LOGAN SQUARE — Get ready, Logan Square, the women of the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers are returning this weekend for more hand-grappling, trash-talking action.
CLLAW XVII is Saturday night at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, and as usual all the proceeds will go to a local charity.
This weekend’s event, which is doubling as a Day of the Dead celebration, will benefit Barrel of Monkeys, an arts education theater ensemble that brings creative writing programs to third- through fifth-graders at Chicago Public Schools.
“Where else can you see ladies arm wrestle? And it's like 10 bucks! Come out!” said Avery Ferguson, 25, who wrestles under the name Bust-her Bluth.
Part of the fun of the CLLAW events is the cast of characters who show up to wrestle, like Ferguson’s character Buster Bluth, inspired by the “Arrested Development” TV series.
“For me I try to play it off like I have a [prosthetic] claw like Buster in the show, and I carry around a juice box that is like my go-go juice,” she said. “And my manager is like my mom, like the character Lucille.”
Some of the characters even have a following, like the reigning champion, Killer Bee.
"People are like, 'Oh, that's the Killer Bee' and they dress up like her, and it's just such a trip to watch," said Tamale Sepp, a 35-year-old comedian who is preparing to compete in her second CLLAW. "People get really ramped up."
Sepp wrestled as Schemepunk Sally in CLLAW XVI, but she decided to do something a little, darker, a little more sinister this go-round — an octopus-like character named Kraken Skulls.
"It's just trying on different personas," she said. "Schemepunk Sally was pretty nice, but I think Kraken Skulls is going to be ferocious."
Ferocity is a big piece of CLLAW after all. Though all the wrestlers are extremely supportive and work to keep each other injury-free during the performance, the trash-talking is epic.
"It's like WWE. It's so theatrical. It's so over-the-top, so of course we're going to trash talk," Ferguson said.
One wrestler actually draws directly from professional wrestling for both her character and her trash talk.
Kaye Straub, a 22-year-old art students, wrestles as Macho Ma'am Candy Savage — a sendup of "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
"For research, I watch a lot of Randy Savage trash-talking promos," said Straub, who works as a guide at the Museum of Science and Industry. "I try to get a feel for how he talks, and I try to replicate that. I don't quote him, but I try to replicate his style and his flair."
As for how the wrestlers physically prepare for the event, it varies.
Ferguson said she doesn't do much beyond the frequent lifting that comes with being a production assistant, and Sepp said she took a kettlebell class over the summer to tone up a bit.
Straub said she does "a lot of push-ups at my desk" and also does 10 push-ups whenever someone "likes" her Macho Ma'am Facebook page.
Asked if they had any trash talk to impart before the big event, Ferguson and Sepp demurred and just encouraged spectators to come out.
As for Straub, when asked if she wanted to say anything to her opponents, she responded, "Oh, uh, just that Candy's gonna crush."