Born into a wrestling family, Mike McGuirk’s father — promoter and wrestler Leroy McGuirk — never wanted his daughter in the ring.
While she took that to heart and never laced up a pair of boots, she did stand in the center of a WWE ring, decked out in men’s tuxedos, introducing the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and a multitude of others for six years.
But her “in” to the business was through providing a ring when WWE came to town. And that soon propelled her into an announcing career, which, to her knowledge, was a first for females.
“[Vince McMahon] broke the mold and he believed in me,” McGuirk said.
As far as being aware that she was making strides for female announcers, McGuirk said she “never even thought of it.”
“You just never know, but I think the stride was that somebody had to do it,” McGuirk said.
However, when she didn’t see other women in similar roles after her exit, she “thought it didn’t catch on.” Then Lilian Garcia graced a WWE ring. Others like WWE announcers JoJo and Dasha Fuentes have followed in recent years.
“I’m not an activist for it, but I believe that there’s not anything that we shouldn’t try,” McGuirk said, “and given the opportunity, a woman can hopefully hold herself up against these boys and still be a lady.”
THE PROMOTER’S DAUGHTER
With her father a player in the National Wrestling Alliance, McGuirk said, she “was raised” in wrestling.
“It’s my footprint and it’s been something that is — just like my name — it’s associated with [wrestling],” McGuirk said.
While she learned young that “every night was a show,” the family also viewed wrestling as “a way of living.” McGuirk said at times, notably during high school, she wondered why she couldn’t be part of “the nice, normal family.”
“My dad set me straight,” McGuirk said. “He set me right on my heels… In his book, I’m a normal family because I’m working my ass off… and it’s them that are trying to conform. However you make a living, you’re doing well.”
Despite the success Leroy McGuirk garnered as a wrestler and promoter, he “never intended this was going to be a living,” according to his daughter. Growing up poor and putting himself through college, McGuirk said, wrestling was the “only sport that would take him because he was one-eyed.” A childhood accident in the 1920s caused Leroy to lose the eye.
At Oklahoma A&M, wrestling for legendary coach Ed Gallagher, Leroy won the NCAA championship in 1931, taking the 155-pound title and placed second the following year. Leroy earned a journalism degree and worked for a newspaper in Tulsa, Okla. While at the paper, civic leader and sports promoter Sam Avey approached him regarding professional wrestling and asked the then-newspaperman how much he was making.
“He never went back,” McGuirk said of her father’s journalism career, though he did use those skills to write stories from the matches to be published locally.
As a pro, he won the world light-heavyweight championship in 1935 and then the the world junior heavyweight championship in 1940. In a car accident in 1951, Leroy lost the sight in his other eye, leaving him blind. He had to vacate the title, but was a key player for years in the NWA’s junior heavyweight division as a promoter. His Tri-States territory included Oklahoma and Arkansas, but also went into parts of Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. Leroy died in 1988 and was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004.
Despite being the promoter’s daughter, McGuirk said there was “nothing natural” about her involvement in the industry. From childhood on, McGuirk would hear the questions, “Is she our next world champion?” and “Is she going to be a lady wrestler?” But her father didn’t want her to follow in his footsteps.
“He really didn’t want me around in the business because he knew how tough it could be,” McGuirk said. “The only opening (at that time was for a) lady wrestler. He didn’t want that for his daughter.”
‘A WOMAN IN A MAN’S TUXEDO’
After Leroy McGuirk stopped promoting shows, he signed a “no-compete” with Bill Watts, according to McGuirk. She was not involved with that arrangement and said she “stepped up when the opportunity arose to provide a ring for Vince Jr.’s promotion, along with the reason to carry on the McGuirk name in wrestling.” The first show she worked for McMahon was in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“I never thought this would be the way that would get me into a medium I loved so much,” said McGuirk, who would provide the ring and music until a fateful day in 1986 altered her role in the industry.
On Sept. 12 of that year, at a show in Memphis, Tenn., then-road agent Jack Lanza told McGuirk he needed her to announce — something she hadn’t done since studying broadcasting in college. The card at Mid-South Coliseum featured Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and the Fabulous Moolah. Both LeRoy and her mother, Dorothy, attended since Mike provided a ring, all unaware that she would be announcing.
“[I] was not showy but gave it a real authentic ring to it,” McGuirk said. “And I’m a woman in a man’s tuxedo.”
While McGuirk said she never received “formal training” to announce — beyond watching others while growing up — she envisioned how she would have announced the wrestlers “and put more enthusiasm into it.”
“I believe watching all those years and hearing various announcers, some really good, and the voice training I had at William Woods and at Oklahoma State University in broadcasting had an impact on my presentation and timing,” McGuirk said. “Then I met Howard Finkel, and while he never sat me down and really trained, I listened to whatever he told me and put my own approach to it.”
When she started donning tuxedos, McGuirk said, she would rent the outfits, which naturally came with mens’ pants.
