After a blockbuster 2015 season on ESPN, the World Armwrestling League this fall is heading across the Atlantic to open up competition in a new territory: Western Europe. As it prepares for the 2016 season, the growing league will feature WAL International qualifiers, to be held Nov. 28 and 29 in the United Kingdom and in countries across the continent, all aimed at bringing out the best in the region. The 2016 European qualifiers represent the next step in WAL’s unprecedented expansion and unification of the world’s great professional arm-wrestlers as interest in the age-old sport heats up on both continents.
“We’ve been contacted continuously by other countries calling us and asking us to start competitions,” WAL Commissioner Steve Kaplan said. “We’re answering that call. WAL is truly global in uniting and celebrating the uniqueness and the amazing expertise of these competitors.”
Events will be held the U.K., Norway, Holland, France and Germany, as well as Stockholm, Sweden, where pullers from Denmark and Greenland will be able to come throw down. Check the WAL Events Page here for more details. The UK qualifier will take place in Lancashire, England, and will be open to pullers from across England, all of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The top six athletes on the left and right arms in each weight class will be invited to the WAL Europe super-qualifier regional tournament in London next March. From there, the top three athletes on each arm and in each weight class will then go on to represent WAL International at the WAL Championships in Las Vegas next summer. Competitors must be a resident of the country where they first qualify. The European effort will be helmed by Neil Pickup, known to many as the voice of WAL through his play-by-play commentary on the WAL on ESPN, but a multiple-time world champion competitor himself who is also a pillar of Europe’s arm-wrestling scene. And Europeans take the sport just as seriously as their North American counterparts, Pickup said.
“It’s more a way of life than a hobby,” he said.
The cream of the European arm-wrestling crop is anxious to join the WAL’s ranks and fight for their share of the 2016 season’s massive cash payouts, he said. North America’s best pullers will need to watch the eastern horizon for names like Niklas “The Steel Giraffe” Nannestad out of Sweden, Norway’s “Relentless” Frode Haugland, the U.K.’s Craig “The Birmingham Bullet” Sanders. Also likely to grapple for a shot at a date in Vegas are “Mighty” Paul Maiden, “The Thing” Meindert Nentjes of Holland, Germany’s Matthias “Hell Boy” Schlitte, and Josef “Tough” Lovei and “Handsome” Aymeric Pradines out of France.
“The best athletes from Western Europe have been watching the development of the WAL with great interest and are excited to get involved,” Pickup said. “There is definitely the quality within Western Europe to make an immediate impact in the finals.”