With Netflix’s GLOW series returning for a second season in just a few weeks, it’s time to look back on where it all began: the 1985 pilot for the original women’s wrestling series. Now normally, we at Wrestlecrap leave GLOW alone – not just because we’d end up inducting a different GLOW gimmick every week for years, but because the ultra-campy 80’s series never took itself seriously.
But the bizarre pilot episode? Now that’s something else. More than anything else David McLane ever created, this hour-long program belonged on pay-per-view — and not for the wrestling.
The first episode of GLOW features a number of GLOW girls you remember and an even greater number of GLOW girls you don’t. And you get to meet them all in a never-ending musical opening featuring Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude”, later the theme for the Dr. Laura Show.
From Salt to Ashley to Spanish Red, these lady wrestlers are all strong, confident, and horny as hell.
Don’t believe me? Listen to these interview excerpts GLOW inserted into the matches approximately once every thirty seconds.
Most of the women’s promo time is devoted to their taste in men. And when they’re not talking about men, they’re talking about food.
“I love to eat,” says Ashley. “Anything I can get my mouth on!”
See, she’s talking about food.
Then there’s Pepper, better known as Princess Jasmine, and not Al Snow’s ill-fated chihuahua. I really hope that the raw footage of her interview still exists, because I am dying to know how any of these topics came about in conversation:
“The food is very great in Africa… And the mens are nice there, too! Oh, they got mens all over the world there, they come to Africa. Nice, good-looking, strong mens. Nice and handsome. [Hannibal Lecter slurp].”
Okay now, they don’t just talk about food and love-making. When they aren’t appealing to the George Costanzas of the world, many of the GLOW girls have inspirational messages. Take the patriotic Americana, who delivers a stirring speech about finding what you love and doing it.
What she loves just happens to be a banana split, but to each her own.
But seriously, it’s not just lust and hunger that are driving these women wrestlers. There’s also nationalism. Take the feud between Americana and Spanish Red, who maintains that she loves the USA but also her Latin American heritage. She sure sounds sweet and wholesome!
But Americana isn’t having any of it, demanding that Red speak English and not Spanish because it’s America, dammit. Americana is the babyface, by the way.
And speaking of odd choices for heels and babyfaces, the Royal Hawaiian is Spanish Red’s heel tag team partner. Maybe GLOW creator Dave McLane hoped fans would remember that there was something called “Pearl Harbor” but be kinda fuzzy on the details.
McLane tells us there’s a lot of animosity between Royal Hawaiian and Americana’s tag team partner, California Doll, over whose state is the true Sunshine State. The official answer is Florida.
Geography was obviously never a strong suit for GLOW, a promotion that would later bill a wrestler as hailing from “Kiev, Russia.”
Also not a strong suit for the promotion was wrestling itself. All the wrestlers have nearly identical move sets limited to hair-pulling, snapmares, and consistently terrible hip tosses.
Perhaps they should be called “ankle tosses”.
The action is so bad that most of the important spots had to be re-shot in super close-up shots after the audience had gone home.
There’s also the odd choice of super-slow motion shots of key moves that the announcer commentates over at normal speed, as if David McLane existed outside the normal dimensions of space and time.
Another post-production trick that GLOW over-indulged in for its pilot was the sound effects, from dubbed-in crowd noise to foley work for the bumps and strikes.
Take this extremely lewd pin attempt by Spanish Red. Now imagine that every thrust is accompanied by the sound of a cannon being fired.
That match has other highly suggestive spots, too, like this extended shot of Americana struggling with the ring post between her thighs.
And you can’t talk about GLOW without mentioning the ring gear. Nearly every wrestler wears a leotard that rides up with wear. Maybe McLane had a deal with Grace Brothers.
Of course, GLOW always featured a whole lot of skin, but with enough light-hearted goofball humor to pass it off as kid-friendly. “Porn you can watch with your kids” was how Marc Maron’s character on the Netflix series pitched it.
But this pilot episode? There’s no (intentional) comedy to be found, and it’s hard to figure how McClane ever expected it to air on broadcast television, especially with promos like this one from Hollywood:
GLOW wasn’t so kid-friendly in its 1985 pilot. pic.twitter.com/VVKbrGxpxk
— Art O’Donnell (@Art0Donnell) July 6, 2017
Saturday morning fare, this is not.
