I’ve been hitting people in the face—and everywhere else—for over 25 years.
And being hit. And thrown, locked, choked, tapped out; on mats, dirt, grass, wood floors, concrete, you name it. My hemophiliac body knows the caress of all of the above. This is martial artists’ idea of having a good time.
The world of martial arts—whether talking about sports, tradition, or self-defense—is mostly populated by dudes. I’ve been subjected to many tirades of fantasy bullshit from people who don’t have the first clue about the realities of violence, or, in some cases, the limitations of the human body.
Like a lot of kids I grew up watching pro-wrestling. I was born in 1980, so I got to see the golden age of luminaries like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Ultimate Warrior. In the ’90s a whole new crop of brilliant performers emerged, from The Rock to Mick Foley to Chyna to The Undertaker. As a high-schooler I would occasionally watch Monday Night Raw, but I was never a super-fan. I mostly loved The Rock, because he looked like me—a much taller and way more muscular version of me; point being that he was a brown dude in a mostly white field.
A few years back I picked up a copy of Mick Foley’s autobiography Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks at the Oakland library, a book notable among other reasons for having been written by Foley himself, without a ghostwriter. I was utterly fascinated, and took an interest in the behind-the-scenes world of professional wrestling. I’ve since read a number of other books, including ones about Mexican Lucha Libre, which then led to me spending a lot of late nights watching old El Santo flicks on youtube.
I heard about Hoodslam back when I first moved to Oakland in 2013. It sounded like a rousing good time, but for this reason and the other I never got around to actually attending an event. That is, until last May, when I first went to GLAM, one of the Hoodslam theme nights. I saw an ad for the event on facebook, and I was intrigued because GLAM focused on women and non-gender-conforming wrestlers. I decided to gamble twenty bucks on an experience… and my life was changed forever.
As I’ve often told folks since that first Initiation: I’ve been in plenty of Sacred Spaces, in fact I live in one; I’ve been to plenty of Temples, in fact I live in one; but I’ve never had a Church… until GLAM.
Church of the Warrior Goddess. They’re sweating and I’m praying, with shouts and raucous laughter. Church of GLAM, where acting a fool is not only Accepted, but Expected. For a woman in this culture to do what these women are doing is fucking amazing—a miracle in action.
Few times in my life have I been as deeply honored as when I met the parents of Aleyah Mia Garcia, who were standing next to me at ringside. If I was a pro-wrestler, and my parents were in the audience, I would know I had the best parents in the world. If I had a daughter, and she became a pro-wrestler, I would consider myself a successful parent.
Despite my lifelong passion for martial arts, I have no interest in the culture of MMA—the last thing I want to see is grown men beating the shit out of each other. I’ve seen and done plenty of that. Really, I have no interest in watching dudes pro-wrestle; this sport has always been theirs. I want to see the women and the weirdos, doing shit they’re Not Supposed To Do.
In the world of GLAM, the combination of martial arts, athleticism, performance, and a gloriously local flavor creates a kind of magic that, quite simply, I have not encountered anywhere else. Seeing these folks perform in person is a completely different experience from watching it on TV. You hear the shouts and improvised insults. You see the sweat fly and the thigh-meat jiggle. You get to witness hard-won skills in action.
I’ve been a martial artist for over 25 years, and a Hip Hop performer for over a decade. I’ve rocked countless shows and I’ve been rocked. But there is nothing like GLAM.
Where else am I going to see a woman in a fetish suit kick a one-legged man in the face?
The audience of GLAM seems, unfortunately, to be composed mostly of white gentrifiers. I generally make it a point to avoid those people like the plague, not the least reason being that one of their evil super powers is the ability to suck the joy out of any situation. GLAM, and by extension Hoodslam as a whole, is so powerful that even these soulless motherfuckers cannot ruin the good time. What makes the difference? It’s hard to say, since so many factors are involved, but if I were to boil it down, I would use a term that some people might think strange when applied to the universe of pro-wrestling: REALNESS.
People like to say that pro-wrestling is fake. I always correct them: pro-wrestling is not “fake,” it is “staged.” You can’t fake a powerbomb. No amount of self-conscious, post-ironic yuppie sneering can take away from the fact that these people put their bodies on the line to entertain. Samoan Drops and Suplexes, DDT’s, drop-kicks, and off-the-top-rope special moves… even the most jaded and self-conscious yuppie can’t deny that THIS IS REAL.
