The Bedlam Report | ICW: Insane… but not in a good way


By Dr Bedlam

 

(Warning: Some strong language.)

 

People may have noticed in previous reports that I am highly critical of some aspects of ICW and some may think who am I to say some of the things I say? I’m not a part of the business, I’m just a fan and that is indeed true, I am a fan of wrestling since the 80’s and have been to the majority of ICW shows since 2010, putting money into the company I love and entitled to my opinion. Also Dallas himself and most, if not all, the people in the ring and backstage started out as just fans themselves but that’s all besides the point, when you read this I want you to consider these thoughts, is anything I am saying any worse than the current product? Do my suggestions make sense? If I think it’s that bad why do I still come I hear you ask as well, simple, its easy to just walk away, I love wrestling, I love ICW… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws, that I can’t see where it’s going wrong, walking away will not solve a thing. I am here to give my observations and suggestions about the state of ICW but please remember it is just the sole opinion of this one fan, nothing more, nothing less.

Let us first look at the business side of things shall we?

Firstly, if the last Fear and Loathing event at the Hydro showed anything is that ICW probably need to reconsider its venue choices, they perform their regular shows in The Garage, a place that holds only a few hundred, even if they were touring like they used to and if there’s a lot watching on demand it was a tall ask to at least reasonably fill the Hydro. The last few occasions before truly big names like Kurt Angle, Team 3D, Rey Mysterio and RVD helped, this time the only big name who hadn’t been in ICW before were The Briscoe Brothers and, while talented, are nowhere near the same draw as the names mentioned previously. I respect that Dallas wants to aim high but I fear it was too much too soon, to go from regularly drawing hundreds at shows to trying to draw thousands… seems like the Hydro is a venue to build up to properly, and for that the Fight Clubs would need a bigger venue, either that or ICW should stick to having big shows at places like the O2 Academy or The Barrowlands if they are determined to stay at The Garage.

A TV deal is something ICW should have had long ago, well actually it did with MyChannel, sure it was a small channel but was still on air but they ran into problems, think ECW with TNN, MyChannel kept moving the time slot and ICW would publicly show its displeasure at being told to tone things down a bit, and especially stop using the word “cunt” (this is the reason the Cuntasaurous t-shirt was created as a fuck you to MyChannel). The fact is OnDemand is not, and can not be, seen as a substitute for a TV deal, with World Of Sport being on TV recently and with Rev Pro having a show on Free Sports the talent is going to there for exposure. If I were in charge, I’d strive to get a TV deal with any UK channel (I mean we managed to get on Italian TV but not here… how the hell does that even work?) Oddly enough the product has toned down a lot since the MyChannel days and Fight Club is filmed and shot like a TV taping as opposed to just a PPV style show spliced to fit TV times so it would be an attractive prospect to any TV channel. If this deal they have with WWE stops this then it can’t be that great a deal for ICW the fact is a few documentaries on BBC may spark some interest but not much else. I can’t help but wonder why Dallas is persisting with this thing with the BBC, this “Rogue to Wrestler” program seems the latest BBC stunt, we as fans don’t want more documentaries or talent shows… we want WRESTLING we want ICW to have a proper bloody TV deal that should be ICW’s main goal, if BBC are dangling that carrot in front of ICW it’s about time Dallas goes elsewhere. I just wonder why ICW hasn’t had a TV deal in general, it seems odd.

