Hoodslam Pairs Pro Wrestling and Performance Art

High-flying action lands in the East Bay at Hoodslam.


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For more about Hoodslam at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland, at 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, go to www.BirdsWillFall.com.

Photos by Pat Mazzera

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On a February Friday night at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, there’s a jungle rhythm being pounded out on a wrestling mat. Within the warehouse, more than 1,000 wrestling fans have shown up for Hoodslam’s “Drag Me to Hell” night, an evening in which wrestlers and their fans dress in drag. As the lights dim, ringside audience members reach in and pound out the opening to the Terminator theme song as the Hoodslam band, in drag, emerges and begins playing.

From behind the curtains, A.J. Kirsch, 29, attired as Marilyn Monbro, charges forth in a dress just like that worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. Muscular and sporting a platinum blond wig, he climbs the ropes, sprays perfume, taunts the crowd, and then gathers bottles of whiskey, vodka, and tequila and pours free shots into the eager mouths of front-row fans. Clouds of marijuana smoke hover in the air like a fine mist.

The next three hours are perfectly orchestrated chaos. Hoodslam combines the best of old-school wrestling: storylines, athleticism, performance art, pseudo-grudges, and pop culture. Over the evening, the wrestlers create crazy characters, like DrugzBunny (aka Kevin Michael Johnson), who storms on stage to shower himself in fake cocaine and takes down a longstanding opponent. The wrestlers do what they want—and hope the fans get caught up in it. On this night, as subplots, grudges, and performance art are acted out in drag, the crowd roars. It’s definitely working.

Hoodslam’s origins are humble. In October 2010, Sam Khandaghabadi began holding wrestling matches at the Victory Warehouse on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland. Khandaghabadi, a longtime wrestling fan, wanted to combine the best elements of wrestling while avoiding the worst. After initially drawing about 200 audience members to the bimonthly event with no entrance fee, the event spread via word of mouth, and the venue changed to a monthly event at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, which began charging for tickets. The popularity of Hoodslam only increased.

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