Stream it or skip it: ‘Against The Ropes’ on Netflix, where an ex-con becomes a Lucha Libre wrestler to reconnect with her daughter

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We miss GLOW, and think Netflix should have given it one final season. If you’re like us, you might want to check out a new Mexican dramedy involving female wrestlers, this time set in the anything-goes world of lucha libre.

Opening shot: A top-down shot of a working-class neighborhood in Mexico City. Then we switch to a woman who collects her belongings when she gets out of prison.

The core: Ángela (Caraly Sánchez) has just served a six-year sentence for drug possession, a charge she has consistently denied. One of the possessions she receives is a backpack with roses embroidered on it. She said it wasn’t her place to go in, and she insists she’s leaving the prison.

Her mother Victoria (Carmen Ramos) picks her up; she takes care of Ángela’s daughter Rocío (Alisson Santiago). Rocío, now 12, stopped visiting her mother a few years ago and isn’t really interested in reconnecting. She’s not even home to greet her mother; she is at “the fights” with her father Lalo (Cuauhtli Jimenez). Ángela goes to the local wrestling arena and sees the two rooting for a lucha libre wrestler named Dulce Caramelo (Scarlet Gruber). When Dulce wins her contest, she dedicates it to her “daughter” Rocío.

Dulce dates Lalo, and she bonds with Rocío; it’s to the point where Rocío smiles whenever she’s near Dulce and frowns in front of her mother. Dulce lobbies Lalo to let him and Rocío move in with her, but he rightfully wants to contact Ángela. Ángela, for her part, thinks back to when her daughter was six, and when the police raided her illegal T-shirt stand, the rose-embroidered backpack she took was full of drugs. That memory is understandably bittersweet, as that was the last time Ángela was close to her daughter.

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Ángela gets a job at a bridal shop; the owner is desperate to date Victoria, so he looks past Ángela’s prison sentence. Still, he keeps an eye on her; Ángela quickly bonds with the staff, including her former bestie Malena (María Balam). They gather around her when Lalo comes over and talks to her about Dulce wanting him and Rocío to move in with her.

Ángela takes on Dulce in an all-takers match; she holds her own because her father was a lucha libre villain, so she knows some moves. But in the end, Dulce defeats her. But the arena owner tells Lalo to come back; she would make a great villain. But she and Rocío made a deal: Ángela will let Rocío go to the fights; Rocío never wants to see her mother back in the ring or she will move in with Dulce and her father. Fearful that she is about to lose Rocío, she decides to train and become an anonymous wrestling villain, with the help of her friend Refugio (Giovanna Zacarias).

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Against the ropes
Photo: Brenda Islas/Netflix

What shows will it remind you of? Against the ropes (Original title: Contra las cuerdas) certainly gives a similar feeling GLOWespecially the fact that the ladies in the bridal shop will accompany Ángela in her wrestling training.

Our opinion: Against the ropes presents Ángela with a complex problem from the start: no one believes she shouldn’t have gone to prison, and she wants to find the person whose backpack belonged. But at this point she must realize that much does not matter, and she must fix what is broken with Rocío. So Ángela must balance rebuilding her life and her relationship with her daughter while trying to clear her name.

Fernando Sariñana, the series’ showrunner, and the writing staff have done a good job of making that complexity clear without making the show a drag. Even the first episode, which forms the story, has plenty of wrestling scenes for fans to enjoy, even if it’s hard to watch Ángela get rejected by her daughter over and over again.

One of the other things we appreciated is that Sariñana and company don’t dwell much on Ángela’s past; she’s dealing with the here and now, and the main thing is fixing things with her daughter, so that’s what we see.

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What we’re looking forward to is Ángela becoming “The Black Bride”, bringing some friends and trying to challenge Dulce again. How she’ll do it without Rocío getting wind of it will also be fun to watch. And all of this is helped by the fact that Caraly Sánchez can act as well as pull off great moves.

Sex and skin: None in the first episode.

Farewell shot: Ángela repairs her father’s mask and looks in the mirror with it, calling herself “The Black Bride” for the first time.

sleeping star: Alisson Santiago has a strong turn as Rocío; the child is independent and knows she has an emotional influence on her mother. But she can also tell how hurt she is that her mother abandoned her when she was little.

Most Pilot-y line: Dulce actually threatens Lalo with a frying pan after defending Ángela’s right to be part of the decision on where Rocío lives. What decade is this?

Our call: STREAM IT. Against the ropes is setting up a fun, heartwarming story that should have a lot of great wrestling at its core.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, Rolling Stone. com, Vanity Fair. comFast Company and elsewhere.

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