In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine what women's wrestling was like in the beginning.
Today, most of the female wrestlers are mosty valets, managers, and divas. Women wrestlers were sexy but not just sex objects like they are now.
Penny Banner is a true legend in Woman’s Wrestling. In my opinion, she is also an outstanding role model for young girls, or any young woman looking to go in to professional wrestling.
Penny Banner has led a truly amazing life. She faced many hardships as well as having great accomplishments. She also went on 3 dates with Elvis Presley, 5 years before he went into the armed services!
Penny Banner was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 11,1934. Her birth name was Mary Ann Kostecti. As a young girl she had to endure many hardships. She over came it all, to become one of the greatest women, in professional wrestling history.
When Mary Ann was 11 years old her parents had got divorced. Mary Ann ended up spending the next 9 months in to St. Vincent DePauls Orphanage. After that, she went in to a US Government housing community called Peabody Terrace, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Later she left high school so she could go to work to help her mother support her siblings. Her father wasn’t around.
When Mary Ann was 16 years old she met a man named Blackie. He was 5 years her senior. Blackie tried to rape her nightly. She was contacted by the FBI in order to aid in his arrest. Which she did!
After that ordeal, she had to go into hiding at the age of 16. Mary Ann became a Governess of 3 children. The family had weight equipment in the basement were she started working out. She also started taking Judo. She wanted to be able to take care of herself in case Blackie ever came looking for her.
Once she had developed her Judo skills. Mary Ann was doing local TV demonstrations, to show her power and skill, in the art of Judo. She earned a reputation for being a powerful athlete and having the looks of a starlet.
Mr. Sam Muchnick at was the President of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He had heard about Mary Ann’s Judo demonstration and how she was tossing around several American service men.
Sam was always looking for new emerging female talent for the NWA. He tried several unsuccessful attempts to get her to come and watch some womens wrestling matches. She declined the offer because she preferred to compete in conventional sports.
It is unknown how Sam convinced Mary Ann to accept a training assignment at Billy Wolfe’s School of Woman Wrestling in Columbus, Ohio. After a couple sessions it was he had seen her potential as a female wrestler. He also felt she was every bit the equal to such stars as June Byers and Mildred Burke.
It didn’t take long for Mary Ann to know what she wanted to do. After she realized the intellectual and physical aspects of tactical wresting, she was ready to go.
By Mary Ann’s second match she decided to changed her name to Penny Banner. She would later go on to explain the reason she chose this name. "Penny" because she was 19, and felt insignificant. "Banner" because it was Charlton Heston’s character in the movie Arrowhead. He is her favorite actor.
Penny’s career lasted for 23 years; starting in 1954, and ending in 1977. In the last 20 years of her career she never lost a match by pin fall. She decided to retire because of a lack of competition.
Penny had goained several titles in her career. Her first was the NWA’s Woman’s Title holder. To this day, it's the most important woman’s title in the history of woman’s wrestling.
She also went on the win the first ever AWA Women’s Title. It was decided in a battle royal style match. Her other titles include Texas Woman’s Champion, 3 time Ladies Tag Team Champion, and 3 Time Canadian Ladies Tag Team Champion.
Penny was married for a couple of years before she retired. She has 1 daughter. She was married for 35 years and is now divorced. She works as a real estate agent in North Carolina, where she is now living.
Penny is still a very active athlete. She participates in the Senior Olympics in several events including swimming, discus, shot put, and hammer throw. Penny also holds the “weight Pentathalon Record” in the North Carolina Masters for the years of 1995, 1996, and 1997.
She also does a lot of youth volunteering.Such as work with 4H. She also raises horses and competes in rodeo events such as barrel racing.
Ric Flair's mother Kay suggested to Penny that she should write a book. Penny had thanked her for the suggestion, but told her she just didn’t have the time. It wasn’t until later when she met up with her old friend Gerry, who also suggested she write a book, that she decided to do it.
Penny’s book came out on August 2,2004. It’s called Banner Days.
I think it will be a great read!