Friday, July 14, 2017

The Professional Wrestler

She died in her third professional wrestling match at the age of 18.

Janet Georgia Boyer Wolfe was born on June 13, 1933, to Cyril and Selma Johnson Boyer of Orr, Minnesota, which is about two hours northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.  Janet wanted to become a professional wrestler and became a protege of Tony Stetcher, a Minneapolis wrestling trainer who has been inducted into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame.  

Janet was not a very big girl. When she first contacted Tony Stetcher, wanting to train with him, she was 5’3” and only weighed 120 pounds. [1]  He was reluctant to take her under his wing as he thought she was too small. She was able to increase her weight to 137 pounds, which he found to be more acceptable. In working with Stetcher, she showed an ability to possibly become a champion in women’s wrestling. [2]  Enter Billy Wolfe. 

Billy Wolfe was the manager of Mildred Burke, his wife, the current woman’s wrestling champion.  Because Janet showed such promise, she was sent to Billy and his wife in Columbus, Ohio, to be groomed for the professional ring.  In fact, Billy and Mildred adopted Janet before she turned 18; this was done with her mother’s permission. (Cyril Boyer died in 1946.) Thus, her professional name became Janet Boyer Wolfe.  

Janet’s professional career began in June 1951. She was one of 44 women who staged wrestling shows throughout the United States.  Prior to her death on July 28, 1951, Jane had won one match and lost one match. It was not unusual for women wrestlers at that time to have more than one match during the evening of the wrestling show; sometimes they were tag-team matches.

In her third professional appearance, she had been pinned in a bout with Ella Waldek and afterwards
complained about a headache. However, the "show must go on" as she was scheduled later that same evening for a tag-team match with Eva Lee as her partner against Waldek and Mae Young.  During the match, Janet was body slammed by Waldek; so, she tagged her partner, and upon leaving the ring proper, collapsed outside the ring on the apron. She died four hours later of a ruptured vein in her stomach and a blood clot between the brain and the lining of the brain in East Liverpool, Ohio. 

Waldek, Lee, and Young were arrested for Janet’s death with a pending charge of manslaughter. However, Janet’s death was ruled accidental.

Janet is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota; she is my husband’s, Jim Oliver, 3rd cousin. 

[1] "Janet Wolfe." The Team, n.d. Web. 14 July 2017. 
[2] "Girl Wrestler Killed in Bout." Minneapolis Tribune, 27 July 1951.


  1. What a sad story! Do you have any sense of what would have put the idea of be becoming a pro wrestler into Janet's head?

    1. I have no idea nor does my husband. However, professional wrestling was very popular in Minnesota in the late 1940s-early 1950s and maybe she saw this as a way to make money.

  2. That would make sense, particularly for a teenager.