I must admit that I, personally, have never been a huge wrestling fan – but who could forget former wrestling star Nicole Bass?
As one of the top female bodybuilders in the U.S., Nicole made a massive impression all those who laid eyes on her thanks to the 240 pounds of muscle on her frame and her 17-inch biceps.
Then, suddenly, she left WWE, and her absence was never truly explained.
Years later, though, the truth finally came out…
To understand how Nicole could go from an anonymous girl in New York to competing in Ms. Olympia and appearing in several soap operas, we must go back in time.
Born in Middle Village in Queens, New York, Nicole grew to be 6’2 and 240 pounds of pure muscle. As a young woman, however, she was far from an athlete.
She graduated from Coral Gables High in Florida, and her obsession with bodybuilding began when she entered a gym in South Miami as a teenager. According to Nicole, she was overweight and weighed 165 pounds at the time.
One of the reasons she wanted to start exercising was to ”meet some of the cute guys I always saw going there.” Fortunately, Nicole had a will of steel – which was good because she had a lot to work on. Her waist was close to 33 inches and increasing every year. Nicole herself has admitted that she was a big consumer of ice cream.
It didn’t take long before she realized that building muscles was her greatest passion in life. She began competing as a teenager and would win several prestigious competitions in the 1980s and 1990s.
She was dubbed the overall winner of the 1997 NPC National Bodybuilding Championships, and placed 14th in the 1997 Ms.Olympia contest.
Of course, this giant lady stood out wherever she went. At one point, she even dubbed herself the “biggest, heaviest, tallest and strongest” woman in the world – but all that came at a price.
“I hate walking around with my veins all sticking out, but to be great in this sport you have to be cut fine,” Bass told The Miami Herald in 1986.
In that same interview, Nicole explained the secret behind her success and how the muscle-bound New Yorker managed to build such a gigantic body. According to Nicole, she only ate fish, vitamins, and vegetables, though she sometimes treated herself to an off-season pig-out.
“I don’t need to take steroids or any kind of artificial crap. Just give me my sushi and occasional ice cream and I’m happy,” Nicole explained.
Nicole looked tough and this alone was often enough to intimidate people. Her friends, though, had some choice ways to describe her.
People close to her said that Nicole, who could bench press 315 pounds and effortlessly curl 95-pound dumbbells, was “strong not only on the outside but inside as well” and had a ”beautiful soul and kind heart.”
The bodybuilder also loved to ride horses, read books, and found comfort in her hairless cats known as Sphynxes; she owned three.
In 1998, Nicole started her professional wrestling career, joining Paul Heyman’s ECW. She made her debut in Japan and won the tournament by defeating Kyoko Inoue, a well-respected wrestling champion. After that, she served as a bodyguard for ECW standout Justin Credible during matches.
Naturally, Nicole didn’t go unnoticed, especially not after chiseling her 6-foot-2 frame into 240 pounds of muscle. She soon discovered by Vince McMahon, creator and owner of the WWE. He brought Nicole into his wrestling organization in 1999.
During WrestleMania 15 in Philadelphia, Nicole made her big debut at WWE when Sable retained the ladies’ title by defeating Tori. Nicole acted as Sable’s villainous bodyguard. She gained a lot of attention in the process, flanking one of the biggest stars in the industry.
At this point, many likely believed that Nicole would go on to have a long and successful career as a wrestler; she performed good moves and was involved in high-profile matches during her brief time at WWE.
But then she disappeared, and her spell with WWE ended abruptly after she was released from her contract. At first, Nicole didn’t reveal why she had left wrestling. But it soon became apparent that she was suffering, and in 2002, Nicole went to court after filing a lawsuit against the WWE. She wanted $120 million, claiming that her contract had been wrongly terminated.
She also said that The Brooklyn Brawler (AKA Steve Lombardi) did some very bad things against her. Both the company and the wrestler denied all charges and the case was ultimately dismissed by a New York City jury in 2002.
WWE Attorney Jerry McDewitt made some harsh remarks after the trial.
“Nicole Bass’ case was a bunch of filmsy garbage, just a shakedown. She wanted money from a company that she thought would roll over and pay it. She was wrong,” McDevitt said in 2002.
Nicole, though, saw the whole event as a victory.
