Today we’re crossing over THE FIVE and EVERYTHING IS ALREADY SOMETHING, as Anthony Miller explains below. Think of it like when characters from one TV show, guest star on another: wackiness ensues. Enjoy watching worlds collide, and let us know if you want more!
This week, we’re doing something a little different. Allison and I are eschewing our usual formats to periodically take you on theatergoing adventures, with liquor. For our inaugural article, we decided to head out to the Oakland Metro for the “Accidental Phenomenon” known as HOODSLAM. A Pro-wrestling show that makes itself unique by a self-awareness, performance art approach and a remarkable bond with their fans. There are also three bars inside the venue, an ideal location.
The following is an attempted oral history of the events of May 1st, 2015. They are based on notes, recorded interviews, and extremely hazy recollections.
Anthony Miller: We roll up to the Oakland Metro fashionably late, because traffic.
Allison Page: And because I was being carefully packaged into a very tight dress, which was totally worth it, otherwise, why even go?
Anthony: We’d been rushing the whole time, with no time for pre-gaming, we arrive stone cold sober. We get in with no problems and are taken backstage, where a lot of dudes are changing. Everyone seems to be cool with it.
Allison: AND SOME LADIES. But most importantly, there was a man with a giant wrench for an arm back there. Peter runs off to find Broseph Joe Brody (Also known as AJ Kirsch), because there’s nothing my male friends take more delight in than humiliating me in the vicinity of muscular men. I start darting around trying to look like I’m doing something – and failing. Damn it. Bar’s not open yet. I disappear for a while and hide behind tables and chairs.
Anthony: I chat with Khan Abadi one of Hoodslam’s founders (Wrestling as The Dark Sheik), while he was changing, totally not awkward. He speaks about pro wrestling not as a sport but an art form:
“When it’s done correctly it’s an all-encompassing performance, the best wrestlers are the one who can improvise, have a character, connect with the crowd in the moment, while being athletically impressive” It’s definitely a performance. If anyone thinks it’s just guys hitting each other, they’re highly mistaken.”
“Wrestling tells a story just like anything tells a story, whether it’s a movie, or a tv show, a book, a song, a poem, whatever. It’s all the same thing, it’s characters taking you on a ride and putting you somewhere you weren’t…we’re putting these characters in motion and ideally we want you to see them as alive, full 3-D, real entities, if not real people.”
Talking to Khan isn’t like talking to a Football player about his sport, this feels like speaking to an artist who takes his work seriously. “It’s just the underlying feeling of wanting to be artistic, wanting to do what we want to do in way that is true to us and organic, we’re not trying to imitate anything or recreate anything.”
Allison: This is about the time I spotted Ultra Girl Brittany Wonder for the first time and fled the room because she’s my favorite and WHY ISN’T THE BAR OPEN YET?! GET YOUR DICKS IN A ROW. Okay, calm down.
Anthony: The birth of Hoodslam sounds more like an art movement than a wrestling show. One that came from Oakland’s DIY nature. “A lot of us have been wrestling for a lot of years and we’ve been doing it with companies…how do you wanna say it? We were working for companies that wanted to be WWE but with one millionth the budget, and WWE is great entertainment for those who like it but, it isn’t the highest of brow or the most challenging; it’s for a broad audience. We want to do things that are a little more challenging, a little more niche, maybe a lot more niche.”
He emphasizes that non wrestling fans can still love Hoodslam, and that’s the idea. “We don’t want just the wrestling audience, they’re already there, if they see us and like us, that’s great. We want to introduce us to new people, to show this is just another medium for Storytelling, another form of art…I’d consider us Performance Art.”
Anthony: Perhaps the most important achievement of the night came early, we are in the presence of Hoodslam host, “Broseph” Joe Brody, he is a marble statue of a man and Allison loves him.
Allison: I think a did a cartoon wolf tongue thing. Also I think my face was purple. I was a purple-faced cartoon wolf but I had FABULOUS posture because my dress was so fucking tight.
Anthony: Peter arranges for Allison’s dream to come true.
Allison: What he said was “Can you please lift my friend up so we can just get a picture of you carrying her?” and then I squawked “YOU DON’T HAVE TO! YOU DON’T HAVE TO, REALLY!” while secretly mind-whispering “Do it. Do it now. Cradle me like bundle of fruit in the desert.”
Anthony: He picks her up with one arm and they take the picture. We never did get to ask any questions, but I think the photo says it all.
