By Doctor Bedlam
Chris Renfrew, the man who once embodied the ICW rebel spirit seems to have very suddenly and very quickly disappeared completely from upcoming ICW events, indeed a Kings of Catch versus NAK match was abruptly changed to one between the Kings of Catch versus Havoc and Haskins instead with no reason given. BT Gunn gave a promo proclaiming NAK dead and never mentioned Renfrew by name. There are various rumors given, from drunken behavior at recent events and an attitude problem in general, I don’t think the average fan will ever know for sure, will we see him back at ICW? Possibly, however, I am going to go on record to say I hope it is not for a while.
I will say before I go on that you need to remember I am viewing things purely from the view of a fan, I am sure there are backstage reasons for the way certain events played out but any good promotion worth damn while yes they know most fans are quite savvy about backstage politics, they still have to book and have things play out as if the fans have no idea or you end up with something akin to Vince Russo’s WCW and we all know how well that turned out. Basically what I am saying is while yes there are backstage reasons for some things happening, me as a fan shouldn’t need to know that to understand what’s going on.
Don’t get me wrong, Chris Renfrew the person is a decent guy and has a lot of time for the fans, however in the ring, things have been a lot different as you will see.
When I first followed ICW in 2010 Renfrew was ICW’s every man he was like a cross between ECW’s Sandman and Tommy Dreamer (yes I know his idol is Stone Cold but he to me seemed more like the other two listed). He had great feud with Lionheart (I always remember him telling Lionheart “I can’t out-wrestle you… I can outfight you”) and then with the Gold Label. It was during this I first seen the NAK team up in, what was at the time, a one off. The NAK was more a loose connection than a team at this point, but that was to change dramatically… but more on that later.
It did seem in those early days that Renfrew was indeed ICW’s Tommy Dreamer, the man of the people, giving his all for the company and the fans and you know what it was a role that he was well suited for. His relaxed easygoing nature outside the ring made it all the easier for the fans to get behind him in it but then came the feud with BT Gunn would change things initially for the better. BT Gunn felt that his title loss to Red Lightning was unjust and how that his friends have deserted him in his hour of need and targeted Renfrew as the focus of his anger. Renfrew was trying to be the better man and refused to fight him for a long time but alas Renfrew gave in, signed the contract and the match was set with none other than Mark Dallas himself as referee but we were to find out BT Gunn and Renfrew had played us all, with a chairshot to Dallas, the NAK, as we know it, was born.
The new NAK ran roughshod over the promotion, even attacking Lianne, the ring announcer at the time and her real life boyfriend Scotty Maverick (Simon Cassidy… yes THE Simon had to step in to ring announce halfway through the show due to the attacks) and announced a third member in Dickie Divers, a rather strange choice as the tag team of STI had just split and Divers had been in a feud with his old partner William Grange. Now granted, it looked like Grange had simply left ICW but Divers had no known connection to either BT or Renfrew. Ever seen the episode of Pinky and the Brain where they have a third mouse called Larry who is shoehorned awkwardly into every scene even the intro? Divers seemed like a Larry to BT and Renfrews Pinky and the Brain. I’m sure people will call me a cynic but it did seem that Divers was brought in to be the fall guy of the group, to keep BT and Renfrew strong. The groups catchphrase “card subject to change motherf*ckers” was uttered at every ICW event, they divided the fans, you either hated or loved them, initially they were good but as we know good things don’t last forever.
After a nice feud with the Bucky Boys for the tag titles BT Gunn turned his attentions to his cousin Wolfgang, though at the time it wasn’t acknowledged they were related (I will say this was one of the best ever feuds in ICW history) Renfrew went on to win the Square Go briefcase and the contract for a title shot. I am aware that this was more ICW’s booking as opposed to Renfrew himself but consider this, Renfrew has a title shot he can cash in at any point, the champion was Jack Jester, both known for their bloody hardcore styles. At no point was there an attempt to cash in, hell he never even TEASED a cash in, not properly. Instead Jester had a lot of matches (albeit amazing) with imports such as Prince Devitt, the matches lacking the drama and emotion of a true title feud. Jack Jester’s title reign suffered from this and, in comparison to others, it seemed a weak one at that. I understand they wanted Jester versus Galloway at Fear and Loathing that year, but a feud where the title changes hand from and back to Jester again with Renfrew would have been a feud we’d still be talking about today. In fact Renfrew decided (and bear in mind the guy is supposed to be an opportunistic heel) to cash in his title shot in a straight up match against Galloway at the next years Square Go. Compare this to WWE when Edge won the first ever Money in the Bank and cashed it in after John Cena had been through an Elimination Chamber… THAT’S how you have a heel cash in a shot, Renfrews actions made little sense as, let’s be honest, Galloway is the far superior wrestler and fighter. Renfrews best chance to win would have been to jump him after a match but alas it didn’t happen. It was at this point James Scott randomly kind of joined the NAK, much like Bret Hart in WCW not quite joining nWo, he seemed more loosely affiliated with them. It was also at this point Divers started to get reactions (granted it started off as a joke) and was developing a fan following, at the Square Go, Renfrew was defeated by Galloway ending his year long chase in failure… but he was in the Square Go, maybe he would get another chance? Until Divers ruined that little dream.
