On 20th November, Insane Championship Wrestling hit The Hydro in Glasgow for what was the biggest show in the companies history. Not just that but with over 6000 fans in attendance, this was the biggest show in independent wrestling that the United Kingdom had seen for a long, long time. The biggest match on the show saw Mark Dallas and Red Lightning fighting for full control of the company as Dallas' team of Sha Samuels, Grado, Chris Renfrew and DCT took on Lightning's Team Black Lable, comprised of Bram, Drew Galloway, Jack Jester and Kid Fite. With a strong mixture of imported performers like Kurt Angle, King Ricochet and Team 3D (Brother Devon & Brother Ray) rubbing shoulders with homegrown talents like Kay Lee Ray and Joe Hendry, would Fear and Loathing IX manage to live up to the incredible hype?
Venue & Crowd - The Hydro is one of my favourite large arenas in the country, thanks to it's bowl-like shape. Of course, using a venue that WWE had run RAW and Smackdown Live in recently, meant that the arena had all the facilities that you'd expect, making it relatively easy to pick up over-priced snacks and drinks. The seats were damn comfy as well. The set-up for the whole show was the best you'd find in the country. Pyro, live screens and various other tricks that made the show feel extremely professional throughout. Unfortunately, from where we were sat there wasn't much in the way of atmosphere. The floor near the ring looked like it was buzzing at times, but sadly that didn't translate to up in the seats, where it seemed like a lot of people had come for the big names and weren't particularly connected with some of the storyline twists and turns that ICW likes to fill it's show with.
Despite being the penultimate match on the card, for me Team Dallas' victory over Team Black Label was Fear and Loathing IX's main event. It had the most riding on it and took up the most time. This was a storyline heavy affair, using the elimination rules to keep the action coming thick and fast throughout, whilst making use of the rich history that existed not just between the opposing teams but with team mates. There was a lot going on. If you like your brawling then this one was for you as it was choc-full of the brawls. Brawling inside, brawling outside. Outside of the brawling, the eliminations flowed freely with Kid Fite and Sha Samuels eliminated within the first two minutes, with the bout having a crazy feeling of momentum, during the first ten minutes, rarely taking a moment to breath and allow certain elements to settle in. Before I knew it DCT, Grado and Bram were all eliminated, just ten minutes into the clash.
With Grado and Chris Renfrew providing the meat of the early narrative, originally scrapping with each other, before combining to eliminate Jack Jester, the bout shifted into even more storyline heavy territory as soon as Drew Galloway and Renfrew remained as their groups final representatives. Ref bumps, interference from Dallas and Lightning, Jester coming back with a pipe of sorts, guest enforcer Finn Balor turning up to enforce the situation, if there had been a lot going on in the first portion of the contest, the last few minutes were so full of hullabaloo, that if you were hullabaloo intolerant you'd almost certainly have had to be rushed to a nearby medical facility (or at least had to speak to the closest St John's Ambulance representative). However, by the time Jester had handed Balor his lead pipe and Balor had whacked Galloway in the belly, allowing Renfrew to hit one of the coolest Stone Cold Stoners you will ever see, I felt pretty damn satisfied with the feel good, overly dramatic ending. It won't have been everyone's cup of tea, but I'm a sucker this much more theatrical feel, with the venue aiding the presentation. It perhaps would have been more effective had more of the audience had been more involved and invested in the story, but for those that were, it was clear that they were completely gripped by the twists and turns as they developed.
In the Stairway to Heaven match, Kenny Williams wrestled the Zero G Championship away from Lionheart, in a contest that also involved Andy Wild, Iestyn Rees, Aaron Echo, Liam Thomson and Zack Gibson. The gimmick involved a regular elimination style format until, the final two remained and the contest transformed into a ladder match. My main problem with this was that only Lionheart and Williams received proper entrances, meaning that no matter how good the wrestling was inside the ring, it all felt like it was treading water until Lionheart and Williams could get at each other properly. The work put in by the five other guys deserved to feel more important than it did. That being said, once we finally got down to the two guys presented as stars, Lionheart and Williams didn't disappoint as they put together a number of big spots involving the signature weapon, with the crowd willing Williams on to get the belt throughout. The Bollock's is an extremely likeable babyface and his struggle towards the belt has clearly been latched onto by a number of ICW's faithful audience, resulting in one of the biggest reactions of the night when he was able to pull the belt down.
