Stacey’s Divas Deep Dive: Saint Molly of Minnesota

Now that my mission statements are out of the way I’m going to get into some lady wrestlers (well, talk about them at least) starting with one of my favourite people on earth, and one of yours too I should hope, the lovely and talented Molly Holly.

If the goal of a wrestler is to make the other guy look good, Molly Holly is one of the very best. She had the magic touch. There’s not a lot of wrestlers of whom you can say the entire standard of wrestling improved when they walked into the company, but Molly is one of them.

When she turned up in late 2000, things were not pretty. Lita and Trish were still as green as… something really green, Jacqueline and Ivory were around but not exactly having good matches, the focus on wrestling was as low as it ever was, and the woman on the roster who got the most shine was Stephanie McMahon. What I’m saying is, there wasn’t much wrestling going on in the ring. However, Molly debuted in WWF in November 2000 as a Holly cousin, jumped straight into the women’s division, and immediately things were looking up.

The women were working at a certain level beforehand, and then Molly would wrestle them and they would all look twice as good, as if by magic. Trish looks a bit lost in her first few months wrestling on television, not gonna lie. Then her and Molly wrestle on Smackdown this one time and she looks great, they have this fun little match and suddenly you see that potential in Trish to actually be something. And Molly grabbing someone who could go like Jacqueline and wrestling away on Heat or something is manna from heaven during this period of WWF and the women’s division.

As I went through this chronologically watching all the matches, the first one I even dared to call a good match was Molly and Lita dropping some bombs on each other on a Sunday Night Heat almost 10 months into my project. And the first match I felt was legitimately great was Molly Holly vs. Trish for the title at Unforgiven 2002. Molly is the driving force behind the women’s division developing and reaching these new levels of quality in the early 2000s. She literally lifts the standard of wrestling.

And not only that but it’s how she does it. She’s one of the great carriers, and made everyone look so damn good, no matter who they were. A bunch of women whom you’d never accuse of being any good in the ring, Molly took them by the hand and lead them through some astonishingly decent matches, and not just that but she made her opponent look good in the process, which is where the real skill lies as a wrestler I think.

There’s one match she has with Terri Runnels on Raw, for example. Terri, God bless her, was a terrible wrestler, she really had no business being in the ring. Molly grabs her one day and they work some holds and wrestle away for a hot minute, and this match is so flabbergastingly decent for a Terri match that I felt it spiritually. In my SOUL. I declared it a wrestling miracle and started calling her Saint Molly of Minnesota in my notes. She was out there doing the Lord’s work carrying the dorks of the world like this.

Like Jackie Gayda! Jackie, God bless her, was a terrible wrestler, in fact she’s best known for having a bad match, that infamous mixed tag on Raw with Trish and… two dudes, and it was two awful botches of Jackie’s that earned its reputation. Anyway the point is Jackie was no good, but don’t worry, Saint Molly to the rescue!

And it’s not even a match that Molly had against her, but they were tag team partners one week, and then Molly turned on her the week after (I guess because she sucks) and they get into this brawl. It starts backstage and they come out to the arena and go all around ringside and into the ring, and it’s this wild, intense thing outta nowhere. Molly beats the crap out of her and Jackie is fighting back and they’re trying to kill each other with a giant lead pipe… and Jackie Gayda never looked more like a wrestler than she does in this moment.

There are so many examples of Molly doing this with people. Chyna – they had a match on Smackdown and Molly is the only woman apart from Lita who got ANYTHING decent out of Chyna. Nidia – she didn’t set the world on fire during her run but Molly was one of the few who always had good matches with her. Torrie Wilson – Torrie always looked really good in there with Molly.

And my word, Ivory!

I went on record on PTBN social media during GWWE saying Ivory is the most mediocre wrestler I’ve ever seen. I just watched four years of her career and I still couldn’t tell you a single move of hers. She is impressively mediocre. But on the 4th of May, 2003, The Lord God sent his most humble servant, St. Molly of Minnesota, down to Raw. And St. Molly took Ivory by the hand, and… proceeded to beat the crap out of her arm and have this genuinely good wrestling match with Ivory based on arm work. Praise be.

And that’s something that Molly Holly did, and did well, more often than most of the women, and that’s targeting body parts, working the arm, working the leg. Last week I made the point that it’s hard to do limb work or sell a body part satisfactorily when the matches are so short, since there’s no time to really let that play out. Molly Holly said “To hell with that, time is a human construct!” (I imagine that she talks like me) and just did it anyway, and had a lot of good matches based on limb selling.

One of the best Trish and Molly matches has Molly attacking her neck like a madwoman. She takes Nidia’s arm home with her one day, on a Raw just after WrestleMania XX when she’s bald. Her and Jacqueline had roughly a million matches on Heat in 2002, and one of the best ones sticks out because Molly worked over Jackie’s leg so well.

