By Dr Bedlam
Hello there dear readers, it has occurred to me that in my reports you could be mistaken for thinking “the guy doesn’t even like the company” well, nothing can be further from the truth, and indeed despite how it may seem at times I do genuinely think, for the most part, ICW is a bona fide success story.
My first wrestling event was in 2007, SWA’s first Gathering at the Kelvin Hall. At the time it was, I think, the biggest wrestling event in Scotland and was intended to be a WrestleMania style event. I liked it so much I started to follow SWA for the next three years but with each year the crowds dwindled and, in fact, I remember going to an SWA event in Uddingston attended literally by 24 people and a dog (I am glad to see SWA are now drawing big crowds again though) and I was getting a little jaded when I found out about ICW (actually by personal invite by Mark Dallas himself). All I needed to say was yes I was going and could pay at the door. While the show, at the time ICW was still in Maryhill, was not strictly over 18’s yet and had a small attendance, there was more passion, not just from the fans but the wrestlers too.
Now why was that? Well at the time, at least in family friendly promotions, apart from feuds over belts, a lot of matches were, technically sound but didn’t have storylines or anything. In fact a lot of the time the only way you knew who was the face and who was the heel was who high-fived the kids and who didn’t. But ICW was full of stories and feuds from top to bottom, every match meant something, you emotionally invested in it, you would leave each event anticipating the next, you were always wanting more (this is why I am so… disappointed by the current Lionheart non-storyline, I know ICW can deliver better). BT Gunn’s more than yearlong chase to regain the title off James “Darkside” Scott and The Gold Label was a masterclass in storytelling and made me really take notice of Red Lightning, the guy knows how to make the crowd react the way he desires. Chris Renfrew came into his own as the every-man the crowd could relate to, it was a great time to start watching ICW.
It was this time that the company moved from Maryhill into Glasgow’s clubs (first Studio 23 and The Classic Grand and later The Garage) at this time they had to become an over 18’s company. While some people will say this was what brought them success, it is worth noting that if they were to go into clubs they would have had to be an over 18’s company for the venue to comply with alcohol licensing anyway, so ICW didn’t really have a choice there. The fact is, ICW continued to grow at an alarming rate, an (ultimately ill-fated) TV deal helped but there are a number of factors, being in Glasgow clubs provided easily accessible venues in the city centre for people to get to. It was a cheap night out (at the time a ticket was £10, so you get in and can go to the bar get a few drinks and see great wrestling), the removal of seating (early ICW’s were seated events) created a unique atmosphere and ICW has seen some momentous things, the emergence of the likes of Grado, the Coffeys, Jackie Polo, Joe Hendry, Noam Dar, Viper and many many more, not to mention ICW featured Kurt Angle in a match but ultimately and, this isn’t some stupid cliche, what truly made and makes ICW… the fans.
Let me explain, yes the fans are naturally dedicated but it’s the power of their dedication that is amazing. STI, the first tag champions, their t-shirts were designed by a fan who did not and never wanted payment for his services for example. The ICW Fans Podcast was started by just a group of dedicated and passionate fans. Hell, a lot of the people employed by ICW were at one point just fans like you or I, we fans have became a community of sorts, how many of us have made lasting deep friendships in ICW? A lot of you I bet, and let us not forget the biggest fan of all Mark Dallas. Most companies are usually run by wrestlers (or ex wrestlers), Dallas was a fan like you or I (I think he did some training but quickly realised his talents were elsewhere) who had a dream and followed up on it and probably is a lot to do in its success. He has a completely different outlook in running a wrestling company and you know what it has paid off big time so you see, saying the fans make ICW isn’t some buzzword, a fan literally made ICW and made it for fans.
