Belly Bowl I
The crowd reacts as High Tower bumps Booliscious from the ring, Claire and Sarah Savage collide, and Dynamo tries a move against his son GQ. Photos by Jeff Brady
Brawl at the Brew
Story and Photos by Jeff Brady
Sports fans in Skagway were just as likely to say “What Dat” as “Who Dat” when the first annual Belly Bowl I kicked off Super Bowl week.
The brainchild of local residents Buckwheat Donahue and Gary Hanson, the event was advertised as a belly bumping competition of the highest order, “because a waist is a terrible think to waste.”
The pair first drew up a set of rules that ranged from requiring the removal of belts to no barfing, and then worked with the Skagway Brewing Co. to make space in its back room for a wrestling mat and a weigh-in station.
But as the start of competition drew near at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30, some wondered if the event would happen at all. There were plenty who came to watch – including about a dozen people from Whitehorse. The judges – Hanson, Joann Korsmo, and Jeff Boudreau – were perched in the next room with their tally sheets. Donahue was ready with his referee’s whistle.
And everyone waited. No one was signing up.
“It’s just too early Buckwheat,” someone said. “The bar crowd isn’t all here yet.”
Sure enough, more and more people trickled in, and at about 7:40, one girl from the Yukon table, Vanessa Bro, stood up and declared, “I’m drunk enough now,” and signed up.
Moments later, local resident Lynn Herbig strutted in, looking for a sign-up sheet. “I’m calling that chick out,” she said.
They first had to pick nicknames. Bro was first encouraged to go with “Bouncing Bro,” but she said “that sounds too much like ‘Debbie Does Dallas’” and changed her name to “Belly Bro.”
Herbig went with “Lynnerd Skinnerd. And they went toe-to-toe on the mat. Lynnerd tried a reverse move, and Bro still bumped her out of the ring.
Next up was “Sarah Savage.” another Yukoner, and much taller than Bro.
“Are you ——— kidding me,” Bro said. “I’m five feet tall.” She was no match.
By then, the crowd was into it and had coaxed barmaid Claire Regnier into signing up. She was able to avoid the Savage’s lunges for a close win.
Savage dropped into the loser’s bracket, but rallied to knock down Lynnerd with a questionable hip-check that the judges missed. The home crowd protested but Savage advanced to the finals.
Claire then faced Bro in the other women’s semifinal. Before the match, she told her opponent, “Your beer’s on the way,” while proceeding to the judge’s table and delivering three shots.
Once on the mat, with the crowd in a frenzy, the two women went at it for a solid minute of textbook bumping. With no one going down or out of the circle, the decision rested with the judges, who tallied up their style points. “Collossal” Claire delivered 42-38.
But the women’s championship would wait.
The men finally got the guts to sign up, and there were enough for two divisions: the Medium Fatso (200 to 250 pounds), and the Super-sized Fatso (250 and over).
Their names were not as clever, but the matches were competitive. In the Medium Fatso division, Canadian “Johann Slam” dodged his opponent in the first match, causing fellow Yukoner Geoff “GQ” Quinsley to fall out of the ring. Skagway’s “JoeMama” Coveno was up next and easily bounced Paul “Santo” Reichert, but then he lost a tough match to “Johan Slam.”
But JoeMama could still advance to the finals with a win over GQ, who had also advanced with a win over Santo. The two titans went at it with a series of fundamentally sound bumps. But then something strange happened as they drifted toward the edge of the circle. A clearly illegal hand emerged, nudging his opponent out of the circle. But whose hand? The judges concluded it was JoeMama’s, but the partisan Skagway crowd disagreed. Things settled down when the Canadians agreed to buy a round.
Up next were the big boys. And even Buckwheat turned over his whistle to jump in this round. But knowing the rules inside and out did not help him, as he was out in two matches. “That was bad,” he said.
Four men emerged from the early rounds: “Dirty Denny” Clutlun and Neil “The Needle” Talisma of Whitehorse and Dennis “Booliscious” Bousoon and Cory “High Tower” Thole of Skagway. They got into it. The Canadians tore their shirts off and went skin on skin, while the Americans contorted their t-shirts in their best WWF impersonations. High Tower advanced to the finals with a six-bump outing of Booliscious, and the Needle won his rematch over Dirty Denny.
After a commercial break – meaning everyone was given time to buy something at the bar – it was time for the finals.
The Medium Fatso men were first up with an all-Yukon final, GQ, after prepping by running around the ring and stirring up the crowd, surprised everyone with a win over previously unbeaten Johan Slam. But in the double elimination format, GQ would have to win twice. Using his speed again, GQ proved to be the master of belly deception and won again.
The highly anticipated women’s final was next. With the bar packed at this point, Claire had been working pretty hard, so she may have lost some focus on the mat. The Savage got her hips in proper forward-check, let the belly do more of the work, and her size propelled her to victory.
Claire, however, got the trophy for style points, and Ms. Belly Bro got the award for the best nickname.
Eager for a win, the impatient Skagway crowd burst into a “USA! USA! USA!” chant for the heavyweight final. Thole had secured a manager, Santo, at this point, who also pumped him up.
“Slap me, coach!” Thole shouted. “No, harder, for real, slap me!”
The coach obliged, and High Tower burst onto the mat. It was over quick and the crowd roared.
But it’s never over. There was talk of doing a summer version in August, possibly on pay per view.