I will admit I’m glad there aren’t as many tours as while I’m sure it was a great idea to go on the road to London and the likes I have to wonder how financially viable it is, also how many fans from Glasgow all went to them? If there was a TV deal where the casual fans could keep up with the shows, tours would make more sense, plus how many local promotions got pissed off with their territories getting encroached upon? While yes, going elsewhere does seem fun and stuff but Scotland and Glasgow in particular is its home and where the majority of its fans are. I mean what would the point of, say, having Fear and Loathing in Newcastle if the majority of the people going are from Glasgow or would have went if the show was in Glasgow? (and believe it or not I have spoke about this sort of thing with a friend who is a successful businessman and he thinks like I do) the thing is when they did the ICW tours, if you didn’t see OnDemand and went to the next Glasgow show you had no idea what was going on, I remember when Joe Hendry and Lionheart feuded, they kept going on about something Joe did in Sheffield but never, say, had a video package during or before showing said incident, so if you were a new fan you were stumped (mind you ICW has a habit of assuming everyone watches all OnDemand and every YouTube video they release… forgetting and possibly alienating new fans with it and FYI… I still don’t know what happened), it seemed like something that they could of waited till the company was bigger, but I have noticed this with ICW, they try to run before they can walk.

Basically in general ICW seems to be a little over ambitious and rushes too quick into things, a more measured approach, you need to build up with first getting more fans in regular possibly looking at bigger venues for regular shows and try and get a TV deal then maybe expand and possibly tour then try and get the bigger arenas for the big events but I would not do things just for the sake of doing them there has to be progression.

Now lets move on to ICW’s booking and storytelling.

I find that while Dallas has done a phenomenal job with ICW, there are times he, or at least his booking crew, seem to either be way too predictable that Stevie Wonder sees what’s happening or too out there even Vince Russo would shake his head and clearly Dallas has never heard of the Jim Cornette seven year rule with repeating storylines. ICW seems to have a feud for control of the company every two years, Gold Label, The Official Community, Jackie Polo (yeah… that one didn’t make much sense), The Black Label have all challenged Dallas for control, four times in eight years and its been a while since he has put the company on the line in a match so expect one soon, especially with the way Red Lightning has been talking lately. Also a spot of trivia… BT Gunn has never lost his world title to the opponent he was advertised to face off against in any of his title reigns, little trivia fact for you.

ICW’s booking of babyface champions in general is strange, they tend to win the belt, have lots of matches (usually with imports/non regular roster guys in general) that are technically sound yet lack any real drama (see Jack Jesters reign as a prime example of this) and lose the belt in their first real feud with someone ( the notable exception to this was Drew Galloway.. but he turned heel with the belt). As I said in my review of the Fight Club on the 23rd of December, Lionheart’s “I want to fight challengers from all over the world” means, as I said before, great technical matches but no real drama, until eventually (I assume) Joe Hendry takes it off him, well he is being built up as Dallas’s chosen one. I can see what ICW is trying to do, I just feel it could be done better, okay, warning fantasy booking coming up, imagine during Lionhearts speech Dallas came out and did a promo calling Lionheart a “has-been who looking back should never have had the belt”, that this is “Dallas’s house and if Lionheart wants to play champion then he can bugger off to PWE”… that sorta thing, paint an image that he just plain doesn’t want Lionheart as his company’s champion and then have Dallas say he will find a way to to get it off him, have Lionheart basically tell Dallas bring it on and that he has wrestled just about everyone knows their weaknesses and stuff and show hes not worried, only for Dallas to basically outsmart Lionheart by saying he plans to bring in guys, guys he believes that would make better champions, sell it as Dallas is doing everything to get the belt off Lionheart by bringing in these guys as mercenaries as it were and Lionheart using his veteran knowledge and guile to beat them, some of the guys even respecting Lionheart in the match and turning on Dallas. When it comes to Joe Hendry winning, have it as Dallas “suddenly” having the idea maybe he was wrong to bring in guys.. that he knows a man who he believes has the right stuff… cue Joe Hendry… now tell me that’s worse than what we are getting now. It generates more drama, gives a focus on the main event and the champion, you know if I had a mic I’d drop it right now, because I genuinely believe that is way better than the very vanilla booking of Lionheart they are doing now.

Also I have to admit while I initially liked Dallas’s almost Mr McMahon-esque character but i get the feeling he hasn’t truly understood the evil boss thing in general, for one it seems very mid-card to me to the point I feel like naming the character “Midcard McMahon”, his character is someone who wants to be all controlling yet doesn’t seem to care who his champion is, and also I feel that it would be good if there was a neutral commissioner; Bischoff had JJ Dillon, McMahon had Slaughter and then Foley, because if Dallas is on a power trip who’s booking the matches? It just seems odd that an all controlling character is just being very mid-card.

