Women’s Wrestling: Celebrating LuFisto, A Legendary Pioneer Of The Sport

Photo credit: Rob Brazier / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Photo credit: Rob Brazier / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images /

In late February, veteran French-Canadian wrestler LuFisto announced her retirement due to a long-standing knee injury. Women’s wrestling will miss one of its greatest advocates when she hangs up her boots.

LuFisto, the 39-year-old veteran wrestler from Quebec, announced in late February that 2019 would be the last year she’d wrestle.

In a personal Facebook post, LuFisto outlined a right knee injury she first sustained back in 2002, after which she returned to wrestling just a short few months later.

"“I couldn’t say I was hurt and I wanted to prove wrong everyone who doubted me and laughed at me for wanting to be an equal to my male colleagues,” LuFisto said in the Facebook post."

The knee, according to LuFisto, never healed correctly, and she had ignored aches and pains that warned her something was seriously wrong. She was essentially wrestling with no ACL, MCL or meniscus ever since that first injury, according to the legend, and the cartilage in her knee deteriorated severely to the point where “the joint looks like an 80-year-old knee”.

LuFisto further damaged the right knee after she suffered a sprain from falling down some stairs. The long-standing injury kept her from performing in the Femme Fatales 21 card, and caused her to cancel further bookings.

She ended the post by stating 2019 will be her last year wrestling, as she intends to retire from the industry. LuFisto claims she’ll need a full knee replacement before she turns 50, which could affect walking and other important daily activities.

The news comes as a blow to fans who treasure LuFisto as a women’s wrestling advocate.

The First Lady of Hardcore first started training when she was 17 years old, and debuted in Quebec, her home territory, under the name Lucifer. She’s been active since, making her tenure 21-years long, where she participated in 599 matches and fought against an outstanding 393 different opponents, per WrestlingData.com. But databases don’t keep track of all the matches, and LuFisto reached out to inform us that she’s been in an astounding 830 matches throughout her career.

She once fought in a match at Women Superstars Uncensored that lasted over 30 minutes, and has competed against and with the likes of Adam Cole, Amazing Kong, Candice LeRae, Gail Kim, Amber O’Neal, Jade, Jordynne Grace, Kevin Owens, Mickie James, Tessa Blanchard, Taya Valkyrie, Toni Storm, and Viper. If you ever worked in an independent circuit, male or female, you faced LuFisto in the ring.

But, LuFisto contributed so much more than startling facts and data. She was, and will continue to be, a significant pillar for women’s wrestling, and the struggle women have to just be treated equally.

Her path for equality started in June 20, 1997 with her first match in Quebec, winning two male championships in her career before later joining ETWA Pro Wrestling in 1999. Despite not having any other women to wrestle in the promotion, which was unwilling to fully promote her matches against men, she slowly helped bring much-needed change to the scene.

During her early years in the Canadian circuit, LuFisto won the Ultimate Wrestling Alliance’s Cruiserweight Championship in 1998 – one of those titles previously held by men – and became the first woman in Quebec to win a male championship, which she did at ICW, defeating Serge Proulx for the ICW Provincial Championship, developing the hardcore style there that she would be known for in her later years.

She participated in intergender wrestling, and even fought against the Ontario Athletics Commission, pleading with them to drop the regulation that prevented women and men from wrestling each other. She filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, who convinced the OAC to drop the regulation. OAC changed the laws preventing intergender wrestling, and LuFisto swiftly became a legend for women’s wrestling equality. She would move on to a lists of “firsts” in Canada, including winning the first deathmatch tournament in Canada, and becoming the first female to wrestle inside a Cage of Death for Combat Zone Wrestling.

Her trail-blazing continued when she traveled south to the states, where she became the first-ever female CZW Iron Man Champion, defeating Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens) in Philadelphia in Aug. 2006. Then, later that year, LuFisto made huge waves stateside, after she started working with Shimmer, debuting in a match with Mercedes Martinez on Oct. 22, 2006 that ended in a standing ovation. Her match against Cheerleader Melissa on July 5, 2008 received a similar reaction from wrestling fans in attendance, and it was named Shimmer’s “Match of the Year”.

In Jan. 2007, LuFisto announced she would take, in her words to us, “an indefinite hiatus” from wrestling due to a back problem that was affecting her in-ring movement, and would forfeit her CZW Iron Man Championship. However, a short seven months later, she would return to wrestling at an Association de Lutte Féminine (ALF) show in Montreal, facing Kacey Diamond, then participated in IWS’s Blood, Sweat and Beers a few months later.

Several years later, in 2009, tired of seeing the glaring differences between how men and women wrestlers were being treated, LuFisto paired with Stephane Bruyere to act as administrators for an all-new, all-female Canadian wrestling promotion called nCw Femmes Fatales. There, she worked with the likes of Sara Del Rey, and in April 2010, LuFisto suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) after a match; she told us this was caused by an atrial septum defect she was born with and that required surgery a year later.

This “mini-stroke” wouldn’t stop her, as LuFisto decided to continue her career in the sport she loved, and in Oct. 2010, became the first nCw Femmes Fatales Champion.

LuFisto created “firsts” and broke records wherever she went. In the Mexican independent circuit, LuFisto won the Lucha POP Women’s Championship in her debut with the promotion. In 2012, she debuted with WSU, and faced another legend, and her greatest rival, Mercedes Martinez, for a 30-minute time limit draw at Full Steam Ahead in Oct. 2012.

In Feb. 2013, LuFisto debuted at SHINE, which would become the promotion she was known most for. After five years with the company, LuFisto announced in June 2018 that she would have to vacate the championship due to health reasons. She would detail issues with dealing with cancer, the deaths of several loved ones, stress from bills, and the need for surgery as reasons she would have to walk away from the title. She would state that she was walking away because she felt a champion should be able to defend their title, and because she was not able to, she felt it right to forfeit the belt. She wouldn’t elaborate in fear of negative reaction, but she would cancel bookings at SHINE 52 and Beyond Wrestling. At SHINE, she holds the record as the longest-reigning Shine Champion ever, with a reign lasting 526 days.

LuFisto would return to work several promotions, but the health issues would catch up with her, resulting in her retirement announcement.

Not only has LuFisto been dedicated to her profession, but to the furthering of women in sports being treated fairly. LuFisto created firsts for women and fought battles ensuring women over an entire territory would get equal opportunities. On top of that, she held a whopping 22 titles from 18 different promotions.

LuFisto stood toe-to-toe with some of the greatest female and male wrestlers the world can offer, and overcame struggles inside and outside the ring to prove that women can do it just as well. She dedicated over two decades of her life, forgoing a desire to raise a family, and battled with personal injuries and demons to help make women’s wrestling what it is today.

Women wrestlers for generations to come will cite LuFisto as a professional who gave them hope that they could accomplish what any male wrestler could, and that fight for equality in wrestling started way before WWE coined the “Women’s Evolution”.

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LuFisto’s retirement shouldn’t be framed as a “loss” for women’s wrestling, but it is true that it will leave a mark on an industry that is saddened to see her leave. Women wrestlers and journalists alike will always regard LuFisto as one of the true legends.