As a child of the ’80s, it was hard to ignore wrestling. Names like Hulk Hogan or Randy “Macho Man” Savage echoed through the playground as the kids talked about the last match they had watched. Those names may sound familiar, but others like Mountain Fiji or Matilda The Hun may not. Director Brett Whitcomb is looking to change that with his documentary GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, playing at the 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Although GLOW (which stands for thr titular ‘Glorious Ladies of Wrestling’) didn’t last very long on television, the fan following was immense. How could you not fall in love with something so campy and fun? With the big hair, neon colours, gorgeous ladies, and some impressive wrestling skills, the women of GLOW enjoyed huge popularity. At what was probably the height of their success, the money was pulled out of the show, forcing everything to shut down. GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling takes us from the first auditions, through the final moments of the league, and finally, to a reunion that brings the girls back together after more than 15 years.
Parts of the story aren’t exactly surprising. Tales of hard work, pain, and injuries will be familiar to any wrestling fan, but it’s the other behind-the-scenes stories that makes this documentary so entertaining. Most of the women had no idea what they were getting into when they went for that first audition. Some of them only showed up because they would be getting paid just to try out, others got up and walked out when they found out they were trying to get roles in a wrestling TV show. Those that stayed and made it were about to start an incredible journey creating memories that would last a lifetime.
GLOW wasn’t just about wrestling though. The show was full of short interviews and even sketches of the wrestlers living in the GLOW house. This was a full entertainment package, and the ladies were immersed in the world almost 24 hours a day. The show was filmed at the Riviera in Las Vegas, where all the wrestlers also stayed. Separated into two groups, the good guys and the bad guys, the women weren’t allowed to be seen with members of the opposite group. They weren’t even allowed to call each other by their real names, using their stage names instead. That meant staying in character no matter where they went, which leads to some very funny stories.
While the years they spent in GLOW were typically full of good times and even better friends, there were some harder moments. Girls would wind up getting hurt quite a lot, and the toll it took on their bodies only got worse as the years went by. Dee Booher, known as Matilda The Hun, hurt her back so much that she’s left using a wheelchair to get around and Emily Dole a.k.a. Mountain Fiji, whose story is one of film’s most emotional, has been restricted to a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Dole is such a kind and caring woman, filled with wonderful memories of her time in GLOW. The way the other women talk about Emily brings many of them to tears.
After finding out about some of the struggles the women have been through, Angelina Altishin, known as Little Egypt, arranges a reunion. The joy that Emily gets from seeing all her old friends will bring a tear to your eye. I can only hope that everyone can experience something that the ladies of GLOW all have. Good friends, great times, and incredible memories.
GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling is screening on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm, Saturday, April 28 at 1:30 pm and Saturday, May 5 at 6:30 pm at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Check their website for details and tickets.