Paddy’s Japan Slam has started and the first challenge is done. We take you behind the scenes on what you DIDN’T see on camera with our man Paddy Power.
I’m in a WhatsApp group with Ruby Walsh, Donncha O’Callaghan, and he of the one name club, Sheamus. It’s very strange. Weirder still, we are communicating in selfie videos, quickly resorting to calling each other out over how we’re going to fare in the Japan Slam.
That’s because some bright spark in Power Tower thought it’d be a good idea to ask the talent – yes, that includes me now, no laughing, thank you very much – to record a video clip every hour of our journey to Japan.
No problem, of course. If it gets me out there for the rugby on company dollar, I’m happy to do almost anything.
But you try being funny 10 hours into basically an entire day’s worth of travel. So, of course, club loyalties soon emerge.
Minutes after the group is created, Donncha and Sheamus are at war – over a Leinster jersey Sheamus was wearing in his videos. The rugby legend then resorts to sending a picture of The Rock. The heavyweights are at it.
Before long, the pair agree a side bet, whereby Sheamus commits to wearing a Munster shirt if Donncha beats him in the Paddy challenges. That’s despite Ruby’s pleas for both to don Connaught colours.
The jovial atmosphere continues when we finally complete our respective journeys to Tokyo, Donncha arriving armed with gifts for each of us. For Sheamus, of course, the Munster jersey. For Ruby, a bar of chocolate, because he probably hasn’t had one for years. For me, a bag of Tayto – because I probably haven’t had one for hours. I’d take offence, but he’s right.
So to our first challenge. The moment this trip was signed off, with the premise being the four of us lads going to head-to-head on various challenges, the words ‘sumo’ and ‘wrestling’ entered my brain. Obviously, I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Now, I’d like to take this opportunity to shoot down any scurrilous suggestions that I changed the original line-up of the teams to ensure I didn’t have to wrestle Sheamus.
I’m outraged. It was Donncha I was scared of.
Anyway, the fairer fight was clearly me versus Ruby, while the two big fellas faced off.
I’ll be honest, Ruby in a sumo nappy had me doubled over. Although, if I’m honest, said nappy was what I’d be needing for the next few days. More on that later.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) September 20, 2019
Best of three, I blitz past him 2-0. He may have 52 Cheltenham Festival winners but it was me riding off into the sunset – or so I thought.
The battle of all battles ensues. My man Donncha and Sheamus play out a humdinger which makes Ruby and I look like kids. Well, that’s apt for one of us.
Sheamus wins, somehow, so we’re called back out for a decider. So one bout, sudden death – and he’s dancing round like a cat on a hot tin roof. I advance, get him, and he’s careering towards the edge of an elevated stage.
I can’t, can I? He’s one of the greatest who ever lived and, more importantly, my horse racing ambassador. If I drop him, HR will have me hung, drawn and quartered. It’d break his back, surely?
I push him closer, we both lose our balance and are on the brink of going off the edge. So I had to stop myself, drag him back from the brink, at which point we both stumbled over the rope.
His face lights up and he’s dancing around like he’s won the Gold Cup. Somehow, he was right. I’d lost – on a bloody technicality. That lad really is a winner through and through.
I’ve lost to Ruby Walsh. At sumo wrestling. It can only get better.