Weird British Event #3 – Gravy Wrestling

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I read an advertisement for the bank holiday activities at the Rose ‘n’ Bowl pub in Bacup. What are you supposed to expect when you read the words “Gravy” and “Wrestling” next to each other? No… Surely not…? It must be a typo.

But no, my friends. That was no typographical error. The World Gravy Wrestling Championships were happening and that same curious bug that begged me to go to worm charming and chicken racing was back again, telling me I needed to go and experience this wonder. I attempted to convince Sir Pubert Gladstone that driving 40 minutes north of Manchester to the fairly average town of Bacup to go to a slightly dodgy pub to watch people rolling around in hot meat juices was a GREAT way to spend his Bank Holiday Monday. He agreed and we were off!

Technology at the Rose 'n' Bowl

Welcome to the Rose ‘n’ Bowl

So Bacup’s name is far more interesting than the place itself. There are some streets, some houses, a few pubs and that’s about it. It does have a great view of the hills of the Irwell Valley which made for a great backdrop to the jawdroppingly remarkable stage and gravy pool set up for the Gravy Wrestling Championships. I was shocked by the effort and planning permission that must have gone on behind the scenes to set up the performance area. I believe the Rose ‘n’ Bowl normally has a lawn bowls green behind the pub. The entire space had been covered in plastic with a raised pool area set up in the middle. In the pool was a steaming lake of brown liquid – the infamous gravy. The commentator informed us that the gravy had been sitting out for one and a half hours and was therefore cooling down and forming a nice gelatinous top. Delicious.

A professional set up

A professional set up

Monday was an unexpectedly cool day and so all of the spectators were keen to see the action get underway. After some customary technical difficulties with the sound system and a lovely performance from the local under-15s dance school, we were underway. Out came the competitors – they were READY TO RUMBLE!

The competitors line up

The competitors line up

Driving to Bacup we had discussed the possibility of competing in the competition and I had seriously contemplated giving it a go. However, like worm charming and chicken racing, I soon realised that this was serious business and you couldn’t just enter on a whim. All of the wrestlers had planned and gone to great efforts with their costumes – no one was just wearing their old sports clothes. Super man, Oscar the Grouch, a headmaster and Tarzan were there and they had all practiced their entrances.

Last year's champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

Last year’s champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

It was WWF with less baby oil and more gravy. As the first bout was called, the two wrestlers came out calling to the audience, strutting their stuff and mocking their competition. The white-shirted referee blew the whistle and it began. Gravy explosion.

Gravy is slippery stuff when it is coating plastic and human flesh. The first two male wrestlers slipped around all over the place, throwing each other into the air (as best they could) and body slamming with vigour. It was incredible! Strength, agility but mostly luck combined for a highly entertaining wrestling competition. The wafts of hot meaty liquid really added to the overall experience.



The cold weather and a desire to eat something other than a chip butty meant we didn’t hang around to watch the entire competition and a lack of information of the Rose ‘n’ Bowl Facebook page means I have no idea who won. But it was a fantastic way to spend a cold public holiday. Unlike worm charming, I don’t think I will come back to compete in the Gravy Wrestling Championships next year. I would need years of preparation and some serious protein shakes.


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