Two men wrestle in a ring full of smelt (whitebait) during the Smelt Carnival in Marinette, Wisconsin, in 1939. via Wisconsin Historical Society
Hoodslam — a popular spectacle that is staged monthly in Oakland, California — is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “part wrestling show, part carnival act and all comedy.”
The foul-mouthed, adult-humored extravaganza is raunchy and rollicking as wrestlers “battle” each other while occasionally wielding strange weapons or tossing powder in faces.
This is wrestling meets video game meets heavy metal nightmare.
The event’s founder, Sam Khandaghabadi (pictured) who appears in the combat ring as the Dark Sheik — tells the newspaper: “We aren’t trying to be pro wrestling. We are performance art.”
Truth is, a lot of wrestling — professional, semipro and exhibition — in America has been performance art for a long, long time.
Those Crazy Americans
Pinning down some of the strange goings-on in American wrestling history can be a bit slippery.
After all, what is real and what is fake — or kayfabe, in wrestling lingo — is often up for grabs. And for body slams. And for chokeholds.
“Gimmicks of some sort have been part of professional wrestling since the late 19th century,” says Scott Beekman, a history professor at the University of Rio Grande and author of Ringside: A History of Professional Wrestling in America.
During the Great Depression, impresarios struggled to come up with bigger and better bizarrities to attract paying audiences.
“Wrestling promoters turned to novelty matches as part of their attempts to keep the doors open,” he says.
Which led to matches involving women and diminutive people. “Comedy elements and wrestling in substances developed during that period.”
While doing historical research, Scott uncovered wrestling matches staged in a gamut of grotty substances, such as iron shavings, coal, banana peels and margaritas.