She was born Nancy Toffoloni but to wrestling fans she was Woman. Devilish and cunning, her exquisite looks worked as a great distraction for the opponent, allowing her man to sneak out a victory.
She managed names from Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan, Rick Steiner, Doom, Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit and Sandman during her managerial career. She was never afraid to get dirty, either, if needed.
Recently, her days in the ring were over, and she had taken the life as Nancy Benoit, wife of Chris Benoit, and mother of their son Daniel. The three were found dead in their suburban Atlanta home on Monday. She was 43.
No official cause of death was given. A preliminary autopsy was expected on Tuesday.
She would marry Jim Daus, her high school sweetheart, after the two graduated DeLand High School about 30 miles north of Orlando, Fla. The marriage would be short-lived, but the two found a common liking to wrestling.
It was when the two attended wrestling events in the Orlando area when at the age of 19, in late 1983, chance and lucked landed her into wrestling.
While modelling and doing some apartment wrestling, she met photographer Bill Otten. Otten freelanced for New York wrestling magazine editor George Napolitano, often photographing matches for Florida Championship Wrestling. It was through Napolitano and Otten that Daus was introduced to Florida booker Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan and she started a real-life romance. She would be introduced as the Fallen Angel, a name derived from a Led Zeppelin song reference, in July 1984.
She was part of Kevin Sullivan’s “Satanists” which also included Luna Vachon and Sir Oliver Humperdink. Snakes, blood and anti-Christian overtones were seen as controversial for the time. The group drew strange parallels to Charles Manson and Judas Priest.
The two would marry in 1985. It was her second marriage, having divorced from Jim Daus. She continued to work Florida off and on until Jim Crockett bought the Florida promotion in 1987. Kevin began to work for Crockett (eventually WCW), based out of North Carolina.
In 1989, Kevin brought Nancy into WCW as a geeky Robin Green, a “fan” who had a crush on wrestler Rick Steiner. Green was always shown ringside during Steiner’s matches, cheering her hero on, or so he believed. Eventually, Steiner allowed her to stand ringside with him. It was at this point she revealed herself as Woman, backstabbing Steiner during a televised match.
Her glasses and geeky looks were dropped, and she began managing the masked team of Doom (Ron Simmons and Butch Reed). When Doom broke up, she was placed in a short-lived angle with Ric Flair. She was pushing the idea of buying the Horsemen, which Flair turned down on numerous occasions, but the angle hit a dead-end when the Sullivans left WCW in 1990.
The two would show up on independent dates where she was always portrayed as Woman, the persona that she got her biggest name from.
She and Sullivan would team up again in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling, where Kevin had earned a booking position in 1992. She took on the name Devil Angel, drawing close to her original persona of Fallen Angel. Her time in Smokey Mountain was short and uneventful.
The two would eventually find their way to ECW in 1993. But when Kevin left for a return to WCW in 1994, Nancy stayed behind where she gained fame as the manager of the beer-drinking Sandman. The two were a perfect pair. She would help light the cigarettes and open the beer cans for the Sandman. The ECW style allowed her to get involved in matches like she never had to do before during her career. Kevin was able to get Nancy a position in WCW, and she left ECW where she last managed 2 Cold Scorpio.
When Nancy joined her husband in 1995, their marriage was hitting the skids. She was put into the role as a manager for the Four Horsemen, who at the time consisted of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman. When Pillman left the group, he would be replaced by Steve “Mongo” McMichael. She accompanied the Horsemen alongside famed manager Elizabeth and later Debra McMichael, wife of McMichael.
Her role was small and quiet until Kevin, who was booking for WCW, began a feud with Chris Benoit. In an angle that only insiders understood, Benoit was shown dining with Woman, who Benoit would refer as “Nancy.” It was to play off the marriage problems that Kevin and Nancy Sullivan were suffering in real life.
In a weird scene of where the show became reality, Nancy asked Kevin for a divorce and would begin dating Benoit, mirroring what was being booked for television. Meanwhile Kevin and Benoit still had to wrestle in the ring. The tension with Kevin as booker always haunted Benoit, who believed Sullivan had it out for him for stealing his wife. It would lead, in part, to Benoit leaving WCW in 2000 for the WWE.
Nancy would be taken off television following Benoit defeating Sullivan in a retirement match in 1997.
Nancy would give birth to Daniel Christopher on February 23, 2000. Nancy would marry the father, Benoit, November 23, 2000. She would take the name Nancy Benoit.
Although it was known by fans, Chris never spoke about his personal life. He would often refer to Nancy, if needed, as his fiancée. Although her history was never explained, she was in the ring following Benoit’s win of the WWE World Title at Wrestlemania XX to congratulate him.
TOP PHOTO: Photo by Mike Lano, [email protected]