The Best Female Arm Wrestlers In the World Are Coming To Your TV
Not sure about you, but when I think of competitive arm wrestling the first thing comes to mind is Over The Top.
What can I say? It’s a great flick. And as you can see here I’m not the only one who feels this way.
But as much nostalgia as I hold for ’80s cinema, the Sylvester Stallone classic certainly carries with it gender-specific stereotypes, patterns that women in 2018 are shattering.
But first, we need to introduce you to the WAL — the World Armwrestling League. Yes, it’s legit. It’s not just a fad that’s going away any time soon.
In fact, Turner Sports is bringing armwrestling to the masses with the help of Bleacher Report Live’s new streaming service.
Why is World Armwrestling ready for TV?
The league claims that the sport is rising as fast as ever. Paired with BR LIVE and league President and Commissioner Steve Kaplan believes the male target demo on the platform is a perfect marriage.
“The sport is electrifying, energy filled but also carries with it an immersive experience for the fan/viewer,” said Kaplan.
“Additionally, over 75 percent of those that viewed WAL events in the past did so through mobile or tablet. Again perfect fit for the new BRLive streaming platform.”
So Kaplan and his business partners are confident that people will watch. And as someone who fits their demo, I’m actually more interested in their women competitors.
That was a montage of Erika Bengtsson getting psyched before her matches — the epitome of entertaining.
“Armwrestling and specifically WAL brings people together,” said Kaplan.
“WAL celebrates the fact that our champions and all competitors come from all walks of life and are ordinary people who through dedication, commitment and drive accomplish the extraordinary. The culture is open and inclusive.”
And I would love to see nothing short of a Hollywood script — pitting the waitress versus the trucker, the grad student versus the weight-lifting soccer mom. The possible storylines are endless, really.
“The respect level between all competitors across the globe is immense and trickles down from world champions all the way to the amateur level,” said Kaplan.
“This is reinforced in every match at every level and lives deep within the DNA of the sport where after fierce battle competitors end all matches with an embrace of respect!” he said.
So who are the strongest badass women armwrestlers on the planet?
The WAL women to watch
Nickname – “Lovely Lisa”
Country – USA
Hometown – Salt Lake City, Utah
Occupation – SR Fabrication
Height – 5’7″ / 1.73m
Weight – 150lbs / 68kg
E.F.T – 16”/ 40.6cm
Rivalries – Michelle Smart, Angela Rose, Joyce King
Technique – “Whatever technique is needed to win”
Social Media – Facebook: Lisa Wolfley
Right Hand: 20-6
Left Hand: 17-9
2016 – WAL Utah State Championships – 1st Place, 149lbs – Right Hand
2017 – WAL Western Regionals – 1st Place, 149lbs – Right Hand
Lisa’s passion and focus on armwrestling throughout her career has led her to become one of the most recognized female armwrestlers in the world. She is a multi-time US Champion and multi time World Champion. Lisa is proud to represent her country and explains, “Working hard and becoming a great arm wrestler has given me the opportunity to hold high the stars and stripes, the flag of the Country I love and for that I’m very grateful.”
Lisa is a pioneer for Woman’s armwrestling and is a role model for young female armwrestlers; she started armwrestling in grade school but didn’t get into the sport without adversity “My father told me as a young lady that girls shouldn’t have muscles and shouldn’t arm-wrestle. I rebelled drastically and became one of the best female arm wrestlers in the world. He quickly changed his outlook as he watched me win my gold medal at the 2010 World Championship” said Lisa.
Motto “Do what you love!”.
Nickname – Crazy Canuck, Dangerous, The Wild.
Country – Canada
Hometown – Toronto, now living in Wasaga Beach.
Occupation – Bartender/Event Coordinator, PT Business Owner, Landscaping.
Height – 5’5” / 1.65m
Weight – 145lbs / 65kg
E.F.T – 17.5″ / 44cm
Rivalries – Crazy Chris – Brazil.
Favourite Technique – Toproll
Social Media – Facebook: Tamara Mitts, Instagram: @girlarmwrestler
Right Hand: 13-6
Left Hand: 11-12
2016 – WAL Northern Regional – 2nd Place, 145lbs – Left Hand
2017 – WAL Midwest Classic ‘Tenacious 12’ – 2nd Place, 145lbs – Left Hand
About Tamara ‘Crazy Canuck’ Mitts
After witnessing a Canadian National Armwrestling Championships when she was 15, Tamara Mitts was immediately hooked, “I loved every minute of it the adrenaline, the competitiveness, the strength and ultimately the glory of winning” she says. Two years later Tamara graduated high school and started competing immediately. Fast forward 2018 Tamara has been competing for 32 years and doesn’t see her armwrestling career ending any time soon.
