The Accidental Fan: The Suplex Saga — Episode 1 — A New GLOW
For my next three columns, I am choosing to tackle a contested subject: professional wrestling. And yes, I am talking full on World Wrestling Entertainment Wrestlemania-style wrestling. First of all, if you are a casual sports fan, you might be wondering: “Is wrestling even a sport?” Well, it is certainly athletic. Doing all of those flips and hits sure is not easy. However, you might point out that all the fights are choreographed, and the winner is predetermined, which takes the sportsmanship out of it. After all, are not sports meant to be a contest with others, or at least with oneself?
Alternatively, maybe you are a wrestling fan yourself and love that aspect of entertainment. Regardless of these differences in opinion, we can all agree on one thing: wrestling is divisive. Indeed, many people find it to be utterly ridiculous, which is understandable. It is dramatic and theatrical and if you like that, it is great. If you don’t, then it can really miss the mark. I am not a huge fan of wrestling myself (more on that another time). I am, however, a fan of the Netflix TV series “GLOW,” short for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a fictionalized comedy show based on the 1980s wrestling show by the same name.
The original “GLOW” was created by David McLane, who said he created it out of fan appreciation for other women’s wrestling matches of the time. If you want proof for the impact fans can have on a niche sport, there you go. The show ran for four seasons and drew performers from a wide range of careers who wanted to get a start in show business.
The Netflix show is based around this same principle. Washed-up director Sam Silvia, played by Marc Maron, has an idea for an all-women’s wrestling show, though in the show’s universe this seems to be a somewhat more novel idea than it was in real life. In fact, Sam struggles to get financial backing for his show — it only gets off the ground with the help of his producer, Sebastian “Bash” Howard (Chris Lowell), who comes from a wealthy family and is not shy about spending his parents’ earnings. We subsequently follow Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), who is an aspiring actress with many failed auditions. The first season follows Wilder, her once-best friend Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) and the other aspiring “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” from when they audition to when they film their pilot. The focus of the show is not the wrestling itself, but rather the interpersonal relationships that go on outside of the ring.
Fittingly enough, this is also what most fans of wrestling enjoy about watching “GLOW”: the character dynamics. Half the fun of watching any wrestling match is knowing the story behind the fight. This is something that “GLOW” really understands, as its two female leads have their own intense drama outside of the ring. This makes “GLOW” ideal for wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike.
A friend of mine, who doesn’t enjoy wrestling and hadn’t seen the first season, was still able to enjoy a few episodes of the second season because in addition to wrestling matches, there is also character building and a complete storyline. Viewers see the women as they struggle to master basic wrestling moves. They squabble over everything from technique to being roommates to relationships. This is something that I personally miss in professional wrestling. Although the story is there, a lot of it occurs on social media or from other outside sources. “GLOW” concentrates all of the drama within each episode, which makes it a great way to experience the fun and flashy world of professional wrestling without having to spend time searching endlessly for details on Twitter.
Perhaps for the true wrestling fan, “GLOW” lacks an essential component: the wrestling itself. Now, I can understand that. “GLOW” really emphasizes the performance aspects of wrestling. After all, most of the women who audition are actresses. However, something that the show does very well is demonstrating just how much work goes into training and choreographing matches.
The women in the show train for weeks before they get anywhere close to being good enough to wrestle. They are trained by one of their co-stars, Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel), who is a former stuntwoman, and by Carmen Wade (Britney Young), the daughter of a professional wrestler. Carmen’s brothers, Big Kurt Jackson and Mighty Tom Jackson, also help Debbie and Ruth train. The brothers are a great hidden Easter egg of sorts for wrestling fans, since they are played by real life pro wrestlers Carlos Edwin “Carly” Colón Jr. and Tyrus, respectively.
Not only do we see the women train physically for their roles, they also have to develop their characters. For Debbie, this is through watching a professional wrestling match which features yet more real-life professionals. These scenes are great for character development, as well as fun for the devoted fan. Essentially, although “GLOW” lacks the level of wrestling found in WWE shows, it has plenty of little nuggets for wrestling fans.
“GLOW” has all the action and all the drama of any wrestling show. However, it also has much more going for it: a fun storyline, a great cast and a lot of humor. I guess the point I am trying to make here is that “GLOW” is a really good show. It is a great introduction to wrestling if you know nothing about it and it warms you up slowly. Just like the women themselves, the audience is given the chance to explore wrestling and see why people like it. The audience can grow with the characters and follow their journey in discovering their wrestling personalities. But again, if you already love wrestling, then it is also a super fun ride.
Season two was recently released, and I will be talking about that in a future column. Until then, go watch “GLOW”! It is an absolute blast.