Nancy Elizabeth Toffoloni: A Fallen Angel Woman of Pressional Wrestling
Nancy Elizabeth Toffoloni:
A Fallen Angel Woman of Professional Wrestling
A unfortunately sensitive topic due to the tragic (and still relatively unexplained) circumstances surrounding Nancy Toffoloni’s death, her career and contributions to the pro-wrestling world have been sadly overshadowed and minimized.
Wrestling corporation heavyweights World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have chosen not to highlight or bring attention to her relatively long tenure in the pro-wrestling business. A search on the company’s popular “WWE Network” streaming service with the keyword “Woman” – Nancy’s most popular and regularly used valet name – a name in which she uses and is featured in roughly 50 or more of the service’s videos that are made available including pay-per-view events, ECW Hardcore TV episodes and WCW Monday Nitro episodes garners a mere four results. Due to the company being a powerful global phenomenon it has incredible influence on what is or isn’t remembered for future fans of pro-wrestling. Specifically within the United States pro-wrestling community, but ultimately virtually anything pro-wrestling related including wrestling journalism. If one were to run a simple Google search using Nancy’s career or real-life name(s) it becomes quite clear than other than out-dated/misinformed/factually inaccurate topics surrounding her death, wrestling journalists haven’t written a whole lot on her career. What is available seems to be incorrect or tragically thin on content for a lengthy career that had crossed paths with so many significant promotions, angles, gimmicks and wrestlers while they were in their peak of popularity.
With that said – this four part article is an attempt to serve as an accurate and thorough career retrospective of a thirteen year career in professional wrestling that deserves to be acknowledged.
Singles wrestlers/tag-teams/factions managed:
2 Cold Scorpio, Army of Darkness (faction), Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, Doom (tag-team), Shane Douglas, “DC” Drake, Ric Flair, the Four Horsemen (faction), Johnny “Hotbody”, Kerry Von Erich, Dean Malenko, Psychosis, Butch Reed, Ron Simmons, The Sandman, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Ron Slinker, the Satanist (faction), the Steiner Brothers (tag-team), Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner, and Tazmaniac.
Significant wrestling promotions worked for:
Extreme Championship Wrestling, Florida Championship Wrestling, International World Class Championship Wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, and World Championship Wrestling.
“Devil Angel”, “Fallen Angel”, “Para”, “Robin Green”, and “Woman.”
Years in the business:
1984-1997. (13 years)
PART ONE: A FALLEN ANGEL HAS BEEN FOUND.
Fresh from graduating DeLand High School (Deland, Florida) in 1983, nineteen year-old Nancy Toffolini would marry her high-school “sweetheart” Jim Daus. She had managed to obtain a job answering phones at the local State Farm Insurance. However, her husband Jim’s love for professional wrestling would have them traveling thirty miles to Orlando to see local pro-wrestling events. She would eventually begin to sell programs before the events. This would lead to her first stint in modeling and wrestling, doing “Apartment Wrestling” features – photo shoots of female wrestlers “wrestling” men in pictorials shot in apartments as the model name Para.
During one of these events Toffolini was spotted by Bill Otten, an up and coming wrestling photographer at the time who happened to be at the event. He immediately noticed Nance. Bill thought Mrs. Daus was unique and had an attention striking beauty. He had said she reminded him of the actress Valerie Bertinelli, who at the time was married to guitar-God Eddie Van Halen.
Bill Otten would begin conversing with Nancy at these events in hopes of asking her to model for him as he was trying to build his resume.
Sometime in early 1984, Billy Jack Haynes, an extremely popular baby-faced wrestler featured in the area at the time had approached George Napolitano, New York Wrestling All Stars magazine editor, about setting up a photo shoot with attractive-looking models surrounding him with the mindset that would get him over with the fans as a “ladies” man. Bill Otten would be asked to do these photos.
Although previous shoots hadn’t panned out as expected with Nancy before, Otten would invite the now recently divorced Toffolini and another model to the photo shoot. They would pose in bikinis next to Haynes while he flexed his massive arms and flaunted his physique while toting his signature cowboy hat. One of the photos would end up being chosen for the now notorious, July 1984 cover of Wrestling All Stars magazine cover.
