Name: Judy Grable
Year Inducted: 2011
Though best known as “The Barefoot Contessa” for her lack of footwear, Judy Grable was one of the highest-flying of the women wrestlers of the 1950s and 1960s.
Nellya Baughman was born in Bolivar, Tennessee. She was the youngest in the family, with four older brothers and a sister. “I might as well have been the only girl,” she said in 1964 interview. “The last four years that I was at home my oldest sister was married, and my two oldest brothers were in service.”
A tomboy growing up, fishing, hunting, and playing sports with her brothers, Grable claimed to have wrestled a little at Grand Junction High. After her family moved to Florida, she became fascinated with the circus, and spent six months employed as an acrobat with Ringling Brothers. “It was after I fell off the high wire that I decided wrestling was for me,” she mused. “After all, in wrestling you have something to grab hold of.”
Debuting circa 1953, and working early as Peaches Grable, the blue-eyed, 5-foot-6, 137-pound dynamo made a name for herself with her in-ring action as much as by her looks. “She has developed an amazing acrobatic routine, replete with flying legs, fancy combinations such as cartwheels and drop kicks, and a specialty of the house with which she finishes off her opponents, a hold she discovered and calls the Kangaroo Flip,” ballyhooed a 1963 Wrestling Revue article. “It all adds up to an aerial attack of blazing intensity, meant to dazzle the audience and stun an opponent. She is tremendously successful at both.”
It was only natural that the blonde oppose the brunette, her trainer Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison). Here’s an account from a 1957 bout in Odessa, Texas: “Barefoot Judy kept the ever-loving fans screaming with joy as she beat a tattoo with her feet on Moolah. Moolah kept kicking Judy where no pretty lady should be kicked and the two girls demonstrated the best rough and tumble wrestling seen here in months. Judy kicked Moolah through the ropes into the appreciative laps of ringside spectators, adding to the general uproar in the Coliseum. Big Train Clements, referee of the night, was kicked, slugged and scrambled over by the girls to the delirious delight of the applauding audience. Moolah took the first fall, standing on the petite blonde’s fluffy hair, but Judy came back to win the second and third falls, and the hearts of the crowd.”
Also around that time, 1957 or so, Grable appeared on the high-profile quiz show What’s My Line?, clips of which still exist on YouTube.
By the early 1970s, Grable had married and settled near Seattle. Her last, brief run in wrestling came with Dean Silverstone’s SuperStar Wrestling promotion in 1974. With her husband employed as a linotype operator and compositor at the newspaper, Grable raised their children, then went back to school and graduated in 1978, and became a certified nursing assistant, working in a veteran’s home.
Grable died on May 11, 2008 at the age of 72.
— Greg Oliver