Debra "Madusa" Miceli: The First Lady of Monster Jam
Let's face it. Women in motorsports are few and far between. Some have seen mild success, some have seen struggles.
These days the focus on females in racing mainly revolves around one Danica Patrick and her runs in IndyCar and NASCAR. In drag racing, the women that are all the talk are Ashley Force Hood and Angelle Sampey.
Although all three ladies have won events, only Sampey has titles to her record, winning three consecutive NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championships from 2000-2002.
But if you want to talk about popularity, diversity and toughness, there is no one more popular than Debra "Madusa" Miceli.
Miceli was born in Milan, Italy, and moved to the United States and saw a lot of success in high school track and gymnastics.
In 1984, she got the opportunity to get into professional wrestling. Her first break came in 1986 when she signed with the American Wrestling Association. It was there when the Madusa name debuted, and her popularity took off.
After a tour of Japan, she returned to the U.S. to sign with World Championship Wrestling, working as a valet. Soon after, she came to the World Wrestling Federation, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, performing as Alundra Blayze.
She won the WWF Women's title on multiple occasions, before jumping back to WCW and going back to the Madusa name. Her most controversial moment came when she actually threw the WWF Women's title in a trash can live on television.
As her wrestling career was nearing an end, she got a call by the USHRA to see if she'd be interested in driving a monster truck. Her initial reaction to the question was that she hadn't even seen one before, let alone driven one.
Not one to back down, the USHRA brought her to a few shows and she was hooked. But, she first had to train and learn to handle the trucks. She then got a phone call from Dennis Anderson, driver of Grave Digger, to come to the Digger shop and learn to drive in his back yard.
She took to it as if it was meant to be. Madusa made her debut in her self-named monster truck in 2000. Her popularity soared as WCW had worked a deal to have wrestler-themed trucks, including an NWO and Goldberg truck.
After WCW folded in 2001, Madusa went monster truck racing full-time and found herself as one of the top females on the circuit. With all the success, fans and promoters alike started calling her the "First Lady of Monster Jam."
But, she still had yet to break through and win a major event. She had some stadium wins in racing and freestyle, but did not have that signature win to her resume.
In 2004, that changed as she along with Lupe Soza and Tom Meents became co-world champions in the freestyle competition.
As good as that title felt, Madusa wanted a title all to herself, one that she could have all to herself. The following year at the World Finals, that became a reality.
On a wet and sloppy race course, Madusa ran smart and consistent the entire night, and found herself in the final round alongside her mentor, trainer and icon, Dennis Anderson.
Ford vs. Chevy, man against woman, it was all there. When the lights went green, both found themselves side-by-side heading into the last jump. But, on that night, it was Madusa shocking the entire monster truck industry as she beat Anderson to the finish line.
The win was the first and only time a woman has won a racing world championship in monster trucks, and one she holds dear to her heart.
One year after her win, Madusa and USHRA had a falling out shortly before the World Finals in Las Vegas, meaning she couldn't defend her title.
After taking time off to figure out what her next move should be, she signed on to drive with the original monster truck team, Bob Chandler's Bigfoot. She was excited for her new opportunity and wanted to prove herself with her new team.
She competed mostly beside veteran-Bigfoot driver, Dan Runte, on the Major League of Monster Trucks tour, which went to many NASCAR tracks across the country. Madusa showed she could handle Chandler's iconic name, and soon found herself working with the MLMT in promotions.
Unfortunately, sponsorship for the series fell through in 2008 and shortly after Madusa felt the Bigfoot team wasn't the right place for her.
But then, in early 2009, the USHRA got in touch with her again. Under new ownership, they wanted to see if Madusa would return to their series. With a new truck, new crew and new opportunity, Madusa made her return to the Monster Jam series.
She has competed on the circuit the last two years, and her popularity has continued to grow as well as her fan base. More women have been seen with Madusa apparel now more than any years past.
At this year's Monster Jam World Finals, Madusa debuted her new colors for the next season. Usually known for her red, white and blue body, she is shedding that image for the next year for one more important to her.
Her truck will be white and pink as she will carry the colors of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. With some family members losing the battle to breast cancer, Madusa is assisting in raising money for more research and treatments.
Madusa has showed that a woman can compete in monster truck competition and be very successful. The only question is, where will she go from here?
It's not certain what she will do next, but no one can doubt what Madusa has accomplished. Her victory speech from her racing championship summed it up the best:
"Being a woman in a man's world, being a woman in a man's business...I tell you what, ladies, it isn't easy!"
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