Kevin Sullivan, another incredibly popular heel wrestler (and backstage booker) in the territory at the time, had been feuding with Haynes and had approached the photographer Otten about contacting the two models whom had accompanied Haynes in his popular magazine cover. Sullivan, who’s wrestling gimmick at the time was that of a Satanic cult-leader suggested he in story line “brainwash” Hayne’s women into his entourage of wrestlers – later to be dubbed, “The Satanist” or “Army of Darkness” to further add his implied occult devil-worshiping image he was trying to portray. Although both models would agree, Nancy would be the only one to show up the day of the event.
She made her in ring wrestling debut July 30th, 1984 as a valet for Kevin. Sullivan has said that the reason he chose Nancy for the role that after speaking to her, he knew instantly that she was very intelligent and was already “smart” to the business as well. The two would get married in real life soon after.
Nancy had instantly became a fixture in the dark, cult-themed, group that would eventually consist of “Maniac” Mark Lewin (“Purple Haze”), Mike Davis, Bob Roop, The Lock and Luna Vachon. She would appear during interviews, at ringside, and in backstage segments with the group usually wearing a leather bikini with very NWOBHM themed accessories consisting of studs, spikes and collars that was very ahead of it’s time along with very dark pre-black metal spider web eyeliner, half theater masks and other oddities.
Sullivan would switch the group between, Florida’s CWF and the wider reaching IWCCW wrestling promotions, being the leading heel as the IWCCW went national. He would gain the faction notoriety in both being a very controversial heel doing revolutionary things outside of the ring like brutalizing jobbers in very stiff matches by choking them unconscious, making them bleed hard-way with a spike he’d carry to the ring, or jumping on their sternum with both legs. Also to gain heat with fans he would in story line attack female fans (and sometimes male) in very violent and realistic ways. Very compelling on the mic, his promos intellectually deep, cryptic, satanic themed filled with religious deviance implying he could manipulate at recruit for his group at will was incredibly thorough in concept being on the more elaborate wrestling gimmicks up to that point.
Nancy (now Sullivan) was still relatively new to the business. She would usually look on laughing and admiring Sullivan’s menacing crimes committed to the wrestlers and fans. Occasionally she would interfere in matches or take part in the groups heinous heel acts such as infamous angle where the group had her happily shave half of Gertrude Vachon’s (who fans would later know as Luna Vachon) head to recruit to the group.
Although having a somewhat minor role in the group, she added an indispensable visual sexuality to the group with her captivating beauty and wild attires that because of the time period, was also viewed as offensive – especially while playing so heavily on the anti-religious themes that were a big part of the group’s success. Up until that point, if a female valet were relied on to show skin, they generally weren’t allowed to have much if any, character development or integrity for that matter. Nancy was among the first in the United States to mix the two so heavily pioneering similar booking concepts for valet’s and even female wrestlers years later.
PART TWO: ROBIN GREENE TURNS INTO A WOMAN.
In 1987, Jim Crockett would purchase the Florida promotion meaning Kevin Sullivan would be working for arguably the second biggest promotion in the U.S. at the time. Sullivan would establish himself quickly both in the ring, and behind the scenes gaining booking power. In 1989, he would suggest bringing his wife, Nancy Sullivan, to the now owned by media mogul Ted Turner company. The company would be renamed World Championship Wrestling.
Nancy Sullivan would debut for WCW under the moniker “Robin Greene” a nerdy fan girl sporting large puffed out shorts that her large t-shirts would be stuffed into, high socks, black-framed glasses, suspenders and a raincoat hat. She would cheer on the very simple minded Rick Steiner character during his matches in the audience as a fan, shown giving him things like glitter-star shaped wind pinwheel toys and other innocent gifts. Eventually Rick in story would ask Robin on date. Miss Hyatt, who was managing the Steiner Brothers at the time, would offer to give a Robin a makeover before the date.
The reveal of the Robin Greene makeover would come on the August 26, 1989 edition of WCW Saturday Night in a hilarious segment where a very “hungry” Jim Ross and Rick Steiner awaits the reveal of the new Robin Greene. Nancy’s Robin character would then embrace her natural beauty and look more like her “Woman” character for the rest of her career. The two would embrace on camera, usually consisting of Robin rubbing Rick’s muscles during Steiner Brother’s promos while a timid Rick would shake nervously.
