Wing Bowl is in a league of its own

Jonathan Squibb — aka “Super Squibb” — is not a professional athlete. But he has learned to talk like one.

“I knew what I had to do,” said the eating champion. “You just persevere, you move through it.”

After eating 255 chicken wings — bettering his opponent, El Wingador, by a single wing — Squibb will take home the $20,000 grand prize. It’s the biggest prize on the competitive eating circuit.

But Squibb did not compete against professional eaters. Professionals were discouraged from entering the Wing Bowl by Major League Eating, the central organization promoting eating contests. Because MLE does not sanction the Wing Bowl, the professionals on its roster stay away.

MLE did not return phone calls to explain why it does not recognize the Wing Bowl.

One professional eater did appear at the event: Takeru Kobayashi, the rail-thin Japanese eater who gained celebrity status for his ability to suck down hot dogs. He did not compete, but did eat a cheese steak in 24 seconds.

According to the MLE, the championship cheese steak eater is Joey Chestnut, who downed 19 sandwiches in 10 minutes. Kobayashi’s stunt does not officially qualify as a record-breaker.

Kobayashi told the Wing Bowl crowd he plans to compete next year. He has had contract disputes with Major League Eating in the past.

The Wing Bowl is the only eating contest that revels in excesses of both gluttony and lust. On the floor and in the stands of the Wells Fargo Center were hundreds of strippers from local adult clubs, which use the contest as a promotional event.

When asked what makes the Wing Bowl different from professional eating contests, Kobayashi summed it up in the acronym WWA: “Women, wings and alcohol,” he said through a translator.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.