Nora Greenwald's life-altering experience was anything but traumatic, but it was completely unexpected. It happened during a simple, pleasure excursion to Florida. An admittedly quiet, reserved person, Greenwald never considered becoming an entertainer, outside of her high school career as a gymnast. That changed when she was approached by independent wrestler Tim Mahoney about a career in sports entertainment. "He said, 'You look athletic. Would you like to train at a wrestling school?'" Greenwald said in an interview with WWF.com. "I didn't know much about it, but I just went to see what it was about, meet some people and have some fun."
And then, she went with her gut. To Greenwald - now known as Molly Holly -- grown people throwing each other around and having a good time doing it was her idea of fun. The thought of combining her athletic ability with a chance to perform athletically was a quick and easy sell. "I knew it was something I wanted to do."
From there, there was no stopping Greenwald, who first learned the ropes in the sports entertainment industry in 1997 competing for independent wrestling promotions as "Starla Saxton." Later, she molded her technical skill with what she called a needed gimmick - Mona, a character that developed a loyal following in World Championship Wrestling. Today, Nora Greenwald, the shy, small-town girl from Forest Lake, Minn., has blossomed into a fun-loving, good ol' southern gal - Molly Holly.
Appropriately, the conception of Molly Holly was more spontaneous than her decision to become a wrestler. "The day I debuted as Molly Holly was the day that I found out I was going to be Molly Holly. I didn't know in advance," said Greenwald, who competed as Ophelia in dark matches at Federation television tapings before her television debut. Like the Florida trip, things changed at the last minute - for the better. The second the World Wrestling Federation unveiled Molly Holly - a cousin of Hardcore and Crash - it was an instant hit with fans and especially Greenwald herself. "It's been fantastic," Greenwald said.
On television, the role fits her perfectly. According to Greenwald, it adds more depth to her personality. "I really like a comedy, over-the-top type of character. I'm pretty quiet and reserved in person, so to be able to act a little bit silly is really a lot of fun."
Greenwald can't quite put a finger on the pulse of her sudden popularity. She said that her feud with Trish Stratus helped, adding that the contrast of the Molly character with Trish's vixen persona helped build a good story.
Greenwald also attributes her success to a character she portrayed while in WCW. In WCW, Greenwald was paired with Randy "Macho Man" Savage as Miss Madness, one of three valets to the two-time former Federation Champion. During a recent appearance on WWF.com's Byte This! Greenwald credited Savage with providing her a gimmick and a character, something she lacked on the independent circuit. "I knew how to wrestle, but you need more than that in the entertainment industry," Greenwald said while a guest on the show. "Randy created the character and showed me the show business side to it."
As Miss Madness, Greenwald was cast as a snobbish beauty queen, until shedding most of the stuck-up image after Savage "fired" her as his valet. As changing her name Mona, the stunning Greenwald became the Internet's newest attraction for various tribute pages. In the ring, her background as a gymnast was apparent. Greenwald had missed performing gymnastics since graduating high school years earlier, and sports entertainment provided her the chance to show off her skills as a gymnast she perfected as a two-time captain for Forest Lake High School. Anything beyond that, however, was out of the question.
"I was not that good!" a sheepish Greenwald admitted about intentions to try out for the Olympics. "It wasn't my whole life. As much as I loved it, Olympic gymnasts have to dedicate all of their time to that. I had other interests besides gymnastics."
What gymnastics did provide were leadership opportunities. Greenwald didn't know it at the time, but the competition eventually turned out to be an indirect avenue to a career in sports entertainment.
"In a way, you're entertaining fans with your floor exercise, with your whole presentation of your athletic ability," Greenwald said. "As far as getting in front of people and performing to the best of your ability, I guess that would really help into moving on into sports entertainment." Greenwald would go on to train with numerous wrestling stars, including current Federation Superstar Dean Malenko. She says it was Malenko who made her feel confident and comfortable in the ring and who also introduced her to Jim Ross, the Federation's senior vice president of talent relations.
It wasn't the first time that Greenwald would be competing for the World Wrestling Federation. In 1998, Greenwald made a one-time Federation appearance as Starla Saxton on HEAT, losing to then Women's Champion Jacqueline. "She's improved a lot since then," said Jacqueline. "She has more of a positive determination. She looks sure of herself and it shows in her wrestling style."
Added Greenwald: "As far as technical ability, I feel I was very similar then to now," Greenwald said in comparing Saxton to Molly Holly. "The main difference would be my appearance as far as being able to add showmanship, charisma, pizzazz and overall entertainment other than just the technical aspect of it. So now, I focus more on the character I portray, not just the wrestling moves."
Greenwald is the first to admit she's still a student of the game.
In her later days with WCW, she spent the bulk of her time at the WCW Power Plant training female competitors on how to wrestle and take bumps. She embraced the role as teacher, and relished seeing her students accomplish their goals. But soon the day came when Greenwald's career and life took another unexpected turn. Earlier this summer, she received a call from the WCW offices to inform her it would not be renewing her contract.
To this day, Greenwald still can't quite figure out what led to her dismissal from WCW. "I didn't get much of an explanation, other than the company was going through some management changes," she said. "They didn't tell me exactly why I was released, but I had a wonderful time at WCW and I am very thankful for all the opportunities I was given there. Being here is even better, but I have no regrets about WCW at all."
After being released by WCW, Greenwald felt that she had the experience and talent necessary to compete in the World Wrestling Federation. he called the Federation office to inform it she was available. "They told me they were interested in me and they signed me up," she said.
When Greenwald signed with the Federation, it had been a while since she competed in a ring or appeared on television. To get her timing back, she was sent to work for Memphis Championship Wrestling, an organization used as a training platform for Federation developmental talent.
Her time in MCW allowed her to once again become comfortable performing in front of people and to also learn yet another lesson. "They actually gave me a heel character there, and I hadn't had much experience doing that (save for her stint as Miss Madness in WCW)," Greenwald said. "So it was a good learning opportunity to change up a little bit." One of Greenwald's Federation goals as Molly Holly is to keep the women in the spotlight while focusing on all the aspects of sports entertainment, including the in-ring skill and athletic ability. She admitted that while woman's wrestling may deviate from actual wrestling for a while, her hopes are high. "I'm hoping to have a legitimate women's division -- one that I hope that will stick around for a while. That's where I feel I'm best used - in actual wrestling matches."
Her short-term is very simple: "To not get hurt! And also to keep having fun here. I love this character I was given, this Molly Holly, and I'm a huge fan of Crash. I just want to make sure that I still stay humble, whether I win a belt or whatever, to stay the same person and not take anything for granted."
Greenwald may indeed be humble at heart, but for a woman with a following about three times the size of Forest Lake, expectations are anything but humble. Prospects for Greenwald to become one of the all-time greats are the gut feeling of one established veteran.
"Molly Holly is a great wrestler," said an emphatic Jacqueline.
"She is going to be something major in the World Wrestling Federation."