Reality Bites: Game of Arms

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I hate to tell you, but Over the Top lied to us. In that movie, "Lincoln Hawk" (a particularly bulgy Sylvester Stallone) supplements his long haul trucker income with arm wrestling bouts, culminating in a Vegas tournament where the grand prize is $100,000 *and* a new semi. After watching the debut episode of Game of Arms, I'll be surprised if these guys end up competing for more than $10K and a moped.

This isn't something *really* macho, like Magic: the Gathering, after all.

The premise, as near as I can figure it (my DVR cut off the first five minutes), involves five arm wrestling crews from across the U.S. who will compete each week during a sort of regular season in order to see who squares off in the championship. If the trailer is any indication, expect lots of tumescent biceps and screaming.

Our first stop is with the New York City crew, cleverly named "Arms Control," where we learn something about the competitors (in between pull-ups and complaining spouses). The captain is Mike Selearis, who comes across as -- and I'm being as charitable as possible -- a fucking psycho. This apparently works in his favor at tournaments, and while he seems normal in the few scenes we see of him teaching his chemistry class, I don't doubt he has the most well-behaved kids in that school.

Co-captain Dan Fortuna and Kevin Nelson don't make much of an impression. Firefighter Mike Ayello is comparable in size to the pre-werewolf centurion in Altered Beast, while Rob Bigwood (which is a great name, by the way) bitches so much he's like a Bright Eyes fan trapped in a defensive lineman's body. And he's a vegan? Must be the refried beans or something.

Arms Control is going up against the Sacramento "Arm Benders." Sigh. The region is reportedly well known for the number of native arm wrestling greats, and as we're told by ... somebody, "Everybody arm wrestles in Northern California." I only know a handful of people from NoCal, but the only "arm bending" I've seen them do is of the Lagunitas IPA variety.

The Sacramento bunch's central character is 32-year old Kenny Hughes (think a glandular Mike Patton). He was a champion at the tender age of 16, but has spent the last decade drinking his talent away.

Gee, a redemption story. I bet AMC hates that.

Drag racer Luke Kindt is one of the "young guns," which makes him the opposite of Mike McGraw, a three-time world champion in spite of losing his leg hopping a freight train when he was 10. Let's back up a bit: he *hopped a train* when he was 10 years old. That sound you hear echoing through the space-time continuum is my 4th grade, D&D/Atari-playing self shitting his pants at the thought.

There's also Tom Nelson, a head case who cries a lot, and 26-time world champion Allen Fisher. He credits the Lord for making him a champion, though running up mountains and toppling dead trees to train doesn't hurt. The contest prize consists of a thousand bucks for either team if they win. Nice. That won't even cover the New Yorkers' airfare. Or wouldn't, if AMC hadn't flown them (and their families/friends) out for them, I suspect.

First up is Bigwood vs. Fisher, and in spite of his whining, Bigwood takes the match 3-0. The almost 30 year age differential probably played a role. Next up is Ayello vs. (Tom) Nelson, which goes 3-0 to Nelson. He helpfully stops weeping long enough to talk shit to half the assembled New York fans. You've also got Fortuna vs. Kindt, and Kindt dominates the bigger dude 3-0.

One thing you notice early on is that the bigger guy doesn't always come out on top. Kindt is pretty wiry, but easily destroys the hulking Ayello. Maybe too many arm tats poisoned his blood.

Next is (Kevin) Nelson vs. McGraw, which Nelson eventually takes. All of this is just warm up for Selearis against the ailing Kenny Hughes. I'd put the odds of him having the flu vs. being wicked hung over at 50/50. Hughes goes up 2-0 early, but Selearis ties it, before Kenny looks like he takes it, because Selearis appears to slip out to avoid the win, which would then give Kenny a legit victory, but the ref reverses his decision and oh my jesus I can't force myself to care.

Selearis wins the rematch, making NY 1-0 and Sacramento 0-1. Future episodes will take us to Kansas City and other powerhouse arm rasslin' hotbeds like Baton Rouge and ... Erie, Pennsylvania? The coming season also promises more chest thumping, questionable facial hair, and family drama. We even get a glimpse of a son shoutinghow much he loves his dad during a match. Oh Stallone, you have much to answer for.

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