On the September 23rd, 1989 edition of WCW Saturday Night the angle would come to an end as a now more confident Robin Greene would invite Rick’s brother Scott into a limo outdoors only to have him jumped and thrown out of it by her new tag team — Doom (Masked Butch Reed and Ron Simmons). She would change her name to “Woman” to support her new look and attitude. She would also employ a punk-rock, studded leather jacket toting, seven foot tall bodyguard by the name of (Tyler Mane.) The two tag-teams would settle their feud on WCW’s “Power Hour.”
Doom would be short lived with Simmons turning on Reed, and “Woman” would be thrown right into an angle with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. As weeks grew by, her Woman character- a now sharp witted, manipulative, gorgeous “woman” – would attempt to buy the Four Horsemen faction Flair was apart of. Flair would continue to turn down her advances, and the angle would falter as both Kevin and Nancy would leave WCW over creative differences in 1990.
In 1992, Kevin and Nancy Sullivan would again pair up. This time in Jim Smokey Mountain Wrestling, where Kevin would once again share roles of and wrestler. Nancy would take on the name “Devil Angel” – a play of her “The Fallen Angel” earlier in her career, but drawing closer to her “Woman” character than her old cult-following satanic inspired role. She would accompany Sullivan to the ring as his valet and occasionally in his matches or throw kicks to his opponents after Kevin had already pinned them. The Sullivan’s would grow tired of the very regional reach that the promotion provided, and would leave within the year.
PART THREE: A WOMAN BECOMES EXTREME.
The two would wind up in the Philadelphia based promotion ECW (Eastern Championship Wrestling, later to be renamed EXTREME Championship Wrestling) Although the promotion was still in it’s infancy, it was quickly gaining momentum with United States fans as a more modern alternative to the larger WCW and WWF promotions at the time.
Nancy Sullivan would re-debut as her “Woman” valet character that she last used in WCW managing her husband, Kevin Sullivan and the Tazmaniac. However, to fit in with the more “extreme” style that ECW fans were becoming accustomed to at the time her character was much more aggressive than she had been before. Nancy would be allowed to cut scathing, self-absorbed, well spoken heel promos about her managing only the best wrestlers. After the tag-team would win matches she would attack the jobbers that had just been beaten with a fury of punches and kicks not seen by most female valets at the time until she was restrained from hitting them. She would lead them to win the ECW Tag Team Championships.
In the Spring of 1994, Kevin Sullivan would quickly return to WCW. Nancy, who was becoming a fixture in the smaller Philadelphia promotion would stay. Before Kevin left ECW the “Woman” character had at the suggest of promoter Paul Heyman, begun a story line with the Sandman – a cigarette smoking, beer swelling, top wrestler in the promotion at the time who was having problems with his wife/valet at the time, “Peaches”. In episodes of “Hardcore TV” it was teased how Sullivan would react to Woman’s valeting of the Sandman, but never followed up on before Sullivan had left. This was done because it wasn’t certain at the time Nancy would have a job at WCW. Paul Heyman has stated that he knew that at in time with the help of her husband regaining political power in WCW, and his own connections to the company would be able to assist Nancy into eventually returning their herself and in the mean time could also help her be able to hone her on-air personality in front of smaller audiences in ECW.
Following a match, the Sandman would be temporarily blinded and accidentally struck his wife Peaches with a Singapore cane. When he began to regain his vision, he saw his former tag-team partner Tommy Cairo being helped by his wife so he struck him as well. In weeks after the incident, Woman would then in story line manipulate the Sandman into believing his wife and former tag-partner were in fact having an affair successfully implementing herself as his valet. This would upset Peaches, culminating in a match at When Worlds Collide on May 14, 1994 featuring Woman and The Sandman versus Cairo and Peaches in a Singapore Cane match.
It was at this time the Woman character would really begin to flourish into her own unique role. She was booked not as Sandman’s lover, but as his sacred valet who was much too gorgeous for him (and basically all of ECW and it’s fans) yet still relished in his self-destruction and the punishment he would conflict on his opponents; especially with his signature Singapore cane. She’d embrace his persona so much so that she’d begin opening Sandman’s pre/post match beers and lighting his cigarettes; occasionally smoking one herself after an intense beat down either she or Sandman gave to an opponent.
