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Soft ground wrestling embodies Ugandans’ love for pro wrestling

The ring is made of improvised bamboo sticks and mattresses

The ring is made of improvised bamboo sticks and mattresses

In recent times, international and local media have been buzzing with the rise to stardom of a local wrestling profession known to fans of professional wrestling in Uganda as Soft Ground Wrestling, or Ekigwo kya Bumbash.

The wrestlers practice and perform World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) moves such as frog splash, super kicks, power slam, superman’s punch, chock slam, German suplex, RKO the spear, the F5 and curb stomp used by WWE superstars like Roman Reigns, Seth Freakin Rollins, Jey Uso, Shawn Michael’s Undertaker, Randy Orton and Broke Lesnar.

Located in Mukono district on Kirangira village, the Soft Ground Wrestling academy takes on the look of indie backyard wrestling promotions that are common in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe. With over 180 pro wrestling students – 30 of them girls – the wrestling academy does not have fancy ring gear like turnbuckles, ring barricades ... instead, members use makeshift equipment like bamboo cushioned with mattresses to represent the squared circles turnbuckle meshed with nylon ropes to represent the ring ropes, and some improvised soft ground where the wrestlers land – represents the iconic WWE ring.

A typical day at the Soft Ground Wrestling academy begins with breakfast, which comprises a cup of porridge and slices of bread, before they start preparations for training.

The training wrestlers typically undergo includes running over 50 laps to get their cardiovascular conditioning in shape in preparation for the tenuous in-ring work, weight lifting to get their bodies in top shape and help wrestlers build strength when delivering power moves, and squats while carrying colleagues in a fireman’s carry to build their core strength.

After the routine exercise, they have a classic wrestling match to test out their skills and proficiency. The match we witnessed featured Keith Jordan Loverine, who took on Kapeka in a wrestling match, with clips from that match uploaded on X (formerly Twitter) garnering more than 4.6 million views.

Some comments on X tagged Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns due to the identical finishers used in the match where Loverine delivered a modified double underhook face buster to Kapeka as he was going for the spear, which made people comment about the similarities with Money In The Bank 2016, when Seth Rollins used the same move on Roman Reigns.

According to Arthur Asiimwe, one of the co-founders of the Soft Ground Wrestling, “The concept is using pro wrestling moves to tackle the opponent and pin them for three counts. This kind of wrestling is scriptless.”

According to Asiimwe, the Soft Ground Wrestling academy has matches which include singles, the Jungle match where a wrestler has to climb a eucalyptus tree to get the championship belt, fatal four-way matches, tag team matches, mud matches, triple threat matches and royal rumble style matches.

Nakoba Bridget, who goes by the ring name Soft Ground Musawo, got to know about the interesting sport through watching Tagy TV and she started wrestling due to her love for WWE superstar (former AEW star) Jade Cargill “due to her athletics and strength”.

Nakoba hopes to wrestle on the grandest wrestling stage in the world, which is WWE’s WrestleMania. Nuwamanya Bubwa alias Kapeka aspires to wrestle like the current WWE undisputed champion Roman Reigns.

Kapeka joined the Soft Ground Wrestling academy as a way to find his livelihood since he is an orphan, and not educated. Wrestling is the only thing he knows and he believes it can lead him to greater heights.

BACKGROUND

Daniel Bumba, 35, a professional quantity surveyor, who also doubles as a wrestling VJ at Tagy TV, is the proprietor of Soft Ground Wrestling. His love for wrestling began during his childhood when like many youngsters, he used to watch wrestling on TV.

Bumba says his love for wrestling started in the year 1995 and grew due to his admiration for wrestlers like the ‘rattle snake’ Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bruno Samara Tino, Hulk Hogan, Booker T, Vince McMahon and Randy Savage. Bumba says this love for the sport led him to practice the wrestling moves he saw on TV, much to the chagrin of his mother who viewed wrestling as dangerous.

A wrestling match at the Soft Ground Wrestling academy
A wrestling match at the Soft Ground Wrestling academy

Bumba, who became one of the best wrestling VJs, started out on Believe TV, and had a dream of one day becoming world- famous like Michael Cole, Brian Saxton, PatMcafee and Wade Barrett.

“At one point I believed I would be the president of the Uganda Wrestling Federation, but you know, that is dreaming,” Bumba said.

Bumba decided after the end of Covid-19 pandemic to start up his own wrestling promotion called Soft Ground Wrestling. He rented four acres in Mukono – Kirangira, for his wrestling dream to finally set sail. He was paying 300 dollars ( Shs 1m) a month for rent. Bumba says he started with two students, Kapeka and Jordan, who joined on March 16, 2023.

“Currently the academy has over 180 students, with each paying Shs 150,000 to get the professional wrestling training.”

The wrestling academy students
The wrestling academy students

Bumba currently trains the students of his wrestling academy in the different moves they perform and this is due to his experience gained following the WWE, which has enabled him learn the right way in delivering the professional wrestling moves, and how one should land on the soft ground to avoid injuries.

Bumba also teaches his students not to hurt others but, rather, execute the different wrestling moves in a professional manner. Bumba pointed out that so far through a go-fund-me campaign, the Soft Ground wrestling academy was able to get over $10,000 (Shs 38m) which enabled the academy to get the much-needed piece of land where the current offices of the Wrestling academy stand.

The academy also gets support from well-wishers who donate generously to support their activities. Bumba said the academy still faces problems like inadequate food to feed students, ring gear like knee and elbow pads, gym equipment, medication and proper beddings.

Bumba remembers how he initially had problems with government and internal security services, who thought he was training rebels, but he was able to convince the authorities of the legality of the activities at his academy.

Students at his academy earn Shs 500,000 every time they organise wrestling events, a motivation for them to take what Bumba teaches seriously. Looking at future prospects, is is Bumba’s dream now that one day some of his students are taken up by big wrestling promotions like World Wrestling Entertainment, New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling (AEW), Ring of Honour and TNA.

“When you are able to convey a true sense of conviction and enthusiasm, you break through scepticism. I believe with the faith I have in God Almighty, I will reach my goals; I will achieve my goals as long as people support me,” Bumba said.

SAFETY

Wrestling in general looks dangerous, because of how well the athletes have mastered their craft to believable levels. Bumba said in his wrestling school, the only people allowed to hold matches are those who have mastered the locks, grappling techniques and finishers well, and this is due to the fact that with wrestling, the professionalism displayed by an athlete is what keeps the wrestlers safe.

Bumba’s acknowledges that so far, the students at his wrestling academy have only experienced simple fractures, sprains and strains, which are treatable. No student has walked away with a concussion. Bumba next plan is to enlist with medical insurance companies, so as to be on an even safer side.

He highlights with pride the support his academy has received from the crème de la crème of the wrestling world such as Will Ospreay, a wrestler with AEW promotion, who donated more than $ 2500, and Jordan Grace, who donated $ 1,000 dollars to support the academy.

“I love how wrestling can change lives and inspire people. I really hope all of these guys and girls have all the success and follow their dreams. One day I want to come to Uganda and wrestle the best they got,” Will Ospreay posted while commenting about the impact of Soft Ground Wresting on his X account (@WillOspreay).

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