ICW Barramania III
Arnold Furious: April 16 2017. What a weekend Easter was for British wrestling. On our gloomy little island(s) a virtual festival of pro-wrestling took place. Featuring some of the best professional wrestlers in the world. We had Rev Pro’s Epic Encounter, Fight Club Pro’s Dream Tag Team Invitational, OTT’s Scrappermania and IPW:UK’s Supershow 8. Plus Lucha Forever had their debut show on Monday. Almost lost in the mix was this show, presented by Scottish promotion Insane Championship Wrestling.
We’re in Glasgow at the Barrowland Ballroom. Hosts are the lovely Billy Kirkwood and William Grange. The latter is looking very casual. I wonder what his schoolboy persona from back in the day would think?
Zero G Championship Open Scramble
This is a slightly convoluted concept as the title can’t change hands during the match but you can score pinfalls and submissions. Whoever ‘wins’ these falls becomes the “interim” champion and whoever is the “interim” champ at the end of the match is the new champion. That’s not usually how “interim” championships work. Match concepts that need lengthy clarification are probably not worth attempting. TNA fans can attest to that. The champion going in is Kenny Williams. Challengers are Flash Morgan Webster, Charlie Sterling, Ravie Davie, Matt Cross and Zack Gibson. With all the participants lined up BT Gunn turns up to make it a seven-way dance. What kind of an asshole books seven people to be in a match? An absolute clusterf*ck. It’s like getting seven people on a podcast. They immediately attempt the Tower of Doom and Zack Gibson, scouse hero, breaks it up and hooks a chinlock. I must admit I laughed out loud at that. I’m shocked that Sterling is a babyface here, given his reputation as a complete cock in Ireland. You’d think that would translate well to Scotland. Ravie Davie wrestles in a hat and I think I might hate him. They soon get into the multiple pinfalls gimmick by having Sterling win a fall and Davie headbutt him to get a fall right afterwards and Flash hit a reverse rana on him for another pinfall. Immediately following that is a bizarre time warning of “nine and a half minutes remaining”. What’s next seven and a quarter? Four and seven quarters? The crack editing on this is hilarious. They completely miss a Flash dive but manage to capture Kenny Williams’ open-jawed reaction to it. A lot of spotfests are predicated on silly spots and near falls. This one is littered with pinfalls, which is somehow weird because there are people everywhere and yet there are hardly any multi-man spots. Instead they pair off and allow various different guys to get pinfall victories. As the camera pans around it reveals several guys sitting on the floor having a little chat about spots. The last minute sees BT Gunn putting Williams in the crossface, for an entire minute, and then he taps out just after the time runs out. So for an entire minute four other guys are doing what exactly? This was a mess. While at times the spots were good the booking just killed everything. The tension of the finish was lost because they attempted to drag it out for too long and everyone bar BT Gunn managed to score a fall in a fifteen minute match.
Final Rating: **
Tangent: A word on video quality. The picture frequently flickers and jumps, which is making this show a really tough watch and it’s 3h30m. I really hope it gets fixed. This effect eventually dissipated after the following tag match.
War Machine vs. Polo Promotions
War Machine are the current IWGP champs, having won those straps at Sakura Genesis. Production do a tremendous job of missing their entrance pose. Polo Promotions are a larger team than I realised, and they’re not intimidated by War Machine. This creates a weird dynamic though as War Machine’s matches work at their best when they’re demolishing people and I’m sure New Japan aren’t thrilled that ICW booked them to go 50-50 with Polo Promotions. The difference between the two teams comes from War Machine’s presence. They feel like a devastating unit. Polo Promotions feel like a generic tag team. I’m aware they’ve built a reputation in Scotland through tireless hard work but they bumped around like crazy for the Dudley Boyz, who they could have gotten over from thrashing. Check out War Machine vs. the London Riots for an example of how a team can get over huge by just surviving a War Machine beating. Making War Machine fallible causes them to struggle, outside of their comfort zone, and Hanson even botches by slipping on the ropes. When they give up on tagging the match turns into a War Machine special. A combination of power moves and unexpected agility. Fallout takes it and Polo Promotions take the L. This was the right outcome and ICW ended up using Polo Promotions to get over a new tag team. The match structure didn’t work for me, until the final third, but I can totally understand the attempt to preserve Polo Promotions as an entity.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Last Man Standing Match
Chris Renfrew vs. Stevie Boy
This is one of those matches that’s great for the live audience as they get to see the lads brawling up close and personal but on VOD all you can see is the back of heads and the odd chant. During this Renfrew hits a Stunner on a table, as if that somehow makes it more dangerous. That’s literally the only spot. Maybe he did it in an elevated position so more people could see? They certainly explore the space and Renfrew hits a dive off the main security barrier. The LMS gimmick allows them to hit big spots and then get a rest. The trouble with the LMS gimmick is that the crowd yell “TEN” with every count and it makes it impossible to tell if something tense is happening. When fans ruin matches! That “ten” business is awful. Can’t we just save that for Tye Dillinger matches? You’re taking tools away from the wrestlers and killing the storylines. This is not an ICW specific complaint either, it’s happening everywhere. Renfrew doesn’t care though because he doesn’t want to win the match, he wants to exact revenge. Renfrew ties Stevie’s hands behind his back, as Stevie Boy did to him, and executes him with Singapore cane shots. Unprotected shots to the head make me feel uncomfortable. If the kendo stick wasn’t bad enough Renfrew goes after a chair with thumbtacks glued to it. What sick f*ck sticks thumbtacks to a chair? They pull the ECW lights out gimmick and Mikey Whiplash is back! “Who keeps turning off the bloody lights”? asks Kirkwood. “What the hell does this all mean?” is another excellent question. With no opponent visible, with Renfrew having disappeared, Stevie Boy legs it. So I guess that’s a no finish? The crowd chant “what the f*ck is going on”, which is perhaps not the condition you want your audience to be in. Confused.
