The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are ready to rumble in Netflix’s GLOW.
In 1986, audiences received a shock when syndicated TV show GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling entered homes. And with the June 23 Netflix premiere of GLOW, a 10-episode fictionalized series based on this cult classic, ladies in the ring are back in action. In the 1980s, wrestling was a male-dominated sport, and the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) had the market. It had women, some who wrestled and others, like Miss Elizabeth, who were used as arm candy and for dramatic effect. But GLOW featured only female wrestlers, who were mostly actresses, models, dancers and/or stuntwomen with showbiz dreams who underwent training. It was groundbreaking as an all-female sports show that attracted millions of viewers. And, oh, what a glorious spectacle it was for the four years it aired.
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
You have to understand that when GLOW debuted, big hair, dramatic makeup, glitter and bright colors were all the rage. The women never disappointed with their over-the-top looks and fearless, albeit campy, performances in (staged) wrestling matches, sketches, musical numbers and even in-show commercials.
There were Good Girls, managed by none other than Sylvester Stallone’s mother Jackie Stallone, and Bad Girls, run by Aunt Kitty (Kitty Burke).
The ladies performed their very own personalized rap songs, and each made an impression — kitsch was queen in GLOW. Jungle Woman led Nature Boy around on a leash, and Big Bad Mama was the thing of nightmares with her clownish makeup — she practiced voodoo, of course. Every frightening or menacing character was juxtaposed with a sweetie who could pack just as much fierceness in the ring, such as Sally the Farmer’s Daughter and California Doll.
The wrestling matches the women performed were not for the faint of heart. When Mountain Fiji, the Andre the Giant of women’s wrestling who never lost a match, met Matilda the Hun in the ring, you were glued to the action and accompanying pain.
These gorgeous ladies of wrestling were memorable, and the stories that accompanied their characters were always entertaining, sometimes controversial or playing up stereotypes: The Widow allegedly poisoned her husband to death, Ninotchka was a KGB agent who wanted to bring down the United States for Russia, and Palestina was a Middle Eastern terrorist. Yes, satire worked well on GLOW. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been as much fun without it. And while many of the ladies were scantily clad, the show wasn’t about sex.
The creative genius behind character-driven GLOW provides a great deal of material for Netflix’s GLOW to borrow from, but what exactly does the new show have in store for viewers?
GLOW on Netflix
As an ’80s kid who, much to my mother’s dismay, would plop down in front of the TV each week to watch GLOW, I can’t possibly express how excited I am for Netflix’s GLOW. Executive produced by Jenji Kohan, who’s behind such hits as Orange Is the New Black and Weeds, and created by Liz Flahive (Homeland, Nurse Jackie) and Carly Mensch (Nurse Jackie, Orange Is the New Black, Weeds), GLOW is a female-led series both behind and in front of the camera that’s “inspired by the real story” of the gorgeous ladies of wrestling.
Jackie Tohn, Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson, Alison Brie, Sydelle Noel, Kia Stevens, Kate Nash, Ellen Wong, Britney Young, Sunita Mani, Gayle Rankin, and Britt Baron in ‘GLOW’ (2017) / Netflix
Now, the details surrounding the show are somewhat vague, but the trailer does shine some light on what to expect. Main character Ruth Wilder, played by Alison Brie from Community and Mad Men, is an out-of-work actress who unknowingly goes on an audition to be a female wrestler for a new show called GLOW. She takes the gig, and thus begins the journey with other women to learn how to wrestle. GLOW will deal with the stereotyping that occurred during character selection — with humor, of course — and appears to follow the true story origins with the training requirements and good girls vs. bad girls scenario.
Most importantly perhaps, though, is the intense energy and charisma the trailer displays. It could be attributed to its use of Quiet Riot’s “Come on Feel the Noize,” or simply because it’s funny, quirky and a tad over-the-top — just like the original GLOW. There’s definitely a polished seriousness to Netflix’s GLOW. We’ll attribute that to its budget and technical improvements since the 1980s, as well as the fact that it’s going to tell the story of a struggling actress thrust into an unlikely role. That brings us to Wilder’s wrestling persona — we don’t know her stage name yet. I’m hoping that mystery will be revealed a few episodes in and that it’s going to rival Princess of Darkness or Susie Spirit. It’s pretty obvious, though, that she’ll be a good girl, although we can’t be sure until the reveal. For all the mystery that remains around GLOW’s characters and whether they’ll include some of the originals, one thing had better happen for this superfan: Mountain Fiji in the ring. Based on one character’s look, if you’ll forgive me for stereotyping, I’ll bet she’s taking on that role.
But will Godiva and her horse make an appearance? I really hope so.