In a previous publication I mentioned that I was ending my Netflix Embargo that began in 2008 because Netflix has produced an exciting new series that they describe as a “Dramatic Comedy”. I can go with that description, kind of. I think it’s a little more than that but everyone is entitled to his and her opinion. I ended up getting my first month of Netflix for free so I had absolutely nothing to lose for giving it a try, so I did.
As someone who has worked in the entertainment industry and who this very day was out selling the next show that I will help produce, something significant had to happen in order for me to place a viewing embargo, a self-inflicted boycott of an entertainment company. In my mind something pretty serious did happen. The owner of Netflix supported a Marxist Revolutionary in his efforts to become elected President of the United States. As a combat veteran of the Cold War that is a pretty serious offense. So I decided that I would not consider Netflix to be a source of my entertainment any more than Jews consider Bayer Aspirin to be the correct choice for headache relief.
When I saw that Netflix was producing a series about the 1980’s Ladies Pro Wrestling Show known to the world as GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) it was very clear to me that my boycott of Netflix was self-destructive and the need to end the embargo was real. The power of Pro Wrestling can overcome anything. Ask Hillary Clinton. In her last match she was beaten by a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
As we are talking about the essence of Ladies Pro Wrestling I would like to take this opportunity on this forum to once again give special recognition to one of my favorite Independent Lady Wrestlers, Miss Lexie Fyfe. She worked the character of “Hillrod” on WWE’s Monday Night Raw on the night before the Pennsylvania Primary in 2008. She pulled off the work of a lifetime perfectly and I am so proud of her. WWE made the perfect choice for the character of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Proud to know her. Lexie is skilled, tough and dedicated. She’s out there working her magic in front of a crowd somewhere tonight. I wish I was there with my camera but I’m busy doing business with another promoter at another show tonight. I’m going to work some magic of my own.
A week after Season One of GLOW was up on Netflix, I settled in on a Saturday morning with my new subscription and started watching it. For those who haven’t read my previous publication on this subject, the original GLOW was a 1980s Ladies Pro Wrestling Show. As far as production feel and perception, it was a lot like other Pro Wrestling Shows during those early years of cable television. The music and the graphics kind of looked like the old WWF stuff from back in the day but this show was in no way related to the WWF. It wasn’t related to the NWA, or the AWA either. This was a show all its own and it was very, very, VERY cheesy. It was pure 80s Gold.
For those of us who were SERIOUS wrestling fans in the 80s and by that I mean those of us in the South who grew up on the NWA, we thought GLOW was a little silly. Lots of cheesy little skits, that sort of thing. Not enough Rasslin’ with too much talking and it was silly. Well guess how we knew all this and still know all this to this day? We were watching it, that’s why. Wrestling fans are going to watch wrestling shows.
What made this different than anything else that had ever been done before is that the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling had no idea that was what they were going to become when they answered a casting call. Those girls weren’t wrestlers. They were actresses, singers, probably a stripper or two and they were just looking for a break, a shot at some real work. Well, they got that break and I don’t think any of them knew what they were getting themselves into. Nonetheless when they were presented with the opportunity to become a GLOW girl and knew what that was going to entail, they did what anyone who is hungry and looking for an opportunity would do. They grabbed onto it tight and held on for the ride. They made Sports Entertainment history. Whatever you think of Professional Ladies Wrestling, that’s pretty bad ass. Like the man says, if you’re big star bound let me tell you it’s a long hard ride.
I got my Netflix subscription because I wanted to see if they would do those GLOW girls justice. Their story is not well known. Their show lasted 4 years and was at the height of its success when it was abruptly cancelled. There was no farewell episode. There was no chance to say goodbye. The GLOW girls were the last to know, next to the fans. An axiom of the wrestling business is that at every show you must give the crowd more than they expected and leave the crowd wanting more. The success of GLOW back in the 80s was way more than anyone ever expected when they started out and when they finished they definitely left us wanting more. Now Netflix gets to capitalize on that. Netflix is selling tickets to the next show. I did not hesitate to purchase them.
I must tell you now that I did not find what I expected to find. Let’s get real, most performing arts people don’t think much of Pro Wrestling. Most think it is too low-brow for them. They just don’t get it. What I expected to find would be at best an accurate reenactment of the history of GLOW.
The Truth is that I found a whole lot more than that.
I found a Work that was loaded with respect for the business of Pro Wrestling. That is not something that I could have ever expected out of Netflix or anyone outside of “The Business”. I don’t mean this as an insult but I never imagined that the team at Netflix would even be capable of showing respect for the business because they don’t know how to. Not only do they know how to, they did a very good job of doing it. Someone opened the door for them and shined a light. Throughout Season One I saw so many things that would make any seasoned Pro Wrestling “Smart Mark” Fan sit up and take notice. It made me appreciate the Work even more.
