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‘Testrogen’ on full display at Phat Thai
Arm-wrestling competition brings out feminine bravado
The Silver Nail and Hammer
Kara Silbernagel (The Silver Nail) and Lisa Johnson (The Hammer) go at it. Hammer finished second overall. - photo by Jon Waterman

“Testrogen” — a delicious cocktail of females en masse, revved up for some muscle action in KDNK’s annual Ladies Arm Wrestling. The hormonal bath swept through Phat Thai last Saturday in support of Carbondale’s public radio station. In the froth of women grinning and milling about in the contestant area, I witnessed everything from deer-in-the-headlights, “Oh, dag, I can’t believe I got talked into doing this,” to predatory looks that said, “Let’s get it on!

As a community-supported radio station, the event was a success, raising $1,500 for KDNK and livening up Phat Thai, usually a quiet establishment, for a night. This chick iteration of typically male territory will be mirrored later this year, with the resurrection of the insanely entertaining Mr. Carbondale (what’s the opposite of “testrogen”?), in which Bonedale’s cocksure men will once again strut the Phat Thai “runway” vying for the title in talent, swimsuit and formal wear competitions. At standing-room only, it’s the comedic event of the year. 

Ladies Arm Wrestling is simply madness, a freak riot for both wrestlers and the crowd. With an emphasis on costumes and alter egos, four categories — the Main Competition, Southpaw Slam, Silver Tsunami and Crossdress Crunch Time — are a siren song to every kind of female expression in the species.

Buffalo Bex v Molly
Bekah Riggs (Buffalo Bex) (left) succumbs to Molly (Molly). - photo by Jordan Curet
On assignment, I signed up to wrestle after avoiding it for a decade. The last thing I want is the spotlight shining on my closeted butch-factor, but at the behest of my editor, I agreed. ’Cept for that one thing — the broken arm, my right arm, to be specific, that’s still healing. So, with no designs on actually winning, I showed up as Ford Fiasco, dressed in hospital scrubs, a nightie, crutches from my newly constructed hip and my trusted arm brace. Ignoring a recent MRI invitation to spinal surgery in April, I registered as a lefty.

Handles like Pebble Power, Big Mac and Aloha were interpreted through gold lamé, sequins, pink or blonde wigs and faux fur. “Magadeth” swung the other way, sporting a red lumberjack flannel and dreads under a knit olive cap. Hunched over my crutches next to her (feeling out the competition, you know) she felt about 5 feet 10 inches. Even her grin was ginormous. She towered over another heavy hitter, the Hammer, who was built like a brick stack. Her black no-bullshit tee shirt and spiky buzz cut were additional red flags.

In a world where we’re pressured to be soft and sexy — nurturing, harmonious, compliant — it was fun to step into my man boots and throw down some Macho. Despite the giggling and costumes, something about stepping up to the table brought on momentous forebodings — that medieval table! It looked like something acquired on the Dark Net; mounted with pads in all the right places, there were also hand grips for leverage.  

 “It’s arm wrestling,” ref Billy Bob reminded each of us, “not back wrestling. Keep your butts on the seat, feet on the ground. Elbows down, shoulders square. No spittin’ in the eye! Okay, ready? One. Two. Three — go!”

Big Mac v Terrible Tracy
“Big Mac” and “Terrible Tracy” arm-wrestle in the Southpaw Slam Jam competition. Big Mac would go on to win that competition. - photo by Jon Waterman

Game on, and these girls went after it! Absolutely no pussing out in evidence — who the hell wants to lose with an audience? Heads, down, arms flexed, they worked it. 

Like a train wreck, it’s fascinating to watch two women face off and throw down. It’s not something we often get to see or do as females. After testing our mettle in middle-school cat fights, or at least wanting to, we all learned to play “nice” in public. While feminine aggression is frowned upon socially, it’s just as alive within women as it is within men.

DJ Luche Libre spun “Eye of the Tiger” and “We Will Rock You.” Testrogen bounced off the walls, raking the backs of our necks, collectively infiltrating our senses, our bodies. Like everyone else, I leapt on the sidelines, screaming and whooping for my Carbondale girls: executive directors, business owners, athletes, artists. The displays, oh my, all these lovely girls and women! Even the cross-dressers were something to behold. (The black moustache was a bit disconcerting under a day-glow pink bob.)

The first few matches were hilariously one-sided, with alpha dogs like Magadeth and WomynKind pretty much crushing their prey effortlessly. Things got interesting between the devilish Lucy-fer and the Neanderthal, Pebble Power. It looked to be a promising bout but bam bam, the devil went down, extinguished by prehistoric female grit.

Surprisingly, my favorite was a Silver Tsunami match. Like a sublime wine, mature women are the true goddesses of our culture, embodying the latent power and subtle determination rooted in their genuine experiences. Attired as though on a casual lunch date, they were typicalColorado silverhairs — evenly matched, trim, fit, without a bit of swagger. Be not deceived. 

Jersey Girl v WomynKind
Aimee Yllanes (Jersey Girl) (left) and Maggie Seldeen (WomynKind) go mano a mano with Billy Bob on the job. - photo by Jon Waterman
 “Go on, you lovely bitches!” Emcee Erin yelled into the mic.

On “three,” the women clenched into an immediate standoff. Their white-knuckle, tendon-laced fists hovered between them, just barely swaying one way and then the other. The crowd. Went. Wild. Do you realize how sexy it is to watch two women that age act that fierce?! I screamed through the entire 72 seconds until, at last, Sharp Glass cut Candy Floss to size. Mysteriously, as the women rose from the table and parted ways, it was a transformation as their socially acceptable demeanors once again dropped into place … must be some kinda voodoo magic in that table.

Who knew what to expect as Emcee April called Andre the Giant and The Hammer to the table? Having demonstrated no patience for costumes or revelry, The Hammer had shown little mercy thus far. I was eager to see if a giant could take her down. I stuffed laughter back into my mouth, though, when a tiny bird of a woman found her perch at the table. The Hammer looked smug and we all expected a thrashing, but like a hummingbird defending its nectar, Andre was tenacious. Like a chain reaction, neck cords, biceps, pec, lats and forearm flexed into rigid planes of muscle. She held off her opponent for far longer than expected. It was a hard-fought victory when The Hammer finally snuffed out Andre the Giant.

However … even The Hammer eventually found her demise in the formidable form of Magadeth. 

Barely audible, and no longer acting the alpha, The Hammer licked her lips and muttered “be gentle!” to her towering opponent. 

Magadeth grinned. “You too,” she replied, smoothly, effortlessly pinning The Hammer to win the tournament