Name: Donna Christiantello
Year Inducted: 2009
Induction Category: Womens' Division

Donna Christiantello

Pittsburgh native Donna Christantello joins the seven other outstanding female wrestlers previously inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Prior to taking up the mat wars, Donna worked concurrently at several jobs including one at a local restaurant. She and her best friend frequently attended local live matches that featured exclusively male wrestlers, notably Bruno Sammartino, Buddy Rogers, Frank Durso, JJ Dillon, and Johnny DeFazio. Only after seeing two female grapplers on television did she realize that women could wrestle professionally as well. Her friend wanted to become a wrestler and Donna set out to obtain contact and training information for her. Ironically, Donna was the one who was then bitten by the wrestling bug. Her friend ended up participating in one match and then retiring while Donna went on to win world titles.20

Donna credits Waldo Von Erich and Klondike Bill for contacting The Fabulous Moolah and arranging training sessions for the Italian beauty. In 1963, she moved to South Carolina, where Donna and Moolah became lifelong friends. Moolah, whose real name was Lillian Ellison, became her "chosen sister". Donna's career extended from 1963 until her last match in 1991. Her opponents were a virtual "Who's Who" of contemporary women's' wrestling: Ann Casey, Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, Jessica Rodgers, Peggy Lee, Vicki Williams, Moolah, and Susan Green amongst many others. Donna sacrificed time on the road to help instruct other female wrestlers. She and Moolah were instrumental in training Sensational Sherri Martel and Brittany Brown and Donna later wrestled as part of Sensational Sherri's team in the 1987 WWF Survivor series.

Standing five-feet eight-inches tall, she has held her share of titles during her long career. With veteran Toni Rose, Donna held the world tag team belts in the National Wrestling Alliance, the American Wrestling Association and the World Wide Wrestling Federation. In 1970, their team was recognized as the first WWWF women's tag team champions. The pair wrestled all over the world including Hawaii, Hong Kong, Australia and North America. Once when a Japanese promoter demanded an American Indian wrestler as part of a tour, Moolah dug out the moccasins and declared Donna to be "White Cloud" for the trip. Interestingly, on that very same tour, she also wrestled under her "real name", which has been spelled as Donna Christanello, Donna Christenello and Donna Christianello over the decades.

Although she has had many bruises, some black eyes and a broken nose, Donna considers herself lucky not to have had any more significant injuries during her days on the mat. Her current aches and pains would not be traded for her ring memories. She declined title matches with Moolah out of a deep respect for their friendship. Donna did have non-title matches with Moolah and Wendi Richter but tag matches were her forte.20

Donna moved back to her Pennsylvania hometown following the passing of her mentor and "chosen sister", Moolah. Donna spent her entire wrestling career working for and with Moolah. She now works in the accounting department of Wal-Mart and enjoys the hobbies of crocheting, stamp collecting and cooking. She continues to stay in touch with Toni Rose, Joyce Grable and several other colleagues from the mat world. The PWHF is proud to induct Donna Christantello, who is one of the most durable athletes that wrestling fans have ever had the opportunity to enjoy watching.

- Bob Bryla



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