WOW: Women of Wrestling is a new show that airs on Fridays at 9pm on AXS TV. WOW’s been around as a promotion for a long time, and this is technically their 5th season. However, previous seasons have only been available online, so this national cable TV deal is a big step into the mainstream for them. WOW is the brainchild of David McClane, who previously founded GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the original 1980s wrestling show that the Netflix comedy is based on. Despite the passage of 30+ years and the inclusion of more established wrestling talents, WOW still contains some of the spirit of GLOW, for both good and bad.
Last time on WOW, Abilene Maverick defeated newcomer Fire (Kiera Hogan), the Beast looked amazing in a squash match, and a title match between WOW Champion Santana Garrett and former champion Jungle Grrrl was violently interrupted by Tessa Blanchard. Now let’s move on to the January 25, 2019 episode of WOW: Women of Wrestling:
Here We Are In 1985
First of all, both of these women can move and were exciting to watch in the ring, and this was a fun match between them. But also, what is going on here, and how is it happening in 2019? Siren’s Voodoo Doll gimmick is one thing. It feels dated for sure (and specifically reminiscent of Big Bad Mama from GLOW or Black Magic from Netflix GLOW), but Siren’s a black woman making her way in wrestling, and if she wants to do voodoo stuff as part of her character, it’s certainly not my place to tell her she shouldn’t. She also has a really great spooky look and demeanor that I look forward to seeing more of, so that’s worth a lot.
But then there’s Princess Aussie: a white Australian woman who is accompanied to the ring by dancing aboriginal men in tribal paint and loincloths. According to her video package, aboriginal families helped take care of her as a child while her mom was working, and coming to the ring with them reminds her of her roots. This doesn’t help, to be clear.
On top of all that, ring announcer Shaul Guerrero called the aboriginal guys a “Papua New Guinea tribe,” and someone on commentary mentioned Indonesia, so has WOW even decided where these men are from? If you’re going to have a group of historically oppressed people accompany a white lady to the wrestling ring, at least be specific about who they are. But also? Maybe just don’t do it at all. Princess Aussie seems to have a lot of potential as a performer, but this gimmick needs some tweaking for sure.
No Wait, This Is Definitely 2019
Lately I see a lot of wrestling fans on the left expressing concern about Daniel Bryan’s heel character. As great a job as Bryan’s doing, it worries some progressive people to see a progressive heel getting boos in a company owned by conservatives, which is understandable. So I find myself wondering what those fans would think of Jessie Jones, a conservative heel getting boos in company that’s owned by… Well, I don’t know much about the politics of David McLane and Jeannie Buss, but they’re not buddies with Donald Trump, so that’s something.
The point I’m getting to here is that Jessie Jones, a proudly Southern wrestler from Kentucky, was set to fight Azteca, who’s from Mexico. Prior to the match, she declared “I’m here to make wrestling great again,” and then expressed her support for the border wall. When the crowd started to boo, she called them hypocrites for being against the wall even though they live in gated communities. That’s nonsense of course, but it’s believably the kind of thing MAGA types actually say about liberal “elites.”
Personally, I found it jarring to see real-world politics of the moment so directly referenced on a wrestling TV show. It also felt wrong that Azteca tapped to Jessie after all of that, although I’m sure this isn’t their last encounter. I can’t deny, though, that Jessie Jones was there to be a bad guy and she got massive heat for it (WOW shoots in Los Angeles, thankfully). She also avoided being directly racist to Azteca, despite the implications inherent in the very idea of the wall and Jessie’s choice to bring it up right then. I don’t know if Jessie’s playing up her own political beliefs in a heelish manner, like Daniel Bryan does, but she clearly knows that what she’s saying makes her the bad guy, and everyone else there knows it too. So maybe this is all fine? I still feel conflicted about it, but outside of “escapism over everything” (which I’m usually against), I can’t really come up with much of a reason not to do it?
By the way, it’s also weird that Azteca wrestled in a mask, but all of WOW’s promo images show her without one. It’s no big deal whether or not she wears a mask, I’ve just never encountered a wrestler (especially a Mexican wrestler) for whom the mask is a sometimes thing. It’s usually all or nothing. Anyway, she seems like a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing more matches from her, especially if we get to watch her defeat Jessie before too long. Now that I’m realizing how much I dislike Jessie Jones and want Azteca to demolish her, I guess I have to admit that real-world politics is a pretty good way to get heel heat.
WOW OF THE WEEK: “That Tessa Blanchard Person”
I didn’t want to do another “Best and Worst” column for WOW, but I’ve decided to highlight my favorite match each week as the “Wow of the Week.” Maybe that’s a little cheesy, but so is this show. And yes, I also hope that I manage not to just give it to whatever Tessa Blanchard is doing that week.
The Beverly Hills Babe (aka Amber O’Neal) and her mentor Lana Star are very much part of the GLOW-esque WOW universe. Whether this show or just the Netflix sitcom, you know what I mean. They live in a world where the Beverly Hills Babe is a normal name to call a person every time you mention them. Tessa Blanchard, on the other hand, is an invader from the wrestling world we’re more used to, that of Impact and the indies, where she’s a huge star. So it’s pretty funny to listen to Lana Star talk about Tessa Blanchard like she’s a nobody. Literally referring to her as “that Tessa Blanchard person” and having no doubt that the Babe can beat this upstart. It wouldn’t work in Impact, but it’s perfect here.
Tessa also got a great backstage promo, where she called the Beverly Hills Babe out on just being Amber O’Neal with a fresh coat of paint. And of course Tessa ultimately did beat the Babe with a brutal-looking buzzsaw DDT, to the bafflement of Lana Star. Then Tessa took the mic and once again demanded a title match with Santana Garrett, declaring herself a superior wrestler and mocking Santana’s ailing father. Santana already demanded a match with Tessa from David McLane at the start of the episode, so it was no surprise when she ran out to attack Tessa, leading to a pull-apart brawl. Tessa had compared herself to Santana by saying “I got crowbars, not cartwheels,” but Santana’s punches here seemed pretty crowbar-like. The episode ends without us finding out if McLane’s going to make the match happen or put another obstacle in Tessa’s way, but we all know where this is going, and it’s going to be exciting when we get there.
That’s all for this installment of the Weekly WOW. Join me next time when the Beast fights someone called Faith the Lioness, which ought to be fun.