By Doctor Bedlam
Well dear readers, where do I even begin, I was writing my review of the 16th of June edition of ICW when I found out the news of Lionheart’s passing, I felt it was a bit inappropriate to continue with the review and decided to write this report instead.
Before I begin, I will share this with you. When I was 19, my best friend sadly decided to end his life and I’ll never forget my mother telling me when I came home from college. I was absolutely devastated and even to this day, I still think about him. Now granted Lionheart and I weren’t close friends or anything but I can only imagine what his friends and family are going through right now. He was such a big part of the Scottish wrestling scene that its hard to imagine ICW or anywhere else for that matter without him and with ICW being such a close knit fan base, his passing is especially hard to take in. I admit, I have found this report hard to write, what do I say, where do I start? All I know is I want to, no I need to do this! As for a title of this, I think just simply Lionheart, why you may ask, it describes him perfectly. The man had the heart of a lion, anyway here we go…
I suppose I should start from the beginning. As you may or may not know, my first experience of the Scottish wrestling scene was SWA’s first Gathering at the Kelvin Hall in 2007 and the highlight match of the night was the Money in the Bank ladder match and the reason I convinced my then-fiancee to even come with me as ladder matches are her favourite type of match. That match featured Lionheart, BT Gunn, Wolfgang, Darkside, Falcon and Micken (yeah you can see why it was match of the night with those guys ) and I remember being very impressed by Lionheart, granted he lost (Wolfgang won) but he was one of the wrestlers that made the biggest impression on me. It wasn’t just his look and ability but he was one of the few back then to have his own merch. I regret not buying his t-shirt back then but didn’t get why his t-shirt had a dragon on it, I just knew he was one to watch.
I was right, and it didn’t matter if there was 2000 or 20 people in attendance, he would give it his all. At the SWA, I have mentioned before that at some points they had 16 people and a dog in the venue. I remember he got crazy heel heat by stamping on a kids jacket (the kid wasn’t wearing it at the time) but when I went and saw him at ICW, I just thought WOW! At that time, he was feuding with Chris Renfrew and the promos and matches were as you can imagine, crazy. Of course he was part of the Gold Label who tore up the roster like mad. The most memorable match was one with Noam Dar for the Zero-G belt. Lionheart was selling an ankle injury. I think he did injure it but at the time of the match, he was just barely cleared to wrestle. Now wrestling a whole match with one leg unable to hold weight was tricky but Lionheart did it amazingly and believably, it was match of the night.
It was at that point he featured in a match at TNA’s British Tour in Braehead against Jeff Jarrett. With star of Still Game Greg Hemphill as guest referee, they tore the house down and there was talk that he was on his way to Orlando. This was unfounded unfortunately however Lionheart then decided to take an early retirement and poured his efforts into creating his own promotion Pro Wrestling Elite (PWE for short). The Ayr base company grew rather quick in roster size, fan base and prestige. I remember AJ Styles taking on Noam Dar in an early event. Clearly, Lionheart wasn’t just ring savvy but also a great mind in the business period.
But the call of the ring was too much and he returned to feud with Jackie Polo although the neck break due to a botched Styles clash delayed any physical confrontations for a while. This feud is the one most fans remember, and while yes I have said in the past it was strangely handled by the bookers, Polo was the Joker to Lionheart’s Batman and off and on they have feuded to great effect in ICW. You wanted Lionheart to bring Polo down a peg or two or even three. Every great wrestler has a nemesis and Polo was Lionheart’s. Of course let us not forget it was Polo he beat to win the World Heavyweight Title from at Fear and Loathing having outstanding matches and feuds along the way with so many local and international talents.
I could go on about all his feuds with guys like Joe Hendry, Kenny Williams and delve deeper into his feud with Polo. I could also go on about how he has had matches with so many great opponents in Jeff Jarrett, RVD, Jody Fleisch, Drew Galloway, Grado to name a few but you don’t need me to tell you how great they all were. What always really amazed me was his keen business sense, PWE was a fine example but there was one thing I really loved. When it was clear opinion on Lionheart was divided, instead of doing the norm and playing to the crowd that are cheering you, he gave people a chance on the merch stand. If you love him, get a t-shirt saying he is a hero, if you hate him, one saying hes a fanny. I don’t think any wrestler has done that before or since
His promos were the stuff of legend with the authoritative tone, he commanded the microphone whenever he was talking. He was never gimmicky or false, he kept everything grounded in reality, he made you believe he genuinely hated whomever he was feuding with and his characterisation in the past few years as the man who couldn’t give a single fuck if you booed or cheered for him was just epic. He knew how to draw you in, how to care about a feud and he didn’t make threats, he made promises. The promo in his feud with Joe Hendry where he basically said if Joe did whatever it was he did again, Lionheart would literally kill him. He said it in such a way that you do a double take and remind yourself it is just wrestling and he’s not really going to murder Joe Hendry. That’s how damn good he was, he made you believe in what he said.
The fact is he will be genuinely missed, while yes I did comment his ICW reign was a bit lacking, it was more on how it was booked. The matches themselves were amazing and any new wrestler wanting to know how to put on a masterpiece could study these on how to put on a great performance in the ring. Hell, I really wish they’d put that match with Noam Dar On Demand for all of you who haven’t seen it. We have a still quite green Noam Dar and Lionheart selling an ankle injury having a five star classic. If any one match shows how amazing he is in the ring that is one of many and thanks to Joe Hendry, I will never listen to Seven Nation Army without thinking of Lionheart and THAT music video.
Everyone is sharing a Lionheart moment, so here’s mine. It was after a show at the Classic Grand, the Gold Label had just dominated yet another event and my wife and I were merely waiting for the bus home when who was at the same stop, Rudo Lightning and Lionheart. Now Lionheart had not long returned from Spain (Kid Fite’s stag do was there) and it turned out they were coming in through the same airport as we were leaving to go home from holiday, my wife and Lionheart chatted about the weather over there and various holiday stuff. No wrestling was ever discussed and when the bus came, (turned out Rudo was getting the same bus as us) he waved at us as well as Rudo off before returning to the after party (I assume that’s where he was going). I guess it stood out in my mind and always will, after seeing how nice a guy he was in person and easy to talk to, I could never boo the man again (BT is the same but for a different reason entirely).
Now I know many people have made various suggestions on how to honor his memory and I am going to be no different. But it’s not a tournament, memorial or title or anything like that, no, I believe a good way to honor the man is to simply make sure PWE, the company that he built from the ground up to be one of the best companies about today. It’s logo and titles bear the ying and yang symbols that were important to the man and gave his hometown a place they could see quality wrestling and I am sure he would want to see it continue on, don’t you? Maybe rename it Lionheart Wrestling if they want to?..
Lionheart was one of the best wrestlers I have personally ever seen live. He will be missed greatly by a lot of people, our thoughts should be with his close friends and family at this difficult time and be respectful of their wishes. I have been wondering what my final words on this report would be, hopefully fitting and respectful.
Heaven has a new angel and his name is Adrian McCallum.