How much Kayfabe do I violate here?
I will stick to what has been made known to the public out of respect.
The first thing that got my attention that made me understand that the folks at Netflix were conducting themselves properly was in the first episode when they held auditions in the building that would become their training area. It is called “Chavo’s Boxing Gym”. Chavo is a very unique name. When mentioned to any Pro Wrestling fan today, they know exactly who Chavo is. It is Chavo Guerrero Jr. He is the youngest of the men of the Guerrero Pro Wrestling Family Dynasty. He is an incredibly educated and incredibly gifted Professional Wrestler. It is his Uncle, Armando Guerrero who trained the original GLOW Girls.
The Guerrero family is an indispensable family in the history of Professional Wrestling. Their influence on the world of Professional Wrestling today will never die out. They are the family who ran the El Paso Territory for the NWA. They brought Lucha Libre into the United States. To be a Guerrero in El Paso, Texas in the 60s & 70s was to be a celebrity everywhere you went. Even the kids who were too young to wrestle, all the kids in school thought they were the coolest family ever. Every able bodied person in that family had a job in the Pro Wrestling business. If you were too young to be in the ring wrestling, you were responsible for setting the ring up for others to wrestle in. If you were too old to wrestle, you were in the Box Office selling tickets. Everybody swept and mopped the floors and emptied the garbage cans after the show. Everybody had something to do and the school age kids would be rolling into class with little sleep the next day and everybody asking them about what happened after the show, in the back room, out in the parking lot. The Guerrero family was El Paso Royalty.
Chavo Junior is the Son of Chavo Senior and Grandson of the great Gory Guerrero. He is the recipient of a lot of instruction. To be chosen to pick up where Uncle Armando left off is a great honor for him that has no doubt inspired him to render his greatest attention to the task of making this Netflix series successful. Chavo is bringing even more honor to his family and thus insures that the impact of the Guerrero family on the world of Professional Wrestling will continue to be at the forefront of the business.
Another little tribute to the Guerrero Family is in the opening of each episode. The name Guerrero means “Warrior”. Netflix chose to build their name into the opening of each episode of GLOW, en Ingles.
I salute Netflix because it seems amazing to me that they had enough sense to know that the Nephew of the man who trained the original GLOW Girls is the perfect guy to train the Netflix actresses of this series and by doing so they paid tremendous respect to the Guerrero family as well as the Pro Wrestling Business. Fans automatically appreciate things like that. Everybody’s a winner, especially Netflix.
Early on Pro Wrestling Fans will recognize and appreciate other fine touches laid on by Netflix. The Shaman of Sexy himself, John Morrison plays Salty “The Sack” Johnson. His character is that of Pro Trainer to the ladies. He’s not there long though. Fans will also recognize Brodus Clay and Carlito Colon Jr. They play the characters of the Sons of Goliath Jackson, known as the Lumber Jacksons. They are Brothers to one of the GLOW Girls (Carmen Wade) whose Father is none too pleased with his Daughter’s decision to get into the business. Goliath Jackson is played by Winston James Francis, former bodyguard of Snoop Dogg and trained Actor. They truly go over as a legitimate Pro Wrestling family. Those are very well thought out inclusions to the storyline that puts this series over with true Pro Wrestling fans. It makes us appreciate the Kayfabe they are working on a deeper level.
Part of the Kayfabe is in the portrayal of people, places and things. The Netflix characters have different names than the actual GLOW Girls. Many of them are clearly modeled after specific GLOW Girls and others are amalgamations of the originals. The original GLOW was produced by David McLane and directed by Matt Cimber. Netflix takes liberty with these characters in their series. Essentially the names had to be changed to protect the guilty when it comes to all their characters. Some inclusions into the plot are based on actual historic events and others are there as works of Kayfabe. The folks at Netflix also made use of what props they had available rather than spending a lot of money and effort to recreate scenes more accurately that in the end may not be entirely necessary to the storyline. Most obvious is “The Dusty Spur”, the hotel in Van Nuys, California, where the GLOW Girls were accommodated as part of the effort to get the show into production. In reality the GLOW Girls lived and performed in the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The old Riviera does not exist anymore so Netflix worked in some Kayfabe to address that.
Incidentally, at this time Netflix is also offering the definitive documentary on the history of GLOW, that features some really great interviews with many of the original GLOW Girls and I highly recommend that you check it out.
