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Mary Ann Kostecki (August 11, 1934 – May 12, 2008), better known by her ring name Penny Banner, was an American professional wrestler.[3]

Penny Banner
Penny Banner.jpg
Birth nameMary Ann Kostecki
Born(1934-08-11)August 11, 1934
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedMay 12, 2008(2008-05-12) (aged 73)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Penny Banner
Billed height5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Billed weight165 lb (75 kg)
Trained byBuddy Wolfe

Best known for her time spent in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), she was also the Commissioner of the Professional Girl Wrestling Association (PGWA) from 1992 until her death.


Early lifeEdit

Growing up, Mary Ann Kostecki's family did not have television.[4] She idolized Hank Williams, a musician, when she was young.[4]

Later, Kostecki began working as a cocktail waitress in St. Louis, while also acting as a nanny to three children.[5] During this time, Sam Muchnick, president of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), came into the lounge where she worked, and her boss told him that Banner was capable of doing two-hundred sit-ups.[5] Muchnick bet her she could not complete the task, and after she did, she began getting calls to be a female professional wrestler.[5]

Professional wrestling careerEdit

Kostecki began her career in professional wrestling as a way to learn how to defend herself outside of the ring.[3] She came up with the name Penny Banner because she admired Charlton Heston, who used the surname Banner in a movie, and the first name Penny was also significant to her.[5]

Banner was known for her "dirty" wrestling style, saying "boos are better than no audience reaction at all".[6]

She held many titles in her career, including the NWA Women's World Tag Team Championship three times between 1956 and 1960 and the AWA World Women's Championship in 1961.[5] In 1959, a match with NWA World Women's Champion June Byers, which ended in a draw, although Byers had consistently beat her in matches for three years prior.[1] She was then booked into a match with Byers in Indiana for the newly formed American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) in August 1961, but Byers no-showed.[1] Instead of their scheduled match, the AWA booked a battle royal, which Banner won to become the first AWA World Women's Champion.[1] She vacated the title when she moved to North Carolina with her husband and child.[1]

During her career, Banner had her nosed ripped up and her elbow dislocated.[5] Banner claimed that she retired in 1977 after June Byers, who owned the NWA World Women's Championship, retired because of a car accident, and that The Fabulous Moolah had cornered much of the national women's professional wrestling scene with her trainees and herself, which left Banner with nobody to wrestle in the Carolinas.[1][5] In her last twenty years of wrestling, Banner was only defeated twice: once by Moolah and once by Belle Start, both of whom used the ropes for leverage while pinning Banner.[1]

After retirementEdit

After retiring from the ring, Banner worked as a real-estate agent, worked in a rodeo, was the president of a local 4H, and began showing horses.[5] In 1990, she was diagnosed with emphysema and began swimming competitively to quit her smoking.[1] She competed in the Senior Olympics doing swimming plus the shot put and discus throws.[1][2] She also served as the Commissioner of the Professional Girl Wrestling Association (PGWA) from 1992 until her death. She also appeared for WCW at Slamboree 1994 with other wrestling legends.

Banner's autobiography Banner Days was completed 2005.[2] The book took her three years to write.[1] Also in 2005, she was featured in the documentary film Lipstick & Dynamite.[3] Her tag team partner Betty Jo Hawkins was Banner's best friend for thirty-three years until Hawkins died.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Banner went on five dates with Elvis Presley between 1956 and late 1958.[2][5] He also frequently saw her wrestle in Memphis.[1] Their last date was one week before he left to join the army, and they never saw each other again.[1] She was married to Johnny Weaver for thirty-five years before divorcing him in 1994.[2] She became pregnant in 1959, giving birth to a daughter named Wendi.[1][7]

In late 2005, Banner was diagnosed with cancer. In February 2006, the cancer had shrunk considerably after a doctor's check-up. In late 2007, Banner suffered several health crises, including pneumonia, resulting in severe weight loss. She died in her sleep at the home of her daughter, Wendi, in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 12, 2008.

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Rules, Joe (August 31, 2004). "Joe Rules Interviews G.L.O.R.Y. Legend Penny Banner". GLORY Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marvez, Alex (August 12, 2004). "Alex Marvez's weekly look at professional wrestling". Scripps Howard News Service. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c Eleanor Ringel Gillespie. "Lipstick & Dynamite: You'll fall for these ladies". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Greg Oliver (April 29, 2004). "Lipstick Dynamite, Piss Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling Chat with Penny Banner, Ida May Martinez and Ella Waldek". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l E L Farrell (October 2, 2006). "Wrestling Interview With Penny Banner". Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  6. ^ "Penny Banner (S)Cents Thousands". Classic Wrestling Articles. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Penny Banner of G.L.O.R.Y. Wrestling". G.L.O.R.Y. Wrestling. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  8. ^ "International Wrestling Institute and Museum". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  9. ^ "N.W.A. Women's Southern Title (Georgia)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2008. Penny Banner & Lorraine Johnson, 55, Ohio
  10. ^ "The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  11. ^ "Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2008.

External linksEdit