“[They] were kind of long in the crotch… I’m true to my trade,” McGuirk quipped.
The tuxedo wardrobe began with wool pants, which she said cost a “fortune” to dry clean. But in talking with seamstresses, decided to add color to the outfits and soon thereafter switched to spandex.
“It became a staple. I still have people ask me [about the tuxedos],” said McGuirk, who appeared in a Roy Clark television special filmed at her father’s ranch called “A Country Christmas.”
And a simple reason made the tuxes a mainstay, according to McGuirk — “The men had them.”
“In my big contention with Vince all the time, [I would say], ‘Why can’t a woman do that?’ and I’ll be in the tuxedo, add flair and fancy shoes… He let me go on this,” McGuirk said.
Her time with WWE also included more than one year in the commentary booth, all the while announcing live events and driving the ring to shows. McGuirk said her teaming with Bruce Prichard and “The Duke of Dorchester” Pete Doherty on commentary was a first for females in then-WWF.
“Was that a time for me to grow doing commentary with the Duke and Bruce,” McGuirk said. “I sat in awe with Gorilla Monsoon, doing commentary not realizing the huge task ahead and as I look back there are so many things I would have brought to that table but fate had a different place for me. I had two firsts in the industry as a woman and only a few real historians of the WWF know I started in the commentary seat.”
She also produced promos on her off-nights from ring announcing.
“When Vince stopped doing the Houston TV, it was another year before I was brought in for national TV,” McGuirk said. “I continued to ring announce all over the Midwest as far as Albuquerque, N.M., and as far east as Mobile, Ala., and back to Houston and as far north as Minot, ND.”
Once her announcing career “seemed to be lasting,” McGuirk said, her time with the ring crew ended in 1990.
“I’m still Leroy’s daughter, but I also proved myself,” McGuirk said. “So that’s huge in that I was accepted by not just being, ‘Oh yeah, you’re Leroy’s daughter.”
The announcer also squashed the story that Vince McMahon made a advances toward her during her tenure with the company.
“There was this terrible thing going [around] that said Vince made a pass at me,” McGuirk said. “Really? He never did… He was nothing but a gentleman to me in that respect.”
Her decision to leave WWE came among what she called “winds of change.” With behind-the-scenes issues, the influx of steroids and taking her family into consideration — along with McMahon’s need for her to work from WWE’s home base in Connecticut — she opted to leave.
“We had always worked together in the old style of our handshake and our word,” McGuirk said. “Then as he got bigger, more people were on the payroll and I got farther apart from Vince… So that became where I wasn’t getting to see him as much. He was bringing in the Boni Blackstones, and I thought, ‘OK, survival of the fittest.'”
Blackstone worked as a wrestling announcer and commentator in the southern U.S. prior to joining WWE in the early 1980s.
But for McGuirk, walking away from the company wasn’t easy.
“It was really hard,” McGuirk said. “Most people give like a two-week notice, I gave a six-month notice. The hardest part was saying goodbye to the guys.” (She was also married to former WWE wrestler Brian Blair for a time.)
Of her time in the industry, WrestleMania VII stands out the most.
“The most memorable would be meeting now President Donald Trump, Marla Maples, Regis Philbin and the last, but certainly a legend, Willie Nelson, all in one day during Wrestlemania on March 24, 1991,” McGuirk recalled. “There were so many backstage such as Chuck Norris, Alex Trebek, and George Steinbrenner.”
While her flashy tuxedos are tucked away and announcing gigs are rare, McGuirk has continued with a career she set the groundwork for prior to entering the squared circle — real estate.
“I went in and took the class in 1983. I had my license and was doing that when those calls started coming about the ring,” McGuirk said. “I always kept it. I never let it lapse.”
Prior to her return to real estate, McGuirk worked in the traffic/ad sales department and production for TCI Tulsa CableVision and “chose a life in politics for eight years.” She said her involvement with politics began through LeRoy’s dealings in wrestling, but personally, she wanted to give back to the community.
“I started out in the county government and soon found it was open to those who wanted to put themselves out there for ridicule, and headstrong in the belief of making things better, so I fit right in,” McGuirk said.
She later was appointed secretary of three county commissioners at the local courthouse.
“I started out with being a Republican and was working for an all-democratic courthouse,” McGuirk said. “It was highly suggested that I change so that I could campaign. I’m a member of the Republican Party.”
Just as her real estate license always was a part of her life, wrestling followed the same path.
“Everything I learned from wrestling and the people I’ve met or known and has helped me along the way to become the person I am today, whether it’s in real estate or in being a corporate flight attendant and making videos for MarineMax selling beautiful boats,” said McGuirk, who was trained and licensed by United Airlines and Express Jet.
Her son, Max has even followed in the family footsteps. McGuirk said he currently wrestles part-time on the independents, but was in WWE developmental from 2009-10 and trained with the likes of Dory Funk Jr., Dusty Rhodes, Dr. Tom Prichard and Steve Keirn.