ICW does have a bizarre way of promoting its talent in general with its booking, as if they don’t understand what to do with a lot of them. DCT is an international sex hero, his first proper storyline? Him getting married to Viper (A storyline marriage that was sporadically acknowledged and more during his matches and promos, her storylines never brought it up, plus it was implicitly stated on the night the minister was actually a 55 plant and therefore didn’t actually marry them proper… even in the wrestling sense… yeah) so his gimmick is a married playboy? Huh? Before he was one half of The Kings of Catch and despite being hailed as the “best young wrestler” Lewis Girvan wasn’t booked anything like his hype. Joe Hendry would be constantly be the most entertaining performer for years, custom songs, crowd responding to every call out, his matches usually being best on the card, charismatic as hell AND represented Scotland, it is only now he even getting anything like the push he deserves. ICW also has a habit of not striking while he irons hot when it comes to certain talent, Joe Coffey is the best example, a few years ago he was the hottest wrestler in ICW, the match of any event was usually his match, the crowd were going nuts for him, he seemed destined to win the World title at some point, the only issue was when they finally did decide to he crowd had cooled off to him and started focusing on others plus the fact they instantly turned him heel and then put him up against BT Gunn, whom they were grooming to take the belt at Fear and Loathing. Also why is it that in the women’s division you have Aivil tearing it up every time shes in a match, putting on amazing performances and yet Little Miss Roxxy comes in, has a couple of matches then suddenly gets a title shot? It’s not a good signal to send out the talent, I could go on about guys who are booked confusingly but that’s another special but the fact that Scotland has a vast talent pool and ICW seems increasingly reluctant to use it. I can understand that they wish to bring up guys from The Asylum but there are amazing wrestlers out there, the one wrestler I can think of immediately is “Flyin'” Ryan Griffin, he would be a good fit for the Zero G division (if they used it right as a cruiserweight/X Division belt).

The women’s division… now there’s an odd one. Scotland has a ton of talented women wrestlers, hell Glasgow has an all female promotion in Fierce Females (which used to be ICW Fierce Females… oh yes) and yet ICW always seem to stick with the same four or five. Are you seriously telling me they can’t get more in the same city that has an all women’s company, seriously? Mind you, for years if you were at ICW you could be forgiven for thinking there were only two female wrestlers in the UK. At my first ever ICW back in 2010, it seemed that Carmel and Nikki Storm were in a feud with Kay Lee Ray as Nikki’s sort of sidekick but for whatever reason Nikki disappeared after a couple of shows and Carmel’s wrath was projected solely at Kay Lee Ray. Both competitors played their roles well and the matches were great however it would soon become apparent that they were becoming the only two women ICW had any intention of putting over in any way whatsoever. Even if the matches weren’t between them the match would still be about them, either they would be the reluctant tag team who would turn on each other, or one would be the special referee in a match involving the other… but no matter the match it would seem obvious the other female competitors were there for no other reason than to further the existing feud. I remember one match that had Carmel and Nikki Storm versus The Owens Twins, a match on its own would have set the evening alight but ICW had Kay Lee Ray come out as the guest referee and I actually said at the time “what’s the betting Carmel gets irate at KLR’s calls and it becomes just about them..again”. Think on it, Nikki Storm, who is now in WWE, and The Owens Twins, whom were always an awesome team were all brought in then treated like an afterthought just to further a feud which at the time was starting to wear thin. The feud lasted about six years, yes they were talented but surely they could have fought other people, would people have left ICW completely cos they didn’t get their Carmel vs KLR fix? I doubt anyone has ever stopped watching a promotion entirely because they thought a women’s match was rubbish so its not like it would have been a huge gamble to have other women wrestle, given time they would have gotten over with the fans too. ICW Spacebaws (a stupid name for what was initially supposed to be a B show for ICW to showcase new talents) came around and it seemed that ICW was going to finally give promoting other women a serious go and even have a women’s title again (as you could argue the Fierce Females title was the first women’s belt for ICW). The standouts were Viper, who was finally getting noticed by those in charge as someone to keep an eye on, and the German grappler Layla Rose who proceeded to tear through all before her, even briefly retired Carmel before injury in a title tournament match curtailed her career. At Fear and Loathing 8 we crowned Viper as the first ever women’s champion, now ICW then did something bewildering, bear in mind the effort taken in this tournament (Mickie James even competed in it), ICW then proceeded to have Kay Lee Ray fight men using the “man or woman it doesn’t matter, she will fight anyone” thing, now this seemed odd not just because they had just started to build a women’s division so taking one of its biggest stars out of it seemed an odd choice just to champion her as an inter-gender wrestler the way they did. It was about this time they had a chance to make a new star but strangely decided not to, Sammi Jayne was in a feud with Nikki Storm, she was fed up of being Nikki’s lackey and was involved in a loser leave ICW match. Sammi won, she beat one of Britian’s best women wrestlers, a new star should of been born… so far… nothing, brought in so sporadic and usually to lose, it seems a waste.

