A lifelong fan of professional wrestling, Koriander takes a look at the lighter side of the squared circle.
Angel Dust From the Sea
Wrestling fans who purchased the June 1984 issue of Wrestling All Stars Magazine may have been surprised by the cover that featured Billy Jack Haynes posing behind two beautiful models.
But little did anyone suspect that the model on the bottom-left side of the cover was about to become a household name.
Nancy Toffoloni had bold looks and a sharp mind. Before finding her footing in the squared circle on a grand stage, she had been seen in the pages of Sports Review Wrestling Magazine (under the name Para) and at wrestling shows in Orlando, Florida, handing out flyers and programs. Just weeks after that magazine with Billy Jack Haynes hit newsstands, Nancy found herself as a valet while she trained for competition.
In an iconic video where she rises from the ocean, she was first known as Angel Dust before having her ring name changed to Fallen Angel, taking on the moniker more than a decade before ROH and TNA legend Christopher Daniels.
As a member of the Army of Darkness faction, she was joined at various points by fellow wrestlers-turned-managers Sir Oliver Humperdink and future WWE Legacy Hall of Famer Luna Vachon.
Unlike other factions of the day, Army of Darkness was arguably the first nationally known "satanist" wrestling faction. Their members were donned goth-inspired gear and referenced the occult a full 14 years before The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness stable hit WWE's Raw Is War.
Zealous fans often threatened stable members, and some arenas were reluctant to allow the stable, though progress prevailed. They found themselves on the same cards as legends such as WWE Hall of Famers Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair.
For the next five years, Nancy, as both Devil Angel and Fallen Angel, would not be relegated to the sidelines.
Nancy would wrestle from time-to-time around the country, even feuding off and on with Debbie Combs less than a year after her debut in NWA Polynesian Wrestling, a legendary company run by the grandmother of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Lia Maivia. She had transformed the company from her late husband's Polynesian Pro Wrestling company and became one of wrestling's first female promoters.
On August 3, 1985, Lia Maivia would produce A (Polynesian) Hot Summer Night: The '85 World Invitational Wrestling Spectacular, which was a historic cross-promotional event that brought together talent from the NWA, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, and Jim Crockett Promotions, the latter of which would soon become the backbone of the WCW. On that historical night, Nancy, as the Fallen Angel, would face Debbie Combs in a women's street fight match, a type of violent spectacle that, at the time, was rare for men and unheard of for women.
They may not have realized it on that night, but this match would help set the stage for normalized hardcore matches for women more than 20 years later.
A Woman of Class
After five years in various NWA promotions and in the original Florida Championship Wrestling, Nancy would join WCW in 1989.
Her first appearances were as Robin Green, a cute, nerdy fan of Rick Steiner with a long ponytail and giant glasses. It was the complete opposite of her Fallen Angel persona, and wrestling fans didn't recognize her. This showed her adaptability and her dedication to the craft.
After a makeover from Missy Hyatt, fans gushed over the cute romance blossoming between Rick Steiner and Robin, cheering over the newcomer as she started to smile and strut as a valet for Rick and his younger brother Scott. However, she suddenly turned on the brothers and became the valet for Doom, which consisted of Butch Reed and Ron Simmons.
Soon, Nancy, now known as Woman, would accompany Ric Flair. But unlike Flair's other women, who were usually used as arm candy, Woman was a manager first and a valet second. Transforming herself yet again, Woman chose her words carefully and offered a fresh perspective and a clear mind to The Four Horsemen, showing the world that behind her ladylike demeanor and classic Hollywood looks, she was a cunning mind.
Leading The Way
In late 1993, Woman debuted for NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling, a smaller promotion out of Philadelphia.
Initially seen around The Tazmaniac (future AEW commentator Taz), she soon managed a very lost Sandman, who at the time was on the verge of a devastating breakup with wife Peaches, whom he had accidentally blinded in a wrestling match gone wrong.
Culling what she learned from her time as Fallen Angel, Woman got into the mind of The Sandman, convincing him that Peaches was seeing Tommy Cairo behind his back. She slowly began to cultivate a new personality out of him. Woman's guidance cultivated a tougher image from The Sandman, which he would carry through the 2020s.
On May 14, 1994, Woman returned to active competition to aid The Sandman in a tag team Singapore Cane Match at When Worlds Collide.
Soon after, Woman would lead The Sandman into a legendary feud with Tommy Dreamer, which would follow through the end of the year and through NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling's transition into Extreme Championship Wrestling.
She would sometimes feign leaving The Sandman behind from time to time, only to reappear weeks later, helping him score one victory after another.
By the end of 1995, Woman would lead The Sandman to both the tag team title with 2 Cold Scorpio and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, ensuring he was decorated with gold until he lost the tag team title at Holiday Hell December 29th, followed by the World Heavyweight title in January of 1996.
For a few weeks between January and February of 1996, Woman would be seen on both ECW and WCW programming, juggling being The Sandman's manager and being part of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage's entourage.
Woman would officially leave ECW by the end of February. By this time, she was now back with The Four Horsemen and joined Miss Elizabeth as valets to Ric Flair. However, she still acted as Flair's manager.
After a brief in-fighting with newcomer Debra McMichael, who appeared on-screen as a bully to Woman, Woman would manage a number of WCW talents.
One of her final semi-feuds with another female being was newcomer and future WWE Hall Of Famer Jacquelyn/Jacqueline, which resulted in the two being tethered together with a thick strap. This was soon used by them against the men who allowed them to be tied together.
Woman would continue to be a manager through May of 1997. By that June, however, Nancy was now completely retired from both in-ring competition and from being a manager and valet.
Nancy Toffoloni was a trailblazing renaissance woman. She used both her physical and mental strengths to take wrestling to new heights, and decades after her retirement, her gifts to the world of professional wrestling are still inspiring young women to class it up, use their minds, and challenge the norm in the squared circle.
© 2022 Koriander Bullard