Peggy Fowler, who wrestled in the 1980s and 1990s as Peggy Lee and Peggy Lee Leather, has died. She was 64.
She got into the pro wrestling game having watched her older stepsister in the ring.
It takes a minute to explain Fowler’s connection to the wrestler known as Wenona Little Heart and Lock.
Winfred “Winnie” Childree had gotten into pro wrestling through her stepfather, wrestler/promoter Dick Barkley, and had begun the battles in 1976, after learning from The Fabulous Moolah, using the name Wenona Little Heart. Fowler’s birth mother, Pauline, married Winnie’s birth father, Frank Childree.
It was in the late 1970s, and Peggy was watching her stepsister wrestle a match in Savannah, Georgia, when her sister’s opponents decided to use some heel antics. “One of her eyes done got gouged,” Peggy recalled. So she leaped from her seat at ringside and ran into the ring to defend her sister. “Three cops grabbed me and threw me out in the rain,” she would recall in a 1995 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The bug was planted. Fowler trained under Moolah as well in 1980. “What an inspiration Moolah was,” Fowler told the Enquirer, about her training on Moolah’s compound in Columbia, SC. Joyce Grable was her primary trainer, and in a 2018 panel on Moolah’s legacy at the Cauliflower Alley Club, chuckled that Fowler took to the the backstage language of “carny” quickly: “Once she learned how to talk carny, she didn’t stop,” said Grable.
Peggy Lee Fowler was born January 19, 1959, in Reynolds, Georgia, and grew up partly on a farm, with a brother and sister. “I used to take 50 pounds of sweet feed, throw it over my shoulder like it was nothin’,” she recalled in the Enquirer interview. In school — Taylor County High School — she played basketball, though not overly tall, at 5-foot-8, and softball.
“My mother was at first worried about me getting into wrestling, but now she knows I can take care of myself and attends all my matches when I am booked anywhere in the Georgia area,” she told legendary writer/photographer Gene Gordon in a magazine profile three years into her career.
In the early going, she was just Peggy Lee — there was also a famed woman singer under that name — but added the “Leather” aspect because it suited her. The name change also marked the end of her five years under the sole booking of Moolah.
In an online interview with announcer Mick Karch, Fowler said there were similarities between her real personality and her wrestling gimmick. “There are some similarities. When I do anything, I do it 100%. Moolah told me, ‘Whatever you do, be the best you can.’ I don’t take any bull from anyone, but I always respect my opponent.”
“I love leather,” Fowler simply told Paul Daugherty in a 1995 profile in the Enquirer. She added that many of her leather outfits were purchased in Mexico for a fraction of the cost.
The Peggy Lee Leather name shows up in many matches from her debut right up until the mid 2000s, across North America and abroad, including tours of Japan. She worked in WWF matches (where she teamed with Wendi Richter and then challenged for Richter’s WWF Women’s title), was in the AWA trying for Madusa Miceli‘s AWA World Women’s title, and was even in the lingerie battle royal at the AWA SuperClash III pay-per-view in December 1988. There were occasional appearance in WCW, though there wasn’t especially any sort of women’s division at the time.
However, Leather was a regular in many of the all-women’s promotions, including David McLane’s Powerful Women of Wrestling and then Women of Wrestling (where she was Thug), the Ladies Professional Wrestling Association (where she was Lady X), and in Women’s Pro Wrestling.
A frequent opponent was Bambi / Selina Majors, and, when Majors was honored at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion, she thanked her trainer, Joyce Grable, and Fowler. “Without her [Fowler] making me look good, just like Joyce, I wouldn’t have had the matches that I had.”
In a 1990 interview with Jeff Bowdren in the Wrestling Observer yearbook, Angelle “Luna” Vachon, Fowler was praised: “I also think Peggy Lee Leather is awesome. She hasn’t been given a chance because of her size, but she’s an excellent worker.”
There were scores of titles, including the IWA Women’s Championship (3 times), the LMLW International Championship, the LPWA Championship, the NWA World Women’s Championship, the NWA Blue Ridge Women’s Championship, the NWL Women’s Championship, and the New Dimension Wrestling Women’s Championship.
“You either got what it takes in this business, or you haven’t,” she told legendary writer/photographer Gene Gordon in a magazine profile three years into her career. “If the heat gets too hot in the kitchen, it’s time to get out.”
Fowler was presented with the 2013 Princess Jasmine Trailblazer Award by the Women of Wrestling promotion.
News of Fowler’s death was shared on Facebook on May 22, 2023, by many friends, though without details on cause of death.
“I first met Peggy in 1985, and we remained friends all of our lives from that point on,” recalled Jack Lord on Facebook. “She was a tough lady, but also one of the sweetest. I have so many stories of our times together, the mix tag matches that we had (that also involved Selina [Bambi] Majors) and how we always looked out for each other on the road. Rest In Peace, sweetheart. I’m gonna miss you.”
“I am crying my heart out over this. Peggy was a sweetheart. Huge loss of a dear friend,” wrote Velvet McIntyre.
“There are some days that you just wish there was a day with nothing but good news,” wrote Susan “Tex” Green. “Received a call telling me a sister/friend from my wrestling family passed away. Peggy Lee Leather my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families at this time. You will be missed by many. I’ll see you when my number is called. Rest in Peace my friend.”
In her question answer session with Karch, Fowler summed up her run in pro wrestling: “I wouldn’t change my choice of a career for anything. I enjoyed traveling the world, meeting some cool people, and getting out of a one horse town!!”