The “Crazy Canuck” has travelled all over the world for armwrestling competitions and has had some great experiences and met some fantastic friends along the way. Tamara holds Two WAF World titles and Two Arnold Classic titles, as well as multiple Canadian National titles and provincial titles on both her left and right arm. Tamara is proud to be the only Canadian ever to hold National titles in four different weight categories and hold USA open National titles. “I am always looking to challenge myself and better myself and of course, getting stronger in every way is right up there!” she said.
Tamara has recently been inducted into the Ontario and Canadian Halls of Fame for Armwrestling.
Mottos – ‘Always wake up with a smile.’ ‘Being Normal is Boring.’ and ‘It ain’t over till it’s over!’.
Nickname – ‘Sapphire’
Country – Sweden
Hometown – Älmhult
Occupation – Gym Owner, Personal Trainer
Height – 5’4” / 167 cm
Weight – 139lbs / 63 kg
E.F.T – 16”/ 40.6cm
Social Media – Instagram: @bengtssonerrika
Favorite Technique – straps
Right Hand: 1-2
Left Hand: 4-3
About Erika Bengtsson
Many WAL competitors are born armwrestlers and Erika Bengtsson is no exception. Daughter to Lennart Andersson a Swedish National Champion, she competed in her first ever armwrestling tournament at the age of 7 and has been pulling competitively ever since. Erika strengthened her armwrestling pedigree even further in 2015, by marrying her longtime partner and Swedish Armwrestling Champion Glenn Bengtsson. Glenn is also a WAL competitor and together the couple have dominated the Swedish and European scene, the Bengtsson’s now have their eyes firmly set on the WAL.
Erika considers her father to be the most influential figures in her armwrestling career, ‘he started competing in 1989, and would compete against Niklas Nannestad’s father’ She says. ‘He inspired me, and I wanted to be involved and pull like him, so I started competing at the age of 7 and have never looked back!”.
Erika is one of the most intense and animated women’s pullers in the sport, her aggressive psych up routine (seen above) matched with her fierce approach to the table, make her one to watch for WAL fans!
Nickname – “The Black Scorpion”
Country – USA
Hometown – Syracuse, NY
Occupation – Certified Personal Trainer
Height – 5’5” / 1.65cm
Weight – 152lbs / 68kg
E.F.T – 16 ½ / 41.9cm
Rivalries – ‘Anyone across the table’
Favorite technique – ‘Whatever Works!’
Social Media – Facebook: Michelle “the black scorpion” Dougan
Right Hand: 33-11
Left Hand: 23-9
2015 – WAL New York State Championships – 1st place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2015 – WAL Championships – 2nd Place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2016 – WAL New York State Championships – 1st place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2016 – WAL Northern Regionals – 2nd Place, Women’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2016 – WAL Eastern Regionals – 1st Place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2016 – WAL New York State Championships – 1st place, Middleweight – Right Hand
2017 – WAL New York State Championships – 1st place, Middleweight – Right Hand
2017 – WAL Eastern Classic – 1st Place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
2017 – WAL Eastern Classic – 1st Place, Woman’s Middleweight – Left Hand
2017 – WAL Championships – 1st place, Woman’s Middleweight – Right Hand
About Michelle Dougan
Michelle Dougan’s induction into armwrestling is like no other. She found armwrestling whilst overcoming two cancer diagnoses and used the sport to give her direction and drive in recovery. “I was gym training for years, but I had bouts with two different aggressive cancers. I felt helpless, scared, lost my strength, my energy and my will. My husband and our longtime friend Bart Wood had me try Armwrestling. It brought me out of my slump and gave something to strive for” She explains.
Michelle is an inspiring figure for armwrestlers and women everywhere! Her determination, grit and tenacity in both recovery and armwrestling make her a role model to look up to. “I want people to know, especially women, that they can bounce back also, no matter what and still have a great life!” she says.
Since 2015 Michelle has gone on dominate the WAL Women’s Middleweight Division, winning multiple state and regional titles as well as the WAL Women’s Middleweight Championship Hammer in 2017.
How quickly is the league growing?
Here’s just a snapshot of the last three years:
WAL has produced over 300 events across North America
With 300+ competitors, WAL is the largest armwrestling league on the planet
In 2017 there were WAL events in Canada, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Australia, and Mexico
WAL has been Broadcast through ESPN to 61 countries
In the US alone over 10 million unique viewers have tuned into WAL events
WAL has awarded over $1 million in prize money
The average WAL event size has grown significantly at an increase over 25% year over year in attendance
So add Lisa, Tamara, Erika and the ‘Black Scorpion’ into the mix and I’m intrigued to say the least.
When To Watch
WAL 401 – April 19 – Chicago: Joe’s Live 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
WAL 402 – May 17 – Baltimore: Ram’s Head Live 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
WAL 403 – June 14 – Cleveland: Agora 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
WAL 404 – July 19 – Norfolk, VA: Norva 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
WAL 405 – August 9 – Los Angeles: Novo 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes for Mandatory.