by Brian Clarey
Most arm-wrestling matches are over very quickly.
Contrary to what the only movie ever to be made about the sport — 1987’s Over the Top, starring a backwards-capped Sylvester Stallone — would have you think, most professional matches go down in a matter of seconds as one contestant gains instant leverage and applies it with a groan.
Yes, there is a professional arm-wrestling league. It’s on TV and everything.
But the group assembled in the back room of Geeksboro on Sunday afternoon didn’t concern themselves with the intricacies of the sport so much as the spectacle of it, and its potential to do good in the community.
Rachel Scott, who owns Geeksboro with her husband Joe, first had the notion for the GRAWL — that’s Greensboro Arm-Wrestling for Ladies — after learning that the epicenter of the sport is just a few hours down the road. A trip to see CLAW in Charlottesville, Va. convinced her of the viability of women’s arm wrestling here.
“I just think it fits well with our city,” she tells the dozen or so women in attendance at the group’s first interest meeting. “UNCG was Women’s College, Bennett College. We have more women than men. And Greensboro has amazing ladies.”
She noted, too, the preponderance of nonprofits in the city; charitable giving is a key component of the women’s game. It’s semi-theatrical — wrestlers wear costumes and have backstories; they roll with theme music and posses. Scott says the Charlottesville bout was “like a rock concert,” with sound and lighting, audience participation, food trucks and beer.
Sounds like a pretty good time.
Nicki Marder arm-wrestled her cousin the night before in an Asheville diner in preparation for the big meetup.
“I beat her with both arms, the right and the left. But then I did it with her boyfriend….” She pauses. “He beat me, but I think I did okay.”
After hearing about the meeting at Geeksboro, she insisted on making the drive home.
“It just spoke to me,” she says.
It spoke to all of them: former roller-derby queens, college athletes, sisterhood seekers and some who just wanted to be in an arena where a woman’s strength is celebrated instead of stigmatized.
One woman has dreads, and says she usually brings her 10-year-old son with her. Another says roller derby wore out her legs. A newlywed in a polka-dot dress, black hose and heels says she’s looking for a way to meet new people. A woman with tattoos and a salon coif says she’s eager to compete.
Now Marder curls her arms and holds the flex: strong in the upper arms and shoulders, but thin wrists and small hands that could hurt her in a prolonged match. But arm wrestling is about more than pure strength. Grip is important. Leverage and speed. Short arms with compact musculature can be an advantage. Flexibility comes into play.
‘I just think it fits well with our city. UNCG was Women’s College, Bennett College. We have more women than men. And Greensboro has amazing ladies.’
As with the other leagues of this nature, the sport is secondary to, though not independent from, the show.
“It’s semi-theatrical,” Scott says, “but we do not pre-determine winners.”
At the Charlottesville event, she watched a wrestler by the name of Kary OK — a jilted bride who soothed her pain by singing karaoke in her wedding dress — finesse her way into the final round. Another wrestler brought the guys from her construction crew as her posse. They carried her in on a ladder and went shirtless through the crowd to solicit charity bucks that played a role in the scoring.
Scott envisions her friends from the costuming and crafts community getting involved, the video gamers and trivia buffs and film nerds and sci-fi aficionados that already populate Geeksboro as potential allies and fans.
The venue, too, provides a home for the events and meetings, the biggest cost in the whole deal. The Scotts have that covered.
“This is kind of like when I was in college,” the UNCG grad says. “I needed a sisterhood, but I couldn’t afford to join a sorority, so I joined the women’s rugby club.”
But the muscle behind the movement doesn’t see competition at the table as one of her functions.
“Probably not,” she says, “because I need my wrist for pouring espressos.”
She might want to think twice about that. Wrist strength is a key component to arm wrestling. She’s got good forearms, too.
Look for the GRAWL page on Facebook soon.