This is Real? Alt-Wrestling Invades Sacramento
by juli boggs
It’s a lot like burlesque for dudes. There are costumes and props and outlandish characters and audience members whistling and yelling. In the back of the room is a live band, but instead of dancers there’s a wrestling ring and sleek, muscular athletes dressed as a mime, a zombie nurse and Ken from Street Fighter. As the audience eggs them on, they hurl themselves from the ring posts with seemingly reckless abandon and narrowly avoid collision with the low-hanging disco ball before slamming into their opponents. Contenders skip out of the ring to a chorus of oh’s and ah’s. They part the crowd like a biblical sea that immediately reconvenes to gain a better view of the melee at their feet.
This is an evening with the underground wrestling association known as Hoodslam, and it’s invaded Sacramento.
The “accidental phenomenon,” as the group describes themselves, has gained notoriety in their hometown of Oakland since the event’s inception in 2010. It began, like all good things, in a neglected warehouse occupied by artists and soon ratcheted up into monthly performances on First Friday at the Oakland Metro Opera House, at times even selling out the 1,000 person crowd. The event has become a Bay Area favorite for its booze-addled brand of performance art paired with nostalgia, an outsider ethos and—oh yeah—wrestling. Now Hoodslam is seeking to build an audience for their events in Sacramento.
The third Sacramento show is lousy with raunchy overtones and is decidedly not family friendly, full of bad role models and the sort of characters born from a generation of video game nerds who’ve rejected the WWE’s wholesome good vs. evil narrative. The action consists of improvised theatrics, mocked by Hoodslam’s own tagline “This is real.” The athleticism on stage is, however, professional beyond a doubt with performers that are every bit the dueling athletes they portray.
A wrestler under the name Drugs Bunny moves erratically around the ring in pinstripe trousers and a fedora topped with bunny ears, shoving his face in a bag full of “cocaine” to overpower his opponents. After his match, he stands at the bar, his body and hair covered in a fine dust of powdered sugar. Surveying the modest crowd, he recalls how Hoodslam’s first foray into Sacramento was slated to be held in a garage but was halted by the cops before it ever started.
“We were sitting around having a production meeting before the event and the cops came in and shut it all down,” he says. But there were drugs and alcohol and you know, it was a garage, “it just felt illegal” he concedes, shrugging off the incident’s false start.
Since then, Hoodslam has gained a little more traction. The recent match at District 30 was their third event in the city, with future matches planned to take place monthly, possibly in the same location, for the foreseeable future.
“We will be back the third Monday in August! THIRD MONDAY,” the host Broseph Joe Brody yells emphatically from the ring to the crowd. “Which Monday?” he asks, looking for a response. Drunken replies from the audience are split. A few spectators shout “First Monday!” while another suggests the fourth. “You guys aren’t even paying attention!” Brody cries, so he takes a new approach. “We’ll be back every month for at least one more month,” and the crowd unanimously shouts out their approval.
**photo courtesy of HOODSLAM