Apparently the Queen was bang into the wrestling on ITV in the 1980s. Giant Haystacks was her favourite one. I love the idea of her inviting him round the palace for a chat and cheeky knighthood. Imagine Haystacks, all grizzled and mad, stomping into her grand drawing room, draped in his barmy furs, trying to grunt coherent responses to her polite enquiries. In case you never watched ITV wrestling in the ’80s, Giant Haystacks was the baddie who would snarl at the crowd, punch the ref and fight all of his opponents dirty. The only one who could put him in his place was, of course, Big Daddy – Britain’s big, fat, slightly tatty version of Superman.
He only had one combat technique, which was to use his gigantic beer belly to shove assailants across the ring. He would then whip the crowd into a frenzy by stomping his foot, clapping his hands above his head and chanting “Eas-y! Eas-y!” over and over again. He was supposed to be the hero but he was basically a bit of a dick. In his Union Jack leotard and sparkly top hat, he had the whiff of a prototype Ukipper about him. I think the Queen had it right – Giant Haystacks was the real hero; an anarchic hellraiser, persecuted and bullied by the wrestling establishment because of his refusal to abide by their preposterous conventions.
In his Union Jack leotard and sparkly top hat, Big Daddy had the whiff of a prototype Ukipper about him.
Anyway, while we were whooping and jeering at ITV’s menagerie of fat old bastards, American wrestling fans of the same era were enjoying a rather more exotic spectacle. GLOW – Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – was a very real televised wrestling show that ran from 1986 until 1990. It featured a bunch of sexy, glamorous and fantastical female characters pretending to fight. There was a cutesy farm girl, an Islamic terrorist, a voodoo priestess, an evil Soviet commie and various other wondrous inventions. Before it was abruptly cancelled by its network at the turn of the decade it attracted weekly audiences of millions.
Netflix has a brilliant documentary about the whole glorious escapade that is well worth a watch. Once you’ve done that you can embark upon the semi- fictionalised drama of the same name, starring Mad Men’s Alison Brie as a struggling but plucky actress drawn into playing a wrestler in order to pay the bills. Brie is dazzling as the lead and her performance is matched by that of comedy icon Marc Maron as the degenerate, schlock horror director tasked with herding a gang of gorgeous ladies into a convincing wrestling showcase. The ’80s styling is dynamite and the laughs are enormous: GLOW is a stupid, brilliant, feel good romp through a glorious moment of the most glorious decade in the history of man.
Watch GLOW on Netflix