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The gorgeous ladies of arm wrestling ‘CLAW’ their way to the top for charity

The gorgeous ladies of arm wrestling ‘CLAW’ their way to the top for charity

Taking a look at them, you’d never guess in a million years that Jen Murrill and Beth Taylor would be leading the charge for a competitive arm wrestling foundation in Austin.

Called the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers, or CLAW for short, this unique sport combines all the theater of professional wrestling, the smack talk of bar room brawling and the compassion of charitable giving.

Wait, what? Compassion? Charitable giving?! What happened to smack talk and lady wrestling???

Oh, it’s still all there. The eight costumed arm wrestlers will each take the stage to their own theme music, followed by an entourage of crowd-whooping cheerleaders. But regardless of the arm-wrangling outcome, the biggest winner will be the night’s chosen charity, who will walk away with the night’s proceeds. “It’s a spectacle for a good cause,” explains Taylor.

While they may spend their days as mild-mannered interior designers, the two manicured women possess a hidden competitive spirit that manifests in a shared passion for charities benefiting women. After brainstorming ways they make a splash in the fundraising world, Murrill and Taylor were independently approached by folks who had either seen or participated in CLAW in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 Similar to the immensely popular Texas Rollergirls, each of the wrestlers are currently recruiting their entourage, planning their costumes and constructing their biographies.

 “We had both heard about CLAW from friends of ours,” says Murrill. “And we knew we just had to do it. The spirit and the attitude and the goals were all in line with what we wanted.”

After contacting CLAW founder Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell in Charlottesville for her blessing and advice, Murrill and Taylor, along with pal Amelia Byars Penoli, got the ball rolling and began recruiting interested arm wrestlers, organizers and interested donors to take part in what would become Austin’s own CLAW chapter: CLAWstin.

“It’s been in the planning stages for about six months,” says Taylor. “But once we chose our charity and found our venue, it started to feel real.”

The charity they chose for their inaugural event on Oct 13 is called 1house at a time, a program that helps financially vulnerable individuals meet their housing costs by increasing the efficiency of their homes. Housed under the educational research nonprofit A Nurtured World, 1house at a time activates volunteers by doing one-day utility retrofits, reducing the global footprint as well as utility bills by up to 70 percent.

“We went back and forth over what kind of charity we wanted to donate the funds to,” recalls Murrill. “We wanted to find a nonprofit that was local and would really know how to actualize this money into clear results.”

Adds Murrill, “CLAW is about women empowering women locally. So every element of the event reflects that.”

It’s no accident then that CLAWstin will debut at Bar 96, one of the cornerstones of developer and bar owner Bridget Dunlap’s Rainey Street project. “Bridget is such a cool, strong example of women doing right here in town,” says Taylor. “We thought about doing it over at Lustre Pearl, but the sports vibe at Bar 96 makes more sense, I think.”

 CLAW is about women empowering women locally. So every element of the event reflects that.

Dunlap will be joining the Oct 13 show as one of the celebrity judges, along with 1house at a time Director Mike Frisch and big bad CLAW founder Tidwell, fresh off the plane from Charlottesville.  (Rumor has it, Dunlap and Tidwell might even be rolling up their sleeves and going elbow to elbow in their own exhibition match…)

Adding to the pageantry and keeping everyone legit, CLAW also involves an exuberant emcee and a fair-minded (and immune to bribery) referee to whip the crowd into a frenzy. You’ll recognize emcee Weston Borghesi (“Shorty Stump” of the White Ghost Shivers) and theater artist Leah “The Boss” Moss takes on the role of CLAWstin’s referee. “I’ve been watching a lot of Stallone in Over the Top,” Moss says of her credentials.

For those who are coming for the spectacle, you won’t be disappointed. Each of the wrestlers will be costumed and soundtracked according to their character’s persona. Similar to the immensely popular Texas Rollergirls, each of the wrestlers are currently recruiting their entourage, planning their costumes and constructing their biographies.

So far, the ladies could announce the personas of: Erin Rock-a-bitch, a lawyer with a string of surprises in her suitcase; Rubycon Flict, a Roman goddess of war ready to smite her foes; and Schauf-shank Redeemer, a crooked cop with a swift sense of justice. They will be joined by five other powerful and lovely ladies who will be entered in a bracketed tournament that will lead to a single winner.

“Strength is less important than stage presence,” Taylor assures me, and contestants can win one of three ways. They can, of course, win the homemade belt for defeating all of their opponents. They can also win the coveted Best Dressed Award. Or they can be voted Crowd Favorite by the audience who votes with “CLAW Bucks.” These tickets, purchased at the door, are used to bribe the judges, fix the matches and demarcate the night’s favored wrestler. “It’s basically safe, legal gambling,” laughs Taylor.

Whether you’re a theater lover, a charity supporter, a wrestling fan or you live for the thrill and glory of arm wrestling, Taylor and Murrill guarantee CLAWstin has something for everyone. Ultimately, it’s a night of encouraging local women's empowerment. But if there’s a little smack talk and a broken bone or two, we say, "Bring it on!"

Austin photo: News_CLAWstin_Wrestlers
The ladies of CLAWstin assemble
Austin photo: News_CLAWstin_Referees
Emcee Wes Borghesi and Referee Leah "The Boss" Moss