As for the matches themselves, this pilot features three tag bouts and a main event for the GLOW crown. The opener is the aforementioned Spanish Red/Royal Hawaiian vs. Americana/California Doll match.
Near the end, Spanish Red and the Royal Hawaiian have the babyfaces in real danger, which is as good a time as any to cut away to Red very daintily describing what she looks for in a man’s personality.
Seconds later, Royal Hawaiian executes her finisher, a splash, in slow motion, segueing into a musical interlude, during which she scores the pinfall.
The next match pits Salt & Pepper vs. the hooded Sara & Mabel (who is not, if you can believe it, the late Nelson Frazier).
In their hotel room, tag team partners Salt and Pepper fight to the death over a dress of Pepper’s that Salt wore without permission. I do not exaggerate by much when I call it a fight to the death; if only WWE babyfaces were allowed to show even a hundredth as much indignation when they’re screwed out of their belts – arguably a more important article of clothing in the wrestling world.
Salt and Pepper’s arguments spills over into ringside via dubbed dialogue and a glass bottle-shot to the head that Pepper completely no-sells.
The violence continues in the ring until their opponents, the KKK stand-ins Sara and Mabel, hurl some third-tier slurs at the interracial tag team.
Salt and Pepper somehow hear these insults over the deafening crowd noise and immediately put aside their differences.
After a brawl that sees the hooded racists choke an African-American with a chain, Salt slams her opponent through a table.
David McLane rushes over for a very stupid interview with Salt & Pepper, who have just won via countout despite the fact that all four women were outside of the ring.
In the third bout of the program, the future Ivory teams up with Ashley to take on Hollywood & Vine, with whom, you will recall, people don’t f***.
Lady-parts is the theme of the bout, which features not only Tina Ferrari attempting to pin Hollywood with her hoo-ha…
…but also a four-woman vaginal stretch.
A miscommunication leads Hollywood to deliver a scream across dimensions…
…but still the match drags on for a few more minutes before Tina applies this pinning combination to somehow get the 1-2-3 (which is counted off screen).
Main-eventing the first episode of GLOW are Matilda the Hun (who breaks into her hit song, “Raw Meat”) vs. GLOW’s version of Shirley Temple, Tammy Jones.
Tammy, a grown woman portraying what is essentially a five-year-old, is there to make everyone really uncomfortable, given that most of the episode could double as a commercial for a phone sex hotline (which, coincidentally, was invented by Tammy’s opponent).
Tragedy has struck the Jones family, however, as her little brother Johnny may never walk again after suffering a terrible accident some time ago. In fact, Tammy is so distraught from having visited him in the hospital all day that it’s unclear whether she’ll even be able to wrestle.
But wrestle she does, and get her ass kicked she also does.
Just as it appears that all is lost for Tammy, little brother Johnny appears to inspire Tammy.
Just out of view of the live audience.
How a little boy got into a casino I don’t know, but that’s about as useful as asking why a boy who lives in Kansas would be recuperating in a Las Vegas hospital.
A rousing march plays as Tammy makes her big comeback, including this headbutt to the gut of Matilda, who sells it by acting like she’s about to become violently ill. She does eat raw meat, after all.
You’d think this would lead to the big finish, but no, Matilda takes control again so that Tammy can make a second comeback.
Tammy hits a body press to pin Matilda and become the first-ever GLOW champion.
The crowd goes wild, or at least a small section of it that keeps getting screen time when the cameras cut away from the action.
The locker room empties as the heels and the faces do battle in a wild brawl of scantily-clad women that catches Dave McLane in the middle of the action. Would you believe who produced this show?
With the entire roster battling it out, fans are treated to even more cut-away vignettes of the ladies talking about their turn-ons. All that’s missing is a 900 number on the screen.
This pilot was certainly a wild, politically-incorrect way to kick off GLOW, but things would settle down on the next episode where, McLane tells us, the Russian Ninotchka would be in action along with the Oriental tag team, Chopsticks.