Grievous Bodily Charm

Satellite TV gave professional wrestling much new impetus: Hulk Hogan is a hero to a large proportion of eight-year olds, and video store shelves celebrate the thrill of carefully staged, theatrical violence. Below this popular culture of wrestling lies the grey sub-culture of fighting girls. Whilst in these morally conscious days this genre may not be socially acceptable, perhaps the only difference between Cynthia Rothrock and the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is that the latter are better at acting. So, after much careful research, TC can divide the field into two categories, depending on which animal instinct they appeal to.

VIOLENCE & SEX – Unnecessary Roughness

These are found next to the WWF tapes and bear certain similarities: relentlessly larger-than-life characters; every feature exaggerated to and beyond pantomime level. “Bad” is “evil” and “good” is “good-until-pushed-too-far-by-the-bad-girls”. Watching a decent bout is like seeing a Ken Russell script directed by Chuck Jones, with the female presence providing the final part of that famous Holy Trinity: sex, violence and humour.

Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – My introduction to the genre and still the best. Little has changed – Amy the Farmer’s Daughter may have gone but her “sisters” live on (characters in GLOW regenerate a la Doctor Who – new girl, same costume). Watch any section and within 15 seconds you’ll be able to work out the plot. They’re about the only wrestling tapes I’d actually watch for entertainment – the sheer tack (the jokes! The musical numbers!) overpowering any moral scruples about the concept. It’s very obviously fake, and is thus entirely harmless. At it’s best, like a truly bad film, it provokes a surreal disbelief and an inner warmth: there is still hope for the universe when things like GLOW exist. B

American Women’s Wrestling Federation – Anyone buying both volumes of this is in for a nasty shock – the first 20 minutes are exactly the same on each (introducing the members of the AWWF). This is an annoying rip-off. Most of the AWWF girls occupy an ambivalent middle ground between Good and Bad, even those who appear to be pure as snow are not averse to malicious wounding. The rivalries tend to be on a personal basis: The Littlest Angel, The Cajun Queen and Rock Candy are at each other’s throats over the affections of a ringside valet, or past injustices.

The lowlights of both tapes are the naff mock-interviews between Spice Williams, a former AWWF champion who also appeared in ‘Star Trek 5’, and the current contenders, asking such penetrating questions as “What do you like to do in your spare time?”. If ‘The Word’ ever need a new presenter, Spice would be ideal. Overall, while the fighting is well-staged, that’s the least part of it. What’s important is the spectacle, and the AWWF seem to take themselves just too seriously. While GLOW may be compared to a Christmas pantomime, the AWWF, if not Shakespeare, is perhaps a play by Arthur Miller… C-

Cutey Suzuki’s Ringside Angels – Buy a Sega Megadrive and play at Japanese lady wrestlers! Over there, Cutey and her colleagues are as famous, if not more so, than their male rivals, with adverts, recording deals and films. The audience is mainly teenage girls, who admire the stars with the ardour a girl here might devote to Jason Donovan. Some enterprising video label should release a tape or two here, as Ms.Suzuki lives up to her name 100%.

SEX AND VIOLENCE – Girls With Gunge

This group might also be called “substance abuse”, as they often involve the use of Jello, mud, oil or anything with the right consistency and appearance. There’s no male equivalent – you won’t see Hulk Hogan taking on Ric Flair in a pool of dessert – and the tendency to separate participants from clothes relegates most to the “Adult” section. Of course, this only increases the allure!

Gellorama – Virgin are selling this for 4.99, but I’d think twice before paying even that. For starters, there is only about ten minutes of actual gello-ing, the remaining fifty minutes being wimpy strip-teases. The inane, repetitive commentary by a Mae West clone continually mentions “loose puppies” (battlespeak for what happens when a bikini-top cracks under pressure) but the camera is always facing the wrong way. The most savage thing on view is the editing (for which I was actually grateful); you’d get more fun from an episode of ‘Baywatch’. E+

Battling Beauties – Dating back to ’83, this is a definite improvement. Some effort is made to give the girls personalities by having them arrive dressed in costume, though characterisation is abandoned when the bouts start (one girl looks much like another, when both are rolling around covered in oil from head to foot). The tape starts with three slippery-but-neat matches, accompanied by the appearance of a Burt Reynolds look-alike, for no apparent reason. Next, the low point of the tape: ‘Foxy Boxing’, which bears more resemblance to semi-professional pillow-fighting than boxing. Things recover in the final section – mud wrestling – which contains the most notable and gratuitous occurrence of loose puppies,accompanied (bizarrely but effectively) by the tune “Duelling Banjos”. B-

Co-Ed Oil Wrestling – Another 4.99-from-Virgin tape, this one fails for similar reasons to ‘Gellorama’: it could be reduced to 15 minutes with no damage. The hook is that male members of the audience bid for the right to get covered in oil and wrestle the girls (personally, if I had $700, I could find better things to buy than the chance to roll around in oil for three minutes, even with a couple of bikini-clad cuties), though they have to endure hours of dull strip-tease first. Save your 4.99, and put it towards your own oiled-bimbo-wrestling session. E+

Foxy Boxing – I wasn’t looking forward to this after the dumb section in ‘Battling Beauties’, but it’s better than feared. Commentator Garrett Atkins comes up with some coherent, amusing sentences, and while headguards and gloves are worn, they have a knack of coming off before very long has elapsed. The girls aren’t that pretty – “tough” is the word that comes to mind – but there may be semi-genuine bitchiness involved – one fighter (‘Konar the Barbarian’) launches an assault on a girl holding the round cards. Said girl is a wasted-looking Traci Lords, who loses her top in the fracas. Further fun is provided by someone who looks a bit like Cynthia Rothrock. £4.99 in Virgin, of course, and just about worth that. C