The next week's FWF television show opened with Victoria standing in the middle of the ring. She was dressed in street clothes rather than wrestling gear. She also was without wig, hat or bandana…making no effort to hide the results of her last match. Why should she?
She had nothing to be ashamed of.
Around the ring were Mickie, along with Victoria's closest friends on the roster. Lance was there too.
A little further back…off on her own in deference to her championship status…stood Molly. Then there were other wrestlers back by the entrance…the entire roster. Even Michelle McCool and other 'less than beloved' individuals.
But all the focus was on Victoria. She took a microphone and addressed the crowd.
"So…what do you think of the new look? Do I pull it off?" She laughed and struck some exaggerated 'modeling poses' then waited for the cheers to die down before continuing. She looked out amongst the wrestlers and pointed to her long time rival, who was currently sporting an attractive blonde wig.
"Yeah, Trish…we're all cool now, but just so you know…I look WAY better than you bald."
Trish shook her fist in a humorous manner as the audience laughed. Meanwhile, Victoria turned her attention to the FWF World Champion. "Damn thing is, neither of us look as good as Molly did back in the day."
A small 'Molly' chant broke out in the crowd, causing the soft spoken wrestler to actually blush.
"I'm here to say a few things," Victoria continued. "And let's start with Molly and the match we had last week." She paused and switched to a more serious tone as she gazed towards the title-holder. "Thank you. Thank you for giving me the greatest match of my career."
The audience applauded.
"You're an amazing wrestler and a true champion," Victoria added. "As a hairstylist though, don't quit your day job."
After the laughter died down, the woman's tone turned serious once more.
"I'd also like to announce that my greatest match was also my final match. I'm officially retiring from the ring."
Sounds of shock filled the arena. Some of the fans began to respectfully protest.
"No, I'm sorry to disappoint anyone. But I'm sure of this. I've spent more than a decade trying to accomplish everything I could in this business…and I can honestly look in the mirror today and say…I have."
At ringside, Mickie was smiling up at her through teary eyes.
"I love wrestling so much, but I am proud to have the chance to walk away from the ring on my own terms…knowing that I can say I took on the very best in the world and wasn't found wanting. I may not have always won…but I think anyone who was ever in the ring with me knows, as my theme music says, 'I'm not a lady to mess with'."
Plenty of heads nodded among the wrestlers at this sentiment.
"More than that, I'm proud that I can look at each and every wrestling fan that's ever watched me, whether in the arena or at home on TV, and know that whether I was in a sold out stadium or a rundown auditorium that only seated a hundred people …you always saw me give a hundred and ten percent. Sometimes you didn't like me, sometimes you loved me…but understand this: I love each and every one of you!"
The applause was louder than ever. Chants of 'WE LOVE YOU' started as Victoria put done the microphone and waved back to the crowd. Tears began to run down her cheeks as the chant shifted to one of 'PLEASE DON'T GO!"
Then an unexpected interruption from Jim Cornette silenced the fans.
"Now let's not go jumping to any conclusions," he said as he climbed into the ring with a microphone of his own in hand. "Victoria may be retiring from the ring…but who said she's going anywhere?"
Victoria laughed at her friend's theatrical manner as he went on.
"As many of you know, Victoria is a co-founder and co-owner of the FWF. Hell, this whole thing was pretty much her idea," he said. "But as an active wrestler, she had no executive authority whatsoever." He sighed. "She didn't have to deal with endless demands from all these abrasive, lunatic, hellcats…she was actually one of the worst of the whole lot!"
She tried to act offended but couldn't keep a straight face.
"Anyway," Cornette continued. "Now that she's done competing, it's time for her to do some real work around here. And this is where I have an announcement to make."
He paused to clear his throat.
"The FWF has met with more success in a shorter time than any wrestling promotion in history. We have the most elite female athletes on the planet in our company…and more and more trying to get in. But that requires we build ourselves a bigger support system."
Victoria nodded as she listened. She already discussed what her role in the company would be with Cornette and what their future business plans entailed.
"What the FWF needs," he explained to the crowd, "is a good old fashioned developmental territory. A place where young ladies, who want to follow in Victoria's footsteps, can learn the craft of professional wrestling. But we need someone to run that territory. And off the top of my head…I think the perfect candidate is standing in this ring right now!"