Even how ICW treats the fans in general (yes I know I go on about the way they handle early entry, but trust me apart from that they are good). I always remember SWA had organised a WrestleMania 26 party at the old Sports Bar (sorry if it seems like I am bashing SWA, I’m not, just talking from experience) and while it was good, they had a ring set up downstairs and had a few matches as a sort of pre-show, at the actual screening, the wrestlers were all in the private function room away from the fans (plus the place didn’t have the license to stay open for the whole event but that wasn’t SWA’s fault). In contrast, a year later, ICW hosted a WrestleMania 27 party in Walkabout, the fans and wrestlers mingled and all watched it together. I will always remember next to where I was sitting BT Gunn, Chris Renfrew and Davey Blaze, all drunk, on the floor sitting one behind the other pretending to be rowing a boat. My friend had taken Wolfgang’s Gold Label t-shirt (he accidentally threw it into the crowd) and at the afterparty Wolfy asked for it back, only because he had no other t-shirt to wear and, of course, my mate complied and got a photo with him and a few drinks were bought. To this day ICW after parties are known for being amazing fan experiences with crazy fun stories coming out from them.
So there you have it, that is why I love ICW, that is the secret to its success, it’s not just a place I go to watch wrestling for a few hours and go home. It’s where I meet friends, where I, and many others, feel we truly belong and where we are appreciated. Yes other companies are great, but very few have that sense of community like ICW. While yes, I may be critical of the product at times but it is because I know how good it can be, how much it means to not just me but others and surely they would prefer fans to stay and offer some constructive criticism than adhering to the “if you don’t like stuff then stop going” way of thinking? As someone very dear to me once said “it’s just as important to know where your going wrong as it is where your going right” makes sense to me.
When it comes to podcasts, and there are a lot thanks to the dedication of the fans, you, dear reader, must be wondering, which, if any does the good Doctor listen to? Now while yes there are a lot of good options out there, I find Eat Sleep Suplex Retweet (ESSR for short) to be my preferred choice. The preview of the Square Go was a joy to listen to in particular, you can clearly tell they have fun making each broadcast and the variety of opinions keeps things fresh and dynamic. If you haven’t listened to it before, give it a try, they cover more than just ICW too and no I do not appear on it… yet (for all you people wondering about my identity), nor are they paying me for this.
Now before I end I have a couple of things I should address. One, is my comments about pre-show parties. I will admit I have always been confused as to why ICW pre-show parties (official and unofficial) usually seem quite a distance, that’s really been my main issue. I have no doubt in my mind they are fun to go to and I actually will admit, the more I thought about it, especially the Square Go pre-party run by Wrestle Events., well put it this way, if I had the choice of going to the pre-party, or a VIP ticket, I’d choose the pre party. Think on it, if you meet The Kinky Party (or indeed anyone) at a meet and greet at early entry, it can be a bit formal and be, well, say hi, maybe get an autograph, pose for a picture and move on. But at the pre-party, you get them in a more relaxed state, drink with them, have a laugh. Plus one other thing that admittedly I didn’t think about until a good friend of mine (who admits they would like to go to after parties but can’t) brought it up, there are many reasons people can’t get to after parties, transport, kids, work that sorta thing, so it allows you to experience an after-party atmosphere before it. I do have to say one thing however, the good people at Wrestle Events extended an invitation for me to attend the next event they run, I unfortunately may need to decline, this time, but I will never say never, but may have some ideas/suggestions if they would welcome such input.
Next is an awkward one to bring up, now I do always state in my reports that everything is my personal opinion, however when I say that, I got too personal with my opinion on some fans. Now did I think the gentlemen in question could have taken the hats off during the match? Of course, no point in lying about that, but I admit I should have done it better (if at all) and certainly not made the accusations I did. I’m not the type of guy to be too proud to apologise, and it is a genuine apology, I am sorry, I should have handled it better. Also we fans do get criticised enough at times off wrestlers for opinions and stuff as it is without the fans jumping all over each other. So I promise in future, while I will continue to state my personal opinions, I will limit it to the company and wrestlers and will not use the report as a platform to attack fans.
I hope you enjoyed my report, as always please remember, it’s just my opinion.