The Sandman would begin a feud with Tommy Dreamer after he interfered in a post-match beat down Woman and Sandman were giving to Mikey Whipwreck by kissing Woman. Sandman would repeatedly cane Tommy while Woman looked on in admiration leading to a “I Quit” match on October 1, 1994. During the bout it appeared Dreamer had blinded Sandman with a lit cigarette. Following the match, Woman would “leave” the Sandman as his valet calling him “useless” due to his inability to see. This would lead to an angle where Sandman’s ex-wife Peaches would try to reconcile with him only to be disturbed by Woman leading Dreamer in an attempt to stop Woman to get caned by Sandman who was revealed to never actually been blind nor had Woman ever actually left his side.
The following month, Woman would again in story line “leave” Sandman to valet then ECW World Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas. At Hostile City Showdown on April 15, 1995, Woman would accompany Douglas to the ring against the Sandman. During the match, Woman would hit Douglas in the knees with a Singapore cane helping assist the Sandman to his first ECW Heavyweight Championship and revealing once again – she had been loyal to the Sandman the whole time.
The Sandman, now ECW Heavyweight Champion, which woman would proudly wear to the ring with him, – would begin feuding with Cactus Jack. She would again assist him into successfully defending his title against Jack up until he left the company for the WWF. Woman was also be inserted into a valet role for Sandman’s on-screen friend, 2 Cold Scorpio. With the champion under her “control” her valet character became even more aggressive, especially for the time period that ECW fans had been accustom to her cheating for the Sandman to retain. As a testimony of her developing skill, ECW fans were often captivated in what her character would do next playing a pivotal role establishing Sandman’s reign as champion. Behind the scenes it was said she was always professional and took the angles given to her quite seriously.
It was around this time a lot of the company’s top stars were going to either WCW or the WWF so promoter Paul Heyman tried to compensate with outrageous ideas. One of these being an angle in response to another post-match, this time very bloody, caning of fan-favorite Mikey Whipwreck by the Sandman – Woman who in the past had been implied had “gotten off” on the Sandman’s brutalization of his opponents had actually visibly began to touch herself, being sexually aroused by the incident. Nancy was said to be hesitant to do the angle, but agreed to do so mostly out of guilt to help the company as it had been established behind the scenes she’d soon being joining her husband in the much larger WCW. While being an innovative, boundary pushing, angle at the time that fans had appreciated – it provided Heyman who was already in trouble with networks airing ECW greater issues as the segment wasn’t allowed to air and almost got the “Hardcore TV” show pulled off of the air.
The Sandman’s reign would last until October 28, 1995 when he would finally lose the belt to Mikey Whipwreck, following “Stunning” Steve Austin stopping Woman from interfering in the match. The same night, 2 Cold Scorpio would win the ECW tag-team championships naming the Sandman his partner. Once again valeting the tag-team champions, 2 Cold Scorpio and the Sandman, Woman would then gain “control”of another championship as the Sandman would again win the ECW heavyweight championship in a three-way match against Whipwreck and Austin at December to Dismember on December 9, 1995. Whipwreck would soon beat Scorpio in a singles bout for control of both tag-titles.
The Sandman would lose his Heavyweight Championship to Raven on the January 27, 1996 edition of “Hardcore TV.” Later in the episode, Woman would rip into both Scorpio and Sandman stating that she was “dropping” them. She would then go on to to state that she was going to World Championship Wrestling – the company in which ECW fans despised worse than the WWF – and leaving ECW in a appropriate heel remark that would be her final appearance in her three year run with the company.
PART FOUR: THE FOUR HORSE WOMAN.
Nancy would make her television return to World Championship Wrestling January 22, 1996 episode of “Monday Nitro”” the red-hot flagship show at the time that was regularly beating the WWF in the ratings that had just debuted head to head against their Monday Night Raw show a few months prior. She was shown with many other unmentioned female valets accompanying “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the ring during his WCW World Heavyweight Championship title reign and would continue to do so for a few weeks, eventually being acknowledged as “Woman” by announcer Tony Schiavone.
