Upcoming Netflix Series Aims to Spotlight Women in Professional Wrestling

When you hear the word “gorgeous” when talking about professional wrestling, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? I mean, other than Gorgeous George. Or Tyler Breeze. That would be Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (G.L.O.W.), a short-lived promotion from the Eighties that strived to entertain fans with the best female athletes on the globe. Created by Matt Climber and founded by David McLane, the company’s biggest selling point was that it bolstered an exclusively female roster of competitors. Sylvester Stallone’s mother, Jackie Stallone was heavily involved with the promotion, and the performers had Mando Guerrero of the prestigious Guerrero wrestling family as a trainer. Wrestling fans – or “marks,” as they are colloquially known – do not remember G.L.O.W. very fondly, though. For starters, many of the “wrestlers” on the card were actresses, models, dancers, etc. who believed that G.L.O.W. would help them break out into the entertainment industry. The product was also quite cheesy; each member of the roster had a signature rap song she would perform during her entrance, which was dated even at the time. Furthermore, the “G” in G.L.O.W. hinted at how the people in charge viewed their employees. It was a reminder of how women were treated in the professional wrestling at the time.

While G.L.O.W. was not very successful, the story of the company was interesting enough for Netflix to green-light a series based on it. The show – fittingly entitled G.L.O.W. – was created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, who are known for their work on Homeland and Orange is the New Black, respectively. Comedian Marc Maron will star as Sam Sylvia, a washed-up Hollywood director with a “complicated history with women” who sees opportunity in the pro wrestling business. Based on the description, it is likely that this character is based on Matt Climber (he directed the critically maligned Butterfly, and was the last husband of the late Jayne Mansfield). Allison Brie and Betty Gilpin will be joining the cast as two of the “Gorgeous Ladies.” The first season will contain ten episodes, which will be thirty minutes each.

The announcement of this series comes at a relevant time for the professional wrestling industry. For the first time in a long while, women’s wrestling is starting to matter again. During the sport’s first major rise in popularity, female performers were held in relatively high regard. The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Wendi Richter, and their contemporaries were treated in a similar manner as their male counterparts. However, things started to change with the introduction of a particular term: Diva. In the Nineties, the WWE (or WWF, at the time) began to call all of their female athletes “Divas.” That alone was quite demeaning; people usually use the word “diva” as a pejorative to describe a woman who is stuck-up or self-important. It didn’t help the fact that, during the Attitude Era, WWF’s creative team wrote female wrestlers as catty bitches (excuse my French) who feuded with each other for the pettiest of reasons. Moreover, the WWF were more concerned with a woman’s attractiveness than her in-ring ability. There were some bright spots during this period, like Chyna winning the WWF Intercontinental Championship and Madusa winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. However, that was outweighed by all the mud wrestling matches, bra and panty matches, and pretty much anything involving Sable.

Things didn’t get much better after the turn of the century, either. Trish Stratus may have been a competent performer in the WWE, but she inadvertently paved the way for fitness models to enter professional wrestling, many of whom were far from being qualified. Perhaps the most insulting blow to women’s wrestling came in 2010 when they discontinued the WWE Women’s Championship (the one that the Fabulous Moolah held for ten years) for the WWE Divas Championship. The belt, aside from carrying the potentially chauvinistic name attached, was seen as pretty sexist, since it had a design similar to that of the cover of a ten-year-old girl’s notebook. Last year, the WWE tried to mend the problems in their Diva division by having a “Divas Revolution,” where they brought female performers who found success in their developmental brand, NXT (which is praised for housing excellent examples of women’s wrestling) to the main roster. This plan did not pan out, however, since the writing was still lackluster. While the new additions to the women’s roster were very talented and put on good matches, the fans couldn’t get invested in the story.

Luckily, the WWE eventually learned their lesson and had since improved their women’s division immensely. For one, they stopped calling the women “Divas,” and replaced the “Butterfly Belt” with a new Women’s Championship that looks similar in design to the championship belts that the men wear. Furthermore, the writing has fiercely advanced. The current Women’s Champion, Charlotte is one of the most entertaining heels on the roster (which makes sense, given that she’s the daughter of Ric Flair, arguably the greatest wrestling villain of all time). Fans are falling in love with the personalities of babyfaces like Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley. The women’s division even has a threatening monster heel in the form of Nia Jax, who entertains the audience every week by squashing no-name jobbers. All in all, things are looking up for the future of women in professional wrestling.

With all of this in mind, G.L.O.W. is arriving at a pertinent time in professional wrestling. As women’s wrestling improves, it is good to remember how we got here. Many of the attitudes that the WWF had towards women back in the day were just as apparent in G.L.O.W. If you’re a mark like me, you should be genuinely interested in what this new show will have in store.

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Adam New

Adam is a graduate of The College of New Jersey, where he earned a degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in Radio, Television, and Film. When he's not watching YouTube videos or playing Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft in his hometown of Kinnelon, NJ, he's taking courses at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center in New York in improvisational and sketch comedy. Currently a Contributing Writer Intern for Monologue Blogger, Adam hopes to be a writer for TV and/or film, but for now, you can follow him on Twitter @AdamNTheAtticus.