Admit it. We’re somewhat spoilt for choice these days when it comes to contests of strength. Though not as well televised as some of us might like, myself included, strongmen competitions have grown exponentially over the past decade and a half. We have the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) and its various qualifying rounds around the globe. We have fiercely contested domestic competitions and even contests in your local gym should you be so lucky.
Time was, that this was not the case. Indeed for a long period, the world of strongmen had but two real contests to look forward to, that is the WSM and the World Muscle Power Classic (WMPC). Showing my nostalgic side, today’s post will examine the rise and fall of the WMPC, a strongman competition that for a brief period, was every bit as contested as the WSM.
What was the World Muscle Power Classic?
The WMPC represented a growth in strongman activities. Since the establishment of the World’s Strongest Man in 1977, a creation previously detailed on this site, the sport had slowly grown in popularity and also competitiveness. Seeking to capitalise on this and also hoping to give strongmen more than one competition a year, organisers in Scotland set about devising the WMPC. The brainchild in part of Douglas Edmunds, known as Dr. Death on the strongman circuit, the WMPC differed quite significantly from its WSM counterpart.
Far from a shot in the dark, the WMPC proved highly popular in its first iteration. Illustrating this was the competitors list which included the undisputed stars of the WSM, Jón Páll Sigmarsson, Geoff Capes and Bill Kazmaier. Incidentally, Jón Páll won the event over Capes and Kazmier, a point no doubt appreciated by the Viking! Now unlike the WSM, the WMPC, which took place in Scotland, was inspired more by the Highland Games than anything else.
Thus unlike the WSM, which by the 1980s had attempted to somewhat glamorise the events, the WMPC interspersed strongman activities with events pitting local tug of war teams against one another. It interspersed the grunts of Jón Páll with a clown painting faces. In short, it took itself a little less seriously away from the arena.
Viewing the Games
At this point, it is worth pointing out that although information on the games can be quite tricky to get online, we are able to view many of the old competitions. What is fascinating for me is that we can see how the contest evolved through its roughly twenty year lifetime. Take a look at the 1986 games, whose coverage does a good job of highlighting the very local feel of these games.
This I suppose, is the crux of the matter. What did the WMPC provide that the WSM didn’t? Well very little in fact, when one remembers that the WSM has and will continue to cycle through a variety of lifts, including we remember a deadlift featuring a cart full of cheese!
Now in any case, the WMPC’s events took place over two days and while it varied in its own contests, competitors were generally treated to some of the following.
- The wench.
- The Tree Trunk Lift
- The McGlashen stones
- The log press
- The Basque circle
- The Anvil Hold
- The super yoke
- The Carry and Waddle
(If you’re struggling to remember what any of these lifts are, this old Samson Power article has some incredibly small images to jog your memory!).
You Mentioned Something about Scotland?
Yes, so as mentioned, the games originated in Scotland and were held there until 2002. In that time competitors were treated to the very best of Scottish hospitality. In 1998, the opening ceremony saw a procession of strongmen and bag pipe bands enter the field together. Competitors lined up in front of the ‘Chieftans’ table and Jouko Ahola, at that time the World’s Strongest Man, was given the honorary title of Chieftain. Dressed in a ceremonial kilt, Ahola initiated the start of the games by banging the ceremonial sword on the shield to the four winds.
Similarly the 2002 games, which were the last to be held in Scotland, opened with a procession of bag pipe bands.
What Happened to the Games?
Though a relative stable on the Strongman circuit, the WMPC began to suffer by the mid to late 1990s. In the 1980s, the WMPC was a competition in its own right. A decade later, it was second in command to the WSM. This, one hastens to add, was not solely a reflection on the WMPC. Strongman activities suffered during the 1990s as the contests gained less and less media attention. In a bid to stymy the rot, the WMPC agreed to become a qualifying contest for the WSM. Retuning to our Samson Power article, the contest was described as the second most important strongman competition of the year. It wasn’t a good sign.
In 2000, no event was held owing to a series of confusions about planning combined with a perceived lack of competitor interest. The Games returned in 2001 but were faced with the Strongman Super Series, which sought to provide an international grand prix of strongman events. Though the WMPC didn’t feature in the Strongman Super Series, it was nevertheless called the Scottish/Aberdeen Grand Prix. The attempt to incorporate the WMPC as part of the Super Series signalled the competition’s fall from grace.
In 2003 and 2004, the games were held outside of Scotland. Though the Quebec games were well received, hopes that a change of venue would reinvigorate the games were ill founded. 2004 saw a split between the International Federation of Strength Athletes and the World’s Strongest Man regarding who the true worldwide body was (a point for a future article…promise!). Stuck in the middle was the ailing WMPC. With no where to turn. The competition folded.
World Muscle Power Championships Results (1985-2004).
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
What on earth was “The Wench”? I should think any “wench” slender enough to be alluring would pose little challenge to a strongman competitor. Anyway, it sounds intriguing. Inquiring minds want to know!
A postscript to my previous post: I now see that “The Wench” involved a truck pull. Am I correct in my assumption that “wench” in this context is the English and/or Scottish term for the mechanical device we Yanks call a “winch.” To me the term “wench” has always conveyed images of a lusty barmaid wearing a bodice and fetching flagons of ale!