Unusual Sports: Below-thebelt battle in toe-wrestling

Have your friends ever asked you to arm-wrestle before? Maybe it happened in the school cafeteria, or you doubled down and switched to your left arm, swearing that that arm is stronger — well, what about toe wrestling? Has it ever crossed your mind? This sport is not as popular to play with your friends on the playground, and it’s exceedingly uncommon to see germaphobes getting into this game. Still, it has become so popular that people have suggested competing in toe-wrestling at the Olympic games! This sport first started in a bar nonetheless in 1974 in the United Kingdom (UK), specifically Derbyshire. Though they tried to get this sport into the 1997 Olympic games, the idea was shot down. Was it too unsanitary or just too ridiculous to broadcast? Regardless, it is still widely played in the UK.   

The rules for toe-wrestling are pretty simple. Players competing must take their shoes and socks off, though it is customary that your opponent does it for you as a sign of respect. With shoes off, the competitors face each other “toe-to-toe” across the “toedium” — the official toe-wrestling term for stadium — where they interlock their big toes and try to force each other off the toedium (a lot more like arm-wrestling than professional wrestling). Before the match begins, though, there is a full toe inspection that a qualified nurse performs before competing (For toe fungus or sharp nails?). After the other player removes their socks and shoes, they interlock their toes and then try to pin one another’s foot to their respective side of the ring. There are three rounds total, and to win you must beat your opponent at least two out of the three rounds. This sport has a bit of a twist, though. You must use both of your feet, for you switch off between your right and left foot every round. It seems important also to mention that there are no time limits in the rounds and the fact that players can only compete with the same sex, which I thought was odd for this sport, but not uncommon for sports in general.

How the sport came about is an exciting tale. A group of friends was sitting around drinking at “Ye Olde Royal Oak” bar and were complaining about how the UK didn’t produce enough world championships at anything. Desperate to create more success and draw attention to their country, they decided to develop a new sport to ensure the UK would win, having conceived of the sport. This plan worked for a couple of years, but, then, in 1976, a Canadian came in and won the championships! Soon after that, the sport lost popularity, but it came back and is still thriving today! 

Besides that tragic mishap in which the Canadian ended up taking home the championship title, there’s now a steady UK Champ in the toe-wrestling sport known as “Nasty Nash,” and, yes, you read that right — that is the nickname he chose. Anyway, Nasty Nash has been UK’s Champion for 12 years in a row now! How does he do it; what is his strategy? He claimed: “My technique … is to hurt the first person that comes into the ring with me: hurt them bad and terrify everyone else,” so said Nasty Nash. That quote was astonishing to me. I didn’t think of toe-wrestling to be such a dangerous and competitive game compared to actual wrestling. That kind of attitude would make me fear to be in any ring with him, and it clearly works, for he is the reigning champion. It looks like Nasty Nash has finally made the UK’s dream come true — smite them out of fear, the fear that comes from Nasty Nash’s strong and dangerously conniving toes.  

Like most sports, though, there are chances of injury. Nasty Nash himself broke four of his toes in the 1997 semifinals, and then popped them back in and took home the championship. This toe wrestling title ironically led Nasty Nash to perform on the popular show “Britain’s Got Talent,” where he attempted to regain the title of “most eggs crushed with toes in a  single minute,” which he accomplished. Besides broken toes, contestants also sprain their ankles and complain of back problems, due to the position these players’ bodies have to be in to play. Which do you think you wanna play now, arm, thumb, or toe wrestling? Do you dare go up against the legendary Nasty Nash, or has this “dainty” sport suddenly become more cutthroat beyond your blanket of courage? That power that you feel tingling inside of you… Well, maybe that’s why they play.