SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Sing's legacy tainted by Bertha Faye
By STEPHEN LAROCHE -- SLAM! Wrestling
In an age where women's wrestling is more about bra and panty
matches than actual grappling, the untimely and unfortunate passing of
wrestling legend Rhonda Sing gives many a chance to reflect on what
women's wrestling should be.
The 5'8", 260-pound Calgary native passed away at the age
of 40 last Friday, and was a rare talent who was able to compete
physically and earned the respect of her male counterparts with her
ability and personality.
It's truly a pity most North American wrestling fans
didn't get to see her in her prime as the fearsome Monster Ripper who
made a splash in All-Japan in the late-'70s. Sadly, most will remember
her as the strangely comical Bertha Faye, the trailer park-dwelling
girlfriend of Harvey Whippleman (Bruno Lauer) as part of the World
Wrestling Federation's failed women's division in the mid-'90s.
Throughout her career, she showed an extreme amount of dedication to the
sport. She had matches with some of the greatest women to step into the
ring, including Bull Nakano and Wendi Richter.
Like many others in the business, Sing knew very early on
that she wanted to be a wrestler. Her mother was a long-time patron of
Stampede Wrestling, and she watched it regularly live and on television
as a child. As a teenager, she made the decision to contact Mildred
Burke and went to the women's wrestling pioneer's training facility in
California after being rebuffed by the Harts, who did not train women at
Despite spending only a few weeks under Burke's tutelage,
scouts from All-Japan wanted Sing to join them there. Her first match
was a main event bout, and she and partner Mami Komeni defeated the
ultra-popular Beauty Pair. In her interview with SLAM! Wrestling in
January, she recalled the significance of her debut.
"It was my first match, and I won. The Japanese girls
resented it because they never had to lose. If they lost, they lost to
each other. They never lost to a foreigner."
Sing had a great deal of success with All-Japan despite
the difficulty in adapting to Japanese culture. After holding the
promotion's title on two occasions, she began to wrestle throughout the
world and held a multitude of titles.
She returned to Calgary to work with Stampede in 1987 and
was rechristened Rhonda Singh, the "h" being added by Stu Hart
According to Gama Singh
(Gadowar Singh Sahota), a proposal was put forth where she would have
won a "Vice Queen" contest to tie in with his Karachi Vice gimmick.
Unfortunately, this idea never saw the light of day. Singh recently
shared his memories with SLAM! Wrestling and had many great memories of
working with Sing.
"I really thought Rhonda was a good person," The Great Gama said. "We
had been on a lot of overseas trips together. She was a good person to
have around. She always kept you laughing."
Singh had been planning a trip to the Middle East in the
months prior to Sing's death, and offered a sentiment echoed by many
whose lives Sing touched.
"Rhonda's going to be missed by a lot of people. I'm
certainly going to miss her."
, who was in attendance at Sing's funeral on
August 3rd, offered his memories of Sing in his recent column
gave a brief statement to SLAM! Wrestling.
"In a very male environment Rhonda was always one of the
boys and accepted by all the wrestlers," he said. "She was a warm and
Another long-time friend of Sing's was Bad News Allen
(Allen Coage), who toured with her several times throughout the world. He told
SLAM! Wrestling she provided him with tickets to the World Wrestling
Federation television taping in Calgary on May 28, and that she went
backstage at the event and spoke with Shane McMahon.
"She was a hell of a talent," said Coage. "I always
thought she was one of the toughest women around. Everything she did
He also commented on the Bertha Faye persona she was
saddled with while with the WWF in 1995.
"I hated that Bertha Faye gimmick they put on her," he
said. "I didn't like that at all."
A lack of support by WWF braintrust and waning fan
interest in the women's division essentially killed it a few months into
her time there. Eventually she became tired of the situation, but
managed to live out her dream of wrestling in Madison Square Garden. In
my interview with her, Sing recalled the time with the WWF as bittersweet.
"It sort of stripped my identity," she said "You're going
to the ring skipping and blowing kisses, looking goofy. You just went to
the bank and cashed your cheque. You felt like you were pimping yourself
out. You were like a prostitute for Vince. The guys were doing it too,
so you know what people will do for money."
Prior to her death, Sing had been working as a caregiver
for handicapped individuals. According to her brother Tom, she had a
"big heart" and "liked to look after people". He believed there was two
sides to his sister -- the Monster Ripper who people saw in the ring and a
caring individual who was devoted to her family.
While her family would only say that she died as a result
of medical problems, donations can be made in Sing's memory to the Heart
and Stroke Foundation and to Canadian Diabetes Association.
When I conducted my interview with Sing several months
ago, I had limited knowledge of her contributions to the industry. She
opened my eyes to many things about sports entertainment and expressed
her dissatisfaction with working on the independent circuit. Sing was
without a doubt one of the greatest wrestlers to ever compete, and it is
tragic how her legacy in North America is tainted by a bad gimmick. I
only wish we all could remember her for the kind person she was.
May her legacy live on for future generations of
Aug. 2:Rocked by The Rock
Great article, you brought up a lot of good points. I too over the last couple
of years have been more accepting of the whole entertainment part of
wrestling. I mean all of the Austin/Angle bits were hilarious, some of the
best backstage stuff I've seen. I would much rather see Austin have more
backstage roles than in the ring, since he ain't what he used to be. But I
have to disagree with being more excited to see Angle backstage or on the mic
rather than in the ring. Angle is too awesome of a performer. I also have to
disagree with The Rock being more sloppy. I think you're misinterpreting
sloppiness for style. When The Rock does a one-arm Samoan drop, it's his way
of doing the move, since a lot of people do that move why not have your own
style? It's like Farooq doing a one-arm spine buster. I mean that's not sloppy
is it? The Rock has a jello-like movement in the ring which is a family style
tradition, it's entertaining, it looks electric, rather than all robotic like
they do in Japan which can get kind of tiring. In a way it's more realistic,
because nobody's perfect. But I do agree with you with his old school selling,
especially with the stunner. Anyway good article.
I have to agree with you on some fronts, I do enjoy the comical
backstage antics of E&C and Angle, and for the first time in years I
actually pay attention to Austin. But, and a Big But, if it wasn't for
the fact we are seeing more quality matches in the ring since the influx
of ECW tallent I'd probobly be giving wrestling up in the near future.
I'm definitely a purist. The promos are important to make the matches
believable from a certain level, that's as far as it goes for me. I
miss the constant high paced, high impact action of ECW. In my mind
there is no better performer in the business then RVD with a close
second going to Chris Benoit. These guys put on an amazing show in the
ring and get over even with 'Sports Entertainment' fans on the basis of
it, not just the wrestling purists. In my mind that is the true sign of
a star. The Rock bores me, his whole gimmick to me is lame, his catch
phrases are tedious and his matches tend to be rather dull, Austin was
pretty much the same for me, but at least now he's funny. I think it's
sad that those poeple who wrestle the main event can't work a match to
save their lives. I find that this leaves me dissapointed by every PPV
I've watched recently, because for me they tend to be over somewhere
around half time as all the wrestlers are done for the show, but now
that RVD is in the WWF maybe there's some hope for the future in the form
of a Benoit vs RVD title feud, or maybe I'm just dreaming.