Even just a few years ago, no-one would have predicted what ICW has achieved recently. Coming off two hit documentaries, guest star roles all over Scottish television for Grado, highly successful tours around the UK and tickets already selling quickly for this year’s Fear and Loathing at the SECC, this return to the Garage has the feeling of a homecoming party. With a capacity of just 600 it feels strangely small now, but the intimacy and the banter between wrestlers and crowd is a lot of what has got ICW to where it is. These people are not wrestling fans. They’re ICW fans and that’s a big difference. Flawless Victory, indeed.
I’ve not been to a show for a couple of months so the talky at the beginning was actually kinda useful to me. Red Lightning, back in the company in a GM role, is pissed off that Mark Dallas over-ruled him and let Big Damo appear on the tour. As a result, Damo is barred from the building. I think this is what they call “telegraphing.” That’s fine though.
What’s not fine is that this means there will be no title match on the show tonight. Champion Drew Galloway is not happy about that. This is his last night in Scotland for a while and just like Ric Flair, he wants to wrestle every night and get fucked up afterwards. This brings out Mikey Whiplash (wearing a Grado shirt, in a rather surprising piece of cross-marketing) and Red isn’t sure about this since Whippy has a concussion amongst other injuries but eventually he gives it the thumbs up and we have a main event set.
We kick off the actual wrasslin’ with Grado who knows how to get the party started. Like A Prayer has everyone singing, clapping and dancing and it seems like the slight backlash that had been emerging towards him seems to have died down a bit. Grado (weighing in at “the total combined weight of the cast of the Divas show”) is now at a point where he’s so over that it doesn’t matter much where he is on the card or who he’s fighting. He’ll get his reactions and people will enjoy him even if – maybe especially if – he loses. It certainly isn’t hurting his media career any to be well away from any titles.
He’s facing BT Gunn, looking swank and evil in a long red leather coat and a Leatherface mask. Both guys look to be in terrific shape. What’s cool is that even though this should be straightforward – Gunn is a part of the deadliest heel faction the company has and Grado is essentially a comedy gimmick – but it’s a testament to everyone concerned that this was actually a pretty unpredictable match. Grado ducked out of some chops with a cry of “fuck that! They hurt!” Gunn caught him with a vicious chop to start working him over, Grado made a comeback and hit the Roll and Slice but got caught going for the Wee Boot and nailed with a Michinoku Driver. No-one’s getting up from that.
Next up is Lionheart versus the returning Darkside. Lionheart, of course, is on the comeback trail himself after his broken neck. I’m not quite sure why, but that story doesn’t seem to be playing particularly well with the fans, despite it being genuinely quite inspirational. Maybe after his temporary retirement shortly before the injury, his career has just been a bit too stop-start for too long and people are just not as connected as they were. Matches like this will help him work his way back up though. He’s certainly able to bump again including one very cool captured suplex spot. Darkside also likes to throw in lots of MMA stuff which he worked into this match much more fluidly than I’ve seen from him before. At one point Darkside even attempted a Styles Clash. Ironically, Lionheart followed his escape with a piledriver which clearly can’t hurt anyone’s neck.
The end of this match was utterly insane though, and is the kind of thing that a serious company just can’t allow to happen. Darkside came into the ring with a chain around his fist and something burning attached to it. After punching Lionheart, he took the chain off and flicked it so that a ball of flame flew into the crowd. That would be bad enough, but he then dropped it on the mat and tried to stamp it out, but it kept burning. So he picked it up and threw it, whereupon the chain got tangled round the middle rope and then landed out on the ramp. There was absolutely no need for a spot like that on a show like this and the fact that it was so dangerous makes it even worse. Fire and glass don’t work, folks. It’s exactly this kind of thing that ended up making ECW’s life much more difficult than it ever needed to be. Anyway, Darkside followed this idiocy up with a dragon sleeper for the win. A good match ruined by a really, really stupid stunt.
Oh shit! No-one expected Big Damo to show up tonight! He crushes Lionheart in much the same way as Unicron crushes planets. He announces that he’s putting everyone on notice that he can’t be kept out of the building or the title picture. No shit, dude. You’re, like, the size of a small planet.