While these are recent examples there have been other bizarre instances over the years, Red Lightning’s title reign was a classic, the backward feud with Grado, they had the match… then the feud which just drifted off and faded. Then there was Jack Jester, who was in a mid-card feud with Christopher at this point was attacked after the match by Red who said “you will never get a title shot as long as I am champion” curiously Jack never mentioned wanting one… and even stranger he never got one, nor did he really get revenge, it was just forgotten about. The Fear and Loathing that year, he was told use the belt as a weapon he’s fired, he did… but didn’t get fired (literally no explanation was ever offered, in fact still to this day no official reason has ever been given). I could call up other bizarre situations over the years, the Mark Coffey/Solar feud, one match Mark comes out and states Solar can’t make it due to injury, had a little sequence with the “replacement” (Chris Toal dressed as C.M. Punk ) then Solar’s music hits, Solar runs out and Mark, and his then manager Jackie Polo react, like all the previous stuff wasn’t said or done, no surprise shown…. nothing. Speaking of Polo, his initial feud with Lionheart was very surreal, on Lionheart’s side of things, everything felt real and every interview and promo either was or at least felt like a shoot… however the more real he got the more, I guess, “kayfabey” Polo got and they ignored each others promo content as if they both had their own different scripts and were not going to deviate from it, I really could go on about more instances here but I won’t.

Imports, while they can be good to bring crowds in, it had a stigma in British wrestling, it meant bringing in has-beens and never will bes from the states over to get a few more bums on seats. ICW, at first, was clever, they would bring in guys like Sabu, Paul London, Rhyno, Brian Kendrick, people who have name value but can still go wrestling-wise and for the most part were treated as special attractions, but then it seems now they get in guys just for the sake of it and its either the aforementioned big names who can still draw, guys only fans of Japan and the indy scenes in general will know like War Machine for example, Walter was another, yes some knew who he was but I didn’t, but now we have Ilya Dragonuv, apart from having the name of the sniper derivative of the AK series of weapons I have never heard of him and he is in a title match. Okay, booking say Paul London or Kurt Angle, Team 3D, RVD and that made sense, it put bums on seats, brought people in, I can’t see the same with Dragonuv. I’m sure he’s a talented guy but it seems they are having imports for the sake of it or to make them look truly “worldwide” or whatever bollocks Dallas wants us to think. I’d cut down on imports and use them more sensibility, especially ones that won’t add that much more financially to the company, after all that’s the reason it’s done plus it gives guys who have busted their guts week in week out a chance. I mean look at the 2019 Square Go, all the singles belts are being defended against imports, ICW is literally saying more or less “no-one in the current roster is good enough so we have to bring guys in” at least that’s what seems like to me.

