Name: Cora Combs
Year Inducted: 2007
Induction Category: Women's Division
Born into a family of coal miners in Hazard, Kentucky on March 17, 1923,
Cora Svonsteckik had plans to leave the Appalachian range known as the Great
Smoky Mountains. While attending high school, she was a star on the girls'
track team and won honors in the high jump category. When Svonsteckik
graduated, she ventured to Nashville, Tennessee with the dream of singing at
the Grand Old Opry. Her vocal talents were good enough to become apart of a
country western group known as the Trail Riders.
During her time away from singing, Cora attended wrestling matches at the
famous Hippodrome in Nashville. It was her first exposure to live
professional wrestling and she was easily drawn to the spectacle. Here Cora
witnessed the acclaimed Women's World Champion Mildred Burke. In 1949, Cora
was able to get in the backstage area and meet Nashville promoter Nick Gulas,
who introduced her to renowned women's wrestling promoter and trainer
Billy Wolfe. Cora brought her singing career to an end and moved to
Columbus, Ohio to begin an intense training regime at Wolfe's wrestling
school. It was not long before she was on the road seeing many parts of
the country and wrestling some of the greats of the sport.
Combs' association with Billy Wolfe ended with the split between Wolfe and
Mildred Burke. In the early 1950's, Cora opted to join the ranks of Burke's
World Women's Wrestling Association (WWWA), which lead to the immediate rise
of her career. In addition to wrestling all over the United States, Combs
competed in Canada, Mexico, Japan, pre-Castro Cuba, the Fiji Islands, and
Nigeria. A wrestler with a wide variety of moves and holds, Cora had
exciting matches with many greats including Mildred Burke, Mae Young, The
Fabulous Moolah, Kay Noble, June Byers, Mary Jane Mull, Jessica Rogers,
Nell Stewart, Ida May Martinez, Gladys Gillman, and many others. In 1967,
she was proclaimed the United States Women's Wrestling Champion after a
reported series of elimination matches.
Her most famous match was on March 3, 1972 in New York City. She and
Princess Ti Ti (Chi Chi Paris aka the Black Dragon) were the first
professional female wrestlers to have a match in New York State. The match
was covered by major television and radio stations and also several print
media outlets throughout the city. After breaking the fifty-year ban on
women's wrestling in the Empire State, Combs continued to wrestle and signed
with a new wrestling promotion based out of Cleveland called the
International Wrestling Association (IWA), which was operated by Pedro
Martinez and Eddie Einhorn. In the IWA, Combs dawned a new look by wearing a
mask and wrestled as Lady Satin. In the mid 1970's, Combs' daughter Debbie
joined the ranks of s professional wrestling. Cora and Debbie then formed
the only mother-daughter tag team duo in wrestling history.
Cora was considered one of the best-dressed women in the wrestling business.
Her ring attire, which was made by her sister, consisted of a wide variety of
colorful jackets and robes. Combs differentiated herself from her competition
and established new ground for female wrestlers. Cora's career spanned from
1949 to 1985. Combs has appeared in two movies, one with Ann Margaret. She
has also appeared in twenty-four music videos. Today, she enjoys her
retirement in Nashville with her husband and family and is an avid gardener.
- Tom Burke