Kevin Sullivan would make the suggestion for his wife to join the Four Horsemen stable as they had always been portrayed as wrestlers whom surrounded themselves with beautiful woman. Woman would interfere during Randy Savage’s match with then Horsemen Chris Benoit and align herself with the stable consisting of Benoit, Arn Anderson, Brian Pillman, and Ric Flair. Pillman would eventually leave WCW, and ex-NFL star Mongo McMichael would take his place with his wife Debra who was valeting him at the time. During interviews Woman would be shown visibly annoyed with Debra’s presence eventually leading to an angle where the two would take shots at each other in interviews although most of the comments were made by Debra. The angle would be forgotten soon thereafter.
Although Nancy was being featured with a main event stable and main event wrestlers since being reintroduced in WCW she had not been featured like she had been in ECW. This at the time was upsetting Nancy. It would be suggested that she be featured in an angle with Chris Benoit where he would “steal” her away from her husband Kevin Sullivan although it had not been acknowledged on television that the two were married. Kevin Sullivan has said that it was Nancy who had made the suggestion stating that he thought it was a bad idea as he had seen that the two had legitimately grown close during the Four Horsemen angle and Benoit had a second baby on the way with his wife at the time. Others including Sullivan’s close friend who was apart of WCW creative at the time have disputed these claims saying that it was Sullivan who suggested the angle as it’s often been joked that Sullivan booked his own divorced as Chris and Nancy would begin seeing each other and eventually get married after Nancy separated from Sullivan ending their 12 year marriage in 1997. What is known is Kevin and Nancy were having problems at the time of her arriving in WCW as it has been documented by various WCW wrestlers who were employed with the company at the time and Kevin Sullivan did have almost full control of booking as well.
On the December 7th 1996 episode of WCW’s “Saturday Night” following a Kevin Sullivan victory he began to speak to “Mean Gene” Okerlund in a post-match interview that would get interrupted with a video on WCW’s TV monitor showing Chris and Nancy cuddling in a hotel kitchen with Woman taunting Sullivan saying that he can’t find her and Benoit saying in a now infamous line, “You consider yourself the master of human chess. Well, my bishop just took your queen”. Sullivan would be shown furious and with a loss of words running to the back. In the following weeks, more videos would continue to air before and after Sullivan matches where he would be shown destroying opponents venting his frustrations of the forming romance.
Finally after months of build-up at WCW’s “Slamboree” pay-per-view on May 19th the two would be randomly selected as a part of a “lethal lottery” match to face Public Enemy in a tag match. During the match, the two would begin battling each other leading them to both be put through the same table and losing the match. Because the two were apart of different stables that happened to be aligned at the time in story-line, the two without the support of their factions would agree to a stiff and intense falls count anywhere match at the Great American Bash pay-per-view on July 1st 1996.
The two would continue to feud over the next year eventually having Woman come out to stop Benoit from attacking Kevin, inserting another interesting dynamic in an already hot feud as Nancy and Kevin’s divorce had just been finalized. Kevin Sullivan would be given a muscle-bound female then called “Jackie” to valet him during his matches that would rough up his opponents post match like Nancy had done in ECW. With Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom stable disbanding he could now focus solely on Benoit and a “San Francisco Death Match” would be set pitting Benoit/Sullivan tied together with a leather strap and Jackie/Woman as well. The match would take place on February 23, 1997 at WCW’s annual Superbrawl show. Although not a technical classic by any means, the match has been praised by fans as a memorable one as the intensity of the real-life tension of the time organically was inserted into the match. The match would come to a dramatic end with everyone but Nancy leaving in emergency ambulances.
Nancy would continue to appear with Chris Benoit at this time, and the two had really begun to get over with WCW fans as an entertaining wrestler/valet duo after enduring all of Kevin Sullivan’s story line abuse.. Unfortunately about a month later on the May 26, 1997th on Monday Nitro Woman would be shown escorting Chris Benoit to the ring to confront Sullivan’s then manager Jimmy Hart about his whereabouts only to be told he wasn’t in the arena. This would be the last time Nancy would be shown on WCW television and her last appearance as on-air personality in a pro-wrestling organization. Although Sullivan and Benoit would continue their feud, Woman’s absence would not be explained.
It is said that Nancy retired from pro wrestling to be a mother however it should be noted that she did not have her first child until three years later. She would also marry Chris that same year. Nancy would be shown in 2004 celebrating with her son Daniel Benoit after her husband Chris Benoit’s WWE Wrestlemania XX victory where he had won his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship.