ICW Fear and Loathing VIII
Arnold Furious: 15th November 2015. ICW is the UK’s most successful promotion. You may not even have heard of it but they have the loyalist following and draw the largest, most energetic crowds in the UK. Considering it’s an exciting regional promotion that draws buzz from elsewhere and successfully tours the UK, it’s sort of comparable to ECW. It’s the little company that grew into something bigger. They don’t take themselves very seriously and name shows after Wayne’s World, Simpsons episodes and an assortment of other pop culture stuff. Here’s a few show names for your amusement: Smells Like Teen Spirit, What’s Your Boggle?, Up and Atom, The Goggles They Do Nothing, Dazed and Confused, Hadouken!, Tramspotting, Get To Da Choppa and Stop! He’s Already Dead!
Fear and Loathing, appealing to all the Hunter S. Thompson/wrestling fans out there (of which I am one), their 2006 debut show was the first Fear and Loathing. The attendance? 73. That’s not a typo. 73. It was headlined by Drew Galloway winning the ICW Championship. This was a fresh faced Drew Galloway, prior to his WWE run. Another Fear and Loathing show didn’t come around until 2009. The line-up on that card shows where the promotion went and it was populated almost entirely of local Scottish talent like Darkside (James Scott), Chris Renfrew, Kid Fite, William Grange and Liam Thomson.
By 2010 ICW was running more regularly and including the odd UK Indie talent like Noam Dar. The attendance on these shows was still in the early 100’s and the 2011 version of Fear and Loathing drew a crowd of 250. As the promotion ran more frequently they attracted more attention and were able to improve their ongoing storylines. Fear and Loathing 5, in 2012, took place in The Classic Grand. A slightly bigger venue than Apollo 23, which hosted F&L4.
It was during 2013 that the group started to attract some real attention for what they were doing and Fear and Loathing VI “Welcome to Bat Country” featured the Sumerian Death Squad and also Jack Jester winning the ICW title from Mikey Whiplash. It showed how well they’d built up the local talent that Rhino, former ECW champion, found himself in a midcard triple threat match with Jimmy Havoc and James Scott. He didn’t even win. Fear and Loathing VII, just over a year before this show saw ICW sell 1,600 tickets to see Drew Galloway reclaim his ICW title by defeating incumbent champion Jack Jester. The promotion’s home grown, local talent included Grado, Joe Coffey, Jackie Polo, BT Gunn and Kenny Williams. Kay Lee Ray, who was on that card, has since made her NXT debut. This is a promotion that’s still expanding and finding an audience. They’ve been grinding away for nine years at Glasgow but they’ve now got a product that a huge amount of Scottish wrestling fans want to see.
Just how big are ICW now? Well, before this show they ran a tour of the UK, like a Japanese promotion tours, taking in Dundee, Newcastle, Southampton, London, Liverpool, Norwich, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham. That’s a bigger tour than the WWE do.
We’re in Glasgow, Scotland at the SECC. Attendance for this is around 4,000. That’s four thousand people for a UK Indie show sold on two Scotsmen wrestling each other in the main event. It’s frankly astonishing but this is how you build a wrestling business. You work hard, you start small and build up to this. Let’s see how they do. As a venue comparison the twice-the-size Hydro, across the road, hosted 50 Cent recently and drew 4,500. ICW is in a pretty big ball park. Another comparison is TNA, usually seen as a global number two (or three, after New Japan), who drew 1,500 their last time out in Glasgow. That’s not even a bad crowd, it’s just another number to reinforce how strong this ICW one is. Hosts are Billy “F*ck*ng” Kirkwood and William “Friggin” Grange. Nice to see young William can smarten himself up a bit. Good lad.
The venue is packed and it’s a sea of Scots. It’s amazing. To kick the show off out comes Mark Dallas, ICW owner and “Kingpin”. It’s fair to say he’s a babyface messiah, not unlike Paul Heyman in front of his ECW throng. “We’ve even got a Titantron. We call it the Big Telly”. Dallas has a big reveal for Fear and Loathing IX in 2016: it’ll be at the Hydro! That’s a building that holds some 11,000 people. GM Red Lightning comes out to protest his suspension (which he’s under for abuse of power, namely siding with Black Label buddy and champion Drew Galloway), which in turn brings out temporary ICW Commissioner, and greatest WWE Commissioner of all time, Mick Foley. He’s been appointed figurehead due to Red’s suspension. How did ICW get Mick Foley involved? It’s due to Billy Kirkwood, who’s Mick’s opening act on the UK tours and show runner for his stand-up gigs. Red runs off to leave Foley to talk. “What the f*ck is going on out here?” says Mick. That’s just about perfect. He does a great job of putting over how insane the attendance is and how it sold out a month beforehand.
ICW Zero-G Championship
Stevie Boy (c) vs. Davey Boy
These chaps used to be tag partners and indeed tag champs until Stevie Boy turned heel to go after solo gold. Davey’s sidekick/cousin the Wee Man introduces Davey as Mr SECC because, wait for it, he’s a “sexually enormous conquering cunt”. The crowd is electric. There’s always a worry when you start to expand that you lose the atmosphere a wee bit. That’s just not the case here. It helps that both guys go hell for leather from the opening moments and manage to break the guardrail off the ramp. My first thoughts on the commentary are that it’s fun, different and Billy Kirkwood absolutely nails his role. William Grange brings the former wrestler analysis. It’s a solid pairing. The match is more about the storyline than anything with Davey out for revenge and both guys knowing what the other will do before they do it. The work is a bit loose but they cover for it ok by working hard. You’d think two guys this familiar with each other would have a great match worked out but often tag partners colliding doesn’t work out like that. They have ridiculous near falls with Davey kicking out of the Canadian Destroyer, named the Devil’s Halo by the champ. I’ve said this before, but that’s a finish. You can’t go around kicking out of that unless you’ve got something far more insane as the finish. As it turns out Davey wins with the Canadian Destroyer. This was rough around the edges, carried by storyline and atmosphere. There was a nasty spot in the match, excommunicated from the On Demand stream, where Stevie took a nasty bump and hurled. That might explain some of the roughness around the edges during this one.
Final Rating: **
Joe Hendry, Kenny Williams & Noam Dar vs. Doug Williams, Liam Thomson & Lionheart
Kenny Williams’ Back to the Future entrance is wonderful and he comes out dressed like Marty McFly in Back to the Future III. “You know how hard it is to get a train up to 88 miles per hour?” quizzes Grange, suggesting Williams just came back home from 1885. Hendry, local hero, makes his entrance in a “Hendry Ball”. Combined with his ridiculous entrance music, personalised for the evening, it makes two killer back-to-back entrances. Doug and company play heels to the flamboyance across the ring. They’re the no-nonsense grapplers. The faces have fun and do dives and complicated submissions to keep themselves amused. Like most multi-man matches it breaks down and they get a bunch of spots in there. With everyone wiped out Jimmy Havoc turns up, reveals an ICW shirt and clears out the heels. It’s some odd booking as the faces weren’t in any real trouble when Havoc ‘saved’ them. Kenny pins Lionheart in the midst of all this craziness and that’s the match. This was fun but it was a mess. The heels try to take over the ring but Liam Thomson’s former fiancé Carmel Jacob takes him out with a chair shot. The Scot Squad, a British version of Reno 911, drag Lionheart out of here to good measure. Top sportz entertainment. Carmel challenges Thomson to a singles match. “You would have made a shyte husband anyway”.
Final Rating: **1/4
ICW Women’s Championship
Nikki Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray vs. Viper
This is a brand new belt so the championship is vacant. Grange has become more comfortable by this point and his personality comes across in spades. First proclaiming that Nikki Storm’s music makes him want to dance before pointing out Storm’s second Sammi Jayne handed in her dissertation in “Nikkinomics”. This was originally booked as Storm vs. Ray but Mick Foley turns up to turn it into a three-way. The reasoning being that Kay Lee Ray’s win over her was unfair. Boo hoo. Viper is a bit like Vader if Leon White was a girl. Despite the presence of Foley and a surprise third entrant the crowd is actually very quiet for the first time tonight. Given how the bar has been raised by the ladies over in NXT, of which Kay Lee Ray is one now, it’s not easy to live up to women’s wrestling hype. They opt to stick with some tried and tested three-way spots, utilising Viper’s power. Of the three, Ray stands out as the better worker. Her stuff is smoother and her timing is superior. Storm isn’t far behind. I’m not sure I agree with Foley’s insertion of Viper in the match as Ray vs. Storm feels better as a singles match. Most of Viper’s best spots involve Kay Lee Ray sacrificing herself. She controls the flow of the match and Viper picks up the win courtesy of Ray virtually throwing herself off the top rope. Good performances from Ray and Storm. Decent enough from Viper, although she tried too hard and didn’t stick to her strengths. The rumour has it that Nikki Storm is heading to NXT, as she’s already had a try-out, and Kay Lee Ray might be going full time so ICW had to put the belt on someone who’s definitely staying put. Makes sense. Shame though. Storm vs. Ray could have torn the house (or is it hoose?) down.
