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 nine (“The Liberal Chokehold”) and ten (“Money’s in the Chase”).
Finally, it’s showtime for GLOW.
Well, there’s one more hurdle to leap over before the lights are on: They need a place that actually has lights.
Sam lost his deposit on the Mayan theater he saw in episode eight, and they need $9,000 to book another venue. However, Bash is not the unlimited piggy bank he appeared to be as his mother has cut him off.
The girls of GLOW, they’re worked too damn hard to be outdone by Bash’s mother’s purse strings. So, they have a carwash (because everyone in the ‘80s had a carwash fundraiser). And when that only raises $287, they go for another tried-and-true ‘80s staple: Fleecing rich people.
Bash’s grand scheme is to have the GLOW girls act like recovering crack addicts at his mother’s fundraiser for Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs. Apparently, wrestling saved all their lives. Sorry to be a downer, but an awful lot of wrestlers actually died due to drug problems. But I digress.
All the women give a speech to a nest of WASPs, with Ruth pulling from her affair with Debbie’s husband to convince these people. They raise enough money, only for Bash’s mom to stop everything in its tracks because they are clearly swindling money under false pretences.
But, she does come through, giving Bash a ballroom in one of the family’s hotels to film the first episode of GLOW.
Now, Bash just has to get his director out of his pity party. Throughout the series, Sam has the idea in his head to make his magnum opus: A “crazy time-travel sex romp.” As he’s doing coke with the band playing at the war on drugs party (off of a framed photo of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in my favorite visual in the entire series), he describes this movie. Problem is, that movie was just made. It’s called “Back to the Future.”
As Sam mopes alone, the young fangirl Justine comes to talk privately with him. For episodes, there has been this tension between the two. Everyone thinks she loves the B-movie director. Well, she kind of loves him. Sam plants a kiss on Justine, who is revolted the moment it happens. Not a fangirl. She’s his daughter. It’s an expected twist that’s executed about how you would expect.
And finally, the main event. However, all wrestling cards are subject to change as Debbie pulls out of the first show. After a tense dinner with Mark, who berates her for wanting to be a pro wrestler, she gives in. She does want to save her marriage, even if it means losing a little happiness. After all, during a back-and-forth in episode nine, Debbie says her draw to wrestle is being able to feel in control, especially over her body after having a baby.
The house looks a little dead for GLOW’s first show, so the ladies decide to jazz up the appearance by paying moviegoers at the theater across the street to come watch some wrestling. Ironically, the movie they’re waiting to see? “Back to the Future.” Sam Sylvia: 1. Robert Zemeckis 0.
Things start very messy (see: racist) when the show opens with Britannica (accompanied to the ring by Bash’s drug robot) against Beirut the Mad Bomber. Because even 30 years ago, anyone with a Middle Eastern appearance had garbage and ethnic slurs thrown their way. I would like to say wrestling has evolved, but considering that the current WWE champion is Jinder Mahal and the crowd is supposed to hate him for being Indian… Yeah, wrestling is far from being woke.
At least things turn around, with Junkchain wrestling Vicky the Viking, followed by Melrose vs. Sheila the She-Wolf. After having an episode with a conflicted Sheila revealing her wolf get-up is not a gimmick, it’s a big leap for the character to embrace the lunacy of it by coming to the ring chained up like a rabid animal.
Speaking of characters growing, Machu Picchu gets her moment of approval when she gets a win in the ring with her dad watching. But, she was wrestling The Welfare Queen, who spent the match trash-talking and shoving food stamps down her throat.
Now, the (makeshift) main event: Zoya the Destroya and Fortune Cookie take on Edna and Ethel Rosenblatt in a tag-team match? Huh? The four put on a decent match, but no crowd is going to get behind a pair of Communist baddies fighting a team of old ladies. The crowd (REDACTED) all over the match as Debbie sits in the crowd concerned while Mark acts smug and wants to leave for fear of being seen.
But Debbie worked too hard to see it fail. Ruth worked too hard to see it fail. For all the pain and humiliation all the GLOW girls went through, the first show is going to end with the live crowd hating it? Not on Debbie’s watch, as she cuts an impromptu promo on Zoya the Destroya before revealing her Liberty Belle outfit.
The marquee matchup that’s been built up is finally on, and Ruth and Debbie take their match from the backyard onto the big stage and pull it off to the audience’s delight. They still might not be on the same page. Debbie says that she’s “not there yet” when Ruth asks to go out for drinks afterward. But, they tore the house down. Liberty Belle is the new GLOW champion.
… Until The Welfare Queen comes to the ring, beats her down and takes the championship instead.
Sam tells her after this screwjob that “The money’s in the chase.”
It may not sink in for Debbie at the moment. But from the time they leave the ballroom to the final scene of season one where all the women are watching the first episode of GLOW, everything needs a payoff. Liberty Belle has a title to go after. The Welfare Queen needs her comeuppance. Zoya the Destroya needs to try to avenge her main event loss.
The chase has just begun.
Episode 9 & 10 observations
- One character who gets a happy, if bittersweet, ending is Cherry. After busting her ass as the trainer, she gets a call for an audition in a cop drama. She reveals to her husband Keith (who is the referee during the show) that she got the part. I often wonder in conversations like this happen frequently between wrestlers and referees.
- Being the wrestling fanboy of the series, Bash is elated to get to pull his inner “Mean” Gene Okerlund as the ring announcer/commentator. Hopefully nothing falls behind him and he says “(REDACTED) it” like the real “Mean” Gene did in the old WWF.
- As dumb as the idea of wrestling grannies is, I do appreciate the nickname “The Beatdown Biddies.”
- Favorite line: As Sam sees Mark for the first time and makes the connection that he is who Ruth slept with to start the tension between his main-event stars…
Sam: “Not what I expected.”
Ruth: “You were expecting what? Sean Penn?”
Sam: “No, just someone less like a giant Cabbage Patch Kid. I’m better looking than that idiot.”
- Disregarding how weird it was for Debbie to have her Liberty Belle USA flag under her dress clothes, I popped when the song that accompanied the final match was “Invincible” by Pat Benatar. In a show about women working their asses off and blowing people away in a man’s world, who better than a woman who did the same thing in ‘80s rock?