The show's World Heavyweight Championship match saw Wolfgang successfully retain the belt against Trent Seven, in a blood and thunder scrap inside and outside of a steel cage. Coming two matches before the end of the show, took a little bit of the life out of it, because many had decided that the feel-good victory for Seven, that many had hoped for, would've seemed out of place two thirds through the show. That didn't stop Seven and Wolfgang putting together a proper scrap that kicked off nicely with Seven hitting a suicide dive through the open cage door. The pair produced some nice big lads stuff inside the cage, trading German suplexes, powerbombs and getting a couple of decent near falls on each other. Unfortunately, with a pair of tables already set up at ringside, it was clear that the match was never going to end until someone had crashed through those tables and of course, with the escape rule in place that meant shenanigans would be afoot. Maybe this was the reason that the majority of the crowd didn't seem to buy into the bout. The finish looked great, as Wolfgang bumped off the top and through the tables, but there was still no covering that this was a screwy finish on the biggest show of the year, with the World title on the line.
More gimmicks! Stevie Boy bested his former New Age Kliq stablemate, BT Gunn in a casket match, in a bout that managed to overcome a difficult gimmick. The two brought a palpable intensity to the contest making sure that each move was hit with that little bit of impact and energy that helps to allow the audience to buy into the fact that these two lads hate each other and want to put the other inside a coffin. The earlier part of the match introduced the casket and allowed the gimmick to settle well, although it was clear that neither man wanted to win the bout without having done some serious damage to the other. The momentum built well throughout with Gunn seemingly having Stevie's number, escaping Stevie's front flip piledriver and coming close with a Brainbuster and even managing to duck a con-chair-to attempt from Stevie and his girlfriend Kay Lee Ray. The finish featured the best use of the casket, as Gunn was caught on the top rope with a massive chair shot from KLR and Stevie hit a wicked powerbomb onto the casket for the win.
Kay Lee Ray picked up her first Women's title over champion Carmel Jacob and fellow challenger Viper in a solid contest that featured a very nice final stretch. After struggling to settle in the first half of the bout, once the action seemed to find it's purpose, the three girls found a nice pace as they traded exciting near falls and a series of fun spots. From the Tower of Doom spot onwards, I felt like the trio had really found a groove. The characters were well defined, with Jacob settling into the devious role she's been better known for in the company, only for KLR to put in one of the most dominant performances I think I've ever seen in this type of match. Multiple Gory Bombs, multiple suicide dives as KLR picked up some killer momentum, meant that by the time she pinned Jacob with a third Gory Bomb, there was to be no doubt as to who the dominant female was in ICW. The title has only been around for since last year, but still it's a surprise that it's taken so long to fall into the arms of arguably the best female performer in the country.
The show-closer was a clash between one of the events biggest draws, Kurt Angle, and one of the most over performers in the company, Joe Coffey. Following the World title and the 100% Control, I'll admit that I wasn't particularly hyped for another match, and having seen Angle a couple of times already this year probably didn't help that either. The match itself was perfectly passable stuff, that I might have been more excited about had it came a bit earlier in the evening. The bout was a ten minute abridged version of what I imagine was a really good match. Angle ran through his repertoire, trio of Germans, near fall off an Angle Slam, straps down and Ankle Lock. It was performed perfectly, but without the time to settle it becomes hard to buy into the near falls when things feel so formulaic. Coffey picking up the win with a Boston Crab, after holding on in the Ankle Lock for so long, gives him a massive boost in credibility among a more mainstream audience and he accounted himself well throughout.
