Madusa runs over gender barriers

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First Posted: 2/25/2014

Madusa may have one of the first and only Monster Jam trucks named after its driver, but that’s not all that makes her bright pink presence at these events special.

Once a trailblazing professional wrestler and multi-world champion in World WCW and WWF, Debra Miceli became one of the first and only female monster truck drivers in 1999 and went on to clinch two world championships as the reigning Queen of Carnage.

When the First Lady of Monster Jam called The Weekender last week to talk about her upcoming Monster Jam shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Feb. 28 through March 2, she couldn’t help but rub in the fact that she was enjoying the nice weather in Florida at the time, though the harsh temperature drop in NEPA shouldn’t prove to be a problem for a tough woman like Madusa. As we found out, she’s endured much worse and always come out on top.

THE WEEKENDER: Both wrestling and monster truck driving are such male-dominated sports. Were you always into those types of things growing up?

MADUSA: I definitely had to find an appreciation for that later in life. As a child, I had no brothers, no sisters, only child, not spoiled. We were very poor growing up. I didn’t have my first can of pop until I was 10 years old, and that was Mountain Dew.

I always was a tomboy because I always had to survive. I was this poor little kid with hand-me-down clothes and shoes that didn’t match and on welfare. I got my ass beat all the time, so I grew up rough. There were times when I didn’t even want to go home; I was sleeping in the neighbors’ backyards in their doghouses and stuff, so I think that’s where the background from, from being tough, handling the boys.

I never really played with Barbie dolls or anything like that. … Then I grew up riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers and then we got older and then it was my Harley and then it was big trucks. I had jacked-up trucks and I started wrestling.

W: Did you face a lot of sexism as you entered pro wrestling?

M: There was adversity through the whole 18 years because I was a woman in a man’s world; women were just an act of pleasure. We were always first or second or third on the card; we were just something to look at. They never billed us as a main event. I always felt like, “God, I like this and I can do more and I come and be an advocate and pave the pavement for the next generation.”

I changed the way that women looked, and then I went over to Japan and that was a great experience. My heart is in Japan; I owe it to Japan for asking me to go there, the first American woman ever to have a contract for three years and live and breathe and become one of them and teach me all of their great ways of pro wrestling. So what I did was I correlated and put their style and an American style in a twist and brought it back to the States and there it was. The new women were born. … Then they developed the Diva after that and they really glamorized it.

W: Was it much easier to get into monster truck driving?

M: This just happened and I’m very blessed and lucky that it did because it’s been my calling. I’ve been an entertainer for, what, 30 years or so, and that’s what I do best. I entertain 60,000 people or more a weekend. That’s what I do, so when I got the call from Feld Entertainment in ’99 and said, “Hey, you know, Madusa, we really are looking for a cross-promotion. We need to get women in our audience. How do you feel about driving a monster truck?” I’ve never been to an event, I’ve never seen one, and they’re like, “We know about your gearhead background,” so they flew me out to (Grave Digger driver) Dennis Anderson’s place and I test drove there with Dennis. Dennis and I got along great.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but it looked good! I guess what they were really looking for was… throttle rhythm and I had it naturally.

Here I am 15 years later, a two-time champion!

W: What are some of the similarities and differences in wrestling and monster truck driving?

M: The similarities are that they’re entertainment and they’re both sports. … The great thing about monster trucks is that we have a demographic between 0 and 99 of age, and with pro wrestling, the demographics are a lot of boys, men, and that is like a men’s soap opera type of thing. There is a big demographic difference. As far as the showmanship and the whole show and the structure and giving to the fans, they both produce very well. Monster Jam is more family-oriented.

They’re the best people ever, and it’s a great family thing, working with the monster truck people because they’re good Southerners, good family, good people. With wrestling, I never in my life worked with the most narcissistic men. Have you ever tried walking through an airport with Macho Man and all of them? You’ve got a chain of dudes and they’re the ones that are looking at their reflection in their freaking window seeing if they look good or not. Oh my God! [Laughs]

W: Have you seen a shift in the number of females in the stands at Monster Jam events?

M: There weren’t any women drivers or women in the stands when I first started, and I worked very hard to establish that. Now I have a line basically as long as Digger’s, if not more, of fans getting autographs and pictures, and I have these little girls now. It’s all a lot of little girls, and my monster truck is pink because it’s a powerful color. It represents so much as far as strength, integrity, as far as breast cancer awareness, and my Harley is pink, so there you go. So when you see all these girls now, it really touches me because I have done something. I’ve been an advocate, I’ve opened up doors. Now we’ve got four other women drivers.

You know that you’ve become a role model, and it’s just touching. It really is. Again, you don’t get that in pro wrestling.

W: So why have you stuck with it all these years? Why doesn’t it get old for you?

M: It’s my calling as an entertainer. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for 30 years. I was going to retire in 2001 from wrestling and go off and do my other thing that I wanted to do, but then I got a call and I’m like, “Well, OK, this must be my thing.” I did it and it was probably one of the best things I did.

I think what keeps me going is my outlook in life, my personality – I should say my flirtatious personality, so to speak – and I think my will to be healthy. I’m a real health nut and I’ve got a couple other things going on because I know this can’t last forever. I’m a personal trainer. I’m a wellness life coach. I’m becoming a yogi. I’ve got a lot of good things that are starting to happen, too, so I implement that into what I’m doing.

Truck specs

Driver: Madusa

Engine: 540 CI Merlin

Horsepower: 1500

Transmission: Coan 2-Speed

Tires: 66-inch Terra