Except for this one guy, we all know professional wrestling isn't real real. It's actually more of a choreographed dance than anything else, requiring two athletic participants to tangle in the ring and trust each other with their bones, joints and limbs.
Unless you're Alison Brie.
In a memorable scene to open Episode 6 of Netflix's '80s-set female wrestling series GLOW, Brie channels Buster Keaton and goes through a whole wrestling routine by herself because her ring partner Debbie (American blonde "Liberty Belle," played by Betty Gilpin) is too P.O.'d at her character Ruth on account of the fact that Ruth slept with her husband. One of the deals put in place when developing the series was that the actresses — most of whom had zero previous wrestling experience — would perform all their stunts themselves, which makes the opening of "This Is One of Those Moments" particularly impressive on Brie's part.
It's worth a second (and third and fourth) look, so I decided to break the scene down in GIF form. And for actual intelligent input into the sequence, I connected with episode director Kate Dennis (The Handmaid's Tale) for insight into what Brie went through to film the scene and the things we didn't catch the first time.
Let's do this. (Please allow time for your browser to load the GIFs.)
The Hammer & Sickle
Brie starts her routine off with one of her Russian alter ego Stoya the Destroya's signature moves, obviously named after the symbol of communism. It's a double-body slam (or maybe Brie just really liked the body slam motion so much she did it twice) followed by a sweep of the legs. At first you think, "Oh cute, Brie is going to pretend that there's someone else in the ring and mimic some basic wrasslin' moves." Then after the sickle — a comical leg sweep to knock her opponent to the ground — Brie pretends to be Liberty Belle and takes herself down! Wait, she's playing BOTH parts? Grab the popcorn.
Kate Dennis' director commentary: "[There were] lots of hilarious discussions about what the hammer and sickle would be. Love that we ended on the rustic wooden sickle move. [I remember so] much talk of how to correctly use a sickle in a field. And YouTubing. Such a lovely literal translation of the Communist symbol! Although I think in the end we copied a Nepalese hand scythe move..."
Hammerlock into the Rough Toilet Paper
Brie then puts herself, err, "Liberty Belle," in a Hammerlock, gets up off the ground to reverse the Hammerlock, and switches back to Zoya to reverse Liberty Belle's reverse. Then she pulls off the painfully named "Rough Toilet Paper," which looks like a variation of the Camel Clutch, but with more butt action. At this point, Brie is going insane and this routine is in overdrive.
Kate Dennis' director commentary: On the Rough Toilet Paper, "We made it as big as we could." Hence Brie's embellished arm waves and the primal scream after pulling the spectre of Liberty Belle through her butt crack.
The Unnamed Flip Takedown
There's no Russkie-fied name for this maneuver, but the athleticism required to pull it off is as serious as Stalin. It's one thing to flip yourself onto the mat hands free, but with one hand on your own hair? Brie makes it look both brutish and easy. Keep in mind she's dictating the fight step-by-step in a Russian accent this entire time.
Kate Dennis' director commentary: "This move was tricky and we were careful to not have to do it too many times. I'd say Alison did it a total of about eight times. About twice per set-up (or shot). At no point did Alison say, 'actually this quite hurts. Can we only do it a few times?' She was extraordinary. I had to talk to [wrestling choreographer] Chavo and our stunt supervisor to get a true sense of the pain the move could cause if we did it too many times. Alison has the incredible capacity to push herself to the limits physically, yet still keep her performance so layered and detailed and truthful. It's a very rare quality, and it makes her absolutely magnetic on screen."
The Hairdrag to The Bread Line
Things are downright vaudevillian as Brie scoots along the mat like a dog with worms, and continues by spinning around and throwing herself to the floor in a roll. Brie pulled her own awesome '80s hair a lot in this routine.
There wasn't a whole lot of room for wrestling illusions as this was shot in the foreground where we could see it well, and no one wants to see the Internet's Girlfriend smash her face into anything. But again, Brie don't care, and she pulls off the most convincing move of the scene.
Kate Dennis' director commentary: "We did this quite a few times to make it look like her head nearly hit the post in the corner of the ring. This move was a favorite of mine as it's happening nice and close to Marc [Maron] and Betty. I just love playing it off her droll face and his expectant face."
Vodka for Breakfast
Zoya's finishing move owes a little to the classic Street Fighter II character Zangief — also Russian! — as the spectacularly titled Vodka for Breakfast is a brutal piledriver. Brie did the whole routine about 12 times to get all these shots in, and after a dozen butt drops, we hope the Rough Toilet Paper was confined to the ring. The best part of this whole scene is Brie's satisfied smile after completing the self punishment. She looks like she had fun, but she had to be gassed. That's acting!
Kate Dennis' director commentary: "This was a jarring move and I tried not to have her do it too many times. I needed her to do it with enough force to make the floor shake."
GLOW is currently streaming on Netflix.