be present, that I could count on good wrestling as well, because that’s what Molly was – a damn good wrestler. She helped me see that though changes would take many years to come, that they were possible. Women didn’t just have to be bodies to be undressed with the eyes of fans, they could do so much more. As a little girl still very much learning who I was and what was acceptable, I cannot explain how much influence Molly had in making me see there was more to wrestling and more to being a woman than what was on the outside.
She didn’t have to show us that. She was as beautiful as any of the others and could have slipped into roles many others had as well, but she didn’t. Now, I don’t know the stories. I’m no insider. But I find it hard to believe that Molly didn’t have a say in how she carried herself on screen and in the things she allowed and the ones she didn’t. If she did, I can say confidently that my life is just one of many in which she impacted to extents immeasurable.
On March 10, it was announced that Molly would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2021 class. I’ve wanted to write about her for months, but I couldn’t get the timing right. I needed a moment or a sign – for the stars to align. With that announcement and the way in which she was made aware, the feelings inside of me overflowed. Shane Helms fought back tears as he gave her the news and as he did countless memories of her incredible career came rushing back. But it wasn’t just memories from the ring that flooded my mind. I closed my eyes and felt again in that moment how it felt to be inspired and how it felt to be thankful to someone admired with so much energy and true honest gratitude.
What makes this announcement even better is that Molly Holly the character is only outclassed by the person, Nora Greenwald. Active in her community, participating in various charity work and with Special Olympics, as well as working to train future faces of the wrestling business, her dedication matches that in which she prided herself on while working in the ring. There aren’t many who are thought of to the heights that she is, being acknowledged industry-wide after the announcement and oftentimes even before for actions not well known but life-changing none the less.
For example, during the WWE Hall of Fame induction speech of Beth Phoenix, Beth acknowledged Molly and explained how her career was directly and inspirationally impacted by her. From introducing Phoenix to trainers, to paying her tuition so that she could chase a dream, to giving advice when needed, to teaching her how to pay it forward, and to simply being the kind of friend one can be proud of, she has always gone the extra mile, because that’s the kind of human being she is.
During Beth’s speech, she cites a quote that says this:
“You can always tell who the strong women are. They’re the ones that you see building one another up instead of tearing each other down.”
“That,” Beth says proudly, “is the definition of women empowerment and THAT is who Nora is.”
From the early days in WCW, to the tip top of women’s wrestling during a difficult time for just that in WWE, to her wonderfully charitable life after, Molly has never stopped giving. Even now, she continues to teach us about life and is an example for how we as women should support each other and how we as human beings should love one another.
It’s funny. Some of my favorite things in wrestling are the smiles. It’s a business of acting, so I watch with the understanding that many aren’t what they seem, just like the people behind them. The thing is, with Molly, I never once doubted her smile as being anything but heartfelt and legitimate. She exudes a warmth that can be felt through the screen. I’ll always be thankful to have felt that at my most impressionable and I’ll always take her example to heart as I walk on, as we all should.