Did you realize, the world over, arm wrestling is not only considered a sport but it is also celebrated?  Not only that, the sport's longest-running champion, John Brzenk, is a superstar elsewhere. But back in America, his home country, he works as an airfield mechanic to make ends meet.
All this time I so heartily mocked Sylvester Stallone's snooze-fest Over the Top, I took it as a given that Sly fabricated the whole arm-wrestling mania at the center of the picture. Really? People excited about the non-sport of arm wrestling? What's next? An action movie about bocce ball? But it looks like I was wrong. Who knew that there are actually worldwide tournaments for this event?
I guess my assumptions are just all fucked, led askew by native biases. After all, is arm wrestling any less athletic than the standing in a field of grass and waiting for a small ball to fly your way sport that is baseball? Watching Pulling John's athletes train has forced me to rethink my assumptions. These guys are every bit—if not more—athletically trained and talented as any over-compensated popular sports celebrity you can name. But arm wrestling's stars are so passionate about it they'll pursue this activity with little prospect of reward.
I suppose my biggest complaint with this sport is one that, paradoxically, gives me greater respect for the guys that pursue it: arm-wrestling matches are short and stationary as fuck—the complete opposite of a compelling spectator sport. But the fact that these guys spend years training for events that last nary more than a couple minutes is oddly fascinating. As I said before, so much passion, so much hard work, so little reward.
As of the movie, Pulling John is a standard sports doc—thrilling and suspenseful in all the right places. My only complaint is the John Brzenk reading scripted lines at gun point voice-over narration. But beyond that, an entertaining watch. Once again a documentary has forced me to care about something I recently mocked/gave less than two shits about.