Cornette motioned as if he was about to point to Victoria…but at the last moment pulled his hand back and used his thumb to point at himself.
"That's right!" he crowed. "ME! Jim Cornette, the greatest mind in all professional wrestling! Though not exactly the most modest!"
"What?" Victoria asked in shock. "But I thought-"
"Sorry for switching it up, Darlin," he laughed. "But let's face it…the FWF wouldn't exist without you. You don't need to be off wet nursing a bunch of rookies. You belong here…as the NEW COMMISSIONER of the FWF!"
As the crowd cheered, Victoria leaned towards Cornette to voice her doubts.
"But…me? Run the FWF? I-"
"Don't give me that," he whispered back. "You know everything there is to know about the job. You think I'd step down for someone who didn't? I know you…and I know this is the perfect role for you in the company." He smirked. "And I'm a genius, remember? So I can't be wrong."
She considered the matter before responding. "Thank you, Corny."
"I'll see if you still want to thank me a few weeks from now," he joked back. "Being the boss can make you want to tear your hair out half the time. Of course, you've got nothing to worry about there."
Stepping back and speaking into the microphone, Cornette pointed towards his friend.
"Ladies and Gentleman, let's hear it for your commissioner…VICTORIA!"
As the cheers started, Mickie climbed up on the ring apron. Victoria walked over to her.
"You think people will talk now?" the perky brunette teased. "After all, I'm sleeping with the boss."
"I better not ever see any sexual harassment suits from you!" the taller woman joked back before giving her love a quick kiss.
As it happened, Cornette, Lance and JBL worked with Victoria to ensure there would be no conflicts of interest between her job and her relationship with Mickie. Any questions that involved Mickie's professional status were always handled by one of the other FWF co-owners. In all other matters, Victoria was the primary authority figure.
She did her job exceptionally well.
Mickie was no stranger to success either. She eventually did win the FWF's top Championship to match Trish's record of seven reigns…and later surpassed it with an eighth.
She did not hold the record very long however.
For in the six more years that Molly Holly wrestled after defeating Victoria, she amassed an unprecedented TEN World Title reigns…and in the process competed in countless match classics against Mickie, Natalya, Gail, Hamada and all the other top contenders. Matches for the ages.
But matches that would always be compared to the biggest victory of her career. The match that would be spoken of by wrestling historians in the same reverent tones that they used when speaking of Flair/Steamboat and Race/Brisco.
Beth Phoenix and Awesome Kong clashed repeatedly in the year that followed their first match. Many of their battles were indecisive, though they didn't lack for excitement. The memorable November night that they closed the show was a standout in many people's minds. Not that they'd been scheduled to be the last match that night…it had just been impossible for any more matches to take place on that occasion…since the two women had ended up destroying the ring.
Eventually their feud cooled. In the end, Beth had racked up a few more victories over Kong than Kong could claim over Beth…but none could argue that both women hadn't proven themselves two of the all time greats.
Layla's friendship with Beth stayed strong for the remainder of their careers and beyond. The British Beauty enjoyed great success and held both the World Title and the tag team championships on multiple occasions before her in-ring days came to a close. Her first tag team reign was with Beth, her second was with Melissa Anderson…who she also became quite close to.
Beth served as Maid of Honor at their wedding.
Ivory and JBL continued their on-air partnership happily for years. They also resolved to remain strictly professional and not complicate their relationship.
Their resolve almost flew out the window at the FWF's first Christmas party.
After that close call, Ivory was determined to prevent any future reoccurrences.
Her solution: fix JBL up with another woman. She was sure things would work out perfectly after that.
She was right.
It was just that neither she nor anyone else could have ever imagined that such a great union could be formed between someone like JBL…
Nonetheless, John and Jessica Layfield (who was professionally known from then on as ODBL) became the toast of the wrestling world. Ivory couldn't have been happier for them.
And she was honored when they asked her to be the godmother of their twin daughters.
Trish Stratus continued to wrestle in the FWF for a time. She was a constant fixture near the top of the contender's list until she retired, but never captured another World Title.
She couldn't have cared less.
For what mattered to her most was that when she finished a match, win or lose, and got back to the locker room…the other women would offer congratulations or sympathy. They'd invite her out to have a drink after the show. They'd share rides with her to the gym.
They'd talk and they'd listen and they'd treat her like any other wrestler.
It was the most wonderful time of her entire career.
