Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut won his 15th title in the 2022 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th, but not before laying out a protester who had stormed the stage in Coney Island.
During the contest, a protester wearing a Darth Vader mask and holding a sign that read, “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar” ran up on stage and knocked into Chestnut, who had a mouth full of frankfurter.
Chestnut stared at the protester in disbelief for a moment before springing into action. He put the man in a choke hold and knocked him to the floor. Security then came to remove the protester.
The sign was an apparent reference to Smithfield Foods, a pork producer, and the protester was objecting to how the company treats its farm animals, according to USA Today.
With the dork in the mask down, Chestnut went right back to obliterating hot dogs, winning the contest after eating 63 wieners and buns. He claimed his 15th mustard belt title in 16 years.
The spectacular takedown went viral on social media, where users praised Chestnut’s quick reaction and calm control of the situation.
“Only an idiot would get between Joey Chestnut and a hot dog on July 4th,” one user wrote.
“You storm Joey Chestnut’s stage on the 4th of July and you absolutely risk getting your neck snapped like a water-logged hot dog bun,” sports writer Joe Haggerty said.
“We all need to acknowledge how lucky we are to watch greatness every year. Joey Chestnut is an American hero,” another user said.
Chestnut finished nearly 20 hot dogs ahead of second place finisher Geoffrey Esper, who ate 47½ hot dogs and buns. James Webb came in third place with 41 hot dogs and buns.
Even with his sizeable victory margin, the champ still fell well short of his all-time record of 76 hot dogs in 2021. Some reports speculated that a leg injury was responsible for his decline in performance. His total on Monday was the lowest since 2015, when he ate 60 hot dogs and buns and finished in second place behind Matt Stonie.
Before the contest started, Chestnut told ESPN that his leg “hurts when I walk” but that it wouldn’t affect his performance.
“I can stand, and I can eat, and I’m gonna push it to the limit,” Chestnut said.
Monday’s contest was the first Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest since 2019 to be held at its traditional location on the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Brooklyn.