And when she did work over something it was so good, because Molly was just so good on offense, mechanically speaking, and she would always make it really interesting. She wouldn’t just sit in a hold, she’d grab someone and snapmare them so their bad leg would hit the bottom rope, for example. Just little things like that – things that you can imagine Arn Anderson doing to a leg. Molly Holly is the Arn Anderson of the Divas. Think about it. They’re both from Minnesota. Both bald (at one point). And both are endlessly selfless, endlessly useful pro wrestlers.

But back to my original point, there is an interesting name to add to my list of carryjobs that might somewhat surprise you, and that’s Gail Kim. Now I preface this by saying that Gail Kim is definitely not a dork, she is a fantastic wrestler, and was a fantastic wrestler for a very long time. But when Gail first came to WWE in 2003? Not so much.

There was a bad confluence of events there, she was dead on arrival from the booking and had zero heat, but she was also botching things badly and not having good matches. It was just a bad time, so she quickly dropped the belt (to Molly, as it happens) and then turned heel and joined forces with her. They were a regular tag team for the next couple months.

Let me tell you, Gail before Molly and Gail after Molly are two completely different wrestlers.

She improved exponentially. They were a pretty good old school heel team and Gail visibly grows taller every week working with Molly. And of course because Gail was a worker, she was trained and athletic and eager, just super green, she took that crash course and aced it and then just ran with it. She was miles better in 2004 back on her own, and obviously she then went to TNA, they started the Knockouts division and the rest is history – Gail Kim is one of the very best wrestlers in the history of that company. But I think it’s pretty clear if you watch it that she was not having good matches until Molly got a hold of her.

That’s the beauty of Molly Holly the worker. That’s why it’s not always as simple as judging a wrestler by how many four star matches they had, or Great Match Theory, anything like that. Gail Kim went on to have a plethora of matches that were better than any match Molly ever had. I think the title match vs. Trish at Unforgiven 2002 might be Molly’s only truly great match. But that’s beside the point. When you watch these years, when you can see how Molly raises the bar, when you see how she brings everyone up to her level, how she makes everyone better, you can tell Molly was a special talent as a wrestler, in a way that not a lot of wrestlers are.

By the by, this woman has been retired since 2005, that is thirteen years ago, and in January she just walks out to the ring like Mighty Molly and nails a Molly Go Round and does her business like she had never, EVER left. She is phenomenal.

She was also phenomenally undervalued. The list of women who were wasted in this era that they could have done more with starts with “everyone” and goes from there, but Molly is a particularly egregious case. She only had seven singles matches in her career that went longer than five minutes. I mean, Molly Holly. You don’t give Molly Holly time to wrestle. Get in the garbage, WWE.

Even when she was holding the women’s title she was often pushed to the background for whatever Trish or whoever was doing. And of course for a big chunk of her run they ran that terrible angle where they called her fat and unattractive and a virgin, accompanied by truly some of the most hideous commentary ever heard, even by Divas standards. There were little kids holding signs in the crowd that said “Molly is fat!” for God sakes.

I’m not going to get into how misogynistic and disgusting all this bullshit is – if I stopped to make a Fuck This Company speech every time something sexist happened in the Divas era I’d never get to talk about any wrestling. So just assume that Fuck This Company is implied.

But the thing that gets me beyond that is that Molly spent all this time as a misogynist punchline, and as a heel, when really she was a tremendous babyface and should have had a much bigger run as one in the division. Those early years when she was doing things like the love story with Spike Dudley, that stuff was great and so cute, but she never really got to use that character in the women’s division much. When she does wrestle as a babyface she is so damn good, using her wrestling skill and busting out all these cool moves. The fact that she never got to have a babyface showcase against a 2004 heel Trish, or a Victoria when she got going, it makes me mad.

Plus Molly Holly is like the sweetest person in the entire universe, how could anyone possibly want to boo this girl?

You know, I’ve got through this whole thing and just sort of realised that Nora in real life is super religious and would probably hate me blaspheming all over this in the name of her wrestling career. I didn’t even mean it like that! I’m just trying to express how she made me feel, and that’s how it came out because I’m just in awe of what she was able to do. I already knew she was great beforehand, but she was still one of the biggest revelations to me of this project. I am endlessly impressed with Molly Holly.

So that’s my book on Molly. I’m submitting her list of wrestling miracles to the Vatican, I’ll let you know if I hear back. I’d love to hear back from you guys too, hit me up. You can find a list of the matches I’ve been talking about below if you want to check them out for yourselves.

Next time I’ll be making quite a leap, from the wrestling saint to a psycho killer who went on an all time violent rampage. Stay tuned.

Check it out:
Molly Holly vs. Chyna (SD, April 19th 2001)
Molly Holly vs. Lita (Heat, April 29th 2001)
Molly Holly vs. Terri (Raw, May 13th 2002)
Brawl with Jackie Gayda (Raw, July 1st 2002)
Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus – Women’s Title (Unforgiven 2002)
Molly Holly vs. Jacqueline (Heat, November 4th 2002)
Molly Holly vs. Ivory (Heat, May 4th 2003)
Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus (Raw, July 7th 2003)
Molly & Gail vs Trish & Lita (Unforgiven 2003)
Molly Holly vs. Nidia (Raw, March 29th 2004)

Author: Stacey O'Loughlin