Final Rating: **1/2
Rhino vs. Joe Coffey
Joe Coffey is a Conscience trainee, who started out in SWA. He still wrestles for both but works more for ICW nowadays. The fans love him too, getting into his Iron Man gimmick. Rhino is here to play spoiler and act like a veteran dick, like Doug Williams and company in the earlier six-man tag. This is Rhino’s fourth ICW match and he’s been used as enhancement, to get over the locals, every time. That’s part of the beauty of ICW though. They get their own guys over and give them an opportunity to shine. There’s nothing worse than watching four Indie promotions who all book the same guys. So you get Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Jimmy Havoc etc, on every show you watch. I know the British talent pool is quite shallow but ICW are brave and different. The match sees a lot of clubbering and again the crowd goes a little quiet after the entrances. It’s almost like an Attitude crowd at times. They do get into the action when it starts to hot up. The sight of Joe Coffey throwing an effortless German suplex get the juices flowing. Feeding off the ECW vibe the match, and indeed show, has had to this point they pull out a table and Rhino hits a GORE! through it. Rhino’s mouth agape reaction to Coffey kicking out is sensational. He does a solid job of putting over Coffey’s power and resilience. Coffey finishes with a pair of discus lariats. This was a solid old slobberknocker. The crowd singing along to Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” creates a great atmosphere.
Final Rating: ***
ICW Tag Team Championship
Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey) (c) vs. The 55 (Kid Fite & Sha Samuels)
The challengers are part of a larger stable, managed by James R. Kennedy. They also have Timm Wylie out here for numbers but the champions are no dummies and bring DCT and Coach Trip with them only for them to be ejected almost immediately for interfering. Mark is Joe’s brother, in case you were wondering about the name similarities. Polo is an interesting study for his name alone. He looks a bit like Scott Levy, the man best known as Raven, so it could be a tribute to his Johnny Polo gimmick. But the name is also far too similar to Jackie Pallo to be a coincidence. Pallo being one of the more famous British grapplers in the history of the business. As far as tag matches go, this one is strictly by the numbers. The crowd catch on to just about everything though from Polo’s “Scoop Slam City” obsession with scoop slams to Sha’s resemblance to a rotund Eric Cantona. The challengers threaten some shenanigans and try a few tricky cheating bits but fall to the assisted German suplex. This was more about the characters than the action but Mark Coffey looked good.
Final Rating: **1/4
Six Man Steel Cage Match
Legion (Michael Dante, Tommy End & Mikey Whiplash) vs. The New Age Kliq (Wolfgang, Chris Renfrew & BT Gunn)
This feud has been going on for a year going back to NAK vs. Sumerian Death Squad and Whiplash from last year’s Fear and Loathing. You can only win via escape and if you do escape, you can’t come back in. Every man from one team has to escape to get the duke. Legion manage an entrance almost as creepy as the Undertaker does, flanked by masked men. The smartest thing they do here is abandoning any pretence of a tag team match and tagging, which makes no sense in cage matches. Instead they focus on brawling and double team spots. It reminds me of WCW’s War Games matches. They clearly aim to steal the show with insane high spots, like Wolfgang (the big man on his team) attempting a senton off the top of the cage. This leads to the Legion throwing him out of the door. Wolfgang has ‘escaped’ and is out of the match. What that does is leave NAK at a man disadvantage. Wolfgang drags Dante out to level it up as a regular tag team match. When Tommy End escapes it leaves Wolfgang battling the Sumerian Death Squad on the floor to give his ‘brothers’ the chance to compete in the ring. The New Age Kliq should win as Whiplash is left incapacitated and they both climb out but BT Gunn mysteriously climbs back in. Renfrew escapes so it’s Gunn vs. Whiplash. The end of the match sees the action slow up as they prepare for an enormous final spot, with SDS stacking tables for a spot off the top of the cage. Billy Kirkwood abandoning the announce spot is almost on a par with Jim Ross’ “he’s busted in half” call. “Get the f*ck back!” They spend a while teasing before they simultaneously fall through a nest of tables. Whiplash lands cleanly but BT Gunn takes a horrible bump. The no finish is underwhelming so Whiplash orders BT Gunn to come back to the ring to finish it properly. “Kill me!” yells Whiplash and BT elbows Chris Renfrew out of his way.
