At tomorrow night’s Bar Wrestling 25: We’re All Mad Here in Los Angeles, Joey Ryan and Peter Avalon will meet in what is believed to be the first professional thumb wrestling match to take place in Southern California. With both wrestlers injured and unable to compete in regular pro-wrestling matches, they opted instead to battle in a thumb war, or a Guerre des pouces as it is known in France. While this may be the first time two thumbs have battled in a professional setting in the region, it is only the next chapter in the history of thumb wrestling.
It isn’t known who really invented thumb wrestling. According to Wikipedia, Julian Koenig, the same guy who came up with the slogan “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” for Timex, claimed to have invented the thumb war at summer camp in 1936. Then there is the author Paul Davidson, who says that it was his grandfather who invented thumb wrestling in the 1940s. It’s hard to believe that game is even that recent. Are we to believe in thousands of years of human history it wasn’t invented until 80 years ago?
Whatever the origin, thumb wrestling has played its part in history. In Suffolk County, New York back in 1987, Smithtown and Huntington were involved in a bitter dispute (maybe not that bitter) over the main road that divides their two towns. When it came time for road maintenance and who should pay for what portion, it took a thumb war to settle the dispute.
Over the years thump wrestling has exploded. There are world championships held every year in England and you can buy thumb wrestling merchandise, such as this lucha thumb wrestling kit by Masked Republic on Amazon.
Recently, during a tour of Australia, Joey Ryan challenged Cody Rhodes to a thumb wrestling match for the IWGP US Championship. While it was made it clear that the match wouldn’t actually be for the title, Cody Rhodes picked up the victory anyway.
That thumb wrestling match was not without controversy, however. Cody won the match when he held Joey Ryan’s thumb down and the referee made a three count. The official rules of thumb wrestling state a bout can only be won win you pin your opponent’s thumb and state “one, two, three, four, I win thumb-o-war!”
— Joey Ryan (@JoeyRyanOnline) November 26, 2018
I’ve been told that the match between Peter Avalon and Joey Ryan will follow the traditional rules with the match starting by the opponents chanting “one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war.” They will not be using the longer version that has the added “Five, six, seven, eight. This should be a piece of cake.”
I asked Joey Ryan about his preparations for the historic bout, and if he had been training for it. He replied, “No, it’s thumb wrestling.”
Southern California has long been a hotbed of amateur thumb wrestling. I even participated in an occasional bout in my younger years. The region has also been known to have unsanctioned, or backyard thumb wrestling in places. It should be interesting to see the professional game make its debut.
Bar Wrestling 25: We’re All Mad Here takes place at 1720 Warehouse in Los Angeles on December 5. Tickets are available now.
*Bar Wrestling’s poster was designed by Tom Hindmarsh.