You're a Mean One, Miss RAWFL 

Arm wrasslin' for a cause comes to RVA

You say that holiday cheer is for suckers and it's a fistful of holiday fear you crave? Local lady arm wrestlers such as Camela Toe, Bruisin' B. Anthony, the Swiss Missfit and the Southern Barbell will rain down upon your head like a trampling herd of fire-snorting, 'roided-up reindeer when they introduce Richmond Arm Wrestling For Ladies (RAWFL) for one night of yuletide mayhem.

The national phenomenon of theatrical ladies' arm wrestling started to gather steam in Charlottesville in 2008. After a story in The Washington Post, the grass-roots event spread to 18 other cities — from New York to Chicago and New Orleans to Portland. According to the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers website, the mission is "to empower women and strengthen local communities through theater, arm wrestling and philanthropy."

Inspired by their pioneering Charlottesville sisters-in-arms, RAWFL debuts Saturday, Dec. 1, at Balliceaux with four scheduled matches. Proceeds will go to Safe Harbor, a nonprofit that empowers survivors of sexual and domestic assault. Tickets are $8 and doors open at 7 p.m.

"It's totally crazy, very much a carnival atmosphere, raucous," says Emily Smith, executive director of 1708 Gallery, who's one of the organizers along with local artist Heide Trepanier. "There are all sorts of characters from wrestlers to their entourages to jurors judging things like whether a wrestler's butt comes out of the seat."

The host is Harry Kollatz. Judges including Stacie Vecchietti from Safe Harbor and Ashley Hawkins from Studio 23.

If all goes well, RAWFL organizers plan to have several events a year and to support different nonprofits each time. "If it's successful," Smith says, "we'd also like to have a state tournament — maybe Charlottesville vs. Richmond."

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