WOW: Women of Wrestling is, as the name implies, an all-female wrestling show that airs on Saturdays at 8pm on AXS TV. 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 much of the spirit of GLOW, for both good and bad.
I previously made a short-lived effort to recap the first televised season of WOW back in January, but it didn’t work out because I didn’t actually have AXS TV, and it was just too hard to keep up without it. But now I do have access to AXS, so I’ll be providing the Best and Worst of WOW going forward, at least through the end of this season.
Best: Tessa Blanchard Forever
Tessa Blanchard is the WOW champion, and while I kind of wish she had a tiara like on GLOW, I have to admit that a purple title belt goes better with her standard “heel street clothes” uniform of a black T-shirt, tight jeans, and high-heeled boots. Tessa is genuinely one of the best wrestlers of her generation, and the palpable sense that she thinks she’s a too good for WOW works great for her heel character. Because here’s the thing: she’s really not too good for WOW. I mean yes, she’s probably better at wrestling than most of the women here, but that’s true almost everywhere she goes.
Tessa Blanchard might have a real name, but “My daddy and granddaddy were wrestlers so you can never be as good as me” is only slightly less cartoonish than “I’m from the jungle.” If she ever loses that belt, Tessa and Abilene Maverick, the Governor’s Daughter, should compete for the Tag Team Titles as the Children of Privilege, and they can both brag about who their daddies are. Tessa fits right in here, is my point, but she also elevates the entire show by being here. That she can say exactly that out loud and it’s perfectly in character is what really makes it a match made in heel heaven.
Worst: Cheap MAGA Heat
Then there’s Jessie Jones. It says something about the evolution of my own political feelings over the course of 2019 that in January my reaction to her unalloyed Trump Supporter gimmick was along the lines of “this is uncomfortable, I hope it doesn’t make people not want to watch the show,” and now it’s more like “This is silly and maybe a little tired.” Still, the hat’s a nice touch, and I like seeing her character’s gross beliefs presented as part of a specifically gross character, who’s obviously purposely showing how unappealing her level of hate and fear is, and doing it without blatant bigotry on the mic, no less. On the other hand, as a progressive from Tennessee I’m not wild about the “she’s just a hick from Kentucky” aspect of the gimmick, but I also can’t pretend there’s not a general sort of accuracy to it. I don’t know, I feel a lot of things at once, let’s see where they take her character this season.
And who better to fight Jessie Jones than actual QWOC Kiera Hogan, known in WOW by her superhero name, Fire. She doesn’t get a promo or a video package on this episode, but I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of her as the season goes on. She’s a great wrestler, and definitely played a role in making Jessie look legit in this match. It’s a shame she had to lose, but as just about any woman who was in WWE between Mania 34 and Mania 35 will tell you, sometimes tapping to an obnoxious regressive person’s iffy-looking armbar is just part of doing the job. Even though she was underused in this segment, I was glad to see Fire on the premiere, and I can’t wait to see more from her soon.
Best: A New Perspective On History
At the end of the day, every wrestling company is just here to get their own shit over and get paid, which is fine and all. But I just need to take a second to talk about this video package about the history of women’s tag team wrestling, which set up a tournament to crown new WOW Tag Team Champions, and how refreshing it is when you’re used to the kind of history WWE tells. This is a video about the history of women’s wrestling that doesn’t mention Fabulous Moolah at all. It does mention Mae Young, but it also acknowledges Joyce Grable, Wendi Richter, and more people who WWE can be bothered to admit existed. It mentions Princess Victoria and Velvet McIntyre, the Glamour Girls, and the Jumping Bomb Angels, all of whom WWE ignored when announcing their new women’s tag belts, even though they were the original women’s tag division of WWF. It’s just nice to hear their names said on TV in 2019, that’s all.
Best: Alisha’s Final Form
This is Alisha Edwards’ WOW debut, having followed Tessa and Kiera over from Impact Wrestling. Except of course that here she’s not Alisha Edwards, she’s Sassy Massy, a collection of working class Boston stereotypes in gear that’s loud even by this company’s standards. And the thing is, it’s actually perfect? Alisha’s never stood out in the Knockouts Division, either as a character or a worker, and she tends to be a bit stuck in her husband Eddie’s shadow on that show. But here, as a cartoon character built around her very real, very thick Boston accent, she fits in perfectly.