Then came the feud with Divers, before I go any further keep in mind that Divers was supposed to be the face in this scenario, when Divers eliminated Renfrew from the Square Go to claim the ICW title shot briefcase, Renfrew saw this as an act of betrayal and subsequently kicked him out the group, but not before giving him the beat-down of his life. Now another thing to note is that while you could argue Chris Renfrew was exceptional as the heelish leader of the NAK, the minute the feud started proper it seemed like Divers was not getting any opportunity to win over more of the people (who up until that point as stated before seemed to be getting a face reaction from the crowds). Yes there were a lot of fans cheering for Renfrew to win the feud, but even those who were not as fond of the NAK and Renfrew were largely not offering their support for Dickie, things were not helped by the fact that while Divers is a very solid performer and decent with promos, Renfrew had been gathering up momentum as the cool bad guy of Scottish wrestling. This is not a problem unique to Renfrew, as I think this is a danger with booking cool heels in general, they can end up more interesting than the face, thus the crowd gets behind the heel instead (granted I’m not a booker myself, but it does seem the way of things that sometimes the heels can seem more cool and/or interesting than the faces we are meant to cheer). The feud in general was one sided, promo and wrestling-wise with Renfrew always seemed to come off best in nearly every exchange. Renfrew seemed better stronger and more cool than Divers, giving the fans the belief Divers had no chance and he started losing the support he had been building before the feud, the worst incident was at the “shoot” interview before the feud ending match at that years Shug’s House Party Renfrew came out first and delivered his promo but when Divers came out, he barely got a word in with Renfrew constantly interrupting and making fun of him, by the end of it Divers had lost what crowd support he had left, it ended with Renfrew winning the briefcase (with lots of interference from the NAK of course). It seemed more like a drawn out burial of Divers than an actual feud.
Now there are two main schools of thought behind this feud, either the Square Go win was given to Divers to see just how over he could get and when he apparently failed to win the crowd over in the feud with Renfrew the experiment was deemed a failure (yes some may say there was no way Divers was over enough, but you could also argue he wasn’t given a decent chance) or if you are a cynical person you may see all this as an excuse to get the Square Go title shot briefcase to Renfrew for a second year in a row without him actually winning the Square Go and Divers was the fall-guy but we will never know. Now regardless of if Renfrew had much say in the direction of the feud you would have thought he would have wanted Divers to appear as strong as possible to make his victory better, it just made no sense to destroy Divers so completely as they did. Although it is to be said it had became increasingly obvious that Renfrew, although gifted on the mic, was being… overbearing in promos in general, as stated above with the Divers feud, he dominated every verbal exchange regardless of the opponent, this was not always a good thing and something as you will see becomes a big problem later.
During the feud the NAK gained some new members, Wolfgang (this did make sense but didn’t at the same time, it did as he was related to BT but not as he just had a long feud with him and one of the feuds main themes was Wolfgang trying to get BT to choose family over friends), Stevie Boy (they had teased him joining for a long time before) and Kay Lee Ray. James Scott just faded out of the NAK scene quietly and the NAK moved into a feud with Mikey Whiplash’s Legion faction. I will say this, the NAK at this point was in my opinion the best version, it felt like a proper faction, not just two friends and a tag along. But once again Renfrew didn’t try and cash his title shot in, once again he cashed it in at the next years Square Go, this time against Grado…
This time however he finally claimed the gold in what was one of the matches of the year, however, what should have been the high point of his career, in my opinion, it seemed to mark the start of a downward trend. Despite the fact he was more or less chasing the title for two whole years (either he had the Square Go briefcase or he was feuding with the guy who had it) he quickly lost it against Damo, the NAK imploded and he seemed to slowly go back to being the Tommy Dreamer-esque character he was before the NAK and slipped down the card once again and it just seemed a bit odd this time, it felt like a transitional period for him.
It was not to last as halfway during a feud with Stevie Boy where during a match Mikey Whiplash came out from under the ring and dragged Renfrew down, the next we saw him it was like he was under Whiplash’s control, a mere minion. Now while this was a unique and interesting direction for him to go and, to be honest, you had a feeling whatever feud that would inevitably come out of it would be explosive as both had been known to be specialists in hardcore matches but aside from the general NAK versus Legion feud the two never really had a one to one rivalry before, however there was the feeling that Renfrew wasn’t really happy with the role and when Renfrew finally broke the spell Whiplash apparently put on him (in order to answer the invite to the first ever King of the death-match at the Hydro), there was never much of a feud, if any, between them, you would think if someone brainwashed you into making you effectively his bitch you would want to after him all guns blazing, something tells me one of them (if not both) just did not want to continue the story.
