The History Of GLOW, Your Next Big Obsession

You don’t need to know anything about The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a cult TV show from the ‘80s, to appreciate the trailer for Netflix’s upcoming original series, GLOW. After a string of failed auditions, a flailing actress (Alison Brie) in L.A. gets a casting call for a mysterious athletic project. Sitting on the bleachers amidst a group of misfits, she learns she's being recruited for the next big thing in entertainment: Women's wrestling.

While GLOW, coming from the creators of Orange is the New Black, can stand on its two feet without an introduction, the show will be more enjoyable if you know a thing or two about the source material. The show looks back to the audition process for what became a very famous show: GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which ran from 1986-1990.

The original GLOW interspersed vicious wrestling matches with sketch comedy, infomercials, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the wrestlers' lives. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe a show this strange became so famous. What's not hard to believe is that Netflix would want to make a show about the little wrestling show that could.

Here’s what you have to know about GLOW before watching the Netflix original on June 23.

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The women were not professional wrestlers.

In the Netflix show, Ruth (Alison Brie) is a failing actress — not a professional wrestler. That premise is pulled straight from the real GLOW. The original show was cast with women dreaming of stardom, not with wrestlers.

Recalling her time during the audition, Jeanne Basone, who played the persona Hollywood on the original show, said “It [was] this huge cattle call. Big girls and little girls; beautiful models to sporty-looking girls. Every race. Just a bunch of colorful, beautiful women.”

During the three-week audition process, the professional wrestler and stuntman Mando Guerrero put the women through a grueling wrestling training camp. 36 women were chosen to star in Season 1. Most were actresses and models, though the first set also included stunt women and a Samoan shot putter.
The brains behind GLOW.

David McLane, a long-time wrestling fan, came up with the idea for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, but credit for the show's campiness and boisterous personalities goes to the show’s director, Matt Climber. Before working on GLOW, Climber was a B-movie director and the former husband of '50s sex symbol Jayne Mansfield. Jackie Stallone, the mother of Sylvester Stallone, was also a part of the project.

McLane and Climber’s collaboration produced a unique fusion between real wrestling and wonky sketch comedy.

As one wrestler explained in 2012's GLOW documentary, “David wanted to combine the glamor and the grit. Matt's idea was to make it campy and silly."

And so, GLOW was born.
The women were as committed to their roles as Daniel Day-Lewis.

During the training process, Matt Climber assigned each woman a character based on his immediate impression of her personality. What resulted were exaggerated, campy personas like Americana, Babe the Farmer’s Daughter, the California Doll, and Zelda the Brain. Each character got a backstory, a prop, and yes — her very own introductory rap.

The women were encouraged to assume their alter egos’ identities even when not performing.

“I became Ninotchka,” said Lorilyn Palmer, who played a Soviet villain named Ninotchka. “It was more comfortable for me to speak [in an accent] because I did with everybody.”
Each wrestling match was a battle between good and evil.

The wrestlers were sorted into two broad crews to help make the rivalries seem more vicious: the Good Girls, aka Babyfaces, and the Bad Girls, aka Heels. Aunt Kitty was manager of the Bad Girls; Jackie Stallone, the Good Girls.

Drawing on Cold War paranoia, the matches pit American personas, like Susie Spirit and Americana, against exaggerated “foreign” presences, like Ninotchka and Matilda the Hun, a East German biker woman.

Like the actresses’ commitment to their characters, these rivalries were also taken seriously.

“The rules of GLOW were clear: We were always in character, and forbidden to socialize with our enemies on the show. There were even two buses, one for the bad girls and a separate one for the good girls,” wrote Jeanne Basone, who played Hollywood on GLOW.
Let’s talk about that theme song, though.

At the start of each episode, the Heels and Babyfaces came together for a big opening rap, interspersed with the stars' signature raps.

"Think I'm peachy and I'm keene / But get me mad and I get mean," said peppy cheerleader Vicky Victory.

The dark side got even more gruesome raps. "You wish you were in mother's womb / Instead you'll have to choose your doom / A nice restricting body cast / Or I can use your body cast," said one half of the punk duo Heavy Metal.
Speaking of which, GLOW was inexplicably musical.

In the song "Good Girls Don't," the Babyfaces accompany their life philosophy with stilted choreography. The Heels jeer from the balcony.

Hopefully, the Netflix show will conjure up some similarly fun music.
In one sketch, Trump asked a GLOW girl out to dinner — kind of.

While the wrestlers are supposedly staying at Donald Trump's Atlantic City hotel, Daisy gets a letter from Trump asking her to dinner. For the rest of the sketch, Daisy goofily and earnestly prepares for the date.

In actuality, the letter was a hoax created by one of her wrestling buddies.

“You spelled his name wrong! I’m sure everyone thinks his name is Donald Grump,” criticized one of the wrestlers on the prank. The '80s were a different time.
For all its silliness, GLOW was empowering.

“It was something new,” one wrestler said during the GLOW documentary trailer. “It was women taking over.”

Most of the other wrestlers have similarly fond memories.

“We were just a good group of natural-looking, beautiful women...It was really empowering for women. There were no other characters in the culture for girls to look up to I think. Besides Wonder Woman,” said Basone.

It's 2017, and Wonder Woman has already made a comeback. Now, so will GLOW.
Get excited for the Netflix show.

GLOW, starring Alison Brie and Marc Maron, will premiere on Netflix on Friday, June 23. 'Til then, get your GLOW kicks watching these crazy wrestling matches.
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