Final Rating: *
Sha Samuels vs. Kid Fite
I can think of very few promotions in the world who would go from a Last Man Standing into a Street Fight as they’re almost exactly the same stipulation. This starts in a parking garage somewhere and Sha does his best to nearly die as the car accelerates towards him. We then cut back to ringside as they pull the car chase gimmick like it’s WrestleMania 12 or some shit.
Final Rating: NR
Intergender Tag Team Match
DCT & Viper vs. Davey Blaze & Kay Lee Ray
Babyface yellow headband wearing Viper is a strange look. She’s gunning for the women’s title that KLR holds. “We’ll f*ck you up so bad you’ll think you’ve flown with United Airlines” – Wee Man. Mark Dallas turns up to give this match an outside enforcer; UFC fight Paul “Bear Jew” Craig. That would be a more impressive guest if Craig hadn’t just blotted his copybook at UFC 209 with a loss to Tyson Pedro but the MMA fans in the crowd enjoy the announcement. It’s quite sad to see how Kay Lee Ray gets booked in ICW. She’s the finest women’s wrestler in Europe and she’s reduced to weird comedy sex spots. KLR is actually great at Intergender matches but Viper seems to struggle and DCT too. The Wee Man interferes throughout, which renders the UFC guy pointless. He even jumps into the ring and chokes Viper with a bat. Another MMA guy strolls into the ring and low blows Paul Craig. Nobody knows who he is. The match is an absolute clusterf*ck. ICW continually attempt Attitude Era style booking and it keeps falling on its face. This didn’t even work with their hardcore fans. Wee Man, who Mark Dallas tried to neuter at the start, despite it being his promotion and he could just ban him from ringside, promptly interferes at the finish and the heels win. Good grief this match was a mess.
Final Rating: DUD
Post Match: Coach Trip runs in for the save! Why would you wait until after your guys lost to run in?
Video Control takes us back to Sha vs. Kid Fite and the feed cuts out with them brawling around somewhere.
“Barbed Wire Rope Match”
Jack Jester vs. Drew Galloway
This is Galloway’s farewell to ICW before going back to WWE. I’ve put barbwire rope in quotation marks because that’s what they call it but it’s actually a normal match where they’ve draped barbwire on the ropes, instead of replacing the ropes. Seeing as it takes them an age to set up this, it’s probably for the best they don’t go for no-ropes. Galloway takes a ballsy approach to costume; wearing his usual trunks and exposing a lot of skin. Barbwire matches have a very defined psychology, involving the avoidance of the barbs before an inevitable big spot and the bloodshed that follows. Jack Jester takes some sickening bumps and his arm is horribly cut. Let’s just say the barbwire is not gimmicked in any way. Galloway does a good job telling a story during the match. He’s not sure what to make of the barbwire and he alternates between being freaked out by the environment and wanting to end Jester. As if having barbwire all over the ropes isn’t enough they also utilise barbwire tables, bats and razorwire. They get into the overkill with Galloway hitting four (FOUR) Futureshock DDTs. Galloway then hits Jester in the head with a bat for the actual pin, having succeeded in a wrestling a barbwire match and not getting a single cut anywhere on his body. Jester bled for his art and the accidental cut on his arm near the start of the match was absolutely sickening. This is probably not how Drew Galloway wanted to go out, although he launches into a lengthy post-match promo putting over the promotion. This match was certainly a spectacle but it wasn’t good.
Final Rating: **1/2
Sha Samuels vs. Kid Fite
This street fight finally finds its way to Squared Circle Boulevard. It’s tough to follow on directly from the carnage of a barbwire match so Sha immediately hits a moonsault to the floor. They brawl for a bit and Sha gets the pin. Then he pulls out the beers and drinks with Kid Fite for some reason. This didn’t work at all. They tried to make it seem epic by showing them brawling backstage but it was for seconds at a time and they barely did anything in this match. Smoke and mirrors, baby.