This is the world of imagination unbounded, of epic mythology playing itself out. Sacred stories are being told. Sun and Moon doors, undead nurses, mystical witches from beyond, superheroes, villains, and booze.
A lot like the rest of my life.
I’ve been the Citygod Medicine Man since 2005. I spent years in the L.A. underground as The Concrete Shinobi, ninja bartender, occult superhero, and polyamorous lover. I moved back home to the Bay and transformed into the Baytime Vader, the MC with the face paint, thrower of epic house parties and purveyor of secret knowledge. When I go to GLAM, I feel like I’m seeing the struggles, victories, and defeats of my life as a fringe weirdo acted out in the ring. Here is a place where I can freely shed my charade of being a square. The Hat and the Vest come out of the closet; the Concrete Shinobi re-emerges, rocking everything except the mask. And the weapons. I laugh with the black security guards, and I grin as white gentrifiers part like the red sea when I walk through the crowd. Yes motherfuckers, I am Strange and Proud.
The first night I went to GLAM, I acquired a new Hero: the Ultra Girl, Brittany Wonder. I don’t remember who she battled. What I remember is this: a brown-skinned, curly-headed woman, thick and beautiful, maneuvering around the ring with grace, skill, and power, wearing a psychedelic rainbow-print top and skirt. I remember that she lost the match, and someone in the audience, standing right in front of me, passed her a bong; she took a nice big rip before departing the ring. I fell instantly in love with her and the entire spectacle.
Brittany Wonder is the physical embodiment of the strength, grace, dignity, and power of all the black, brown, and indigenous women I’ve known. She looks like someone I would see at a powwow, or a house party; equal parts badass and feminine. My favorite type of woman: a chick who would twerk to the beat or punch you in the face. She enters the ring and climbs the ropes on each of the three sides facing the audience, slapping hands with the crowd. Her ring performance is expert, her presence is undeniable, and as far as I’m concerned, she wins even when she loses. If there were any justice in the world, dudes would be lining up to feed her grapes and massage her feet.
One of the greatest parts of GLAM, for me, is that I can stand right next to the ring. I see all the successful moves, I see the ones that go awry, I see the secret signals, I see the women mouthing “are you okay?” to each other after a bad landing. I lovingly guide my fellow crowd members out of the way when the performers inevitably exit the ring to duke it out on the wooden floor of the venue.
And when I’m there, I’m in All The Way. I certainly don’t come to be “ironic.” Fuck that shit. I came not to suspend disbelief, but to throw that shit out the window. ALL IN! Nothing ruins my immersion in the kayfabe. That’s why I go.
The carnivalesque world of pro-wrestling has long been a haven for people who live on the fringes of american society—cranks, crackpots, dirtbags and degenerates. People after my own heart.
Has there ever been a better heel than Heather Monroe? I’ve known so many white girls like her—beautiful, blonde, irredeemably entitled, complete and utter bitch. Watching her get triple-suplexed by Brittany Wonder was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
Has there ever been a sexier wrestler than Dark Sheik? I think not.
Most of my friends know that I am Pretty Fucking Queer… of the Prince variety. I like women, enough that I find it comfortable and appealing to sometimes embody what are traditionally seen as “feminine” qualities. I’ve never in my life had a crush on a transwoman… Until Dark Sheik. OMFG. Such power, such skill, such grace… and so utterly adorable. Fabulous fashionista and social media poet, genderqueer warrior goddess, she enters the ring with fists pumping in the air, and I’m pumping mine right along with her. Washboard abs and an ass to tell your friends about, she does a back flip and takes a hit of a blunt. I am in lust.
Anton Vorhees holds it down as the host for every episode. Handsome, charming, talented, and a teacher of newer wrestlers. Added bonus, every event begins with him running around the ring pouring vodka into the eager mouths of ringside fans. I have been blessed by the Holy Grey Goose of GLAM.
GLAM takes place at the Oakland Metro Operahouse every Second Friday. I will be there for as long as it continues, right in the front, acting a fool and shouting out the names of my favorite wrestlers. Brittany Wonder. Dark Sheik. Vipress. Vulcana. Shakira Spears. Hip Hop Harry. Heather Monroe.
The gods still walk the earth. They wear spandex and fetish suits. They drink and smoke weed, talk shit and bodyslam each other.
As long as they do, I will be there.