If you can elbow your way up to the stage under a loud, steamy tent set up in the Blue Moon Diner parking lot for a Charlottsville Lady Arm Wrestling competition, you may be able to stuff a few CLAW bucks in the ref’s waistband—a bribe for your favorite lady arm wrestler.
After rabble-rousing by the announcer, primping and preening by the costumed competitors—such as Tragedy Ann or C-ville Knievel—it’s match time, where costumed women arm wrestle one another in a best-of-three bout.
It’s like professional wrestling. But sassier.
CLAW, the brainchild of Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell (Col ’98) and Charlottesville salon owner Jodie Plaisance, may be at the forefront of an emerging trend among some UVA alumni in developing “extreme sport” leagues.
Another alumnus, Eric Prum (Col ’08), has formed an Ultimate Taser Ball league. UTB is a 4-on-4 game that couples elements of paintball, rugby and soccer with Tasers, modified electroshock weapons used most commonly by police on fleeing or unruly suspects.
And yes, it’s legal, Prum says.
But while Prum is currently negotiating a TV contract for his new sport with Turner Broadcasting, CLAW is simply trying to wrestle out some dollars for local charities.
Tidwell and Plaisance came up with the idea for CLAW in 2008, after they arm wrestled each other “out of boredom” inside the Blue Moon Diner, owned by Laura Galgano (Col ’98) and Franklin Rice Hall (Col ’96). CLAW raises money by selling CLAW bucks to spectators who use them to support their favorite wrestlers in various unsportsmanlike ways, such as paying off the referees.
Their first event, held at the Blue Moon not long after that first match, brought in about 70 spectators and raised close to $1,000 dollars for local charities. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for 700 people to show up, and the league has spread to more than 18 cities. During its first national SuperCLAW match in June, CLAWUSA raised $20,000 for eight charities.
In the game, UTB players carry and throw a 24-inch ball across a 200-foot artificial field to score on indoor soccer goals. They wear the usual jerseys and shorts one might expect of a soccer or rugby player, but they also carry those stun guns, which can be used to shock the player in possession of the ball.
The Tasers used in UTB are a bit different from police Tasers, Prum said. The custom-made UTB stun guns are high voltage but have low amps.
“You get a little shock, but mainly it’s a muscle spasm,” he said. “If you get hit in the arm, you drop the ball. It feels like getting slapped with a really big rubber band.”
Prum said he and his partner Leif Kellenberger got the idea for UTB about a year ago while watching a paintball tournament. Prum, a former professional paintball player, wondered aloud why paintball tournaments generated so few spectators. Kellenberger suggested that they start a league using stun guns.
After talking it out some more, Prum and Kellenberger floated a video about the proposed league on YouTube. Within days, thousands of people from all around the world responded to them asking how to join.
Now Prum is finalizing a TV deal for a UTB event in the late fall. There are four teams organized now, with more on the way, Prum said.
Prum credits his business acumen to economics courses taken at UVA. “But I think what I took away from UVA that has helped me most is being challenged in the way I think about things.”