Final Rating: ½*
Lionheart vs. Joe Hendry
They don’t do much here either with Lionheart getting disqualified in a few minutes for kicking Joe in the head while he’s on the canvas. I have no earthly idea what they were going for here but the crowd response is minimal and the storyline is that EMT’s rush in immediately with commentary saying Lionheart will be suspended. This was a total misfire that never had the chance to get going.
Final Rating: DUD
Wolfgang vs. Grado
Poor Grado having his Madonna entrance muted takes all the heat out of his act. Grado starts hard and fast, running through his spots and nearly beating Wolfgang inside a minute. It feels like he’s gotten his mojo back, which has been AWOL since his Fear & Loathing main event. Could it be that Wolfgang is the super worker who’s gotten him reenergised? For all the bashing I did of Wolfie when he was ICW champion, he’s been seriously good during 2017 so far. The match is coming along nicely until Grado gets into an argument with the referee over a near fall, which makes no sense, and Wolfgang pulls out the brass knuckles for the shortcut win. This was a tidy little sprint but like a few matches on this card it was over before they got into the meat of the match.
Final Rating: **3/4
Post-match: Grado announces he’s got a “bit of bad news for ICW” while claiming WWE are “ruining British wrestling”. Yeah, the scene stinks. Grado then kicks Sha Samuels, who’s come out for support, in the balls and turns heel. Grado announces he sports and entertainments agent to be… Red Lightning. Well this is certainly some left field booking. Some might say Russoesque?
ICW Tag Team Championship
The Marauders (c) vs. Rampage Brown & Ashton Smith
The Marauders are Mike Bird and Wild Boar. They have Iestyn Rees in their corner too but he’s ejected immediately for interfering, the idiot. Rampage & Ashton teamed on ITV’s World of Sport and nobody else seemed to be cashing in on that so ICW have stepped up to the plate. Bird & Boar work that patented tag team formula, making sure the contest makes good logical sense. Also, Rampage is a great hot tag. It makes you wonder why he’s not been paired up with more small young guys. Ashton and Boar have a few timing issues but otherwise the match is well put together with the exception of Iestyn Rees, who cocks up his interference and then runs back out and just stands in the ring. What are you doing referee? He’s in the ring! Marauders retain with double teams and this was perfectly fine, apart from the booking.
Final Rating: ***
ICW World Heavyweight Championship
Trent Seven (c) vs. Joe Coffey
This was set up by Joe winning Square Go, which was a great show by the way, just in case you think I hate everything this company produces. Trent has defended the title nine times since winning it at Square Go. He has been a fighting champion and no mistake. The issue now is that he’s perhaps more fatigued and weakened than at any point previously and he’s facing the focused and driven Coffey. Both guys are faces, arguably the one and two babyfaces in the company, and both have their own fans. There’s still a significant amount of time on the show, over thirty minutes, so they take it easy and begin to build. Commentary, which has been a highlight, goes slightly off the rails here by saying it’ll either be a “long match or a short affair”. Top analysis lads. To be fair, if I had to sit through this show and justify why things were happening my brain wouldn’t be working properly either. Both these guys are good at slowly building matches and including big spots as part of that. Like Coffey diving over the rail and Trent getting in his standard chop to the ring post. When they get into slugging it out in the middle of the ring it starts to earn its spot as the main event. It becomes a war from there, including a Joe German suplex on the ramp and the only thing that hurts the match is the lack of interest from the crowd. It’s only when Coffey does an awful Superman Punch, which is frankly an embarrassment, that the crowd wake up. Trent responds with a Pedigree, which has me in bits. It’s all about WWE! Joe turns to the dark side, by using the title belt, which means nothing because there are no DQ’s in this company. Coffey attempts some sort of head drop, which doesn’t work at all, and straps on the Boston crab. Trent taps and Joe wins the title, although he blatantly cheated to do so. The work was mostly good here, apart from some of Joe Coffey’s bizarre decisions, but the booking, in what should have been a fine babyface match, was irritating.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post-match: Red Lightning offers Joe Coffey a spot in his new stable. They almost botch the turn and Joe lariats Mark Dallas to join the new Lightning stable. Why would you turn Joe after he won the title? At least he used the belt towards the finish but people were still cheering him on for the most part. Turn him so he wins. Then Trent is an even bigger babyface, instead of having his star power diminished in losing and then Joe turning. I assume there’s a long term plan but the booking disappointed me all show long. Especially after the turn in direction with Square Go and the solid championship roster.
Summary: A disappointing night for ICW. The in-ring was poor, for the most part, and even when it was good the booking overwhelmed the matches. Nothing had the chance to breath and the constant hand of the pencil lingered over everything, like that of an impatient child. I’ll be interested to see where the new Red Lightning angle goes but even that feels like a re-hash of the story that finished at Fear & Loathing over ownership. Now instead of ownership, Lightning has the new champion in his back pocket. The problem with ICW is they focus too much on storytelling, whereas most other UK promotions tend to focus too much on in-ring quality. Square Go was such a fantastic mixture of ICW booking and in-ring quality. I was hoping that would continue but this show is exhibit A that ICW have slipped back into old habits.