Pro wrestling

Mae Young, wrestling legend from SC, dies (w/ video)

Special to The StateJanuary 15, 2014 

The professional wrestling world lost one of its female pioneers on Tuesday with the death of Johnnie Mae Young, 90, at her Columbia residence.

Young is a World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame member whose career spanned eight decades. She helped spawn the career of several of today’s superstars with the training complex she opened with partner and long-time friend “Fabulous Moolah,” Lillian Ellison.

WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon released a statement about Young’s passing.

“There will never be another Mae Young,” McMahon said. “Her longevity in sports entertainment may never be matched, and I will be forever grateful for all of her contributions to the industry. On behalf of WWE, I extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”

The funeral service is 2 p.m. Wednesday at Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, with burial in Greenlawn Memorial Park, where she will be buried next to Ellison in a mausoleum that displays a photograph of each from their wrestling days.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel.

After WWE.com confirmed her death late Tuesday night, several wrestling personalities took to social media sites to pay respects to Young.

Dwayne Johnson, also know as “The Rock,” said, “She’s a wrestling pioneer. I truly had deep affection and respect for “Aunty Mae” Young.

Lillian Garcia, a long-time WWE ring announcer and former Columbia resident, said via Twitter: “I am heartbroken by the news of Mae Young’s passing. She was always such a joy. My thoughts are with her family and friends.”

Young was born March 12, 1923, in Sand Springs, Okla. A highly touted athlete in high school, she broke into the pro wrestling ranks at 15. She joined a group of women who decades later would be profiled in the 2005 documentary “Lipstick and Dynamite,” a look at the first ladies of the pro wrestling circuit who lived and fought hard, blazing a trail for future generations.

She was known as one of the toughest, most street-savvy workers in the business. Despite her success in the ring, in which she won several regional championships, she gained most of her notoriety late in her career.

Along with the Fabulous Moolah, Young made several appearances on WWE TV when she was in her 70s and 80s, mostly supplying comedy relief to the male testosterone-fueled story lines. But Young gained the respect of the younger generation of superstars by taking wrestlers’ signature moves in order to gain heat on the so-called bad guys. One of the most memorable acts came when the notorious Dudley Boys power-bombed Young off of a stage through a table.

Young was the third female member of the WWE Hall of Fame when she was inducted in 2008. One of her last appearances on WWE television came in March, when they celebrated her 90th birthday on their flagship show, Monday Night Raw.

She has been in failing health in recent years and was under hospice care at her home.

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