At this point, I've written at least six opening sentences for this essay and have scrapped them all. How do you begin to describe Episode 2 of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling (otherwise known as G.L.O.W.). There are women clad in spandex rapping about their wrestling prowess. There's a wild, ax-wielding lady suffering from dementia. (Her stage name is also Dementia). There is a comedic sketch featuring two gynecologists named Dr's Grope and Fiel. I am serious. This is a real thing. So, you can imagine my genuine dismay when I began typing up this piece. Where the hell do I start?
If there is one thing to truly admire about the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling it's that the show understands its audience completely: The American Man. From the opening bell, bringing us a tag team match pitting Palestina (often referred to as "The Terrorist") and Colonel Ninotchka (also known as "The Russian," or "Red") against the overtly American duo of Tina Ferrari and Susie Spirit, clad in spandex thongs, to the ending sequence advertising a 1-900 number for men to call and talk all sexy-like to the women of G.L.O.W., one thing is for certain in this program: testosterone and America reign supreme.
The show taps into that base, animalistic desire so many men seem to have: the desire to watch women fight. It’s a phenomenon that has transcended space and time - it's been discussed at length on Seinfield, and there are still many fine establishments all over this country [USA! USA! USA! - ed.] where where women wrestle each other drenched in Jell-O and mud. In the fourth episode of the brand-new, god-awful CBS sitcom Mad Love, Tyler Labine's character Larry dreams up a scenario in which Jason Biggs's character Ben arranges a "cat-fight" between his ex-girlfriend and current fling, Sarah Chalke. Drool dribbles down his chin while he imagines the scene. Simply put: the creators of G.L.O.W. knew what they were getting into and knew they’d have an immediate and captive audience.
It’s important to note that though G.L.O.W.’s intention was to seek out an fan base of salivating, potentially xenophobic men (the amount of references to communist Russia and terrorism is staggering and hilarious), they manage to do so without being entirely misogynistic. This isn’t simply about gawking at women, hoping that some clothing will get torn or that two pairs of lady-lips might touch. Rather, these women are portrayed as tough, fierce competitors, very much focused on snagging a coveted belt. They aren’t portrayed as dainty or meek and although they don’t sport the jacked-up biceps and thighs, that, say, Blaze from American Gladiators had, I still wouldn’t want to face off against any of these women in the squared-circle – actresses or not. They go so far as to have Tina Ferrari speak directly to the camera during one of the many over-the-top, cornball segments that serve as lead-ins after commercial breaks, giving advice to ladies on how to snag your dream man. She reminds her audience that the only way to do so is to be yourself. Even though she ends the segment by saying “Remember, the best thing for a man is a woman,” the message is clear: it’s more than okay to be a strong-willed, proud woman while still being womanly.
The sketches, in general, serve no real purpose in terms of advancing plots. Each scene features a wrestler or two and a cheesy joke. The tag team Soul Patrol delivers my favorite line during “Hip Dictionary,” in which the ladies are asked to use the word “acquire” in a sentence. Envy responds by saying: “Yeah, A CHOIR sang in a church.” Cue riotous laughter. These sketches serve as a nice bridge between matches, giving us a break from the throttling and overly choreographed gymnastics going on center stage.
In a sense, the show was taking a hefty pot shot at the WWF, which also went into syndication the same year G.L.O.W. premiered: 1986. Rather than featuring women screaming violent threats into microphones backstage as the Hulks and Randy Savages were known to do, the ladies in G.L.O.W. spit semi-intimidating rhymes to the same backbeat prior to matches. Yup. These women rap in choppy cadences to old-school hip-hop beats ala the Chicago Bears’s “Super Bowl Shuffle”. But G.L.O.W. really seemed to be calling out Vince McMahon here, perhaps challenging him to stop taking himself so seriously. In other words, G.L.O.W. was incredibly, unabashedly self-aware and it worked oh-so-well. Entertainment, above all, was priority number one, which is a lesson a lot of today’s current television programming might want to learn.
All of this is to say: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was a pretty fearless television program, especially for its time. In an era where glossy, self-serious programming like Knight Rider and Miami Vice reigned supreme, G.L.O.W., rose above that and honed in on what they liked without a hint of shame: terrible puns, spandex and highly un-poetic wrestling moves. G.L.O.W. knew its sole functions were to entertain and titillate and it did so masterfully.
And, by the way, don’t bother dialing that 1-900 number. I tried. Believe me, I tried.