The Weird World of Underground Wrestling in Oakland
On a dark street, and in an even darker club in Oakland, there are arranged fights happening for money.
And these Oakland warriors are not playing basketball, they’re body slamming, clothes lining, and diving from turnbuckles in full character and costume, to delight of a fanatic crowd.
The first Friday of each month, a bunch of East Bay freaks put on costumes and get weird in a ring. Under the bright lights their performance is a mixture of WWE, Comic Con, & Spinal tap. A combination of elements that simultaneously admires & lampoons professional wrestling. If you’re a stiff drinking hipster who had a secret obsession for the Ultimate Warrior as kid, Hoodslam is probably your wet dream. Nothing is taken too seriously, but everything has a little bit of an edge.
I came clammering into Hoodslam after pub crawling through many of Oakland’s amazing drinking patios. When I feel like talking to a diverse crowd of interesting people, I get on the BART and go to Oakland. Increasingly in San Francisco I find myself looking in the mirror whenever I leave my house, that is to say, everywhere I go I see white male, thirty somethings, with frumpy looks on their faces, and quite frankly I’m tired of seeing myself everywhere, its boring.
So I flee to where the sunshine and the artists live, Oakland. Now, back to Hoodslam:
I entered the arena to sound of a crowd chanting “drugz! drugz! drugz!”. The big expanse of the Oakland Metro (Wear)House is filled nearly to the rafters with heavy drinking millennials all cheering in unison, smiling, and swaying in the heat. It’s definitely a plastic cup type venue, there’s no organized seating or programs, there’s just a big black ring, a stage for the band, and a very busy bar.
Every month there is a new theme, like ‘video game characters’ or ‘America’, and the great soap opera that is ‘pro wrestling’ unfolds with different thematic costumes and characters, building and dropping rivalries and crowd pleasing with acrobatics and funny antics.
The MC of it all is a ‘bro’ who actually does a nice job of making fun of himself and narrating the ringside action. He reminds me of one of those guys you meet at a ‘Senior Frogs’ type spot in Cancun, and despite his general douchebaggery, you find yourself saying to yourself, ‘when in Rome’ roll with the punches.
He’s constantly spraying Jack Daniels into the air and pouring it down the open mouths in the audience, in fact if you’re ringside at Hoodslam, there’s a good chance of getting free whiskey mouthfuls at any given moment.
There’s near constant action, live music, narration, crowd surfing – it’s definitely an experience with what appears to be a loyal following, having a great time.