Allison: I had an actual out of body experience. He’s like a stack of bricks with a face. I mean that in the most positive way, believe me. He’s like if the Sistine Chapel was just a guy…in a tank top.
Anthony: The bar in the venue isn’t open yet and we’re getting antsy. Talking to strangers sober is hard. There’s a guy walking around who looks like he’s not busy, and he’s definitely a wrestler, because he’s wearing his wrestler pants. As he walked by I stopped him, introduced ourselves and we started to chat. Usually wrestling by the name Alexis Darevko, tonight he goes by Zangeif.
He regails us with stories of times he almost threw up in ring. They involve cottage cheese, hot dogs and fake placenta. “Surprises happen, but usually not surprises that make me puke”.
Allison: I bring up that it’s terrifying to me that they jump out of the ring and fight on the ground — right there on the concrete floor in the audience. You don’t know what’s on the floor! It could be anything! It could be more cottage cheese and hot dogs! Alexis agrees: it’s truly disgusting and he wipes all the toxic possibilities off the bottom of his shoes later.
Anthony: Alexis gives a lot of credit to the fans for Hoodslam’s success. “The fans are really the biggest character in the show.” It’s true, the audience has a deep connection with the show, for many of them it’s the highlight of their month. Alexis adds; “For the Wrestlers too, it’s like Vacation.” Most of the Wrestlers in Hoodslam make their living (or at least try to) on the indie wrestling circuit. But Hoodslam is different. “It’s our way of saying ‘Hey, I don’t have to deal with usual bullshit politics of wrestling…and we have fun with our friends.” But Alexis can’t thank the fans enough, he shares stories about so many great interactions he had with them. It’s clear we picked an awesome guy to talk to.
Allison: PS he hates the term indie wrestling. You can tell the bar still isn’t open at this point, because I can actually remember him saying that.
Anthony: Post interview, we ran into my friend Jeanine, she pulled us aside and gave us…our first drink. She hands us a chilled flask and says “Here you go, Ice Cold Fireball”. It was warming and delightful, and Allison’s hands stopped shaking. Just kidding (Not Really)
Allison: You’ll never know the truth.
Anthony: CAN THE BAR FRIGGIN OPEN ALREADY? We can’t have drunken hijinks if we aren’t drunken. You know what happens when your blog has no drunken hijinks? No page hits. I see my friend Krystal, who is one of the bartenders there, so I run over and get an update. She says soon, when the lights go down,” That sounds like a long time. Since I’m there, I ask her what she thinks about the show. She replies: “I think Hoodslam is the most awesome, original event anyone can come to in the bay, probably the whole country. “
Allison: I spot Brittany again. I can’t bring myself to interview her, but I manage to go up and buy one of her “Turn Down for Butt” t-shirts (she’s known for attacking her opponents with her butt — an idea I can really get behind) then I sheepishly lumber off to put it in the car.
Anthony: I go back to Peter and Allison by the front door and-HEY! That guy just got a beer! That means the bar is open, kind of — exact change only. That’ll do. We have our second drink, cheap shitty beer for me, cheap shitty Whiskey for Allison.
Allison: Go cheap or go home.
Anthony: Game on, bars are open, round 3 is Whiskey and Ginger Ales.
Anthony: We’re all ringside, the show won’t be starting for another 45 minutes, because if you want to start the show at nine, tell everyone 8. We got a few cool interviews but not enough. I tell Allison she should go outside and interview folks, she’s still hesitant, I cajole her, lead her to the door, psych her up and she’s off to interview wrestlers, I’m very proud, now back to drinking.
Allison: This is it. I have her in my sights: Ultra Girl Brittany Wonder. She’s laughing with some friends, it’s all I can do to keep myself from doing that weird sitcom thing where you wander up next to a group of laughing people and also start laughing, pretending you know what the fuck they’re talking about. Instead I tap her on the shoulder like a real person would. She’s happy to talk to me. She talks about the beginnings of Hoodslam. 5 minutes in I finally get around to asking if it’s cool if I record the conversation. Oops. She talks about how it feels like they’re a family.
Brittany: When we started out it was like 100 people, and then 200 people, 400 people, 600 people, 800 til now — we sell out. We have to turn like 400 people away at the door. It’s amazing, we’re one of the biggest wrestling companies in the United States and we started out just doing something that we love. All these companies are so serious. You can tell a lot of the guys just don’t wanna be there. And to be a pro wrestler you have to go through way too much bullshit to not have fun and to not want it. It was heartbreaking to see — but WE always had fun. A lot of us have known each other for 10+ years and we really do call ourselves a family.
