As the resident pro wrestling nerd at Off The Record, this week I’ll be taking a look at the newly-released Netflix series “GLOW.” Loosely based on the late ‘80s pro wrestling promotion GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), I’ll run down two episodes at a time for the 10-episode first season.
For more on the real-life GLOW, check out the documentary on Netflix before checking out the series.
Today, we’ll look at episode five (“Debbie Does Something”) and six (“This is One of Those Moments”).
“Oh my God, it’s a soap opera! This whole thing is a soap opera! I understand how to do that!”
– Debbie Eagan, “GLOW”
Well, Debbie discovered the deep, dark secret of pro wrestling that makes my family look down on me every time I have WWE on at their house.
In episode five of the Netflix series, the girls of GLOW are finally able to find some solid ground. The same can’t be said for the business side of things as Sam and Bash work on the executive from the local TV station. In the sad state of affairs that is trying to get women’s wrestling on television, the only big sponsor GLOW can muster up is a patio furniture store.
How do you win over a guy who sells outdoor ottomans for a living? With hot girls, obviously. Sam, always one to speak in a delicate manner, knows how to sell GLOW: Female stereotypes fighting each other will draw female audiences. Guys, “It’s porn you can watch with your kids.”
The ’80s were not exactly a progressive time. But, thanks to Ruth, the head of the patio furniture business is willing to be a sponsor thanks to her off-the-cuff portrayal as a Soviet Union bad guy that still has traction in today’s wrestling landscape.
It’s… it’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” awkward, but hey, it works. Ruth tells hokey jokes like Yakov Smirnoff, but again, ’80s. People ate up that shtick.
And now, Debbie gets the shtick of pro wrestling. After getting a dressing-down from Carmen for not taking wrestling serious, Debbie goes with Carmen and Melrose to a match in town. And after sitting on the sideline while her character was written off of “Paradise Cove,” Debbie has her new over-the-top drama to cling to. She’s into the All-American good gal. Now, she needs a foreign adversary.
Move to episode six, and that idea conflicts with Debbie’s real-life animosity with Ruth. The two are tailor-made to each other and yet, Debbie can’t put personal feelings aside from business. I mean, she got a pep talk from one of the wrestlers about this very subject matter in episode five, but somewhere between her amazement and the casual sex she has with said wrestler, guess that didn’t stick.
Ruth is all in on becoming a red menace. She has gone to calling herself Zoya the Destroya and is a “Noble Soviet bear,” a tagline that is sure to get the attention of the “Street Fighter” legal team for taking Zangief’s gimmick. Ruth also goes so far as to tag along with the Russian hotel manager of the Dusty Spur to make her role authentic. In more “Curb”-style awkwardness, the entire room is cold to Ruth before she breaks out some “Yentl” and wins the Streisand-loving crowd over. Really, this episode should be named “Slam Your Enthusiasm.”
Even while Debbie struggles with the idea of working with her, she can’t deny Ruth’s passion of the craft. They have natural chemistry. Xenophobia works (sadly) in wrestling.
The main event is on.
Episode 5 & 6 observations
- Wrestling nods: So, we got a lot here, with Debbie, Carmen and Melrose going to the wrestling show. First, we are greeted by a match between Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. It just so happens that I saw a Ring of Honor show in Hopkins, Minn. a month ago and saw Daniels and Kazarian as a tag team. They actually own a comic book shop together and I got autographs from the two.
Later on, former WWE star Alex Riley comes on as Steel Horse (later hooking up with Debbie after he recognizes her from her soap days) and independent wrestling standout Joey Ryan plays Mr. Monopoly.
- Another GLOW callback: Rapping. During one of the scene, we see Debbie trying a wrestling-related rap. And, it’s bad. Really bad. But, this is a real thing they did in GLOW because of the popularity of the 1985 Chicago Bears doing the “Super Bowl Shuffle.” Here’s a link to one. If you need to describe the ‘80s to someone, this is a good start.
- Justine gets a couple character-building moments in episodes five and six. First, the young punk meets the pizza boy of her dreams and spends the episode in puppy love. Then at the end of episode six, after having a heated discussion with Sam about him trying to use GLOW as his own personal casting couch, she steals his camera. Confusing at first, will make sense later.
- Favorite line in these two episodes: As Debbie describes her character, Liberty Belle, “I am a mom, so I know how important it is to be patriotic.”
An episode later, she has a moment with Sam.
Sam: “You still have to wake up and be a professional. You can’t just go out and do coke and piss away all your money and screw people who are named after liqueurs. What happens then?”
Debbie: “You end up here?”
Sam: “You end up here.”
- The TV exec is played by Andrew Friedman, who plays Uncle Jack Kelly from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” My first thought is maybe Jack wants a role in GLOW so his hands will look bigger on TV.