At the end of “The Hustler”, starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and George C. Scott, Minnesota Fats (played by Gleason) gives up after hours upon hours of pool, declaring Fast Eddie the winner.
“I quit Eddie, I can’t beat you.”
That is a cinematic version of the supermatch in Arm Wrestling. We saw this happen at the end of Game of Arms with Travis Bagent and Dave Chaffee until the crowd called it after 30+ matches. Super matches are something certain pullers, like Tim Bresnan, have mastered. But which event, the super match or the tournament is a more definitive test of supremacy? Travis Bagent said: “Tournaments definitely, unless the super match is with a guy you can’t beat.” That raises a key point. Tournaments can pit many of the world’s best against one another in a single day. The brackets can create all kinds of situations and typically one side of the bracket will end up being easier. Frequently, the best in a weight class will then face each other at far from peak strength. Sometimes you can score a win against someone who would normally beat you. However if you have a stacked field, a murderer’s row of talent, and you defeat them all, it is a very emphatic statement.
Tim Bresnan put it this way: “Both have equal worth. Super matches show style but tournaments show true versatility.”
If you can flash pin someone in a match on the way to a 1st place tournament victory, but when you pull the same person 6 times, they win 4-2, which is more significant? Strength, technique and endurance all play all role, though each will manifest differently. Michael Todd had this to say: “The only way to find out who the best is, is to have 2 top guys compete against each other in a supermatch.” This is certainly the way it is done in MMA , Boxing, and other fighting sports. There are many examples of tournaments as well, but most of these do not include multiple matches in a single day. Wrestling would be a notable exception, and is definitely similar in physical impact of matches, though with arm wrestling it is limited more to the upper body.
Dave Chaffee had this to say: “For me i would say the truest test is a tournament. In a tournament you have to compete against a number of different opponents, in some cases many of the best arm wrestlers the world. A lot of times not knowing who your next match will be against until minutes before. In a tournament you have to prepare for many different styles whereas in a supermatch you have to prepare against one.”
Herman Stevens adds: “…what I’ve seen in arm wrestling is that tournaments typically allow the cream to rise to the top, and super-matches are used to differentiate the cream or the elite group.” I think this is a great point. Rob Vigeant has said something similar in the past. Use tournaments to establish the top people in each class, and super matches to finalize who is really the best.
Finally, Corey Miller pointed out another option to test the best in any class. He says: “I think the truest way to prove the best is a round robin with multiple rounds but no one has tried that yet.”
So, is winning tournaments with many of the world’s best as entrants enough? Or do you have to take on the consensus world’s best to earn the title for yourself? Engin Terzi, who just won yet another WAF title, thinks that both are important tests and doesn’t give one precedence over the other, though he does state that the level of competition in either format is the most important point.
What do you think? If the prize money was equal, would you rather beat the best in your class in a super match, or win a tournament by beating many of the top pullers?