"The death of Rhonda Singh (family friend/lady wrestler)"
by Bret Hart -- Bret Hartís Calgary Sun Column - August 4, 2001
"This was one of the best territories anyone could work
in. The people you met in Calgary are still your friends.
Everyone had a good time." -- Rhonda Singh
Rhonda Singh, a.k.a. Monster Ripper, Stampede Wrestling
women's champion circa 1987, passed away at her home
in Calgary on July 27. She was 40.
I've known Rhonda since we were kids at the matches.
Her mother had front-row seats for 20 years. "When we
were good, she'd let us go to wrestling," Rhonda told
me years ago. When I grew up and became a wrestler,
there was Rhonda still cheering from ringside.
During a family vacation to Hawaii in 1978, she saw
Japanese women's wrestling on TV and decided that's
what she wanted to do. At 16, she approached my family
looking for instruction and didn't get it. I'm not sure
why but it likely had more to do with the schedule at
the time than anything else. Months later, Rhonda sent
a bio and photo to women's wrestling legend Mildred
Burke. Upon being accepted, she took off for Burke's
training facility in Encino, Calif. After only a few
weeks, she was spotted by a scout who hired her on the
spot despite how green she was.
A mere two months later, she was main eventing in Japan
and it should be acknowledged Rhonda Singh was the first
Calgary-born wrestler to make it big internationally
-- long before any of the Hart boys did. When Rhonda
came to the WWF in 1995 as Bertha Faye, she told me
the Japanese lady wrestlers had given her a hard time
years earlier because they weren't used to losing to
In 1979, the Dynamite Kid, who was born and trained
in England, was working for Stampede Wrestling. Stu
would loan Dynamite to New Japan and one time Dynamite
met Rhonda on a tour there. He told her: "Don't take
it any more. Once you defend yourself, you'll earn their
respect." That's a lesson I too learned the hard way
in my early days in Japan. I could appreciate where
she was coming from. Women wrestlers on the road usually
stick together but Rhonda preferred to hang out with
the boys, was always accepted and could hold her own
among what was a very colourful and feisty bunch.
My brother Owen played all kinds of jokes on Rhonda,
which she took as the compliment they were intended
to be, and the two struck up a friendship. When a well-known
woman wrestler bullied one of the young, new girls,
Rhonda put her in her place, which gained her respect
from the boys. Besides her easygoing nature, what I
found amusing about Rhonda in her WWF days was to me
she always looked like her persona, the mean Monster
Ripper, but wearing the cute little girl pigtails of
Bertha Faye. Sadly, most fans will remember Rhonda Singh
more for her brief role as one half of a low-class trailer-trash
couple with Harvey Whippleman, rather than for a number
of respected women's titles she won in various European
promotions. However, it did give Rhonda the chance to
work at Madison Square Garden, although in what she
called a goofy and restricted capacity. The office asked
her not to do the power moves on which she built her
reputation because the male wrestlers were using them,
so Rhonda was reduced to skipping around the ring blowing
kisses. She'd had enough after a year and left WWF,
surfacing three years later for a brief run in WCW,
during my time there.
I drove by Rhonda last week, saw her walking on Bow
Tr. I wish I hadn't been in such a hurry that day and
had stopped to say hello. It's sad when the roar of
the crowd fades, leaving too many wrestlers with memories
greater than their dreams.