Though she's now blazing trails on dirt tracks rather than on wrestling mats, she's as dominant as ever
This is an article from the July 6, 2015 issue
ON A SUNDAY afternoon in Hamilton, Ont., the line across the dirt arena floor is four dozen long as fans wait to meet Madusa—Debrah Miceli on her driver's license but the Queen of Carnage around these parts. In two hours she will sit behind the wheel of her hot-pink monster truck, spinning donuts and smashing jalopies. It's all in a day's work at Monster Jam, the circuit in which she is a two-time champion. Among the event programs and miniature plush trucks toted by autograph hounds are reminders of Miceli's previous incarnation, as a pro wrestler: magazines, posters and, emblazoned across one man's sky-blue T-shirt, a picture of a championship belt draped over the lip of a garbage can. "I love it!" Miceli shouts. "Can I sign the back?"
During the 14 years since she last laced up her wrestling boots, such crowds have followed Miceli across the globe as she pursued the second act of her sports-entertainment career. The suits who signed her to Monster Jam primarily to attract female fans couldn't have foreseen her staying power. "Anybody who thought she was a novelty doesn't know her," says longtime Monster Jam announcer Scott Douglass.
But back to the first act. In the mid-1980s Miceli quit her nursing studies to focus on wrestling, at first performing in dive bars and sleeping in her old black Ford. Within five years she was touring with the All-Japan Women's Pro Wrestling promotion—the spelling of her stage name was derived from made in the USA—where she honed her aggressive style. In 1993 she signed with WWE (then called WWF), which changed her name to Alundra Blayze so the company could own the copyright. She vanquished a rotation of villainesses and was crowned women's champion three times. But in late '95, as WWE found itself on the financial ropes, the women's division was KO'd by budget cuts. "I was so hurt," says Miceli. "I gave everything. I just didn't understand it."
What followed would become industry legend. Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, always itching to strike at the competition, signed Miceli. At the behest of WCW president Eric Bischoff, Miceli celebrated her move by dropping the WWE women's belt into a trash bin on live TV. "That was the defining moment of my whole career," says Miceli, who was later WCW's first female cruiserweight champion. "The bitch who threw the title in the can."
After five years, though, Miceli grew frustrated with WCW's increasing preference for women wrestlers who were more eye candy than athletes, and she began plotting her next move. It came in a fortuitous call from Monster Jam, where a former WCW executive remembered Miceli's love of Harleys and four-wheelers. At a tryout in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Miceli almost flipped her truck, and climbed out to ask the company reps what they thought. She was hired on the spot.
In the 16 years since, she has paved the way for other female Monster Jam drivers—whose ranks have increased from two in 1999 to eight now—while earning world championships in 2004 and '05. "I'm in a man's business—twice," says Miceli. "And I've survived both."
She recently made amends with WWE, which produced the trashed-title T-shirt to commemorate her induction into its Hall of Fame last spring, and she is interested in wrestling again. Miceli is also working on her doctorate in naturopathy and studying to become a yogini; she recently shuttered her pet-grooming shop in Florida, but she may open another business when she and her husband, Alan Jonason, an Army command sergeant major stationed in Syria, settle into retirement.
In the meantime, she is working on a book about her career. She hopes her next chapter is the best yet. "I see myself transitioning into something else," she says. "Something greater and bigger."