It’s on, again! Sudden death pinfall rules apply. Gunn lays Whiplash out with the Bloodline superkick and gets the pin. That’s the definitive conclusion. The New Age Kliq get the win and end the madness. The big spots paid off well and the brawling worked. Not sure the planning of the big spots was correct, with the tables being set up really late with both guys already on top of the cage, but in terms of guts it was suitably manly.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Big Damo vs. Jack Jester
The whole build for Fear and Loathing VIII has seen a lot of feuds heading towards conclusion on this show. Which is right but it does create one intense match after another and it’s hard to get invested when the last match was an angry blood feud and then this is another angry blood feud, only with slightly less anger attached. Jester is representing the Black Label, who’ve been messing with Damo for months and prevented him capturing the ICW title. Jester, facing off against an angry Irish beast, has to take a few shortcuts and starts by hurling a chair at Damo. Jester soon discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew and whatever violent ideas are formulating in his Scottish noggin are soon crushed by Damo’s size and power advantage. The one thing that does pay off is Jester hitting an impression Tombstone when Damo heads up top trying for the coast to coast. He also takes to using a chair instead of his hands as Damo completely no sells any strikes. Jester gets to show a bit of fight before being crushed by the Emerald Isle Skateboard (Damo’s standing on opponent senton, normally called the Belfast Bomb/Drop, only with an added chair). This was solid enough action and I liked Jester’s assorted attempts to overcome Damo. It showed he came in with a few tactics only for Damo to overcome everything and turn the chair gimmick against Jack.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control heads backstage for Chris Renfrew to rant about how the New Age Kliq built this house. He’s another potential contender, along with Damo, for whoever wins the main event tonight. From there we get a video hyping Grado and the atmosphere is electric. “I might be chubby, I might be slow as f*ck but I’ve got heart”.
Drew Galloway (c) vs. Grado
Some wonderful storytelling coming into this. You’ve got Galloway as the ultimate champion. The former WWE superstar and unbeatable monster wrestler. Not only that but he was the first ICW champion, going back nine years. Grado is the ultimate babyface. One of the fans own. The boy who done good in spite of his natural disadvantages. He said himself, he’s all heart. It’s a pity Madonna won’t give him a chance to use “Like a Prayer” as his entrance music, which he does anyway but it’s muted On Demand, as it sets the mood so perfectly for a Grado match. In order to properly watch this I had “Like a Prayer” playing but you lose the chanting and excitement of the live audience. Galloway gets his own entrance music sung live, which is pretty cool. In a supremely nice touch Galloway is wearing his old gear, from 2006, the same gear he had when he won the ICW title the first time. Billy Kirkwood has been winning me over all night but when the senior referee is introduced and Kirkwood yells “wanker” that’s the point where Billy is heading in to my year end awards as best announcer. Grado weighs in at “who gives a f*ck?” This is extremely endearing.
I love that Galloway dominates the early going, as he’s a far superior physical specimen. It intensifies Grado’s comebacks and the challenger brings his A Game with flying rana’s and dives off the apron. For a chubby comedy guy he’s bringing everything. R-GRA-DO! “Out of nowhere” chants the crowd. I knew the crowd would be good and I knew the atmosphere would work but I didn’t expect the sheer levels of effort from Grado and Galloway. They know they’re the main event and they have to deliver to the biggest UK crowd since the 80s. Grado is prepared to give everything, taking a massive shellacking from the monstrous Galloway. You can see Galloway’s power slowly eroding Grado’s ambition. To the point where Grado’s moves come out of desperation and self-preservation. Galloway shows tremendous timing throughout. Eager to give Grado enough so the crowd stay in it and yet remain a dominant force. He’s grown as a worker since 2006 and indeed since his WWE run. Grado meanwhile channels Tomoaki Honma and almost all his spots are timed like Honma’s. You could claim they have a lot in common. Spiritual brothers.
Galloway ends up becoming frustrated and hitting all manner of spots in an attempt to finish Grado off. When nothing works he knocks out the ref, Red Lightning tries to interfere and Mick Foley runs down to earn his pay. Mr Socko for Jack Jester! Mick looks increasingly like Santa, seeing as his beard has started to turn grey. Drew tries to finish it with a chair shot but Grado gives him the Wee Boot and Mark Dallas runs in to count the pin, reminiscent of Paul Heyman counting John Cena down at the ECW show One Night Only WWE ran in 2005. The end sees Grado celebrating while Madonna blasts out across the SECC. Sadly the audio is missing from On Demand but luckily a friend of mine recorded the sound that goes with it and it gives me chills. Losing the audio hurts the reaction but it is a stunning ending to a solid wrestling show.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Summary: The main event brought so much atmosphere and emotion, it was worth checking this out alone. The celebration was a magnificent piece of work. The undercard was ok, I could possibly have used a strong match somewhere on the undercard to the levels of the main but I appreciate what ICW have done with their promotion. There’s so much home grown talent that it genuinely feels like a different show to anything else in the UK, or the world for that matter. The commentary, the ring announcing, the way the promotion is run and the talent they use. Everything is special and unique. You can largely ignore the star ratings for the undercard because even when the wrestling wasn’t that great, the entertainment value was there. ICW is certainly a promotion worth seeing.