World wrestling champion Joyce Grable grew up a bit of a tomboy in Columbus, Georgia, and she would play all types of sports with her four older brothers. She went to a wrestling match with her friend and she was instantly hooked. Grable was in luck because a world women’s champion was on the card that night. After the matches were over, her friend approached Moolah in regards to training her. Moolah replied “I will train you on one condition - if you bring that blond girl over there so I can train her as well.” Grable added “I was in the right place at the right time and I was very honored that she would consider training me.”
That was a huge opportunity for Grable, as it helped launch her into sports superstardom and immortality. Among some of her career highlights and milestones were winning the NWA United States Women’s Championship, NWA Texas Women’s Championship, she was the only women to hold the NWA World Tag team Championship four times, she received the Cauliflower Alley Club Women’s Wrestling Award 2010, and she made history when she competed in the first ever tag team match of two men and two women.
It was thanksgiving night 1980 at Atlanta Georgia’s Omni Auditorium. Georgia Championship wrestling booked Grable and Judy Martin to go against Steve O and Jerry Roberts (Jacques Rougeau Jr) in the first ever battle of the sexes tag team match.The match was well done and executed and all though Martin and Grable didn’t win, it proved that the age old argument that yes, women can stand toe to toe with a man in a wrestling ring. This broke tremendous ground for other wrestlers such as former WWE Women’s and Intercontinental Champion Chyna to show that they can be main event champions. Grable has traveled throughout the world and had many matches in Japan and in Mexico territories. She also had good bouts and feuds with many of the female wrestlers in the United States of America. Grable’s career spanned more than two decades, until she retired in 1991 due to a back injury. Throughout her career she gained the reputation of being a great wrestler, trainer, manager and friend. Grable still makes appearances and recently inducted Wendy Richter at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, New York.
Question and Answer with Joyce Grable
Q: What were some of your favorite finishing moves that you used on your opponents?
JG: “Well I could do a lot of the same moves that they guys, did but I would have to say drop kick from the turn buckle, power bomb, and power slam.”
Q: Compared to American Wrestling how does it differ in Japan and Mexico?
JG: “I learned a lot in Mexico. You learn how to move faster and to work on the floor, crawl on your hands and knees for a take downs. Japan is different. You work more outside and they utilize foreign objects such as chairs more in their matches. We were always in demand in Japan - on average we would stay there for about two months. It was tough to adjust to sleeping on floors and being the only folks who could speak English. Heck we were there so much I got my appendix taken out in Tokyo.”
Q: Who are some of the best female wrestlers that you worked with?
JG: “Well, starting out I had a lot of matches with drew big crowds going against Toni Rose and Donna Christentello. The fans would get so into the matches that one night we had a riot in Houma, Louisiana. Some of our best wrestlers I worked with were, Princess Victoria, Velvet McIntyre, Jackie Sato of Japan, Maria Garcia of Mexico, Vicki Williams, Sabrina, Judy Martin, Leilani Kai, Wendi Richter, Wendy Richter, and Donna Christanello.”
Q: The wrestling world recently lost Donna Christanello last year, what type of a person was she?
JG: “Donna was very Italian and me being from the south I was not use to that type of personality. So at first I had to get to know her but after I did, I found her to be a warm caring person. She would give the shirt off her back if you needed it and she was the type of person who would give you a dollar if you were broke. A great person and I truly loved her. She was the first person to get me drunk it was funny, in fact, she used to tease me about it. I remember she liked to drink colt 45’s. We traveled a lot together and in some ways we were like sisters. She would quit and come back from time to time to take care of one of her family members. Donna was a great person; I still would be traveling with her today if she was alive.”
Q: What male wrestlers do you feel best represented your sport and what do you feel your greatest accomplishment as a wrestler is?
JG: “Bruno Sammartino and Harley Race. Harley told me once I have the prettiest punch for a girl, for me winning the NWA World tag team Championship four times - I am the only women to have ever done that.”
Q: What do you feel about pro wrestling in the 21st Century?
JG: “Not many new wrestlers can carry a match - it’s just a bunch of power moves. When I was wrestling, we knew how to grapple and how to entertain without wearing skimpy cloths. I think the only one that truly represents the sport now is Natalya Neidhart and I feel all she needs is a shot, a bit of a push.”