By OJ Patterson
Standing room only, there are no seats. There are no guardrails, no hundred-feet-tall projections, no event program, no collectible cups, no replica championship belts. Everything is packed in tight: elbows to elbows, fronts to backs, thick as thieves – some look the part. Dozens of chants have chimed out before the house band takes the stage.
The show starts when it starts. The front “row” pounds the ring canvas in unison, everyone in the know nods in satisfaction. Fists pump like pistons and clouds of revelry waft past the burning bulbs. It’s time. It’s time for motherfucking Hoodslam!
Apologies for the profanity; it can’t be helped. Crass is the lifeblood of the sideshow showcase. “Fuck the fans,” is Hoodslam’s unifying war chant and has dual meaning: part reminder not to take things too seriously and part demand for hedonistic excess. Every first Friday at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, hundreds gather to stand in the glow. This month’s festivities are subtitled “The Road to EnterTainia,” referring to WWE’s WrestleMania, arguably the world’s biggest wrestling extravaganza.
Hoodslam has been going four years strong. These aren’t the hulking Adonises in arbitrary strife on weekly television, these guys have beer guts and gorilla suits, making what they want, how they want.
I appreciate its accessibility; more range than the typical testosterone theater. Hoodslam is hybrid-turbo-niche. You got your sex in my comedy! Well, you got your violence in my nostalgia! There’s something for everybody, but the diehards love it all: the Stoner Brothers are an homage to a dominant tag team from the 1990s, albeit with a different training regiment. Pooh Jack totes an armada of foreign objects in a trashcan inscribed “HUNEY” and lampoons the notorious New Jack, a wrestler infamous for performing 20-foot dives, and stabbing several coworkers.
Drake Younger is on the way out, this is his last Hoodslam; he’s been called up to the big time ranks of the WWE. His rise feels good: once regarded as a deathmatch king, willing to sponge punishment in hyper-violent bloodbaths, he’s evolved into a world-class athlete and veritable folk hero. A recent transplant, he even calls NorCal home.
Hoodslam thrives in subversion. During a battle between 1920s cocaine-addled gangster Drugz Bunny and brick-house superheroine “Ultragirl” Brittany Wonder, dueling “yes-chants”– pointing to the sky and screaming “yes” in rhythmic, cultish synchronization – emerged. "DRUGS! DRUGS! DRUGS! DRUGS! ASS! ASS! ASS! ASS!"
There’s always too much, the nights are very long. The last match is a mystery. It’s midnight and I sprint outside in full Cinderella mode: Bay Area Rapid troubles. EnterTainia is fast approaching again, so is WrestleMania (Super Bowl weekend with spandex and face paint). WrestleMania is sold out (and in New Orleans), costs $60 on pay-per-view, and happens on a Sunday night (the enemy of the work week). Hoodslam is in Oakland, costs $10, and takes place this Friday (the proletarian refuge). Make your choice, my squared circle siblings; I know I have!
Photos courtesy of Gabriel Hurley and Hoodslam