Vivian St. John sadly passed away in 2013. Months before this, we had a chance to speak in what would become her final-ever interview. It was there where I would witness a miracle.
Legendary Wrestler Vivian St. John Opens Up Before Her Untimely Passing
Standing at six feet tall, Vivian St. John (or "Stretch," as her friends would call her) was a leather-clad, sunglass-wearing hellraiser.
Speaking of her pro wrestling comrade and WWE Hall of Famer, Sensational Sherri Martel, Vivian remembered, "I loved Sherri. She could cook a great steak and she taught me how to get a proper tan by putting cooking oil on our skin when we went tanning!"
St. John later added, "Sherri liked to have fun and get her hands dirty. One time, when she was in a 20-man mixed battle royal, I told her to not get in the middle of it. She didn’t listen and broke her leg. She drove [Fabulous] Moolah crazy so I always took her on the road with me. We would have a blast."
When younger, Vivian would go to pro wrestling matches in Florida. There, she would idolize pro wrestler Susan Tex Green.
"When I was young, I saw Sue Green wrestle. I felt that it was something I could do. I loved wrestling. Wrestler Harley Race gave me Moolah’s phone number so I could train with her. I paid Moolah $300 and she trained me. That first year I got my a** kicked!"
Because of her and Susan Tex Green’s matching tall stature, they were put together in a tag team together.
"[Susan] was a great worker and we worked well with each other," said Vivian, adding, "Sue and I had matching cowgirl vests for the gimmick. I was not much of a cowgirl but I loved working with Susan and she was easy to work with. She was amazing."
Although very new to the sport, Vivian was getting pushed to the top at a rapid pace due to having that "IT" factor promoters were looking for: looks, athleticism, and charisma. Vivian had that and more.
This caused heat with one wrestler.
"Vicki Williams put toes in my nose and kicked my a** for a year," St. John explained. "Finally, I learned the proper way to fight and take care of myself so that I could kick hers.
"Years later, I was in Georgia wrestling a bear and Vicki came to apologize to me. She had become a born again Christian."
Speaking of memorable moments in her career, Vivian remembered, "I was at the Superdome [in New Orleans], and I was chasing Leilani Kai. The audience just followed me.
"When I got into the hallway, there was a huge mass of people chasing me. I hid and eventually got out. I was very convincing. That’s what I liked. My favorite finishing move was causing a riot!"
Vivian continued, "Another memorable moment was when Peggy Lee, Leilani, Moolah and I sold out The Spectrum [in Philly]. There was a lot of energy in that arena. I had a really good time in my wrestling career. Not winning a title was fine by me because I enjoyed having fun."
Vivian worked for many promotions, including WWE (then the WWF), and was featured in a film as a pro wrestler with Bill Cosby called Mother, Jugs, and Speed. She can be seen in the movie trailer below:
Vivian St. John battled legendary female gladiators in the squared circle, such as The Fabulous Moolah, Leilani Kai, Wendi Richter, and Joyce Grable. Very much like Rowdy Piper, she had phenomenal talent and was never properly given a shot at a major title.
Ribs on the Road
Vivian was also legendary for some of the ribs and practical jokes she pulled during her years of wrestling.
"This one time when I was in the dressing room area, and Rocky Johnson was getting ready. I was bored, so I put a table in front of the dressing room door, jamming it so he couldn’t get out to the ring.
"Another time was when I was driving myself and Leilani to a show. She refused to get out of the car when I wanted her to, so I pulled up in the main parking lot, and I left her in the car.
"Back in those days, if a heel was riding with a face, it was forbidden to go in together, so you had to appear that you came in separate vehicles. I thought that was really funny. Of course, she didn’t think so. She dealt with me in the ring that night, but after Wahoo McDaniel handed me a beer, we had a laugh. Those were fun times," reminisced St. John.
Vivian St. John – Later Years
While filming the documentary Circle of Champions: The Real History of Women’s Pro Wrestling, directed by myself and ECW’s Angel Orsini, I was at the Gulf Coast Wrestling Reunion in 2013, months before her passing. During this time, I had a chance to meet her and witness a miracle.
At the time, Vivian was in a motorized scooter and arrived with her granddaughter, who she cherished dearly. Susan Tex Green, her former tag team partner, had not seen her in years and was outside the building for the reunion.
Green squinted, and this silver car pulled up. Getting out of the car was a tall thin woman wearing hot pink.
Vivian got into her motorized scooter, and Susan started to approach her like magic. Vivian locked eyes with Susan, and it was almost as if her scooter couldn’t go fast enough to meet her longtime friend.
Suddenly Vivian picked herself up and began to walk, nearly falling over in the process. Susan Tex Green caught and embraced her with a hug.
That year, Joyce Grable was getting inducted to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, which at that time was being held in Amsterdam, New York.
On Joyce’s induction, Vivian expressed, "She deserves it. [Joyce] has been around a long time. There aren’t that many lady wrestlers in the Hall of Fame. I don’t understand why there are not more female wrestlers inducted.
She added, "How hard could it be if they inducted all of us? A lot of women deserve to be in there."
In regards to modern-day pro wrestling, Vivian added: "There needs to be more wrestling."
In the second part of her life, Vivian dabbled in astrology and the occult and graduated from the New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences. She later became a well-known fortune teller adopting the name Lady Suzanne Miller.
She was heavily involved with the paranormal world and co-authored the book Curses And Their Reversals: Plus: Omens, Superstitions And The Removal Of The Evil Eye.
Vivian had a daughter named Nicole with wrestling legend Ron Starr and often spoke of how proud of her she was.
In the end, I got to know the person Vivian was, and as a person, she was incredibly funny and caring.
Speaking of the several life lessons and philosophies that she learned during her career, Vivian said, "start at the top and work your way down because it’s just as easy to start at the top. The bottom is too crowded."
She later added, "You got to be able laugh at life. That way, you win all the time."
In one of our final conversations, I asked her, "How does one become a pro wrestler?"
She sarcastically replied with a chuckle, "You have to be a sadomasochist and an exhibitionist to want to do pro wrestling!"
These stories may also interest you:
- Sherri Martel – Remembering a True Sensation
- Mildred Burke – Blazing Trails for Women in Wrestling
- Mae Young – The Rugged Pioneer of Women’s Wrestling
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