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A tribute to Rhonda Singh/Monster Ripper
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-08-04

The Greatest Canadian Woman Wrestler of All Time

For the young fans out there who only knew of her as the WWF's fat broad comedy figure Bertha Faye, please read this column about the greatest Canadian Woman wrestler of all time, and try to understand how in bridging between 2 era's in pro wrestling history, her legend undeservedly fell through the cracks.

The wrestler known as Rhonda Singh passed away on July 27, 2 days short of 22 years after becoming World Woman's Champion as a teenager. The woman Rhonda Sing, knew from childhood she wanted to be a wrestler. A lot of us growing up in the 60's felt that way. But she accomplished so much more, so much faster, than any of our peers, that in preparing a tribute to her, I was struck by how little is understood about the magnitude of her career, and how tough and dedicated she was to her lifelong dream.

Rhonda literally grew up at the Stampede shows with her family, front row regulars in the era of Dave Ruhl, Tiger Tomasso and Dan Kroffit. She saw NWA World Champions like Dory Funk Jr. and Jack Brisco. In that era wrestling was a sport and we all believed. At age 16, Rhonda, a heavyset girl who believed, began training with Mildred Burke.It was the best and only break Rhonda really needed.

Burke was the greatest woman champion of all time, a carnival shooter who drew 19,000 people in 1941 for a Louisville, Ky. match against Elvire Snodgrass, and carried the woman's division for 2 decades in North America despite the best efforts of her husband, Billy Wolfe, to break her. Mildred was never bested by June Byers, Fabulous Moolah or any of the others who became more well known. She was like the Lou Thesz of women wrestlers. Rhonda paid her own way to train in California with Burke, giving herself 3 months.

In the early 70's Burke had began suppling talent to an-all woman's promotion in Japan, AJP, a country where Burke was revered. After 6 months, perhaps rushing Rhonda because her size and toughness gave her a unique gimmick for that time, Burke sent her over. In her first match, in the toughest and most competitive environment in women's wrestling history, in a foreign country, Singh was put over. I think she might have been 17 years old. Like Terry Gordy, she had what it took.

"They kicked the shit out of me" she told Slam!Wrestling writer Stephen Laroche earlier this year. The established Japanese girls did not respect the way a green monster was booked to win from the start, and took it out on her. (That booking was the way Inoki often got steam behind monster/shooter male opponents to build gates). Next time you hear some green ungrateful backyard wannabe cry about how wrestling hurts, imagine what Rhonda went thru, all alone in Japan, and tell the geeks to grow up.

On July 29, 1979, Rhonda, as Monster Ripper, defeated Jackie Sato to win the WWWA women's title. In retrospect, by winning such a major title so soon in her career, and more impressively while still a teenager, makes Rhonda a phenom like Kurt Angle is nowadays. The magnitude of that accomplishment has been lost in the mist of time past.

Her hard hitting style and ability to pace a match was the inspiration for later characters in the 80's. This is before the Crush Girls and Jumping Bomb Angels era of Japanese women's wrestling. Monster Ripper was the inspiration for Bull Nakano and Dump Matsumoto. She also made her mark in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

A Long Downhill Road

Sadly, by the time she returned to Calgary in 1986, that territory was already going downhill. But Rhonda had come home, was a top worker, and never had a locker room problem in a promotion with a bad reputation for it, basically because she was one of the boys. Everyone respected Rhonda. Believe me, no one tried to cut the legs off her gear, shave her eyebrows off or toothpick her car door locks.

The Bertha Faye part in WWF she is best known for, as a comedy foil to Harvey Whippleman in 1995, was a blight on her career. "You felt you were pimping yourself out...like a prostitute for Vince Mcmahon." The WWF saddled her in a program with the female version of the All-American Lex Luger, Alundra Blaze, much better known as Madusa. "She sort of sabotaged everything" in conversations with the office. Rhonda also didn't think much of her opponents in-ring repetoire.

In 1999 Rhonda made a brief foray into WCW, where she enjoyed her stay and her most memorable bout was carrying the very frightened Miss Elizabeth in her first-ever match, in a scenerio where Liz was being punished by Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo for her association with Luger. By then, being a big tough broad was not seen as a draw and her career came to an end.

I spoke to Rhonda on the phone a few times when I was to go to Mexico in 1989, and she was put on the phone by a mutual friend. She urged me to come down soon and party. I'm sorry to say I never did meet her. Many of my friends travelled with her and some wrestled with and against her. I never heard a bad word about her. I am having a hard time understanding why so many of my contemporaries in the business are dying at such a young age. She was only 40. Believe me, that is still young.

Do not let anyone remember Rhonda Sing as a WWF trailer park comedy character or as a WCW footnote. She was a brave, courageous Canadian teenager with a burning dream, burnished by the heat of the Hart's vanquishing their foes week after week at the Pavilion in Calgary. She was a great pro as a wrestler, both in and out of the ring, and deserves the total respect in her passing that she got from her opponents across the rings in Japan, Mexico, and North America.

Rest in peace, Rhonda.

Thanks to Slam!Wrestling for quotes from Rhonda's past interviews with them


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