One of the great pleasures I take in being a member of the MMA/wrestling media is the myriad fringe benefits. I never seem to have to pay for drinks, velvet ropes to VIP lounges part like the Red Sea, and sometimes big-time television networks offer me the chance to take an early look at shows before the everyday rabble, like you, the reader.
Recently, cable giant AMC, famous for shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, requested that I take a look at their new arm-wrestling based reality show Game of Arms, and I said "don't mind if I do!". Usually I prefer wrestling that involves all four appendages, but this show looks like a sure fire hit, so I wanted to be a part of the action.
When I finally got my hands on a copy of the first episode, I was pleased to find that the show exceeded all of my expectations. Note perfect in tone and execution, Game of Arms expertly portrayed the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of high-stakes arm-wrestling.
Game of Arms provides in depth profiles of some of the most colorful competitors on the arm-wrestling circuit who are truly world class athletes with big-time personalities. In just a few minutes, I felt like I knew these guys, and had an emotional investment in them. Though they have a burly and gruff exterior, these arm wrestlers are fully realized, three-dimensional characters. Believe it or not, their biggest muscles are their brains and their hearts.
Some of my personal favorite wrestlers are
and the inimitable multi-time world champ Bull Hurley.
I also really appreciate how the show captures the unmatched work ethic and dedication of these athletes. Sometimes, when traveling cross country to the next tournament, they don't have access to gyms or fancy equipment, so they just pull their semis over and physically condition themselves on side of the highway. It's fascinating, take a look.
Sometimes, when these blue-collar, no frills competitors don't even have the time to pull over the big rig, and they still manage to get a pump in while driving.
Game of Arms never fails to shine a light on tough topics, like controversial underground youth arm-wrestling. In the youth leagues, the wrestling is unregulated, athletes have no insurance and matches are sometimes held on pinball machines in the back of diners. The facial expressions of the young combatants reveal the intense strain created in these clandestine contests.
The strain also manifests itself in the relationship between the precocious arm-wrestling children, and the fathers that push them to succeed at any cost.
Just like any good reality show captures the backstage confrontations between the stars of the arm-wrestling world. You should use parental discretion if watching this show with a son or daughter, as some of these scenes are pretty violent.
and some are a bit...creepy
However, no matter what takes place away from the bright lights of the competition arena, Game of Arms never fails to keep the focus on the arm-wrestling itself. Whether it is the idiosyncratic routines some athletes use to mentally prepare themselves, like this one
and this one
or the acute suspense and excitement felt by the die-hard fans in the audience.
All that serves as a mere appetizer to the main course, though, for more than anything, Game of Arms excels when filming the grand struggle of the arm-wrestlers mid bout. You see close-ups of their faces squeezed into masks of concentration, as well as the massive muscles on their interlocked limbs bulging with exertion. Take a look at the dramatic final moments of undersized, but incredibly sly, Lincoln Hawk's seminal upset over perennial circuit kingpin Bull Hurley.
I'm not sure about you, but this gives me goose bumps that just won't go away. The craziest part is that all this action happened in just a single episode. Hopefully, AMC can treat us to this gem of a reality show for years to come.
Game of Arms debuts in six days, I suggest you watch it, record it, and watch it again.
The footage above was not actually taken from the new AMC series "Game of Arms". Harry Bosco, John Grizzly, Bull Healy and Lincoln Hawk are fictional characters and do not appear in "Game of Arms". Drinking Valvoline is actually probably a bad idea. I did actually watch the first episode, and it was pretty good for reals though. Bloody Elbow apologizes over any potential confusion.