The use of the Zero-G belt. ICW (and to be honest Scotland in general) has a decent array of cruiserweight level wrestlers of varying styles and techniques and the Zero G division, like the TNA/Impact Wrestling X division and the old WCW cruiserweight division, could show off the talents of these guys yet it seems to be used as a generic secondary title (though that may be due to there being lack of a true secondary belt). If I were in charge I’d create a new belt, a UK, European (as in the continent not the political entry before anyone screams Brexit) or even a Commonwealth belt, not some silly title that is either trying too hard to be “cool” or one that ties it to a particular match or style. It would free up the Zero G belt for its original purpose.

The over riding issue I find as a whole with ICW’s booking, if you looked at the individual storylines you can see what they were wanting and hoping to achieve/who they are aiming to push and why, but the story they tell and the execution of it is poorly done. It’s usually less “why are they pushing him”, more “why are they pushing him… in that way”. A good storyline, should be a like a good book or an epic film. You enjoy the story, get emotionally involved with everyone involved and when it comes to the conclusion, feel happy that it came to a satisfying ending but sad that its over, ask yourself dear reader how many ICW feuds have made you feel like that lately? Exactly, between bait and switches, Dusty finishes and just plain daft and awkward storytelling ICW seems to be unable to do that a lot these days. Talent has to be consistently and properly.

There are other aspects that ICW need to look at.

The whole early entry/VIP situation, in other companies early entry means just that, you can get in early, meet and greet wrestlers and sometimes get an exclusive match-up. ICW however, early entry very rarely means you get ringside first, in fact most of the time they only get let in the same time as the general ticket holders and what happens changes greatly each time and half the time it’s things the fans would rather give up just to be let in early, interviews, parties and stuff. Some fans actively try and wait near the exits at these things to try get ringside first, surely adopting the blueprint of other companies like SWA or PWE by letting people into ringside and maybe giving them a match between Asylum trainees or something, I know Dallas has wanted ICW to be different, but different is not always better.

Security, it used to be if the fight spilled out the ring the ringside security would be vigilant, moving the barriers back if needed, now your lucky if they even do anything. At recent events it’s left to the fans, granted one of them has been a football steward in the past and knows a thing about crowd control, but this is not on the danger to the wrestlers and fans alike is too much of a risk (and before any smartarse thinks what does he know, I hold an SIA door supervisors licence, I work in pubs, clubs and at football stadiums for one of he larger security companies), I’m not talking just as a fan but as someone that knows security and not just that, there have been more instances of wrestlers clipping the barriers with their feet and the likes due to lack of vigilance by security.

These are only some of the issues ICW seems to have, it would be hard to list every single one of them but on a whole, what I’m trying to say whole ICW is not a bad company, it is the way it is run that seems to be the issue here. It’s not the wrestlers that’s the problem, its the booking of them and the general way its run. Bigger companies, like ECW and WCW, have fallen to the wayside due to similar issues (granted ECW was more financial issues than anything else). What surprises me is the fact is it seems that most of the time it would be easier NOT to take the path they have especially booking wise, it’s like they are going way out of their way to screw things up which is mystifying. Also it seems that Dallas, or someone in ICW, just seems to want ICW to run before they can walk, there’s nothing wrong with ambition but it’s crippling the company slowly but surely, the very sad fact is things NEED to change and soon.

Now ICW can do several things with all this information, if Dallas, or someone else of influence, reads this, they can ignore it and do nothing at all or mock, sneer and generally act dismissive of it in social media or in other ways. They could, however, take at least some of what I say on board and change things and the last, least likely, actually get my help (never gonna happen, bear in mind I’m “just a fan” who seemingly knows bugger all). I never understood this closed attitude, sure there are people out there with crazy fan bookings or suggestions that in all reality would never work in the practical sense or in some cases just plain silly, but I think they can sometimes forget that they were fans too once. One would also say, maybe, an outside eye is what ICW needs.

As I said I love ICW, but if its going to continue and succeed, it needs to change.

Please remember these are just my opinions.