Fans of Pro Wrestling are more than willing to allow a lot of latitude in the creative theatrical license that has gone into the storyline because of all the great things that have gone into the storyline that really give respect to the business. In the episode entitled “Debbie does something”, the leading lady goes to her very first Pro Wrestling show. I know. She’s training to become a Pro Wrestler and she’s never been to a show. I’m sure that was the case with more than one of the original GLOW Girls so I thought it was pretty cool how they worked that in. At her first show Debbie “Gets it”. She sees Pro Wrestling for what it is. It is athletic theatrical storytelling. Most people aren’t going to figure that out at their first show but for the sake of getting the story over to the viewing audience, it works.
Season One tells the story that leads up to their first taped show. All in all I enjoyed what Netflix did, for the most part. There was a little bit of political editorializing in a couple of instances that I am not sure contributed anything positive to the storyline. Worse yet, following the Goliath Jackson back hand to Director Sam Sylvia, Sam and Ghetto Queen are having a conversation about her character being offensive and Sam responds with negative remarks about Republicans that used at least one terminology that was not in use in 1985. That was a botched move right there.
The Finisher on Episode 8 was awkward and botched. Nonetheless it solidified Ruth Wilder as an Arch-Heel. Incidentally, I know a female Communist whose last name is Wilder. It is quite an interesting coincidence to see a Ruth Wilder who is going to portray a lady wrestler from Soviet Russia in the ring.
When GLOW was created and produced, it was an odd era in the history of Ladies Pro Wrestling. There was a big transition underway that was the result of expanded cable television. The larger than life talented Lady Wrestlers who dominated the 40s, 50s and 60s were fading stars. Nationally known stars were not getting near the exposure in the 70s as their counterparts in the 80s would. GLOW was the first all-female Pro Wrestling Show. When in spite of the fact that it had no affiliation with any Pro Wrestling Federation it gained a healthy viewership, the WWF and the WCW had to sit up and take notice. Soon there were more Lady Wrestlers on television than at any time prior. The Lady Wrestlers of today who work for the WWE are paid very well and are provided many acting opportunities outside of the ring. Pro Wrestling has provided very rewarding careers for many young ladies.
What I find to be especially encouraging is to see cast members being interviewed about their work in this series and their eyes light up. They talk about how “empowering” it is to be doing this kind of work, learning Pro Wrestling. It is really good to see young ladies who have spent years and years studying Theater and the Performing Arts actually appreciate what it is that Lady Wrestlers have been doing since the 40s.
The first Lady Wrestlers were some of the greatest badasses in the entertainment world during their time and even to this day. Nobody and I mean NOBODY could out work Mae Young back in her day. She was the most hated female Heel who ever lived. She actually defended herself in Court once against a Murder Charge and won. As tough as Mae Young was there was one Lady Wrestler who she admired greatly and that was Gladys “Killem” Gillem. Before Killem Gillem wrestled other ladies, she wrestled Bears and Alligators. The first ladies of Pro Wrestling were giants. Mildred Burke, Ella Waldek, Penny Banner, Ida Mae Martinez, The Fabulous Moolah, they were all like the original GLOW Girls. They were given an opportunity, they took it, gave it their best and never looked back. They paved the way for the GLOW Girls and opened up a whole new world of opportunities for young ladies that would not otherwise exist today.
It is most important for the cast of Netflix’s GLOW to understand how those Lady Wrestlers have provided the opportunity that they are now enjoying. I know that they have long ago recognized that they are really no different than the original GLOW Girls. They are actresses who answered a casting call. They learned that if they wanted the job that they were going to have to learn the Art of Pro Wrestling. They chose to seize the opportunity that they have been provided and are now making the most of it. In doing so they too will forge their place in the history of Professional Wrestling. This is probably not the twist in the road of their career that they imagined but as many of the original GLOW Girls would tell them, it is going to end up being the opportunity of a lifetime. I hope they hang on to it and make the most of it.
Viewers should be advised that the Netflix Series does incorporate a lot of foul language, adult content and some sexual content. Viewers will find several scenes to be disturbing. Thus far, outside of Lucha Libre shows I have not yet found anything else on Netflix that I care to watch. It is important to note that they have Lipstick and Dynamite available on DVD and anyone who would like to learn more about the pioneers of Lady’s Wrestling should definitely check that one out.
I look forward to Season Two. As I end this review of Season One I offer one more parting word of advice. The cast members of this Netflix Series should understand that because they have been paid to wrestle, they are now Professional Wrestlers. As such they need to maintain Kayfabe at all times. Babyfaces should never conduct themselves as Heels in front of their fans…