This is where I started babbling a lot about how she’s really great. I’ll spare you most of that, but basically I geeked out about how the only other time I’ve been to Hoodslam, I saw Brittany fight Charlie Chaplin…who is invisible. So she’s just fighting no one. It was amazing.
Back to me being an okay interviewer: “What’s it like…I mean, there aren’t a lot of women in wrestling.”
Brittany: It was weird cuz, like, I trained with guys, my trainer was a male…so when people say ‘oh, intergender wrestling is wrong–
Allison: Wait, do people say that?
Brittany: All the time, dude, all the time.
Allison: Because, what, they feel like the men are just gonna overpower the women?
Brittany: Exactly. And then when it’s like ‘Oh man she’s kicking his ass!’ either they get really into it or they’re like ‘Oh that’s not believable.’ And it’s funny because…I mean, I’ve had women come to me in tears that have been in like abusive relationships and shit and they’re like ‘You are amazing. Thank you so much.’ and that’s the most amazing thing ever.
I’m going to interject with my own commentary here and say that when we got to this part of the conversation it felt very…sort of emotional. I mean, we’re both pretty tough chicks but that’s a really powerful thing to have happen — for someone to tell you that the thing you do or make — the art of your performance (because it IS an art) spoke to them when they were really dealing with something. That’s a big deal. I’ve seen lots of plays that didn’t do that for me. Here’s something I love about her in the ring, and love about Hoodslam: yes, she’s a woman, but there is nothing about how her opponents are responding to her, that ever makes you feel like the men don’t think of her as an equal. If it did feel that way…I probably wouldn’t have loved it so much. Okay, back to Brittany.
Brittany: I don’t understand people can’t see that stuff. It’s the underdog story. That’s why I’m so popular, I really am the ultimate underdog. I’m one of the smallest people on this roster, but I have a lot of heart.
Allison: A lot of the women here aren’t physically very large.”
Brittany: Yeah, but we’re a lot faster, we’re more flexible, we have different avenues. It doesn’t have to just be brute strength.
Then we hugged. That was a fucking great interview.
Anthony: She’s back, Round 4. More whiskey and ginger ale.
Anthony: The crowd is getting feisty; clouds of pot smoke pop up through the crowd all drifting upward and towards the ring. The crowd gather around three sides of the ring. Behind the ring is a stage with a coffin on it surrounded with flowers. There is a funeral tonight to honor a wrestler who died last month. That wrestlers name was Butternuts, and he was a large stuffed horse. The pre-show music is all songs about death and remembrance, and now they’re playing “Freebird”, that’s sound design people, that’s creating a mood.
Anthony: The show begins with the funeral procession and a video plays with The Sundays cover of “Wild Horses” provides background. This is is the funniest shit ever, it’s smart and dumb all at once. Now the audience is chanting “This is Tragic (Clap Clap ClapClapClap)”. After the video tribute, three women dressed in black enter the ring and begin to sing a soulful rendition of “Pony” by Genuine. (Cause he was a stuffed horse, get it? ) They are almost like goth Libation Bearers. Also, these drinks are really strong.
Allison: Holy shit that Pony rendition was amazing.
Anthony: Oddly enough its not the first cover of “Pony” I’ve ever heard, obviously we’ve all underestimated the songs relevance. I should also note we will see all three of these women later in the night as wrestlers. Oh lord, hot lady wrestlers with tattoos, if you looked up “out of my league” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of them waving.
Anthony: At some point we got a fifth drink, I’m not sure what happened, things are a little hard to remember. Although the place is absolutely packed, so going to the bar involves swimming through a dense sea of humanity, sweaty humanity. It’s not a forgettable experience. Then it occurs to us, we forgot to eat.
Allison: Uh ohhhhh…
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO, TOMORROW!
Spoiler alert – Allison starts to get really forgetful, someone’s testicles come out to play, and a man’s giant wrench arm gets chopped off.
Anthony Miller is a theater-making wrestling enthusiast.
Allison Page has a big butt she is considering using to attack her opponents. She’s also a writer.
Extra special thanks to Peter Townley who took most if not all of these photos and moved Allison out of the way every time she was in the line of fire.