For a quarter century, Philadelphians have gathered for a boozy, salacious, gluttonous event: Wing Bowl, a promo-filled chicken wing eating competition hosted by WIP Sports Talk Radio.
Pro wrestling legend Ric Flair (sporting a Flyers’ jersey), rapper Coolio and "Catching Kelce" runner up Veronica Harwood were among the sold-out crowd inside the Wells Fargo Center. Beginning 25 years ago with two men gorging in a hotel lobby the Friday before the Super Bowl, the spectacle has now grown to an estimated 20,000 spectators cheering on more than 30 competitors.
Fans speculated that Wing Bowl 25 may be the last one after Angelo Cataldi, co-host of “The Morning Show”, revealed that he was considering retiring once his contract expires at the end of 2017. Although Cataldi and co-host Al Morganti conceived the event, WIP owns it and has the final say on whether it will live on. “I don’t think about next year,” Morganti said. “I think about this afternoon. I have no idea what’s going to happen next year.”
Last year’s champion, the 5’ 7”, 120-pound Molly Schuyler, defeated five-time champion Bill “El Wingador” Simmonds in a $5,000 legends’ matchup, devouring 95 wings in five minutes. Then she ate five and a half pounds of steak in three minutes and 17 seconds, breaking her own world record. “You’ve never seen anything like it,” Schuyler said. “You’re in a massive stadium with 20,000 people yelling at you to eat chicken wings. I love it.”
Competitors with names like The Chuggernaught and Blonde Mamba donned white promotional T-shirts and drank from sponsor-emblazoned water bottles. The competitors’ personal cheerleaders, referred to as Wingettes, tossed logoed products of Mardi Gras-styled beads, rally towels and can coolers to the crowd.
Participants made grand entrances with colorful costumes (several dressed as Flair) and circled the stage on elaborate floats followed by their entourages. In between the gnawing and showboating, a tender moment emerged as three-time competitor Charles “Eggman” Rifici proposed to his girlfriend, Debbie White, after he was ejected from the first round.
Bob “Notorious B.O.B.” Shoudt took home the championship, eating 409 wings over the two 12-minute rounds and two-minute final sprint to the finish. The 50-year-old Royersford, Pennsylvania native became the oldest Wing Bowl champion, receiving a grand prize of $10,000, a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV and a championship ring from Steven Singer Jewelers.