Then came the feud that.. how to put it… showed just how Renfrew.. on the mic at least.. simply couldn’t let someone else get over. Joe Hendry, fed up with seemingly being overlooked time and again (he had a valid point, he had been possibly one of the most over wrestlers in the company for over a year and not had a sniff of a title chance) and had enough, it was at this point Keiran Kelly was introduced as Renfrew’s personal referee/buddy. At one point Renfrew cut a promo that was, confusing to say the least, he had said that Joe wasn’t getting the chances in ICW because he was always going elsewhere like Impact Wrestling, World of Sport and the Commonwealth Games instead of “staying in Glasgow where it’s all happening” now apart from the fact he had only started going to Impact and other places AFTER he had turned heel because of the lack of chances and you have to wonder what Renfrew must be thinking. I mean most of people in ICW he has wrestled with have went elsewhere, be it Japan, Impact or WWE… but not him, I wonder if that must have been playing on his mind when he was thinking of the promo as there did seem genuine anger in it. At Shug’s Hoose Party, when Joe Hendry beat Renfrew in one of Renfrew’s specialty matches (a Glasgow Street Fight), instead of Renfrew vacating the ring and letting Joe Hendry give a victory promo something we all know he could do amazingly well) Renfrew got on the mic and cut a promo strangely putting Joe Hendry over, telling people we should respect Joe. Now, why? Why do that? All it done was take away from Joe and put all the spotlight and attention back on Renfrew, there was no need for him to do that but worse was to come…
But before that I wish to say that it was at this point Renfrew seemed to be doing everything to seem as cool and relevant to the fans as possible, as he released a series of t-shirts supposedly portraying him as Rick from the cartoon Rick and Morty, now why, I do not know, as the Rick-Renfrew looked nothing like Renfrew (the hair wasn’t even photoshopped off or anything) of course before that was his Nirvana themed shirt (granted Renfew, the person, is a fan but there was probably more relevant designs he could have used). The sad thing is I know for a fact there were more relevant designs by various designers that would have fitted in with his gimmick and with what he likes as a person and would have sold just as well, I guess it’s just my personal opinion that a wrestlers t-shirt design should be relevant to the person and the gimmick, not just random stuff that may look cool.
Anyway, to the feud that at the time of writing… was his last… and strangest, he attacked the Kings of Catch at the second night of Shug’s Hoose Party, the premise of the feud? Renfrew didn’t believe that the Kings of Catch were truly over enough/not over in a way he thinks they should. Now, although getting someone over is the point of a feud, it shouldn’t be the story itself. It’s like explaining a joke, if you have to explain it you’re not doing it right, he kept telling them they need to get over the way he did, stop making little videos (ironically the videos were helping get them more over) and concentrate on getting over “the right way” even referring to them as “Tesco Value Young Bucks”, stuff like that can damage careers, but Renfrew persisted with this line of though. It was at this point BT Gunn and Renfrew joined forces as the NAK once again in to make it an even fight of it (though apparently it was rumored BT was not happy returning to the NAK instead wanting to concentrate on his singles career). It was a short-lived reunion as at the ICW event on the 23rd of September Renfrew was rumored to have turned up, five minutes before the event, BT wasn’t wanting to go through with the planned birthday segment and after it, where it was obvious BT was not very happy doing it and apparently once it finished apparently various sources have said there was an altercation backstage and there literally has been no mention of Renfrew since. The strange thing is, who were we supposed to cheer for in the feud? The Kings of Catch were supposed to be heels, yet Renfrew/NAK were the aggressors. The weird thing was, as evident by the replacement match-up where Haskins and Havoc substituted for the NAK… The Kings of Catch didn’t need Renfrews seal of approval, the crowd already love them as they are, it was a solid and exciting match, no need for “edgy” or “cool” promos before or after, just great wrestling, they didn’t need him to get over nor will they ever need him to get over, in fact Renfrews absence may do more good than harm.
To sum up, Chris Renfrew has been a faithful servant to ICW, loyal and true to the cause. He was at the head of one of its most memorable factions and storylines and is a standout performer but suffered what I feel was a weakness which, if unchecked, would stifle other talent was while he could put someone over in the ring, promo-wise it was all about him, even if it wasn’t about him, he would have to be the one on the mic, as evidenced by just about every feud mentioned above, as if he wanted people to know it was he, Chris Renfrew, who got the person over. Especially confusing was the Kings of Catch feud where the story was they weren’t over in the right way in his eyes, it sounded like something Vince Russo would have dreamed up during his WCW days. We know he put his blood, sweat and tears into the company, put his body on the line for it, for that we are grateful, but his absence may be just what he and the company needs right now, will we see him return? Who knows for sure, never say never in wrestling.
Please remember dear reader, this is merely my opinions and observations and not fact, thank you.