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  June 23, 1999

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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

WOW! promises female-friendly wrestling

By ROBERT JABLON -- Associated Press

 INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- More women are ready to rumble.

Hammerin' Heather Steele, Beckie the Farmer's Daughter and GI Joan helped introduce a new women's wrestling federation Tuesday, promising role models for little girls and a more dignified way to bodyslam villains.

WOW, for Women of Wrestling, will be based at the Great Western Forum, former home of the basketball's Los Angeles Lakers and hockey's Los Angeles Kings.

Hoping for lucrative pay-per-view and cable TV action -- not to mention merchandising spin-offs such as action figures -- WOW plans to offer bouts next year, beginning in Las Vegas and leading up to a championship.

Women have been ill-treated in wrestling, said David McLane, WOW founder and creator of the successful Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

"They're a side show, they're almost treated as a peep show. They're nothing that I'd be proud to have a 9-year-old daughter watch. But WOW will be," he said Tuesday.

"So far, the only exposure that women have had on television on television is degrading, and it's embarrassing," said Selina Majors, WOW's main attraction with 13 years of wrestling experience.

WOW aims to show that "we're athletes, that we're not just thrown in there to make the men look good or to take our clothes off," she said.

Wrestling is hugely popular on TV but it has been taken to the mat lately. A $110 million federal lawsuit was filed this month against the World Wrestling Federation by former women's champion Sable.

The suit claims the business has become increasingly "obscene, titillating, vulgar and unsafe," and that Sable lost her championship after refusing to appear topless in a bout. The WWF called the suit "a smear job."

Another suit was filed by the widow of Owen Hart. Her husband died during a May 23 pay-per-view event when he fell more than 70 feet while being lowered to the ring on a steel cable.

McLane said he expects half his audience will be female and about 20 percent will be teens and youngsters.

Terri Gold, a 5-foot-tall, 105-pounder whose persona is a perky gymnast, said she liked the idea that "they made women out to be, like, superior."

"I don't feel like I'm a sex symbol," she added. "If they said, 'Well you have to walk around in a bikini and hold up signs' I'd be like, OK, see ya. You can't pay me enough to do that."

When she was approached for the job, her concern was 'Oh my God, we're gonna look like bimbos,"' but now it's "maybe like a 300-pound girl bodyslamming me."

Although a press release promises WOW will feature "young, attractive and athletic female wrestlers" -- and the evil Thug did bust into the news conference on a flame-embossed yellow Harley-Davidson -- McLane said nudity and extreme stunts are out.

"I don't think we need crazy stunts to draw television ratings or live appearances," he said.