“I stood up for women. I stood up to a huge corporation. I stuck to my guns. It was very much an ordeal for me, to have to go through this process,” she told PW Torch.
After all the media attention surrounding the case, Nicole left the spotlight and took on “normal” jobs to make a living.
In addition to that, the former wrestling star continued to do some wrestling jobs at public events, and also helped people as a personal trainer. In 2002, she wrestled her last match.
One could argue that the Howard Stern Show made Nicole famous, opening many doors with regards to her career as a wrestler. She started appearing on the show in the early 1990s, and soon became a member of the “Wack Pack” – her physical size and deep voice made a strong impression on listeners.
Nicole was known for doing anything and everything to get a laugh, and people liked her self-deprecating humor. Howard would joke about how often Nicole was confused for a man, and Nicole laughed about it herself.
In many episodes of the show, Nicole talked openly about her love life and how lonely she could sometimes feel – especially after losing her husband.
During her time on one of the most successful radio shows ever, she often flirted with the sport of wrestling, which was actually how the wrestling organizations discovered her in the late 90s.
Besides being a regular on the Howard Stern Show, Nicole worked as an actress for many years. In 1997, she starred as herself in Private Parts, the autobiographical story of Howard Stern.
Fans may also have seen Nicole appear in various soap operas such as The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital.
Nicole Bass husband
Nicole lived with the same man for a long time. She married Richard “Bob” Fuchs in 1985, and they were together until his tragic death in 2013. Bob died in his sleep in 2013, at age 64.
Even though their relationship was shaky at times, Bob’s death exacted a heavy toll on Nicole. She was his nurse and caretaker for several years, being much younger than him.
But though she mourned Bob, Nicole maintained a positive attitude and would find a second life companion after falling in love with her business partner, Kristen Marrone.
Last years in life
As mentioned, Nicole mainly stayed out of the limelight after leaving the wrestling scene. From time to time, she showed up on Howard Stern, and occasionally did some autograph signings here and there.
Unfortunately, she also suffered from health issues, and in 2006 she was hospitalized due to steroid-influenced pancreatitis.
After largely falling off the radar, Nicole’s name once again emerged in the news when she was rushed to a New York hospital in 2017 after being found unconscious in her apartment.
At the hospital, doctors declared Nicole to be medically brain dead following a heart attack. There was nothing they could do.
On February 17, 2017, Nicole was taken off life support. She was 52.
Following her death, Nicole’s partner Kristen made a statement on Facebook to address rumors and other questions:
”A few days ago Nicole got very sick. She was brought into the hospital and they did everything they could to help her. I have been sitting here with her in the room 24/7 since she got here making sure she was being given the best possible care. Today we learned that there is nothing else that can be done. Nicole was an amazing woman. Strong not only on the outside but inside as well. Beautiful soul and kind heart. Many people knew Nicole but few ever got close enough to know the REAL woman that she was. I got to be one of the lucky few. Not only was she my soul mate and my girlfriend but she was my best friend, my teacher and my business partner. I learned many valuable things from her and created many beautiful memories in the time we had together.”
When the news broke, many members of the wrestling community sent their condolences and paid their respects. Wrestling star Tommy Dreamer tweeted about Nicoles’s passing and said:
“Her heart was as big as she was. A wonderful & loyal friend.”
On Nicole’s Facebook page, people shared stories about the giant woman and self-proclaimed “world’s largest bodybuilder.” Judging by the comments on her Facebook page, Nicole left a lasting impression on many people.
“I met Nicole at a bodybuilding contest in New Jersey in the 1980’s. I was nervous to get up on stage and she was SO positive and supportive. She cheered and clapped from the sidelines and that gave me confidence to complete my routine. I liked her spirit and “can do” attitude. Thank you for sharing this sad news. Rest In Peace Nicole,” a woman named Kathleen Bernhard wrote.
”I have absolutely no words. I was very privileged to know Nicole and her late husband Bob. She was a truly soft beautiful soul and I smile whenever I think of her. I am so very sad to hear she’s gone. I hope she always knew we were her family and thought of her as just that,” a woman called Jennifer Dones recalled in the comments section.
She was such a strong woman and an icon at the same time! She seemed like a kind person also, and certainly never gave up on her dreams.
Rest in peace Nicole.