Miss Elizabeth: the death of the former Mrs. Macho Man, an icon from the mid-'80s rock & wrestling era, sends shock waves through the wrestling community - Wrestling Digest Tribute
By Cody Monk-- Wrestling Digest, August, 2003
YET ANOTHER WRESTLING ICON is gone.
Elizabeth Hulette, better known as Miss Elizabeth, the woman who defined the valet role and made it OK to be pretty and be in pro wrestling, died in the early morning hours of May 1 after Atlanta police responded to a 911 call at the condo of Larry Pfohl, known as former WCW worker Lex Luger. Hulette was 42.
Police took Hulette to a local hospital just after 5:30 a.m. local time where she later died. At press time, no official cause of death had been released and toxicology results won't be available until mid-June at the earliest. Police reports, however, indicate that Hulette had mixed vodka with painkillers that morning.
For most of today's core wrestling audience, Hulette was a large part of the early wrestling experience. As Miss Elizabeth in the mid- and late '80s in the then-WWF, Hulette was Macho Man Randy Savage's. manager. She also managed the Mega Powers team of Hulk Hogan and Savage, an angle that thrust her--and the valet role--into the limelight.
Hulette, who debuted in WWE in May 1985, was the first female of the new-look WWE. Her drawing power paved the way for future women to have major mainstream success. Though she was mostly silent in her WWE days, Miss Elizabeth was the gorgeous, petite brains behind Savage's brawny success. She didn't wrestle and didn't get intimately involved with Savage's matches. She was--plain and simple--eye candy. She was good at it, and the fans loved her for it.
Her presence meant there were always dollars around. Miss Elizabeth's drawing power gave WWE a non-wrestling gate attraction that elevated Savage into the massive face he was in the mid-'80s. Though she wasn't verbal, Hulette had an aura. She had charisma without being charismatic. She had presence without being the center of attention.
And, yet, she became the center of some of the best angles of that era. If Savage got involved with someone it was because that person had disrespected Elizabeth. The Mega Powers team eventually broke up, in the storyline, because Hogan began to want Elizabeth to accompany him to the ring and become a bigger part of his career. Yet, even though the storyline was built around Elizabeth, she wasn't the focus. The focus was on Savage and Hogan and their eventual match at Wrestlemania V. Elizabeth performed the role of valet perfectly. She helped make Savage a household name without thrusting herself into the spotlight, the ideal job description for a wrestling manager.
And it was a formula WWE was able to use over and over. Three years later, the Savage-Ric Flair feud concluded with a match at WrestleMania VIII, with Elizabeth being the reason the two got at each other initially. Many remember the great match Flair and Savage put on, but few remember that Elizabeth was the one who put so much heat on the angle.
Those who remember Elizabeth well during those days likely weren't looking for the kind of matches WWE now makes DVDs out of. Elizabeth was a nice person to look at and WWE promoted her as such. It was such a novel concept at the time because of the way the role the female, to that point, had played in the business.
There were some fairly attractive women wrestlers in the days before Elizabeth. But, that was their main gig. They were wrestlers. Elizabeth was not a wrestler, but she was far from fairly attractive. She had runway model looks to go along with the kind of mysterious presence that made fans always wonder what it was that made her so alluring. Was she really the brains behind Savage's sudden success? What made her seem so classy? What was she really thinking and doing at ringside? No one knew, and it was never explained. And that's why it worked.
Elizabeth used that mystery to become a draw, but she deflected the attention on Savage and his heel counterparts. She played the damsel in distress perfectly. When an opponent went after Elizabeth, she didn't try to fight back. She didn't use a finishing move like so many women who accompany wrestlers to the ring do today. Her character had never been inside a wrestling ring, and that's the way it stayed. Her job was to stand around and look pretty. Savage's job was to protect.
Hulette eventually married Savage both in the wrestling world and the real world. Though they divorced after eight years, the wrestling marriage lasted longer. Hulette left WWE in 1992, the year she and Savage divorced, and stayed out of the business for four years. When Savage went to WCW in 1996, Miss Elizabeth wasn't far behind. She was never comfortable alongside Savage during his heel phases, but she was always associated with him, despite the two not having an out-of-the-ring relationship. She tried to adjust to the heel valet, giving her guys shoes to hit referees or opponents with, but it never fit her well.
A Frankfort, Ky., native, Hulette retired from wrestling in June 2000 and moved to Tampa, where she married a local lawyer. She was divorced within a year, which is when she began her relationship with Pfohl, whom she had known for several years.
Miss Elizabeth wasn't a physical presence. She wasn't a verbal presence. But, she had the kind of striking looks and presence that gave her an aura. It was an aura that helped WWE earn massive amounts of money. And it was the kind of presence that today allows Trish Stratus, Sable, Jazz, Ivory, Torrie Wilson, Stacey Keibler, et al., to make the kind of living they do.
Before Elizabeth, Jazz and Ivory would likely have jobs because they are such good workers. Wilson, Keibler, Sable, and even Stratus, however, likely would not. Though all have wrestled and continue to work, none came into the business as a worker. They all worked the pretty face-valet angle that Elizabeth created. Had they come in trying to work without someone like Elizabeth blazing the trail before them, they would have been laughed at Beautiful, petite, and having nothing to offer in the ring didn't translate into gigs before Elizabeth made those things en vogue.
Now, those women have pay-per-matches, are marketed both on their own and as a group, and have enough of a mainstream media presence that Playboy magazine keeps knocking on WWE's front door.
It's time for those women to line up and give thanks. Their paycheck every couple of weeks come because a pretty, little Kentucky girl made it cool to be beautiful and in pro wrestling.
Now, a true pioneer of the business is gone. She will be sorely missed.
What Others Had to Say
Here is a collection of some of the reactions around the wrestling world to the death of Miss Elizabeth:
"I am deeply
saddened by this news, and our thoughts
and prayers are with Elizabeth's family."
--Macho Man Randy Savage, in a statement
on his Web site
saddened to hear of the death of Elizabeth
Hulette. Miss Hulette played the very
popular character of Miss Elizabeth in
WWE from 1985 to 1992. She finished her
career at WCW, from January 1996 through
January 1999. We at WWE send our sincere
condolences to Miss Hulette's family."
--Official WWE statement
"I had nothing but
respect for her. I think she carried herself
in a very respectful way during the years
I knew her. It's sad to see a person that
young die. It's such a waste. Maybe these
[recent wrestling-related] deaths start
opening some eyes and change some lifestyles.
Maybe it's not all in vain."
--James Myers, a.k.a. George "the Animal"
Steele, quoted on the Web site "Slam!
"She was always nice and quiet. She stayed
to herself, I guess it was because she was with Randy all of
the time. I never saw her take a drink, so it's all pretty shocking
to me. I could never say a bad thing about her." --James
Harris, a.k.a. Kamala, quoted on "Slam! Wrestling"