In this match she’s facing the Disciplinarian, a woman likes to punish. The Disciplinarian (we gotta find a nickname for that) is accompanied to the ring by Samantha Smart, whose gimmick you can probably guess, and they’re both pretty nasty heels. Samantha chokes Massy with a ruler behind the ref’s back, and everything is pretty much on that level of old school heel/face work. I really like the ending of this match, where Disc (still working on that nickname) has Massy pinned, but pulls her up because she wants to keep up the punishment, and that gives Massy a chance to win. Sassy Massy is a solid worker in a WOW context, but really it was the Disciplinarian’s own worst tendencies that lost the match for her, and later we see her flipping out about it backstage before Samantha slams a door on the camera.
Best: Chaotic Progression
This is the first match for the Tag Team Championship, although it’s a little unclear how this tournament works or if there’s even a bracket. However it’s going to progress, it starts with the Psycho Sisters (accompanied to the ring by their new sister, the gloriously named Mezmeriah) facing off against Princess Aussie and Reina Reyes.
Princess Aussie is not accompanied to the ring by dancing indigenous people like she was last season, and Reina Reyes has a completely new name and gimmick, which was explained in a video package. Reina’s from the Philippines, but she previously wrestled under a mask as the Mexican luchadora Azteca. In the video she says this was to appease her family, who don’t approve of her wrestling, but it seems clear that behind the scenes WOW has learned that not everything GLOW could get away with in the ’80s is acceptable now. I mean yes, they’re introducing her as “the Pearl of the Philippines,” but that’s a big step up from having her pretend to be Mexican. McLane on commentary also teases the arrival of a new Azteca, who will presumably be an actual Mexican woman.
This match is a little messy, but considering the heel team literally has chaos as a gimmick, that’s not necessarily a problem. The Psycho Sisters win, which is the right move since they’re an established team, whereas Reina and Aussie are just hanging out. Mezmariah gets involved a bit, which just makes me want to see a full match from her. We don’t see it here, but I’m hoping she can actually entrance people as her name implies. That’s the kind of wrestling I want from this show.
Worst: Back Where We Started
At the beginning of the episode, the Beast, Havok (known here as the Monster of Madness, although fans of her other work know her as Jessicka), and Jungle Grrrl all show up to argue about who should get a title shot against Tessa Blanchard. Naturally, this leads into Triple Threat of the Number One Contendership in the main event. All of that is good. The Beast is amazing. Her name might be a little on the nose, but her muscular build and the faces she makes really drive the gimmick home. Havok is one of the greats, of course, and her pseudo-gas-masked apocalypse monster aesthetic is a perfect fit for WOW. Jungle Grrrl is a little silly in that GLOW kind of way, but she’s athletic enough to sell it, and anyway if you haven’t noticed yet I’m here for the silly stuff. In fact, one of my favorite things about Jungle Grrrl is that whenever they show the video about how she’s from the Jungle, she’s just in a cluster of trees beside a chain link fence.
The problem is that just when the Triple Threat really gets going, it ends in a shmoz. There’s some fan stuff in the four minutes or so of a match we actually get, but then Hazard, Havok’s tag team partner, shows up and gets involved to cause a no contest. And maybe this is on me for not watching most of last season, but it didn’t help that I didn’t have any idea who Hazard was so I just thinking “Wait, why is there a second smaller Havok?” So the match ends without a Number One Contender, which literally puts us back where we started at the beginning of an episode. And when you have a wrestling show that’s divided into seasons, maybe let the Main Event of your season premiere have an ending, and consequences. Overall, I thought it was a very disappointing ending to a very entertaining episode.
That’s all for this week, just me next week for another Best and Worst of WOW, when Tessa Blanchard has promised to choose her own opponent, and hopefully that leads to a match that actually happens.