Next up is Joe Hendry (with his brilliant new theme song “What If Joe Was One Of Us”) taking on Jack Jester. Hendry’s gimmick is great. He looks like the ultimate ‘80s white meat babyface but he’s a conceited twat. Before the match even kicks off, the crowd launches into a chorus of “we fell in love with Joe Hendry’s face” to the tune of “We Found Love” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris. Later, he holds Jester in a vertical suplex while conducting the crowd in a rendition of his softcore version of Jester’s entrance theme. Other singing highlights included the crowd singing “check the input terminal” when the live video feed on the wall disappeared. You’ll see it On Demand, I imagine. Just magnificently fun stuff. This is what I meant about this venue. I love this crowd.
Meanwhile, Jester is EXTREMELY popular. We can probably assume he’s out of the title picture for the time being, but he’s still maybe the most over guy on these shows. It’s going to be interesting to see how the company copes with increasing competition for the top spots. A guy like Jester needs to be back at the top soon. No doubt tombstoning and pinning Joe Hendry won’t do that cause any harm.
Now we come to the needlessly violent portion of the programme as Chris Renfrew takes on Dickie Divers in a chairs match. Renfrew has come a long way. While always a capable and at times highly entertaining wrestler, he was still sometimes regarded as being “just a shit Scottish Sandman.” He has reinvented himself as a seriously unhinged hate machine. With words like “hate” and “blood” and “pain” and “I am your God” written all over his torso and Mickey Knox sunglasses on his face, he really looks like someone quite disturbing. He’s clearly been in the gym as well. I do not feel confident for Dickie Divers.
Renfrew carries a green chair, reflecting his footballing allegiances, while Divers carries a pink one, reflecting his colourblindness. There’s not much point in going into all the spots here. Suffice to say there were some nasty smacks with chairs, then a barbed wire chair came into it and Renfrew ended up cut all over his back. Divers was a bit safer, having worn a vest for the match. Then a chair covered in thumbtacks appeared, which Renfrew DDTed Divers into. The finish saw Renfrew set up two chairs face to face for…well, we’ll never know as Divers caught him and turned him round into a tomakaze through the chairs for the win.
We’re just about to go to the interval when Liam Thomson appears. Nobody likes Liam Thomson. Nobody. Well, he is from Edinburgh. He has a problem with announcer Simon Cassidy smirking and laughing when people are giving him stick and then decides to level him for it. That’ll be your first half then.
When we come back, here’s the NAK. They’re calling out the Bucky Boys because the only NAK member the Buckies ever pinned was Divers and they want to put the whole thing to bed now they’ve got rid of him. Wee Man is happy to go for that and so we have a handicap match of Wolfgang vs. the Bucky Boys. Some people would look at Wolfie and say that’s not really a fair fight. This turned out to be far from fair though. After a bit of back and forth, things started to break down. Wolfgang attempted to kill Wee Man and Davey Boy made the save, but then Stevie Boy avoided a tag and a small, balaclava-wearing figure ran to the top rope to nail Davey with a flying Frankensteiner. The balaclava came off and – holy crap! It’s Kay Lee Ray! But does that mean… yes! Stevie Boy has turned and joined the NAK too! This is NOT a popular decision. You wouldn’t think people would still get so pissed off about a turn, but a lot of people are mad as hell at Stevie and KLR. Then again, there are plenty of NAK fans too who are delighted. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next. That’s one top tag team out of the picture and two new tremendous singles guys to fit into the mix. I can foresee something extremely violent and spectacular happening between Davey and Stevie at Fear and Loathing though.
Now we get a chance to catch our breaths as Red Lightning invites Polo Promotions to the ring for a chat. These guys are awesome! They have matching tracksuits, foam fingers and even a Coach. Who knew there even was a trade in John Tolos impersonators?
After a bit of talking, Red Lightning tells the gang that Mark Coffey must defend the tag titles alone tonight and if Jackie Polo interferes then he’ll be gone for 12 months. In a nice touch, he reminds Polo that that would mean no Barrowlands and no SECC. Coffey is going to face Martin Kirby (with a physique like a condom full of walnuts) and Kid Fite, accompanied by Jamie Kennedy and Sha Samuels. They are under the banner of “the 55.” Well fuck ‘em then.
