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South Florida Has a League of Lady Arm Wrestlers and, Yes, They Dominate
Courtesy of the Florida League of Lady Arm Wrestlers

South Florida Has a League of Lady Arm Wrestlers and, Yes, They Dominate

Ladies kick ass (duh), and thanks to TV series like the Emmy-nominated '80s wrestling dramedy Glow, spandex-clad women getting rough in the ring are totally back in style. But years before the coke-sniffing, porno-'stached Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) began directing his Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the Netflix streamer, Matthew Mur was already on the ropes "managing" and cheering on his Chicago roommate — a fledgling, dinosaur-inspired arm wrestler called T-Wrecks (real name Amanda Holland).

"If you've ever seen any movie where they have any type of illegal, underground fight ring — people throwing money in the air, crowds going crazy — it was that," Mur says of his eye-opening first Lady Arm Wrestlers "brawl" in the Windy City. "The room itself was electric."

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Trained in traditional theater, the spectacle-loving Mur was hooked and quickly became entrenched in a community of female-identifying competitors who live for dressing up, transforming into character, and flexing their arm muscles for rowdy crowds at regularly scheduled brawls.

Five years later, Mur is living in Miami, and he's brought the lady-arm-wrestling phenomenon with him. Officially launched earlier this month with an inaugural brawl at Little Haiti's Villain Theater, the Florida League of Lady Arm Wrestlers (SoFLLAW) is "an association of super-bad women arm wrestling each other to raise money for women-initiated causes in our community," according to its website. It operates independently as part of a nationwide sisterhood of Lady Arm Wrestling organizations, sharing best practices and ideas with CLAW, the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers.

So what exactly does a ladies' arm-wrestling match look like? First, Mur assures, this is real wrestling. After auditions are held and about ten to 16 competitors are selected, the wrestlers, managers, and referees undergo a series of safety trainings and rehearsals. Because SoFLLAW participants are largely amateurs, Mur took "great pains" to ensure the first event went as safely and smoothly as possible. (Do a quick Google search for "arm wrestling spiral fracture" and you'll see why.) "We even had an emergency procedure called Code Eagle," Mur says of a first-response plan to be executed in case of emergency.

Leading up to the competition — a tournament-style double elimination — each competitor also hones her own wrestling persona, complete with costume, backstory, theme song, and a posse of supporters to get the crowd fired up. The winner receives a bejeweled champion's belt and some serious bragging rights. But the real victory happens once proceeds raised from “bets” and any cover charges are handed over to the charities SoFLLAW members voted to support.

SoFLLAW's inaugural December 8 event, hosted by Miami's illustrious bodybuilding drag queen Miss Toto, packed the house, with proceeds collected for charity just breaking $500 — "Not too shabby for a first time out," Mur says. The champion of the night was Rhonda Michaels ("The ultimate Brett Michaels fan girl"), real name Maria Tomaino of Villain Theater. Runnersup were LiberaShe (Priscilla Blanco) and the Wreckoning (Jannelys Santos), who "really wrestled their hearts out on the night," Mur says.

Ladies' arm-wrestling brawls are planned to take place quarterly, so Mur says the next one won't go down until 2019. If you want to get in on the action, though, follow Villain Theater on social media, @villaintheater, or sign up for the official SoFLLAW newsletter at sofllaw.org.

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