Michelle McCool had great difficulties for quite a while after losing the belt to Molly. With Kong off on her own, Michelle tried to form new alliances. Ego clashes hampered these efforts and she was forced into the role of a loner.
Then there were the 'Beautiful People'.
Though Angelina and Velvet were as unpopular as McCool…they did have each other. And they couldn't resist kicking anyone when they were down…especially not someone that they'd been jealous of in the past.
But when their petty comments and childish tormenting of Michelle developed into an in-ring feud, things got rather one-sided. Michelle had nowhere to turn for help…she was constantly outnumbered and a victim of sneak attacks. With her back against the wall and the odds against her, Michelle did something that people didn't expect.
She stood her ground and fought.
Call it pride…call it ego…call it no other choice…whatever the reason, Michelle would not surrender. Wrestling fans grew to respect her…then admire her. Eventually they cheered for her.
Still, she had no allies in the locker room. Not until that fateful day that Velvet and Angelina had her down and beat her so brutally that it began to look like she might suffer permanent injury. That day when several in the locker room moved to act, all feeling that nobody deserved such treatment.
It just so happened that Melina was the quickest to the ring.
The impromptu alliance between the calculating blonde and the fiery Latina proved a great benefit to both. Michelle needed a partner to fight beside…but one that was forceful enough to keep her from reverting to her evil ways. And if there was one thing Melina was…it was forceful.
They became allies. They became tag team champions. And finally…
…they became friends.
The FWF's developmental territory was a spectacular success. The women who passed through it learned so much that they could instantly go and make a living in Japan or Mexico even when there wasn't enough room for them in the FWF immediately.
Many male wrestlers from small time promotions inquired about the possibility of training there as well.
And this gave Jim Cornette an idea.
He proposed an 'affiliates network' between various small promotions across the country… similar to the glory days of the National Wrestling Alliance. All promoters could continue to operate as they saw fit and they could send their talent to him for training, if they signed on to a universal ranking system for all their wrestlers. They would recognize all FWF titles as the only legitimate women's championships…and use the ranking system to determine one overall champion among the male wrestlers and a single set of male tag team champions. Those champions would be able to defend their titles in any and all of the independent promotions that signed on.
Almost overnight, the old territory system rose from the grave to terrorize unprepared victims.
Of course, in this case…the unprepared victims were TNA and WWE.
Along with her many World Title reigns, Molly also earned another, rather unexpected distinction.
Queen of the Hair Match.
Though she would have been happy to have never been in such a match again, fate had other ideas. It started simply enough when Madison Rayne was frustrated in her progress to climb to the top of the FWF rankings and secure a title shot. She tried to circumvent matters by attacking Molly. But while the champion was more than willing to step into the ring and teach her a lesson, she would not grant a title shot to someone who hadn't legitimately earned it. Madison called her a coward while claiming that she herself feared nothing and would fight under any conditions.
Not realizing when it was in her best interest to shut up…the challenger then brought up the idea of a Hair Match.
Not even Molly could resist such an opening. Madison was just that annoying.
But while humiliating the brash youngster was satisfying for Molly and the fans alike, it also established a dangerous precedent. If a challenger was willing to risk her hair…she at least deserved consideration for a title shot.
At first none were eager to take the risk. But the competition in the rankings was so fierce, the top contenders SO good. Earning the number one contender's spot seemed to grow more and more difficult.
One by one, great wrestlers were tempted. During Molly's various title reigns, the Hair Match came into play eight more times. Beth, Jillian, Mickie, Layla, Natalya, Jillian (again) and Melina all took the gamble.
All lost…resulting in an amazing streak of nine Hair Match wins in a row for Molly.
It was only when the ever persistent (and now short-haired) Jillian made the challenge a third time that Molly fell. In a fantastic battle, Jillian managed to claim the gold. Molly took her second (and final) shearing much more gracefully than she'd taken her first. And losing her hair did not cause her any trauma the second time around.
After all, some of the very best in the world had lost Hair Matches.
No argument about 'the all time greatest' in a field can ever be truly decided. Debates will rage endlessly over factors both great and small in measuring excellence.
For women's wrestling, many argued that Molly was the logical choice. She'd more title reigns than any one else. She'd beaten Victoria decisively…after Victoria had done the same to Trish.
