At its core, professional wrestling follows a rather simple business model: entertain the fans and they will come. Those that deliver the best entertainment reap the biggest rewards and it is no surprise therefore that Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW or "I See Dub") are the darlings of the British wrestling scene. As regular readers will know, the Royal Ramblings team has been 'on tour' since the New Year, taking in the best that the UK has to offer. Our final stop and homecoming, had to be epic and what better way to finish than a night with ICW. Having colonised Scotland, the promotion had embarked upon its biggest UK tour and no doubt to the chagrin of southern promotions, had packed out Camden's KOKO for the night which is where we caught up with them.
Having been suitably hyped by MCs Billy Kirkwood and Joe Hendry (who has one of the catchiest theme tunes in wrestling) the night started energetically with a six-man match for ICW's 'Zero G' championship. It takes some time to get six men out from backstage but even the ring introductions in an ICW match are designed to entertain. When Liam Thompson mooned the full throated crowd, it was clear we weren't in town to watch WWE. Once the match got started, there was constant action and numerous high spots. Within the first five minutes we were treated to a running shooting star press and within ten, we had our first flight through the ropes. There was early excitement as the 'New Age Kliq' (NAK), BT Gunn and Chris Renfrew intervened to savage and kidnap a debuting Paul Robinson and the match was interrupted again when Stevie Boy's then 'Bucky Boys' partners Davey Boy and Kay Lee Ray helped him to his first singles title win to end a solid first bout. Given the champion wasn't pinned, there was also an obvious follow-on, so good booking all round.
The next match was a change of pace, with another strong backstory involving Chris Renfrew maintaining a silent presence for many months to intimidate his opponent Lionheart. A now vocal Renfrew played the heel role with aplomb. From having 'F**k London' graffiti on his back to spitting in Lionheart's face, his was a masterclass in drawing heat and the energy unleashed when the bell rang was palpable. The story of the match revolved around Renfrew working the famously broken neck of Lionheart and for the fair-weather fans there was a Stone Cold Stunner and Rock Bottom to enjoy. Renfrew won emphatically with a stunner to an airborne Lionheart, continuing the ascension of the NAK group.
It was another change of pace next with Royal Ramblings favourite Marty Scurll taking on 'Iron Man' Joe Coffey and unexpectedly, Jack Gallagher in a three-way dance. Seeing three such different matches in quick succession had already made for an engaging first half. This bout added comedy to the mix with bad guy Scurll discouraging the crowd from cheering for him. Sadly, the humour was short-lived as a disrespectful fan threw a pint at the ring and drew the ire of Coffey. None the less, the mood rebounded and we were treated to a big swing from Coffey and a great roll around the ring from an entangled Scurll and Gallagher. Coffey took the bout with a Discus Clothesline but Scurll will always be our champion.
Last before the break was the sensation that is Grado facing the 'East End Butcher' Sha Samuels in a 'London street fight'. The wall of sound that met Grado is a testament to his transcendence and if you've not seen him, think the Hulk Hogan of British wrestling. Samuels offset Grado perfectly and this was a classic battle between good and evil. The crowd, which appeared to enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Grado, was even brought into the fight as select members helped to slap Samuels across the chest. There was T-Shirt ripping, pedigree and F5 finisher tributes and in the end Grado got the win to send the crowd to the bar happy.
The second half begun without many even knowing it. Former champions Mikey Whiplash and BT Gunn began brawling at the bar, moved to leapfrogging the venue stairs and only later ended in the ring. Another dual some months in the making, this bout was worthy of a top flight promotion. The story of the match itself revolved around Gunn working the leg of Whiplash. Remarkably, the ring ropes gave way as the match reached its crescendo but the veterans kept their heads and the match going. Chris Renfrew eventually came out for a third time to help his NAK partner and the result was a no-contest.
The next match-up saw Mark Coffey (standing in for an unwell Wolfgang) losing to Noam Dar in a technically proficient, pacey and exciting match. Then we witnessed the combined 45 Stone behemoths Dave Mastiff and Big Damo go toe-to-toe, demonstrating remarkable lift and dexterity for two men their size. There were suplexes, powerslams, dropkicks and an amazing exchange of forearms. Damo eventually got the win with the help of a chair but easily beaten, Mastiff was not.
The final match was set to be a belter. Jack Jester, the legendary Sabu and Drew Galloway delivered a bout of which ECW would have been proud in its heyday. There were flying chairs, corkscrews and even a drill. Sabu's advancing years have not diminished his hard-core prowess one iota and again, for the crowd it was an immersive experience as they restrained the hardcore icon allowing Galloway to attack him. It was an early shower for Sabu following a devastating move from Galloway which left Jester and Galloway time to tear into one another with what felt like legitimate hatred. Whilst Jester kicked out of a number of pin attempts, it was a devilish Galloway, smeared with blood who took the bout with a tombstone piledriver onto a pile of chairs. A fitting end to a violent and bloody bout.
Danger, passion and damn good wrestling. It was a strong finish to our tour. You can view a list of forthcoming ICW shows here.