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Interview: Marty Elias on GLOW and Professional Wrestling

GLOW is a hit comedy-drama series on Netflix. Featuring a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show features features a group of women who perform as professional wrestlers for the organization “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.” However, can they overcome the interpersonal conflict, logistical hardships, and rowdy audiences that threaten the organization? GLOW stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, and Marc Maron.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Marty Elias. Marty is a veteran referee for professional wrestling organizations such as Lucha Underground, WWE, and Zero One. He was approached by GLOW show-runners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch due to his expertise, and now serves as Wrestling Ring Technician for the show. He has also cameo’d in the show as a… you guessed it… referee!

Legion of Leia A lot of people who don’t understand wrestling may not fully comprehend the importance of the referee’s role. What does a referee do during the match, aside from count to three?

Marty Elias:  A referee is also responsible for time cues and safety of the talent.  We also communicate for the wrestlers, with regards to the next move or spot.  A few of the experienced referees also guide matches for newer wrestlers.  Referees are also responsible for the set up and tear down of the ring.  If it’s a dirty job in wrestling, then more times then not the referee is doing it.

Legion of Leia: How did you get started as a referee?

Marty Elias: I originally started out as a wrestler, training for a long time.  At one point I heard wrestlers complaining about referees, and a light went off. I looked in the mirror and asked myself, “What could I do to contribute?” And lo and behold I’m a referee twenty plus years later!

Legion of Leia: What are some of your favorite memories as a referee?

Marty Elias: Too many to remember, but one that stands out is the match with Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25.  That match is considered by many to be the greatest match in WrestleMania history.  I received a Slammy [Award] for that match!

Legion of Leia: Have you ever been in the ring when something went wrong?

Marty Elias: Things go wrong all the time. I’ve seen bones broken, heard knees and other ligaments go “pop,” and have been covered in blood way too many times.

Legion of Leia: You recently made a cameo appearance in the critically acclaimed Netflix show GLOW. How did that opportunity come about?

Marty Elias: The opportunity came about due to the show runners, Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive, who knew my experience  as a “real” pro wrestling referee and asked if I would like to play an 80’s referee.  I jumped at the opportunity!

Legion of Leia: What was your experience like on set working with such a talented cast of women? Were any of the cast members wrestling fans?

Marty Elias: The experience was amazing and something I’ll never forget.  I consider all those talented women as my sisters, working as closely as we did, and the bond and relationships happened organically. Kate Nash had heard of wrestling and kind of knew a little bit because of her drummer Alicia Warrington, who is a huge fan!

Legion of Leia: When people picture wrestling, they don’t usually envision female wrestlers. However, there’s been sharp rise in the prominence of female wrestling. In addition to GLOW, Lucha Underground features incredible intergender matches and the WWE is in the era of the “Women’s Revolution.” Kennadi Brink was recently introduced as WWE’s first female referee in decades. How do you think this influences the traditional idea of “wrestling” for the younger generation?

Marty Elias: I feel this whole shift of “Women’s Revolution” is very inspiring for all women in general!  To see women featured upfront and doing things that at one time was taboo is refreshing.  If you have dreams, you should follow them no matter your gender!  I tell my daughter all the time to kick ass and take names and don’t ever let anyone tell you any different!

Legion of Leia: In your mind, who are some of the top female wrestlers today? Of all time?

Marty Elias: I love all my Lucha Underground sisters, I love to watch Io Shirai from Japan, she is amazing!  I had the pleasure of working with her in Lucha Underground, she is so good!  I also love Candice Gargano. She is like my second daughter so I’m biased.  My favorite female wrestler of all time has to be my sister from another mister: Mickie James!

[Mickie James with a head-scissors on Beth Phoenix]

Legion of Leia: Any advice for readers who want to enter “the business,” or for referees on the indy scene?

Marty Elias: Be prepared to work hard and pay your dues!  Nothing will be handed to you, it’s all about putting in the work.  If you’re looking to get rich, get another profession!

If you’re interested in contacting Marty for bookings, seminars, or interviews: You can reach him at: bookmartyelias@gmail.com. Be sure to follow Marty on Instagram: @martyelias67, Twitter: @martyelias1967, and Facebook: Marty Elias!

About Marty: Marty started in the pro-wrestling business in 1995, training with Jesse Hernández at the “School of Hard Knocks” six hours a day, three days a week. He transitioned to refereeing after hearing complaints about current ones, and studied “the tapes” diligently. He eventually began to work with Southern California promotions such as Ultimate Pro Wrestling, which was a developmental territory for WWF. In fact, during his time at UPW, Marty booked a young wrestler named John Cena! Marty transitioned to working for Zero One in Japan and various promotions in Mexico, until he was hired by the WWE in 2006. In 2009, he left to focus on his merchandising career until he was contacted by Lucha Underground. He currently serves as Wrestling Ring Technician for GLOW.


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Dr. Billy San Juan

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