But Victoria had never taken a multi-year sabbatical from wrestling the way Molly had. She'd competed night in and night out from her first match to her last, and she'd held more career wins over Molly.
Of course, if career wins were brought into play…then Trish was right back in the running. It was hard to discount the astounding win percentage of her WWE days.
Other names were brought up as well. Beth, Gail, Natalya, Hamada…many more. While they may not have had as large a number of title reigns, the quality of the matches they'd fought, especially in the FWF, couldn't be questioned. The standard of competition there was so high.
By the same token, others argued that more respect should be given to women from earlier eras. Those who'd faced greater hardships and more limited opportunities but still managed to shine. Women like Wendi Richter or Leilani Kai.
Women like Ivory.
The FWF commentator was always quick to deny any claim made of her greatness. I was never in the same league as Molly and Victoria was her constant refrain. And in her heart, she believed this.
But that was the same heart that nonetheless swelled with gratitude at knowing there were those that appreciated her so.
No…the argument about the greatest female wrestler of all time will never be settled. It will rage on in the future the same as it raged in the past. It was not settled on the night of Victoria's last match. Nor was it settled twenty-five years later when nineteen year old Sachi Hamada-Storm made history by becoming the youngest ever FWF World Champion while her parents, Lance and Ayako, watched with pride.
Yet, while the debate goes on…there is one thing all sides agree on. One name that will always be revered.
The name of a woman who loved her profession. A woman who worked through pain and frustration.
A woman who watched as she and her peers were marginalized and disrespected but carried on valiantly. A woman who fought some of the greatest matches of all time at an age where others would have been long retired.
A woman who continued to wrestle not out of financial need but out of pure love of performing.
The name of a woman who would never give up but would always give back.
A woman who was christened 'Lisa Marie' by her parents and who would use other names in her career as well.
But to millions that loved her, she would always be simply…
author's notes: Eleven months ago I started this story...now it's done. It's the longest thing I've ever written and it's caused me great frustration at times, mostly because I wish I were a better writer so that I could give the tale the justice it deserves.
The idea for it came to me shortly after Victoria parted ways with WWE. For years, she and Molly had been my two favorite wrestlers…but as Molly and many others retired, Victoria persevered. More and more I watched how she was misused by the company, and yet more and more I saw the same skill and ability that she'd always had…and which put to shame so many of the newcomers that were being put in the spotlight rather than her.
Lance Storm wrote a very nice essay on his website after Victoria's WWE departure. Look it up sometime at Stormwrestling(dot)com. It's in the archives for January 20, 2009. But his point was how Victoria was such a huge part of the women's division success, and how she'll never get the proper credit for it…much like Molly.
That's because Victoria's and Molly's jobs were to make women who were their inferiors in talent APPEAR to be their superiors.
There have been some women in wrestling who would NEVER have had a good match in their careers if not for Victoria.
Victoria, Molly, Ivory and many others were always seen as supporting cast to the 'stars'. They had to go out and make others look good. When those others were willing to work (like Trish Stratus) women like Victoria MADE them better wrestlers. When those others lacked Trish's work ethic…Victoria could at least CARRY them through an entertaining match for the sake of the fans.
On a side note, I think Trish should be highly praised for training so hard when…in all honesty…she could have been quite successful with a fraction of the effort (like some others who relied on the 'Victorias' and 'Mollys' to hide their weaknesses). But that's the difference between 'greatness' and 'quite successful'. Trish Stratus is great.
But Victoria's a freaking goddess. :)
And she's proving that every week, at the age of 39, by going out and working matches that are putting both female and male wrestlers to shame. She and Mickie James have accounted for virtually ALL of the highest quality wrestling in TNA's women's division for months now.
Also, though I wanted to pay tribute to Victoria most of all, I have a great deal of love and respect for all the women in the field who give their all. Layla and Michelle and Nattie and…well, you saw many of them in the story. I regret I couldn't fit in more.
Anyway, I want to thank all that enjoyed the story. Oh, and I had a couple of people comment that they thought there were a LOT of Hair Matches in the story. I planned from the start to make the Hair Match a big part of Molly's story…so I stressed the importance of it. But there were only three head shavings planned for thirty chapters, I didn't think that was much at all considering the part it plays in the plot.
But since I got some comments about it before I wrote the final chapter…I added in all those others just for fun. :P
Did you like the epilogues? Please review.