San Jose's Underground Wrestling Alliance Kicks Open the Doors at the Ritz

Twenty-five years ago, on the East Side Drive in San Jose, Anthony Trebino and his friend Jose Portillo moved from a 60-minute iron man match at WrestleMania XII to “Hitman” Bret Hart and “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. I remembered and started copying. ..

Soon, they improvised each other’s movements and copied others from the television. Friends joined them after school and hosted their own makeshift wrestling matches in the front yard of their neighbors until they were driven away by adults. After finding a friendly backyard, practice continued, expanded and named: Underground Wrestling Alliance.

This weekend, UGWA will begin the resurgence of downtown venue / bar The Ritz at an event featuring many of Bay’s up-and-coming wrestling talents. It’s a big night for a messy group who rarely left the backyard.

“We were like leprosy,” says Trevino, head of UGWA. “At that time, the backyard wrestling partnership was a sign of the wrestler’s death.”

Aside from (sometimes valid) concerns about the safety of efforts, backyard wrestling was considered to be a stepping stone to the existing professional wrestling industry at the time.

“So many gatekeepers dreamed of trying to squeeze money out of their kids and kept things in Super Kearney,” says Trebino, citing the origins of wrestling as a carnival entertainment.

With the advent of YouTube and MySpace, everything has begun to change. In the era of Web 2.0, backyard promotions became a cult hit, and wrestlers with a “gardener” background, such as CM Punk and Seth Rollins, began to rush into the mainstream.

In the 2010s, UGWA realized that it was among its peers as other indie promoters across the country began using improved streaming technology to reach new viewers. Nationwide, Game Changer Wrestling, a “hardcore” promotion with punk rock aesthetics tied to the backyard scene, has created an underground sensation.

During this time, Hoodslam also appeared in East Bay, sharpening Bay Area’s unique performance / sports hybrid take by accepting hip-hop and bigger characters, like Hyphy’s Looney Tunes Drugz. Bunny, one-legged hip-hop harry, zombie-like nurse ratchet.

And with the new guards, a new generation of Badas Black, Brown, Queer, and female wrestlers have gained equal time and respect. These days, most wrestlers in the Bay Area scene are of color. Various queer identities are represented. The days when the women’s division was just an Ogling side show are over. Women now always beat men in men’s and women’s matches.

“Now things are much more comprehensive for people in all disciplines. It’s punk in the best possible way,” says Trevino.

More recently, when UGWA was on hold during a pandemic, two Bay Area wrestling stars, Shozzie Blackhart and Wilhobs, gained national attention at WWE and AEW, respectively, and were finally overlooked criminally in the Bay. I shed light on the wrestling scene that had been seen.

UGWA went live in the second quarter and is still happy to wave the flag of the new generation of freaky Bay Area Grapplers. Trebino (now known as Bosman Slash) hosted a backyard-style show on the LVL UP patio and introduced SF drag queen Polo del Mar as UGWA’s new executive vice president.

“She’s an MGS EVP,” says Bosman, referring to one of UGWA’s largest LGBT fan-based favorite chants, “More Gay Shit.”

And 18 months later, UGWA riskes the show and returns to Ritz’s home. Giant Juicy Finau creates a tour sensation, Matthew Justice, San Jose champion Titus Alexander defends his title against LGBT wrestling icons and the founder of Hood Slam Dark Shake, and the long-awaited for Bay Area fans The match finally unfolds: UGWA’s favorite son, Dave Dutra, takes on the legendary Superbeast of NorCal wrestling.

After all, the basement stays here.

UGWA: Return of Ritz
Sunday, 5 pm, $ 25
Ritz, San Jose
Find your ticket here

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