The match is basic handicap match stuff, but finally we see that blood is thicker than water as Joe Coffey appears to help his brother out. A discus clothesline on Kirby gives Mark the opportunity he needs and he gets the duke. Is Joe joining Polo’s crew or was this just about his brother? Intriguing stuff that we can think about after both brothers get their heads kicked in by Samuels and co.
This is followed up by DCT, the International Sex Hero, trying to propose to his main squeeze, Viper. This actually looked really sweet for a bit…until Damo appeared. Fuck romance. Damo has people to crush under his mighty feet. This mild massacre brings Red Lightning back out and, fearing for his life and the security of Western Europe, he gives into Damo’s demand for his job back and the promise of a title match. For tonight though, he gets despatched to commentate.
Now here are Kenny Williams and Noam Dar fighting for the number one contendership for the Zero G title. The match is the typical fast-paced and ultra-crisp match you’d expect from these two, but with a wee bit of added ICW silliness. The highlight for me was a load of shenanigans with Kenny’s hoverboard vs. Noam’s lightsaber. I guess I don’t like proper wrestling any more. The ending was rather odd though. Red Lightning grabbed the mic and said that neither guy deserved to be number one contender and the match was a no-contest. This got the crowd singing “just keep wrestling” but Red sang back “that would be stupid” and that was that. An odd ending to a fun wee match, but at least we know now without doubt that Red Lightning is a complete dick.
And so to our main event. Drew Galloway looks like an absolute beast. Guys like Damo and Jester and Whiplash are pretty big men, but Galloway is just on another scale. There is a real sense of pride in Scotland that one of our guys is not only tall, ripped and handsome, looking like a real superstar, but is also a genuinely excellent wrestler who can comfortably work with anyone in the world and is now gathering silverware like Jose Mourinho on speed. Meanwhile, Mikey Whiplash is pretty much an adopted Glaswegian now and he has built up a reputation for being one of the best in the business both mechanically and psychologically over the last few years. This feels like a main event should feel.
The match is pretty much what you’d expect. Plenty of great mat wrestling to start out and show parity between the two guys, followed by a tour of the building. They end up behind the bar (as these matches so often do) before finally wending their way back to the ring. As good as Drew looks, he wrestles differently from he talks. His schtick at the start of the show was all very cool and laid back, but in the ring he’s much more aggressive and seemingly very angry. I’m not sure it chimes very effectively, but then maybe there’s some backstage promo or angle that’s going to sell that better on TV.
The match builds to a great climax. After teasing a big table spot for aaaaages, Drew finally catches Whippy on the top rope and slams him through a table on the outside. After a couple of really close false finishes, Whiplash gets to his knees and screams “FUCK YOU” but it’s too late. Drew kicks him in the face and knocks him out before dragging him to his feet and dropping him with the double-arm DDT for the win.
Damo now wants to get involved. There’s a beautiful moment where Drew drops the belt and Damo puts his foot on it. Drew cannot move the immoveable object and that causes him substantial displeasure, but Damo kicks him in the nuts and stands over him with the belt. He doesn’t take it with him, but you really feel like this big psycho hairy Irish destroyer of worlds could be the man to beat Galloway. There will be blood.
So that was ICW coming home again. The shows are still a tiny bit rough around the edges, but not so much that it feels unprofessional. It’s just real. They’ll need to have a think about pointless idiocy like the fire-chain, but otherwise this is a company that doesn’t seem able to do very much wrong. I can see at least two or three serious, credible threats to the champ in the coming months while the tag division is in for a big shake-up and the NAK are going to keep causing all manner of mayhem for the foreseeable future. Even a year or two ago I would have said that the style of the company might limit it and that a lot of the risks they take are unnecessary, but I guess that’s why I don’t run a wrestling company. What these guys and girls have built is a real institution in Glasgow now. They have some genuine mainstream celebrities as part of the show and even the city itself uses ICW in its marketing materials. I don’t know if the buzz is anything like the same on the other tour dates, but at home in the Garage, ICW can do no wrong.