On Monday, WWE announced one of its most intriguing Hall of Fame selections in years: Lisa Moretti, known as “Ivory” to most fans.
For those who insist on reading WWE Hall of Fame inductions as a handing out of carrots to good boys and girls or a sinister attempt to twist wrestling history into official narrative, this is about GLOW. The cross-demographic popularity of the eponymous Netflix show has created the biggest mainstream non-WWE wrestling buzz in a decade, and for cynics, putting the former Tina Ferrari in their Hall of Fame is WWE’s attempt to co-opt something organic into its increasingly unshapely amoeba.
All of that might be true to some degree. However, even if you throw out the phenomenon that was GLOW in the 80s and the phenomenon that is GLOW on Netflix today, Moretti is richly deserving of a place in any wrestling hall of fame due to her contributions during WWF’s Attitude Era. Both GLOWs aside, Ivory is a hall of fame wrestler.
From 1999 to 2001, Ivory was the undeniable centerpiece of the WWF Women’s Division (remember: Chyna was an established star in the men’s midcard for most of her run). However, being the centerpiece meant something much different during the Attitude Era than it does today. Today, Charlotte is the hub of the wheel, and her job is to bring prestige to the title, make every defense feel like a big match, and embody the greatness of the division as champion. In 1999, when Ivory was on top, captaining the Women’s Division involved a lot more plate spinning. It meant protecting the dignity of 70-plus year old legends of the business when nobody else cared to; it meant being asked to hold down three- and four-person matches in which nobody else was a trained wrestler; it meant cultivating and carrying around a kind of angry, sexually-charged crowd heat that no performer or professional should have to deal with. In this way, Ivory was quietly one of the MVPs of the late Monday Night War period.
Ivory was athletically head and shoulders above her competition until rather late in her WWF/WWE run, but in reality, her promos were what made her truly special. Moretti had the brilliantly heelish ability to hold a mirror up to the fans and explain how they were the low-down, miserable ones and she was the only person in the building with a sense of decency. Her words weren’t easy to laugh off in the way that “All the sports teams from this town are lousy, and all the people are ugly” heel promos are. When she told fans that coming to a wrestling show to cheer for boobs was sexist, it got real heat because it made people uncomfortable with themselves. By calling out the problems of the era in a confident, authoritative way, Ivory brought an authenticity to the show that made her an undeniably strong woman and the ideal heel for the time.
In fact, Ivory’s ability to make people feel uncomfortable may have a lot to do with why her arrival in the WWE Hall of Fame has been somewhat less heralded as those of Trish Stratus, Lita, and even Jacqueline. All those characters were “fun” and openly invited the projection of a certain kind of male fantasy. Ivory, on the other hand, was “no fun,” and portrayed herself as a major threat to the sexy status quo. Wrestling fans have grown addicted to wrestlers loving them back, and Ivory is a hall of fame heel because she refused to play that game.
One of the great aspects of the WWE Hall of Fame is that it actively invites fans to take a break from arguing about weekly storylines to instead argue about wrestling history. Lisa Moretti’s induction this year is an opportunity to reassess the WWF Women’s Division of the Attitude Era and find new heroes from a time we’ve thankfully moved on from.