Chest beating, table pounding, grunting and bellowing and growling—the verbiage used to describe the tantrum of a raging gorilla is equally appropriate in describing the spectacle of professional armwrestling.
On Sept. 25, the World Armwrestling League came to Turner Arena in Atlanta to host the biggest event in its history (WAL 506), and it ended in an uproar.
There were five matches in total including two championships, the winners of which claimed one of the most prestigious prizes in professional armwrestling—the WAL hammer, a giant metal hammer weighing nearly 20 pounds.
In the main event of the evening, “Monster” Michael Todd, the reigning heavyweight champion, brandished his hammer, stormed off stage, and refused to continue what had been a “career-ending death match,” as commentator Neil Pickup described it.
“Give me my [expletive] hammer,” Todd snarled. “I won this [expletive].”
“I have to interview this guy,” said a wide-eyed and trepid Jason Fisher, the post-match interviewer.
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, and weighing 268 pounds, Todd’s “Monster” moniker needs little explanation. He has a bald head, a colossal beard, and his arms are such that Popeye looks like a weakling by comparison.
Armwrestling is a Combat Sport
It was the second time that Todd and his opponent, Jerry “Big Daddy” Cadorette, had pulled one another. (The word “pull” is used as a synonym for “armwrestle.”) Their first match is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the history of professional armwrestling, with one of the rounds lasting an astonishing seven minutes and 20 seconds—the longest in WAL history. Cadorette narrowly secured the victory, winning 3-2.
Their second match was much like their first, except it was for the heavyweight hammer and “far more brutal,” Pickup said. Many times it looked as though Todd might break his arm. He is notorious for pulling in what is called a “broken arm position,” a gamble for which he once paid the ultimate price.
Armwrestling is a combat sport, and armwrestlers often refer to “matches” as “fights.” Professional armwrestlers subject themselves to permanent damage of their joints, tendons, and ligaments and are often unable to straighten their arms.
By the final round, both men were the worse for wear—red-faced, pouring sweat, their right arms pulsing and inflated.
Todd complained between rounds that his hand was injured, and Cadorette had his arm submerged in an ice chest. “This is a battle of wills like we have never seen before,” Pickup said.
And, once again, the score was tied at 2-2. The winner of this round would secure the heavyweight hammer and solidify himself as the baddest armwrestler on this side of the ocean.
We’re Not Ending It Like That
To win a match, a competitor must win 3 of 5 rounds. If a competitor has their arm pinned or fouls three times, he or she loses the round. If the hands slip apart or the competitors fail to secure a fair grip within 30 seconds, referee Bart Wood declares, “Going to the strap,” whereupon their hands are tightly bound with a red nylon strap.
And it was the strap—or failure thereof—that precipitated Todd’s tantrum.
In the final round their hands slipped, and the strap was applied. With the strap secured, the referee shouted, “Ready. Go!”
Cadorette went for the press, “driving down with every fiber of his soul,” Pickup said, and nearly got the pin. Then Todd transitioned to a press of his own, which loosened the strap. The strap was keeping their hands together—but just barely.
Cadorette’s hand was bent backward, and the only points of contact were the tips of his fingers on Todd’s palm. They were pulling “from the ugliest of positions,” Pickup said.
Cadorette’s elbow slid off the front of the pad, and a running foul was called, meaning he would have to “win” the round just to get a restart. Then Cadorette deliberately lifted his elbow. Bart Wood stopped the action, and Todd declared victory, claiming that Cadorette had fouled three times and thus lost the match.
“We’re not ending it like that,” Wood said as the crowd began to boo. He told the men to go to their corners while he reviewed the video.
But Todd was having none of it. He shouted and stomped around the arena as officials tried to calm him down.
“Be professional about this,” Wood said. “Calm down.”
After deliberating with other officials for nearly five minutes, Wood had his verdict. “Here’s what we have. We already had Jerry on one foul. He lifted his arm again, two fouls, did not put it back on, so you would get a third foul.”
Cadorette protested to no avail that he did put his elbow back on the pad and that moreover the strap had failed.
“To see it end on fouls is bitterly disappointing,” Pickup said. “Both of these men left it all on the table. There was nothing left from either one.”
“I don’t care if you hate me. That match was a war,” Todd said in his post-match interview. “I was hated before. I’m really gonna be hated now. But I’m gonna embrace all that [expletive]. Whoo!”
On Oct. 11, Steve Kaplan, President and Commissioner of the WAL, said on Instagram that rule changes will take effect next year during the 2020 season, most of which “center around equipment failures or malfunctions,” including a larger strap for heavyweights.