April 15, 2013

GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (2012)

I BECAME A FAN OF PRO WRESTLING in late 1984, in the months leading up to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)’s first WrestleMania. It all started for me with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeating Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Championship and tearing Tito’s ACL with the dreaded figure-four leglock. (Don’t worry, fans: Santana regained the title the following summer in a steel cage match.)

While the WWF (now WWE) had its share of cartoonish two-dimensional characters during the ‘80s, it was nothing compared to the first all-women wrestling organization, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW).

From 1986 until its abrupt end in 1990, GLOW’s roster was comprised entirely of “gimmick” wrestlers sporting clichéd ringwear and names like Ninotchka, Hollywood, Babe the Farmer’s Daughter, Matilda the Hun, Tina Ferrari, Dementia, Mt. Fiji, Jailbait, Lightning, Godiva, The Heavy Metal Sisters, and Big Bad Mama. With its weekly TV show from the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, which featured matches as well as skits with punchlines on the level of Laugh-In or Hee Haw, GLOW made the WWF look like Masterpiece Theatre.

The documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling takes a look back at this campy yet groundbreaking organization through interviews with the women who lived it. There are no third-party “experts” or wrestling historians telling the GLOW story; the women speak for themselves, discussing how they each got started, the essence of their characters, and the rigors of training and performing.

The women also talk about dealing with the mental and verbal abuse doled out by mercurial GLOW director/promoter Matt Cimber, who had a Hollywood background (his ex was Jayne Mansfield) and a close friendship with Riviera owner Meshulam Riklis, whose then-wife was actress Pia Zadora (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians). Interestingly, the two male driving forces behind GLOW – Cimber and creator/host Mike McClaine – declined to be interviewed for the film.

What’s also interesting about GLOW: Not a single wrestler badmouths her experience. There’s not an iota of resentment from any of them. These women saw themselves as a very unified group (the term “sisterhood” is used more than once) and they’re enthusiastic to discuss their time with GLOW, whether the memories are good or bad. In fact, any hardship at the hands of their bosses – including Cimber’s frequent jabs at their weight – gets laughed off by those who are retelling it.

Similarly, if you’re looking for an exploitative exposé on ‘80s excess, you won’t find it here. There are no scandals, no tales of debauchery, no drug arrests, no steroid use, no complaints of any of the wrestlers being a “bad worker.” And no one is still trudging around the ring like some decrepit relic a la The Wrestler’s Randy the Ram. (The only sad story is that of Mt. Fiji, who’s interviewed from a hospital bed as she has spent several years in a nursing home.) The film culminates in an emotional GLOW reunion, the only one that’s ever taken place since the organization folded more than 20 years ago.

What ever happened to the women of GLOW is probably not a burning question on people’s minds in 2013. But for fans of ‘80s wrestling like me, it was enjoyable to watch these ladies reminisce fondly about their time in the ring. They were a band of largely inexperienced sisters who created a weekly, successful all-female program in a male-dominated industry. And that, in its purest sense, is something truly gorgeous.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Violence: Wrestling matches featuring the GLOW women “attacking” each other. Gruesome footage is shown of Lightning breaking her arm during a match.
Sex/Nudity: Archive footage is shown of a GLOW wrestler wearing nothing but a towel. Hollywood holds her issue of Playboy, though she covers up the photos of her spread.
Language: A few four-letter words and derogatory terms for women.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Beneath the glitter and spandex, there are messages about women’s empowerment, unity, and perseverance. Any of these could be a reason for your FilmMother to watch this entertaining documentary with you. (Point of reference: My wife entered the room halfway through GLOW, working on other things. By the end, it had her full attention.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa...I take it back, Itakeitback, ITAKEITBAAAACK!!!

GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
* Director: Brett Whitcomb
* Screenwriter: Bradford Thomason
* Stars: Lori Palmer (Ninotchka), Jeanne Basone (Hollywood), Ursula Hayden (Babe the Farmer’s Daughter), Dee Booher (Matilda the Hun), Lisa Moretti (Tina Ferrari), Emily Dole (Mt. Fiji), Trish Casella (Jailbait), Cheryl Rusa (Lightning), Dawn Rice (Godiva), Helena Le Count (Daisy), Donna Willinsky (Spike), Sharon Willinsky (Chainsaw), Lynn Braxton (Big Bad Mama), Matt Cimber
* MPAA Rating: N/A


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very interesting docementary. One of our favorite chefs to watch is Robert Irvine. He is married to Gail Kim-former WWE and now TNA.

Phillyradiogeek said...

I came across this film on TV accidentally, but was riveted from the first frame. I was surprised how much I was interested and enjoyed it. It was nice to see that most girls turned out not only OK, but doing quite well. Highly recommended!

Tom said...

I remember GLOW!!!


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