Past and Present Black Lady Wrestlers

What is strength of a woman? Immeasurable. A woman’s strength can take on many forms, whether a a daughter, sister, mother, a wife, CEO, or even a professional wrestler. And for many of us, our drive can push us to live out our wildest dreams.

Photo Credit: Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame

A Brief History

During WWII, the world saw a rise in women's sports. The lesser known but wildly popular sport was women's wrestling. To many in the 1950, Black women became some industry's main players. Female wrestlers such as Ethel Johnson, Babs Wingo, Roberta Isbell and Marva Scott to name a few. In fact, Ethel Johnson was debuted at age 16, becoming the first African-American women's champion.

These Black lady wrestlers obtained payment for their scheduled fights proving the earning capabilities of Black female athletes. They were also vital figures in the normalization of Black athleticism. Jim Crow laws and systemic racism made life hard for the them however these Black female wrestlers were key in garnering respect owed and would be proud there’s a new wave of Black lady wrestlers dominating the game.

Enter the NEW Baddies

Black female wrestlers are back and we love it! In 2021 Jade Cargill, Red Velvet, Jade Cargill, Nyla Rose, and Brandi Rhodes all made wrestling history. But today we’re here to highlight Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks aka Team B.A.D who have have taken the wrestling industry by storm!

World Wrestling Entertainment superstars Sasha Banks and Bianca Blair known collectively as Team B.A.D, stepped into the spotlight unabashedly and ready to make a name for themselves. They are a Black American professional wrestling tag team that performed in WWE, where they are former WWE Women's Tag Team Champions that have made history. They made history in the Night 1 WrestleMania 37 main event, where in the first time in WWE history, these two Black female wrestlers main evented a WrestleMania. In fact, before Belair and Banks, the only Black WWE superstar to main event a WrestleMania show was The Rock.

Photo Credit: WWE

Despite facing discrimination in 2022, their preservice, personalities and persistence and garnered them a dedicated fan base, and this combination has ensured diverse career opportunities, specifically for Sasha Banks. Banks, is the only woman to headline a paper view wrestling event, has now followed in the footsteps of Dwanye "The Rock" Johnson, and John Cena by starring in her first role on the Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian. While appearing on Kevin Hart's locker room style YouTube series, Cold As Balls, Banks had this to say about being a role model for your Black girls. "It's such an honor to see little girls come up with blue hair and rings and tell me that because of you I want to be a wrestler. I just want to keep making it better for the kids, women, and people of color."

While the duo's time at WWE was certainly inspirational, their recent departure from the league sets an even better example, that in order to be successful one must set hard boundaries and advocate for themselves. We’re inspired by their stories, the one before them and the ones that will follow. To find out more about the inspirational history of Black Femal Wrestlers check out Filmmaker Chris Bournea’s Lady Wrestler: The Amazing, Untold Story of African-American Women in the Ring.

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Morgan Paige

Morgan Paige is an Atlanta native and student at Howard University, currently studying English and Afro-American Studies. She is passionate about film, study, creative writing and pop culture.