Five WWE Stars Who Appeared in Playboy Magazine
There was a time in WWE when women’s wrestling wasn’t focused on actual wrestling. Instead, there was more concern about sex appeal for its male audience, with incredibly sexist match stipulations. There were bikini contests, lingerie matches, fulfill your fantasy matches, wet n’ wild matches, pillow fights, and bra and panties matches. It was an awful time for women in wrestling. Their bodies were exploited for the male audience’s pleasure, with focus on appearance rather than who the best wrestler was. It seemed like there was never a normal wrestling match between two women — it always had a sexist stipulation. Thankfully, those days seem to be mostly behind us. During that time, many WWE stars looked for more avenues of success. Some of them turned to Playboy Magazine to help further their career in a sexist male-dominated professional wrestling industry.
Torrie Wilson was on the cover of Playboy twice. She first appeared in the magazine in 2003 and just a year later appeared on the cover with Sable. Her appearance on the cover sparked a feud with Nidia, who was jealous of her. Some of the feuds were intertwined with being on the cover of Playboy. Wilson and Funaki defeated Nidia and Jamie Noble to give Wilson the right to be on the cover of the magazine.
Maria Kanellis was on the cover of Playboy in 2008. She entered the WWE during their diva search. Just like many other female wrestlers of the time, she had her share of sexist matches that focused on removing lingerie. Maria beat Beth Phoenix to give her the cover of the magazine. However, she got into a fight with WWE about the cover. Maria wanted her photoshoot to be more fashion-forward, but WWE told her they wanted the photoshoot to be “more sexy.”
Sable was on the cover of Playboy in 1999. She became the first woman to be on the cover twice in the same year. After being in WWE for a couple of years, her character started to become more sexual. Like many female wrestlers during the time, she competed in sexist matches and dressed more sexually. Sable was also the company’s first wrestler to be in Playboy Magazine.
Christy Hemme appeared on the cover of Playboy in 2005. She was a former burlesque dancer and model before joining WWE in the diva search. She made her WWE debut in a lingerie pillow fight against Carmella DeCesare. Hemme’s Playboy photoshoot was the first time she ever posed nude. The cover was a part of WWE-related issues of Playboy Magazine. Hemme’s cover sparked a feud with women’s champion, Trish Stratus during the time.
Chyna was on an issue of Playboy Magazine in 2000. She is the most dominant female wrestler of all time. She often competed with the men in WWE and even won the Intercontinental Championship twice. According to Anthony Anzaldo, her former manager, Chyna turned down an opportunity to become WWE Champion. Vince McMahon reportedly offered her the WWE Championship, but she couldn’t do Playboy. Chyna turned down the offer and did Playboy. Her Playboy Magazine is a top three selling of all time, according to Anzaldo.
Women in the professional wrestling business went through some awful times. Their bodies were exposed for the pleasure of the male audience. It is a shame what they had to go through for so long. Thankfully, it seems like we have moved past that, and the women of wrestling are finally getting to showcase their skills and build some equality in the business.
We have been getting some first-time women’s matches over the past few years, including a women’s royal rumble, a women’s Money in the Bank match, Iron-Woman matches, and main-eventing WrestleMania. We even got the first-ever all-women pay-per-view in WWE. I think WWE took a big leap when they finally dropped the term “Diva” for female wrestlers. I think the future is bright for females in the sport and I’m excited to see all the amazing matches that come from it.