Episode 1: “Kayfabe”
The Duffy Wrestling League promotion is a struggling entity in rural Georgia, spearheaded by Stephen Amell’s character, who sports a small but diverse roster of charming wrestlers, including Jack’s brother Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig), who is being scouted by a DWL legend representing the “up north” promotion implied to be WWE.
Amell is great as a stubborn promoter who won’t roll over and let his bleeding promotion die. Ludwig is the top babyface to the fans but a dickhead in real life which is a fun dynamic. The start of the show has an angle with Jack defending against Ace, which is set up for the next card in a week’s time. When it becomes clear that the scout I came to the show to unofficially offer Ace a contract, Jack then wanted to beat his brother a move that would traditionally be for anyone “leaving the territory,” but Ace and basically everyone else thought a new champion should be crowned. Jack being the booker meant he ultimately had the final say and stuck to his plan.
Jack’s wife Staci (Alison Luff) and his son Tom (Roxton Garcia) round out the main cast of characters as Ace’s valet/love interest Crystal Tyler (Kelli Berglund) and Willie Day (Mary McCormack) the business partner of Jack.
Will Bill Hancock (Chris Bauer) is the scout who is after Ace, and we learn from his time that he’s got a lot of personal issues, similar to a lot of wrestlers from the past at that age. He gave Ace some drugs out the back of the venue while Ace was supposed to be signing autographs and meeting fans.
One of Jack’s top wrestlers in DWL Big Jim Kitchen (Duke Davis Roberts) told him that he’s retiring while they sit atop a water tower sporting the promotion’s logo. This was one of the best parts of the episode. It really stood out and had some really good dialogue that brings the sport of pro wrestling down to earth while not at all insulting it.
The ending was the best part of the whole episode. In the big match, Jack jumped Ace from behind, hit him with a German suplex and put him in a submission hold that Ace literally couldn’t get out of and made the referee call the match. After mere seconds, this big brother vs brother main event title match is over, call it the Duffy Screwjob. It was a great hook to keep us guessing before Episode 2.
Episode 2: “Dusty Finish”
After two contrasting mornings between Ace & Crystal to Jack & Staci, we find out that Jack’s day job is as a lawn mower salesman with a douchebag for a boss that calls wrestling “fake.” With a black eye from his last match, he later bungles a sale trying to talk a customer into the idea of using a ride-on lawn mower that has a cup-holder for a cold beer.
After we see a vignette for the Florida Wrestling Dystopia (using retro TNA footage), we see Bobby’s (Trey Tucker) attempt at a new gimmick, “Turquoise.” It sucks; everyone laughs. Bobby has serious Greg-Hirsch-energy but not the way with words.
After hearing squirrels in the attic, Staci climbed a ladder to take a look and fell off a ladder after being stunned by one. Wrestling. Ace was dejected with his developmental offer being effectively rescinded and lashes out at his mother who cooks a shitty casserole, and not enough for Crystal. We learn that Ace’s mother wants him to quit the business, as far as why, that becomes much clearer in Episode 3.
Charlie Gully (Mike O’Malley), the owner/promoter of the FWD tells Willie (Mary McCormack) that he wants to buy the DWL and its venue. Jack completely and aggressively blows this off when Willie relays the news, but he also asked about the price showing that small part of him who might want to get out of the business.
Ace goes ahead and gets shitfaced-drunk when he gets the call from Wild Bill saying he isn’t wanted up north anymore. Crystal and Jack look for and find Ace who’s ended up at a bar where Rooster Robbins works running karaoke night. Another side job. Ace is a mess, and the woman who served him more alcohol needs her Responsible Service of Alcohol permit suspended. Ace gets up and does karaoke, sucks because he’s drunk, and gets heckled by Travis Davies who knows Ace from their school years. Everyone knows each other in Duffy. Ace cuts a heel promo on the people in the bar and you can see the lightbulb go off in Jack’s head about Ace switching heel.
When the wrestling is fake barb is lobbed at Ace, he and Jack go tornado tag style in the bar, beating the shit out of everyone and getting kicked out. One of my favorite shots in the whole series to date comes with the looks that Ace & Jack give Travis when he speaks ill of their departed father.
Crystal hits Travis with a hurricanrana and they leave. This was a cool eight minutes. It made the viewer want to see Jack and Ace team up in the DWL and we’re surely going to get that at some point.
Ace then convinces Jack to go to Krystal and get fast food (because who hasn’t done the french fry run on a night out?) after Jack finds out there’s the shitty casserole at home. Ace then has a drunken monologue about a black hole swallowing the earth while he eats his french fries. Ace’s deepest thoughts so far have come whilst he’s blind drunk.
They get Ace back home into bed, Crystal and Jack agree that Ace would make a great heel. Jack and his wife have their own match in the kitchen and the next day they head to the hospital to visit Big Jim and Melanie who have just had their first child. DWL guys talk about their spot on the card in the gift shop and Ace tells Jack he never wants to get booed again.
Jack, called into work, refuses to put makeup on his even-worse black eye and intimidates his boss, and Staci takes care of the squirrel situation and mows the lawn with a cold beer in the cup holder.
I liked this episode more than the first for sure. The characters are interesting, the actors are great and it’s well-written by an obviously passionate fan.