The Wrestling Episode is our cleverly-named feature wherein we watch non-wrestling shows with wrestling episodes and try to figure out what the hell’s going on in them. You’d be surprised how many there are. You can watch the episode on YouTube here. If you have any suggestions on shows that need to be featured in The Wrestling Episode, let us know in our comments section below.
I’ve Never Heard Of Laverne & Shirley. What Is It?
Nostalgia for the “good old days” of the 1950s struck the United States in the 1970s, because every time America takes a step forward it freaks out and wants to take 15 steps back. If you want to be blatant, the most popular show of the day was called Happy Days; a sitcom about average American (cough white cough) kids growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before all those pesky civil rights and political unrests and Vietnams.
The most popular character from Happy Days was Arthur Fonzarelli, “The Fonz,” a cool greaser daredevil and TV’s original Steve Urkel. He was so popular, in fact, that you could spin off a show whose entire plot was, “it’s two girls Fonzie knows,” and have it run for eight seasons.
Enter: Laverne & Shirley, about two girls Fonzie knows who work at a brewery in Milwaukee. It was the most watched show in the damn country, and spawned multiple animated spinoffs of its own, including one where they join the army, go into outer space, fight King Kong, and take orders from an anthropomorphic pig.
And There’s A Wrestling Episode?
Yes, and it involves Laverne and Shirley becoming a tag team to save a bunch of orphans. I made sure to type that after the thing about the pig. Sadly they never end up in an 8-man tag against Schlemiel, Schlimazel, and the team of Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.
All you really need to know about the character dynamics on Laverne & Shirley are that Laverne is brash and rough around the edges, and Shirley’s perky and uptight. They live next to two comic relief greasers — Lenny and Squiggy — who want to hook up with them, but are the Great Value Fonz so it never happens. Imagine if Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple were women in 1950s Wisconsin and were always being sexually harassed by Bulk and Skull from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
Anyway, we join this episode in progress (?) with Laverne Y Shirley organizing a charity event to raise money for a group of orphans, including “Billy,” who is avertised as the “orphan of the year.” Prestigious! The event is set to feature a boxing match and a tag team wrestling main event teaming Laverne and Terri, a giant lady who bullied her in high school, against the “Masked Marvelettes,” who given the territory and the decade are definitely being pimped out by the Fabulous Moolah.
They run the event in what looks like a local veterans hall, hosted by an old-timey 1950s boxing announcer who almost gets knocked out when the mic falls from the ceiling and hits him in the face. There are maybe five rows of fans in the building total, so I hope Billy wasn’t hoping to buy his way out of that orphanage.
Who’s In The Boxing Opener?
In true professional boxing fashion, the fight is between a guy who is very good at boxing, and a smaller, shittier guy who looks like he’s never been in a fight in his life. The former is Carmine Ragusa, Shirley’s very Italian high school sweetheart known by his nickname “The Big Ragoo.” He’s so Italian that he literally enters rooms singing Tony Bennett songs. He’s also a former Golden Gloves boxing champion, which makes it almost criminal that he’s put into a semi-professional exhibition fight against “Squiggy,” one of those non-Fonz comedy greasers who’s about five feet tall and very possibly mentally handicapped. You might know him as Thumper from A Bug’s Life, or as “annoying voice character” in everything ever made. He’s accompanied to the ring by Lenny, played by the brilliant Michael McKean, who throws raw bacon at the crowd to hype them up.
As you might imagine, the fight doesn’t go well for Squiggy. He opens the fight misinterpreting “hit him below the belt” to mean punch dude in the thigh a bunch of times, and gets knocked out when Lenny tries to show him how to throw a punch and sends him head-first into a butt-fumble. This is not a very good sporting event!
The Wrestling Saves It Though, Right?
You’d think, but there’s a problem: when Shirley goes back to check on Laverne (who is dressed as a wrestling princess), she finds out that Laverne’s partner got lost on the way to the arena and might not make it in time. Laverne has to go out and stall, and-
Shirley Ends Up Having To Be Her Partner.
How did you know?
Okay, sorry, sorry. I forgot that you’ve seen every other wrestling episode.
These bananas in pajamas who look like they’re about to rob a convenience store that only sells grapefruit are the Masked Marvelettes, led by their unnamed valet. Earlier in the day, while shopping for pieces to her wrestling costume, Laverne got into a road rage argument with a couple of ladies and almost got into a fight until Terri stepped in and broke it up. Guess what? Those women turned out to be the Masked Marvelettes, who now have a grudge against Laverne, want to make the fight real, and are empowered to jump her 3-on-1 because her friend’s not around.
Thankfully, Shirley suits up to help Laverne even the odds a bit. Despite being adorable 1970s Zooey Deschanel (or possibly because of it), Shirley is such a bad athlete that she can’t double dutch without pissing everyone off. Her role in the match is mostly limited to tagging in, getting scared by something and immediately tagging out.
Can Laverne Work?
Laverne and The Four Horsemen are the only people I know who wear their initials monogrammed on their underwear. Of course she can work.
In addition to inadvertently unmasking one of the Marvelettes and thankfully not being disqualified by the referee because these are 1950s Wisconsin rules instead of lucha, we get a montage of Laverne throwing arm drags, doing some 205 Live gymnastics, and riding a Marvelette like she’s Scotty Steiner. Aside from DJ Tanner she’s probably the best worker in the history of The Wrestling Episode to date.
Speaking of that, I want to take a second to mention how I’m pretty sure this episode of Laverne & Shirley created Chikara. It’s a lady dressed as a princess, doing ridiculously contrived comedy spots in front of like 50 people. If the Marvelettes had a time traveling comic book backstory, I’d confirm it.
Laverne’s luck can’t last for long, though, as the Damned Numbers Game becomes too much. The Marvelettes’ manager interferes, and they set up for their finish, which is … Total Elimination? The Fall of Man? We don’t really get to see it, as Shirley finally Fonzies up and makes a dramatic save.
That sets up Laverne and Shirley for their finish, which is the same finish as every person in a wrestling episode of a TV show: the big splash. They win, the Marvelettes lose a shoot fight to a pair of untrained hipsters, and the funniest people in this one district of MAGA Wisconsin have successfully raised like 10 bucks to save the orphans. Hooray!
The final joke of the episode, for reasons I can’t totally explain, is Laverne holding an ice pack to her head and doing the “I coulda been a contender” monologue from On The Waterfront.
So What Have We Learned?
- middle America in the 1950s had a dark underbelly of child neglect and underground fighting
- if you’re gonna throw bacon at strangers, have the decency to cook it first
- if you need to raise money for orphans, try convincing your friends to get beaten up
- don’t box if you’ve never trained to box
- if you haven’t trained to wrestle, just wrestle, it’s fine, you’re probably great
- do it your way, yes your way, make all your dreams come true, for me and you