The custom started in 1974 when a then landlord read about the medieval custom of toe wrestling and has become one of the greatest contrived ‘chat down the pub’ events.
Best foot forward
I arrived at the pub to see a throng of people ready for the great event. The sun was shining and the feet were bare! For first off is the inspection of the feet..a trained medic inspected the feet looking for anything, a cut, wart or source infection…some were discarded. They looked downright defeeted! Those which made it through made their way to the Toedium a raised area under a tent where the arena would be fought.
Toed in the hole
The aim was to hit the opponents toe against the side by twisting their foot. Matches were the best of three, with both left and right feet being utilised.. Sounds easy!
“It’s a very demanding job as a referee. It looks like nothing, but it isn’t. You have to watch out for everything. You get some people, if they find they’re losing, they flick their toe out of the other’s grip. So you end up with a flick-off. People will do anything to win. So it might sound like a daft thing to say, but you’ve got to watch your flick-offs, as it were.”
Tournament referee Dave Mallor Ben Thrush InaPub website
However, the wrestlers have fully tight restrictions to be accepted. All hands must be flat on the floor, one foot in the air and any change in position is restricted, so no shuffling one’s bottom. Not easy hence the number of flick offs! These were when the foot slipped off! Quite often actually apparently adding to the tension.
Thus unsurprisingly, judging the contest was tricky and it was clear that there was a difficulty in actually keeping your toes interlocked came to the fore with a number of false starts and miscalls or flick offs as they were called. A mother and daughter pairing in particularly was quick fraught giving a whole new dimension to mother-daughter relationship. There was also some controversy in the Women’s final, with Lisa ‘Twinkle Toes’ Shenton fighting a Rebecca ‘Camille Toe’ Beech being quite aggrieved by what she thought was a mis-call…would it end in some real wrestling I wondered. Finally Camille Toe rather proudly picked up the trophy and her mates had a few drinks to celebrate.
Sock it to him
A fair crowd had assembled I asked around the competition had contestants as far away as Buxton and Burton on Trent…well this was a world championship. Where were the other nations I thought? The event has attracted a wide range of colourful characters and terrible puns – Twinkle toes, Camel Toe, The Toeminator etc etc….One of the most notable of these was Nasty Nash. Tattoo on his arm. Shaved head. He looked rather intimidating. He takes it very seriously… he wore the traditional wrestling garb, the black leotard…on his body not of his feet. He was the reigning Men’s World Champion, making the heats…it was down to the final. After eliminating all opposition it came down to (toe) nail biting final and despite some flick offs…he won. After this he had to battle an Australian…I say Australian, I asked him later where he came from and he said Watford! World championship? Certainly the coverage is global with companies from Japan and South Africa covering it. I guess it takes much more to get them over! Of course as the landlord noted on the InaPub website:
“They’ll stay on afterwards and have a few drinks and a bit of banter, so we do good business on the day,”
And after all that’s the point!
Find out when it is on….