Lewis Girvan picked up a major victory over King Ricochet in one of the stronger wrestling matches on the card. The highlight of the highflying encounter came almost immediately as Ricochet hit a ridiculous tope conhilo over the guardrail and into the crowd in what was the moment of the evening for me. Whilst Girvan's reply was never going to able to compete and the bout struggled to reach the heights that it had already hit, Ricochet and Girvan put together some bloody good stuff. It was speedy Cruiserweight style action, with a nice mix of submissions and hard strikes, as Girvan attempted to keep up with the more experienced and world-travelled NJPW star. Whilst the contest was full of impressive reversals, some of the strongest content came in the final stretch as the pairs signature holds were teased and the pair went back and forth looking to hit the killer blow. Both got strong near falls, with Ricochet landing the Benadryller and Girvan locking on his Peacemaker crossface a number of times. Girvan's victory was satisfying, as it appeared like his foe had underestimated him, resulting in Girvan dodging a 630 splash, getting two from his Saturday Crush DDT, only to look on another Peacemaker attempt to get the victory.
The show opened with a solid scrap that saw Joe Hendry gain revenge on Davey Blaze to earn himself five minutes in the ring with The Wee Man. A fun bout that had a real feel of malice and intent between the pair as they brawled on the ramp, before Hendry delivered a vertical suplex onto the steel. It was a big spot to start the show off well, with the crowd settled down nicely, before Blaze hit a spear and the match continued in a fairly standard pattern. Hendry worked nicely whilst fighting from underneath getting a couple of hope spots in, whilst the match built to some decent heel and face punches with the audience well and truly warmed up by this point. The finish could have been slicker as Hendry managed to power out of Blaze choke, to hit a avalanche fallaway slam, but the move itself looked so impressive and the crowd was so happy to see the victory that it didn't matter all that much.
Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey) retained their Tag Team Championships over Team 3D (Brother Devon (D-Von Dudley) & Brother Ray (Bubba Ray Dudley). That sentence is probably best left on it's own, because if I begin to actually describe what went on the victory sounds a whole less impressive. Let's not beat around the bush, this was the worst match that I've seen live in 2016. It started well enough, there was a ruckus on the outside of the ring and then there was scuffle on the inside the ring. I mean, it was nothing to get excited about, but it wasn't awful and it there was the novelty of the Dudley Boyz. Then there was a point where just about everything seemed to go wrong. Devon & Ray somehow managed to fuck up their 3D finisher, a move they've been doing since before I started school, then there was a whole miscommunication on a chair shot and then Polo Promotions retained the belts with a thing. Both teams are more than capable of good matches on their day, but this certainly wasn't that day (and to be fair, Team 3D's day was in the previous decade).
Any Other Business
- Mick Foley started the show on the big screen, supposedly "live", before introducing Finn Balor who cut a nice homecoming style promo to a big reaction.
- Mark Dallas fired Red Lightning following Team Dallas' victory, with plenty of celebration in and outside of the ring.
- Davey Boy came to the ring following Polo Promotions' victory over Team 3D and ended up taking a Powerbomb through a table from Team 3D.
- Joe Hendry pulled out a crowd pleasing parody entrance to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
- Following the Women's Championship match, Carmel Jacob appeared to retire - Brother Ray made his Tag Team Championship match "No DQ" despite every match in ICW taking place under No Holds Barred rules
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.68/10
Getting 6000 people into a venue is an impressive feat. To go from small community halls to the Hydro is fantastic and a real testament to everyone involved in ICW, from top to bottom. However, that isn't a testament to how good the show was. It tells you how good the build and the promotion for a show was, but not the quality of the event itself.
This was a good event, helped by a number of gimmick matches, with only the Tag Team Championship match to hold it back. There was a couple of elements of the booking (five guys coming out at once for the Stairway to Heaven match, the layout of the second portion of the card), but for the most part the wrestling was strong. Unfortunately, whilst there was a few awe-inspiring moments (Ricochet's dive, the final few minutes of Lionheart and Kenny Williams, Wolfgang's fall from the cage), there was no one match on this show that I would tell anyone that they needed to check out. The spectacle of having 6000 people watching a British produced show is something that I'll never forget, but I don't know if I can say the same about the show itself.
Show in a Sentence - Great spectacle, some good wrestling, but nothing that grabbed me.
Match of the Night - Lewis Girvan v Ricochet
Review - James Marston
Picture Credit - Insane Championship Wrestling