The Bedlam Report | The Curious Case of ICW’s Downturn

By Doctor Bedlam

 

British wrestling is in a renaissance, World of Sport back on TV, WWE creating NXT UK, wrestling schools and promotions are getting great numbers through their doors, guys like Grado are household names. Yet ICW, one of the companies that seemed to get all this started, seems to be on a downturn, let me explain.

I remember back from about 2011 to 2014, ICW were hot, and I mean hot, they were selling out places like The Garage every month, yes they had a TV that went south and yes the booking wasn’t always great but it was drawing fans. They were getting bigger arenas like The O2 ABC, The Barrowlands and they were filling them, if you didn’t go to the toilet at the start, you held it in in fear of losing your place in the crowd, that if you were able to move at all, but it now feels like for whatever reason ICW just isn’t drawing the fans as much anymore.

The first time it was really noticeable was last years Fear and Loathing, while previous times didn’t exactly sell the Hydro out, it looked respectable enough but the last time it was all on the floor level. I feel this is what prompted Dallas to do the face saving post about “choosing” to go elsewhere but where to go? Okay, the Hydro had 13000 capacity and was maybe a little too much if a challenge to fill, why not the Emitrates Arena? It holds 7000, big but even if they don’t fill it it won’t look as bad and it would be the first wrestling event there. Then there is Braehead at 5200, I was there when TNA/Impact and WWE have been there. For TNA, they didn’t fill it and had the top tier curtained off, ICW could have easily got a respectable crowd there. There were rumors it was even leaving Glasgow completely, which would be foolish, but was shocked and surprised when they announced Fear and Loathing would be at SWG3…

… I know in my Square Go report I suggested SWG used for big events, I was meaning likes of Shug’s and the Square Go not Fear and Loathing. They can’t use the 5000 capacity outdoor area in November, so the Galvanisers it is that holds 1250. ICW has went from a 13000 Arena to a 1250 arena in a year, that’s how it looks. Even with the two nights (ICW seem obsessed with making things two nighters now), then it’s just like going to the old France 98/99 events of previous years as well as Fear and Loathing. It feels like they have given up trying to draw big crowds, in fact this years, Shug’s is destined to be the biggest event for ICW this year as The O2 Academy holds 2500, twice as much as the Galvanisers, think on that for a minute.

And this isn’t an isolated incident, look at the fact there is no Barrowlands show this year (plus the fact the 1900 capacity arena wasn’t used to Fear and Loathing either) instead they are having a two nighter tournament at The Garage, that holds 700 even with the two nights if they sold out (which they haven’t).

They are not gonna make as much money as a single Barramania show, especially with a tournament no-
one was really begging ICW to see and in which there’s not much actual point to, if it had been a one night tag tournament and the winners faced the Kings of Catch, yes I’d be interested, or a title match tournament, but no we have this trios tournament with a daft name instead.

THEN there’s the fact they ICW has never been close to selling The Garage out for a long time. This is the company who had a TV deal (ok MyChannel wasn’t the best but still), this company featured in documentaries, this company had the supposedly successful Rogue To Wrestler show, apparently has an arrangement with WWE yet for some reason it looks like they are losing fans. The booking has went south too, Dallas is off doing those speaking tours at a time ICW needs him there and on the ball. They seem to not want to book great local talents, Lucha DS, Griffin, Christopher Saynt (I mean book him regularly), Saqib Ali, Euan G Mackie… the list goes on. There was a time ICW was so proud to showcase local talent to a point it actually never featured an import for years. The misuse of the Zero G belt is another bugbear, imagine having a Zero G division of Saqib, Kieran Kelly, Leyton Buzzard, Ravie Davie, Lucha DS, Griffin and maybe have some really experienced guys like Falcon back and stuff. That would be a division I’d watch and for gods sake learn how to book a face champ period Lionheart’s reign is dull, I could go on, basically something needs done and done yesterday.

This making nearly every big show they do a two night thing, it worked for Shug’s because it sold it as this huge summer party show. It was unique to Shug’s, but to do it with the King of the Hawners and then make Fear and Loathing officially a two nighter. I know people will say “ICW are doing something different” yes, but different is not always better, realise that. Bare in mind what you get is situations where people can’t make it both nights, yes it will be on OnDemand, but what if your new to ICW, or don’t have it, or what if you can only go on night two and have to wait till it goes on OnDemand to make sense of stuff from the previous night. But ICW has always had this thing where if you are a casual fan, you have no idea about whats going on half the time, it’s like they assume every fan has OnDemand and watches every clip they put on YouTube/Facebook/whatever, but that’s a complaint for another day, the fact is the two night thing should have been a Shug’s only deal.

I’m going to say something controversial, even for me. Having Fear and Loathing at SWG3, it’s a bad omen for ICW, it’s the smallest arena for the event in six years and you can not say “oh but you have to take into account its over two nights”, they are not going to get 100% new crowds for both nights, indeed for the most part the same people will be there both nights. Some people have said that the reason for not going to likes of Braehead or the Emirates is the cost of hiring and stuff. A lot of the time it’s the same people who will say how great and successful ICW is, if it is that successful, has a TV show, ties with WWE, performed at the Hydro, one of Britain’s leading promotions along with Progress and can bring on “top international talent” that they can’t hire one of these places? I’m not saying they’d sell them out, but with good marketing and good lead up they could draw a respectable crowd. Even go back to the SECC or The Barrowlands or, hell, even The O2 Academy. I’m sorry I know I’m no businessman (hell, not even a real doctor either) but going from hiring a place that holds 13000 to one that holds 1250 the very next year for your biggest show speaks volumes for the direction the company is going (I’ll give you a clue..it’s not up).

Clearly things need to change, I have a few ideas but that’s another special for another time. I know some will read this and think what do I know, I’m not in the business, you’re right I’m not, but I’m not stupid either. I have eyes and a brain, I can see there’s something going wrong in ICW, yeah I’m not in the business, would I want to be? Hell yes, but no company is ever gonna say “here Doc come aboard let’s see what you can do” and fair play to that but does that mean what I say should be completely discounted? No, in fact sometimes it helps to be an outsider looking in but that’s my opinion.

Yes ICW has achieved great things but with the talent and history it has, it should still be achieving great things and I do understand it needs to evolve but its evolved from a Scottish spin on the original ECW, to the WWE version that started in 2006. Not a good thing, surely I am not the only person seeing this? They should ask why they are losing crowds, how can they bring them back, I don’t wanna go into the Waterstone’s sports section and see a book called Death of ICW on the shelves in the near future.

Hope you enjoyed my thought and opinions.

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