WHEN IT COMES CRASHIN' DOWN AND IT HURTS INSIDE #1: GLOW 1986 - Susie Spirit's Elbow Returns to Its Home Planet


I probably should have put this in the introductory paragraph up there, but I was a pretty seriously loyal WWF kid, so most of the traumatic rasslin' moments of my childhood originate there, and most of them involved terrible storyline-based things happening to Hulk Hogan. But this isn't one of those; this is about real-life bad things happening to someone from GLOW. There are probably decent, normal people that might read this someday who don't keep up with bizarre second-tier wrestling promotions from thirty years ago, so I'll have to provide some background information. GLOW was a bizarre wrestling federation that popped up in the late eighties, whose name stood for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and you can kind of guess what sort of thing they specialized in, based on the name alone. And on one hand, it was exactly the sort of weird sleaze you're probably thinking of; barely-trained "wrestlers" rolling around and grappling with each other in leotards, with big ol' eighties Aqua Net hair and glittery shit glued to their faces. It got weird though, with a real heavy emphasis on comedy, complete with weird, corny-ass comedy segments (complete with laugh track) between matches that were like what would have happened if the creators of Laugh In were wrestling fans, rather than just Nixonites trying to infiltrate the counterculture, and pre-match wrestling promos replaced by the Gorgeous Ladies doing terrible "white people who don't know anything about rap" style rapping that bit heavily off the Super Bowl Shuffle instead.

Weird thing was, Vince Russo and Tammy Sytch didn't exist yet, so this was back when it was unheard of for anything truly risque to happen in televised wrestling. So as much as it was jiggle-TV for lonesome strokers who were up late when the free Cinemax preview weekend was over and USA Up All Night was showing a Chuck Norris movie, GLOW was also somehow a straight wrestling show that based itself heavily off the WWF Sports Entertainment Style of All-American Heroes saving the world from Evil Foreigners and Evil Broad Ethnic Stereotypes. It was the same thing, seriously. Tina Ferrari was the Hoganesque excessively-tanned superheroic champion of goodness, Colonel Ninotchka and Palestina the Syrian Terrorist played the same evil Russian/Arab roles that Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Shiek played, Amy the Farmer's Daughter was Hilbilly Jim, the Heavy Metal Sisters were like if Demolition got really into Mercyful Fate, and Attache had the Sgt. Slaughter thing going, where she was the military character who was evil, despite 'Merica. And if you really think about it, Mount Fiji and Matilda the Hun (aka Queen Kong) each represented the duality of Andre the Giant, with Fiji as the gentle giant who fought for righteousness, and Matilda as an angry monster who smashed things and ate people. So as a little 7 year old kid who didn't see what the big deal was about boobs and butts, it was just another wrestling show that came on after WWF Superstars went off on Friday Nights. Of course, my brother was older and into it on a much different level, and I'm pretty sure somewhere during a match involving the vaguely gothic, goggle-eyed maniac wrestler called Dimentia, he became a man, but I'd rather not think about that right now. For me, it was like 80s WWF without dudes, and that's a helluva thing right there. I'm not sure if there's ever been a TV show, rasslin' or otherwise, that's toed the line between smut and children's programming so successfully. (Although I'm assuming a very specific breed of modern perv would probably throw out recent iterations of My Little Pony cartoons as an example, because God is dead, and we have killed him.) 

But anyway, here's the match in question, WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER, EVER WATCH, OH GOD. (Seriously, Ghoul Shit Warning is in full effect)

Unless you're a fucking ghoul who clicked play just now, I'll try and explain what happened here. It's a match between Susie Spirit and Debbie Debutante, who seem to just be two generic GLOW wrestlers, and The Headhunters, who were GLOW's somehow even more overtly-racist version of the classic Wild Samoan wrestling gimmick. Like if the Revival wrestled the Usos today, except Dash and Dawson would have less personality and Jimmy and Jey would have a lot more. Anyway, not much of note happens for the most part, until all of a sudden, somebody screws up somewhere, and Susie Spirit absolutely eats shit on an attempted sunset flip, and her elbow joint just ceases to exist, basically. The ref breaks it up, and it's awful. Like her forearm was just not connected anymore in any meaningful way, and bones are pointing in directions they aren't supposed to, and they zoom in on it, and they just show it over and over and over and over like when Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theisman's leg, and you can see shapes and outlines and shit, and aw fuck, I'm covered in cobras again.

And here's the thing. When this happened, I was probably six or seven years old, (all the info I've found online says it happened in 1986, but I don't think I even watched wrestling until a year later, so it must have been a rerun in syndication) and I fully believed in the Truth of Wrestling. It was real to me, dammit. Thing was, like most tiny rasslin' fans, I was constantly hearing that it was all fake from various classmates and 60 Minutes correspondents. and while I knew that they were all damnable liars attempting to decieve me, I really think that some part of what they were saying got through to me and sat there in my subconscious mind. So while I was sure that rasslin' was real and Hulk Hogan was the Earth's mightiest hero, I think there was just enough of a seed of doubt - even if I didn't realize that it was there - to put my mind at ease when something really bad would happen in the ring. That tiny spark of disbelief let me know that it was all going to be okay; the blood was just ketchup, these guys were all best friends, and Andre probably apologized to Leapin' Lanny Poffo after he nearly headbutted him to death on Saturday Night's Main Event. Everything was going to be cool. Until this. When Susie Spirit's elbow dislocated, it showed me definitively that WRESTLING IS REAL, and rather than fictional superheroes, wrestlers were regular humans with bones and blood and organs, and they could all feel pain and bleed and die, EVEN HULK HOGAN. The stakes were higher than ever, and life and death and justice and freedom were all riding on whether or not the good guys won. Honestly, this match was probably the one that opened Pandora's Box inside my brain and made it possible for wrestling to traumatize me as a child in the first place. So thanks a lot, Susie Spirit's Elbow, you're what's wrong with me today.


I have to add this extra little thought at the end, though, after making the mistake of rewatching this match. Wrestling is a violent, brutal pseudo-sport, and as a result, there's a long history of Bad Motherfuckers and Tough Sumbitches participating in it and working through their own horrifying injuries. Like when Vader had to push his eye back into the socket and still finished the match, or when Stone Cold Steve Austin literally won a match while being partially paralyzed. There was another time when Akira Hokuto broke her neck in the first fall of a three-fall match and held her head in place with her hands for the next two falls, not to mention the time when Ric Flair sustained career-ending back injuries in a plane crash and retired almost forty years later. But do you see that picture up there, and what's happening in it? THAT CRAZY MOTHERFUCKER IS SMILING. She's literally having to hold the lower half of her arm in place, but she's so dedicated to the gimmick of... uhhh, being a person with a lot of spirit, I guess, that she can't be seen screaming and crying and pooping everywhere, which is what I'd probably be doing if it was me in such a damn predicament. So yeah, it's real impressive that Vader popped his eyeball back in or whatever, but you know none of those folks would've been able to cheese for the drunks in the front row while any of this was going on. So the toughest wrestler isn't Vader or Austin or Hokuto or Flair or Funk or Foley or any of the obvious names that come to mind. The toughest motherfucker of all times is Susie Spirit, and it always has been, you guys.

(May 14, 2016)