Women’s pro wrestling is the backdrop for a new television series now streaming on Netflix. GLOW is a reboot that revives and re-imagines the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling concept.
The newly-released series is a fictional story chronicling the making of the original GLOW TV show. Set in Los Angeles during the mid-1980s, the story follows a struggling actress as she lands a role on the women’s wrestling show alongside an ensemble cast.
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What is GLOW? —
The original series titled “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” was a syndicated show that ran for four seasons from 1986-1990. Similar to Lucha Underground today, the initial GLOW series was a TV show as opposed to a traditional wrestling promotion.
The original series returned to the forefront several years ago as the subject of the documentary film “GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.” That project helped inspire the idea for the new reboot. Like with the new series, the documentary is available to watch on Netflix.
The new GLOW series was created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. Their concept became the new show as they went about developing a comedy-drama that revolved around the beginnings of Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
The new show is a fictional reimagining of the GLOW origin story. The series follows the characters on their journey through the filming of a pilot for the fictional version of the original TV show. Much like with the true story of GLOW, the characters all move into a hotel together and must coexist after being cast as wrestlers. Many of the characters are unfamiliar with wrestling, and must adapt to their new surroundings.
Cast of Characters —
The main character in the story is Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actress looking for her big break. She finds herself cast on a fledgling women’s wrestling show despite having no prior experience as a wrestler. Her character takes on the role of a stereotypical Russian heel as the show progresses.
Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) is a former soap opera actress who in storyline gets recruited to play the all-American top babyface character. In the story, Debbie is the only cast member on the show with actual experience acting on a TV show. She is the mother of an infant, and she is also Ruth’s friend-turned-foe.
Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) is the director and showrunner tasked with bringing the TV show to life. The character’s passions include screenwriting, directing, smoking cigarettes, and doing cocaine.
Carmen Wade (Britney Young) is the only character with a wrestling background before joining the fledgling cast. She is from a wrestling family that has a ring in their backyard, but her father is against her getting into the business so she has no actual in-ring experience. Having lived a sheltered life, her joining the cast of the TV show begins a turning point in her character’s development overcoming self-doubt.
Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) is a former stuntwoman that becomes the head trainer despite in storyline not having been trained as a wrestler. Her kayfabe husband is a former stuntman, and both have past history with the director. Her husband becomes the referee for the promotion.
Pro wrestler Kia Stevens (formerly Awesome Kong in TNA and Kharma in WWE) portrays Tamme Dawson in a breakout performance delivering a memorable role. Ironically, Stevens in her first on-screen acting role plays a character doing that exact thing. Her character on the show has no prior experience in wrestling, unlike Stevens herself.
Other characters include a party girl, a furry that identifies as a wolf, a gold digger, a punk rocker, and others including stereotypical wrestling gimmicks like with an Asian-American character becoming a heel named Fortune Cookie. Likewise, a young student whose family immigrated from India is given a Middle Eastern heel gimmick.
Sometimes the characters become upset with stereotypical portrayals. Stevens’ character forms a tag team with Cherry Bang, and they question their gimmicks at one point. The character that becomes Fortune Cookie also questions her role.
Wrestler Cameos —
Stevens is the only actual pro wrestler on the main cast, but many other wrestlers show up on the show in various roles. John Hennigan (Johnny Mundo/John Morrison) appears on the pilot episode as a wrestler tasked with initially training the women’s roster.
Other wrestlers in recurring roles on the cast include Tyrus (Brodus Clay) and Carly Colon (Carlito). They portray the brothers of Carmen as wrestlers from a fictional wrestling family.
Alex Riley plays the top babyface of a local wrestling promotion. He has a match with Joey Ryan that serves as a breakthrough moment for a character on the show. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian are unnamed wrestlers that have a match together leading up to that scene.
In an off-camera role behind the scenes, Chavo Guerrero Jr. trained the new cast in wrestling for the show. His uncle, Mondo Guerrero, helped train the cast of the original series in the ‘80s.
Footage of wrestling matches is shown at various times throughout the show, usually on a TV set being watched by the characters. One scene shows the main character watching a videotape of Hulk Hogan in the ring at Madison Square Garden the night he won the WWF title.
Also seen is footage of Kerry Von Erich against Ric Flair from their NWA title match at Texas Stadium. Flair is shown at various other times as well. Grainy footage of Gorgeous George makes an appearance along with other retro matches usually seen on TV sets in the background of different scenes.
Final Thoughts —
To see or not to see, that is the question. GLOW has a lot of wrestling-related content to interest fans of actual pro wrestling. For fans looking to share their love of wrestling with family or friends who are not fans, this series is a great vehicle for that. The show has plenty of squared circle references, but the story itself can captivate an audience unfamiliar with pro wrestling.
The show captures the vibe and style of the 1980s, but some of the wrestling scenes are a disconnect from the style of the time period. Personally, I would still recommend the show to both wrestling fans and even non-fans.
The show is for a mature audience as it contains nudity, profanity, drug use, and other adult situations so parental discretion is strongly advised.