How I came to know John Brzenk

Posted by Ryan Bowen on

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Ask any armwrestler who the most significant person in the history of the sport is and undoubtedly they will answer John Brzenk. John is universally recognised as the greatest armwrestler of all time; so you can only imagine how humbled I was back in 2018 when I learned I was not only going to meet John, but stay at his family home for a week, and then from that form a great friendship.

So how on earth did an unknown, red head, barely pro level armwrestler receive such an invite?

It all began in. Christmas 2017 when I received a very unexpected call from a multiple world champion and legend of the sport. I was relaxing with family when my phone startled me. It was ringing and it had the face of Travis Bagent on its screen. I nervously answered the phone, as at that stage I had never spoken to Travis or any legend of the sport in my life. "Gday Travis" I stumbled over the words, and in Travis style he grumbled out "Hey young man, I have a deal for you, I would like to fly you to Arizona to help me promote and compete in the NAL championship next June!"

Naturally I was very enthusiastic and confirmed with Travis that I would be honoured to take part. I asked Travis, why on earth was he giving me this invitation. Travis responded with "Well everytime I open Facebook all I see is you, so you obviously know how to market armwrestling, and I want your help marketing this event".

I gladly accepted the offer and we began planning the when, where and how of the event. Part of that planning was to arrange where I would stay. Travis gave me options of staying at the casino, or with a list of various local armwrestlers, and then right at the end Travis joked and said "Hell, even John Brzenk live 30 mins from the venue, you can stay there! Nah I'm just kidding, you can't stay with the G.O.A.T"

A few more weeks went by and the events drew closer, and in the back of my mind I kept on thinking about the fact John Brzenk lived close by. Eventually, I couldn't resist the temptation and I looked up John on Facebook, wrote a very polite message explaining what Travis had invited me to take part in, and very hesitantly mentioned I was looking for a place to stay.

A few days later, I received a messaged back from John, and to my absolute amazement, he was offering for me to stay at his home for the entire week.

This was seriously a massive deal for me, as it would be for any aspiring pro armwrestler. I was not only an aspiring armwrestler, but also an aspiring armwrestling content creator too. My YouTube channel had a few thousand subscribers at the time and my armwrestling business was in its infancy.

The date finally arrived, I flew to Arizona and was picked up by John from the airport. At this stage I was doing a lot of self talking to not act like a fan, and just be a gracious guest. The first afternoon we shared IPA beers in the 110° heat while relaxing in the pool and life was amazing. I genuinely couldn't believe where I was.

Naturally as an aspiring content creator, I had hoped to get an interview with John. John hadn't been seen in any capacity in the armwrestling world for a few years at this stage, and one video interview with him could be the catalyst for significant growth in my YouTube channel. So, on about day three of being in the Brzenk household, I asked John if he would do an interview, to which John responded, "No thank you, I have done so many interviews, everyone asks the same questions, and I honestly don't have anything to say to the armwrestling world".

At that point, I thought to myself, well even though I wasn't able to have an interview with John, I still had the absolute honour of meeting him and spending a week in his home. I then went onto to compete in Travis's tournament and on the very last day of being at John's something significant happened.

I was in John's backyard setting up my camera to film myself delivering a wrap up of the NAL tournament. John casually sat behind the camera just to watch what I was doing. I rattled off a ten minute summary of the event, and after concluding John made the comments "Wow, you did that really naturally, without any scripts or planning, what is it that you are doing with all this YouTube stuff?" My eyes lit up.

Six beers and a few hours later, I had explained my armwrestling YouTube and business goals to John and he responded to me with "I'm in".



John and I went on to run and host a weekly podcast talking about the events of the armwrestling world that would run for 6 months.

This weekly podcast proved to be the most significant catalyst to my channel becoming what it is today. Undoubtedly John's presence immediately gave the channel credibility.

I remember so many comments from armwrestling fans of the world. "How on earth did some random redhead from Australia, end up with John Brzenk on his show? He must be paying him or something".

The truth is, John has never let me pay him a dollar. Not for any of the time he put into the podcast, not for allowing me to stay at his home, not for anything.

John has ultimately become one of my best friends in life. He and his wife Renee have been so amazingly welcoming to me and I will always treasure them both. Since that first week, John helped me as my corner man for my WAL debut and will in 2021 fly to Australia to be a groomsman for my wedding.

So, that's the story of how I came to know John Brzenk. Still a very humbling series of events for me to reflect on, something that I will always treasure and hold dear.

 

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