Ladies Arm Wrestling tournament encourages fierce competition (and attitudes) for a good cause

Several of Syracuse's toughest women bust out the brawn to benefit the Vera House.

Muscles bulged, arms twitched, and attitudes flared at the Metro Lounge on April 12.

Described as “1/3 Sport, 1/3 Theatre, and 1/3 Grassroots Fundraiser,” the Syracuse Ladies Arm Wrestling competition was co-hosted by the Maxwell Women’s Caucus and the National Women’s Law Students Association, and all proceeds from the big night benefited the Vera House, a local domestic and sexual violence help center.

Photo: Emily Brzozowski
Lenina tries to get a rise out of the crowd before her match.

Packed with eager spectators, the bar burst with energy as each of the eight wrestling contestants thrust herself into a persona, a selection that spanned a wide range of time periods and places in history: Miranda Warning, Jackie O Nasty, Legally Armed, Michelle O’Bomber, Buffy the Arm Slayer, Dirty Diana Ross, Comrade Natasha Feodoravna Lenina, and Annie ‘Smoking Guns’ Oakley.

Gussied up hype men and women worked the crowd, shaking the collection buckets of their respective contestants, trying to muster as many raffle tickets as possible for their rep.

“This is the winner,” shouted one of Annie ‘Smoking Gun’ Oakley’s cowgirls, waving her bucket aggressively in the air in front of a group of attendees, “She’s 6 feet tall!”

“She’s got the biggest guns in the West!” another hollered next to her, decked out in flannel.

By about 9 p.m., the MC bawdily corralled the crowd to the front of the stage.

Each time a new contestant (flanked by her entourage, naturally) jumped up on the platform, theme music flooded through the room. Natasha Lenina appeared, saluting, from behind the Communist flag. Oakley and her hype ladies executed a perfectly synchronized drawing of finger-pistols. O’Nasty peeled off her fancy white silk gloves with confidence.

Ready, set, wrestle.

The women took turns dueling it out, with two rounds taking place before the finals. Oakley’s guns shot down Legally Armed, O’Bomber lost to a former First Lady when she went arm-to-arm against Jackie O, and, despite the crowd’s frantic cheers of “USA,” the Communist beat the cop, knocking Miranda Warning out of the running.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck in the second round, when Annie Oakley and Jackie O’Nasty’s particularly fierce struggle led to an injury. The crowd gasped as Oakley, properly known as Meghan Mullen, suddenly stopped still: she had suffered an extremely painful break in her humerus bone that would later necessitate surgery.

In a later interview, Mullen stressed the importance of safety at competitive events that could put women's health at risk.

"I knew the risks going into it, I just didn't think how realistic they could be," Mullen said.

Despite the pain from the severe break, Mullen's overall takeaway from the event was laced with positivity.

"I'm so happy for all the money they raised," she said. "And I'm glad the event could continue after my injury."

Throughout the rest of the competition, people continued to make “bets” on their favorite wrestlers by buying raffle tickets — purchase a ticket for the woman you think will dominate and potentially win a prizes if she does (including a fierce Syracuse Ladies Arm Wrestling tank top printed with “SLAW” and showing a hand crushing an orange).  The Vera House also raised money through its “Bribe List” -- $20 from a crowd member meant “Anything Goes,” allowing a wrestler to temporarily break rules, $30 meant Five Minutes of Fame (an audience member could hop on stage to test his or her own arm), $40 meant a Do-Over for any player, and $200 would bring an Automatic Win.

The final battle came down to The Arm Slayer versus O’Nasty, and the duo had to wrestle with both right and left arms. With cheers for each of the opponents flooding the room, O’Nasty managed the final, champion push. 

Although Darci Pauser, O’Nasty, was amped about her victory (“I came out of my mother very strong”), the grand total raised, $2,200, pleased her even more.

“I’m overwhelmed that we made so much money,” she said. “I’m really happy with it.”

Having played a big role in the planning of the event, Pauser wanted the competition to help fight stereotypes.

“Yes, it’s completely objectifying women,” she said.  “But as objects of power. That’s the message we were trying to send.”

As the eight tough wrestlers worked the room, battled on stage, and elicited gleeful chants and cheers from the crowd, that message certainly seemed clear: ladies are powerful, strong, and absolutely ready to take you down in arm wrestling match.

Thank you for setting the

Thank you for setting the record straight.  This is a well done article and I really appreciate it.

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