It was set. After a solid 10 months of negotiation (me messaging Joe on FB lit that “wantae dae an interview big yin?”) we finally found a free day in both of our incredibly busy schedules. That day was March 24th 2015. The venue was Nanakusa. A small, but homely Japanese restaurant next to the world famous wrestling pub/winchin hut known as BOX. Continue reading
Wrestling is all about trickery. Making the audience buy in to something that might not be 100% real. There are feuds and rivalries between people who are the best of pals away from the ring, and the trickery there is convincing you that they aren’t best pals; that all the jabs chucked, and running knees to the baws delivered were all real. Fuelled by true friction. The majority of wrestling feuds are between two people who can at least tolerate each other. There’s always an element where the characters have to inject a certain amount of emotion into it to make it believable. Also known as “acting”
Jackie Polo and Lionheart are not acting.
When this rivalry first emerged it made all the sense in the world. They do have completely different wrestling philosophies. Lionheart has always been an avid self promoter and there’s fuck all wrong with that. If you have a name that people recognise, and accolades people might take notice of, tell everycunt. Shout it fae the fuckin rooftops, cause shouting it leads to opportunities, and opportunities leads to money. Its as simple as that. Everyones looking for the best way to get people through the door to see them do that wrestling carry on.
Jackie Polo self promotes in a different way. Jackie Polo lets the world know that in his eyes, he’s the best Scotland has to offer. In that ring, on the mic, and in any sort of competitive scoop slamming competition. He’s the guy. Come see him if you want to see perfection. Simple as that. Two different ways of doing things. Two different attitudes towards everything. They clash. No matter who you believe when it comes to the origins of this unrest, its very clear by the way the “shoot” interview in January ended, that this is real. These two fucking hate each other and there’s a good chance this match ends in a no contest because they beat each other to a bloody pulp. ICW has had plenty of extreme moments, but they’ve had nothing as extreme as two guys vehemently battering fuck out each other. The difference between this feud and pretty much every other feud in Scotland recently, is that these two truly hate each other and cant wait to show 1,600 in the Barrowlands just how real it is.
Theres an aspect of this match, and the main event at Barramania that some folk might be overlooking. This is the old guard vs the new school. This is auld Crossroads vs the revamped Crossroads. This is the auld dugs vs the slightly younger dugs. This could mark the dawning of a new era. Ye see Jackie Polo wanted Lionheart in the first place so he could prove that he was better than him. That he had surpassed any level Lionheart had ever reached. He thought Hearto was on his way out, and he should have stuck to the first retirement. Whilst that infamous tweet was undoubtedly disrespectful, it was a sign that Jackie Polo never felt Lionhearts injury was relevant in a wrestling sense because in his eyes, he had already retired, and Jackie Polo was charged with delivering one last nail in the coffin.
But Lionheart never gave up. He worked his way back. No matter what you think of Lionheart, you cant do anything but admire that. Not only a career threatening injury, but a life threatening injury. He bided his time, and rebuilt. Now he can do the thing he loves to do again, and in his eyes that means Jackie Polo dies. Thats where the venom comes from. Its fuck all to do with any of the personal stuff both Jackie Polo and Lionheart himself have brought up. Its fuck all to do with any shots they’ve taken at each others careers. Its to do with two guys not liking each other. To the point that one of them didnt even have a sympathetic word when the other almost had his retirement taken out of his own hands. Jackie Polo doesn’t respect Lionheart, and Lionheart couldnae give a shit about that, but the fact that Jackie Polo almost found humour in the fact that Lionheart might not be able to do the thing he loves anymore? Thats when professional courtesy goes out the window, and the punches dont get pulled. The elbows get properly dropped. Right on the pointy bit. The rocks are properly bottomed. The hazards are real.
The problem for Lionheart there is that Jackie Polo disnae gie a fuck. Jackie Polo has had the guts kicked out him by Johnny Moss and still got the win. Jackie Polo has sat in front of an audience that chose to turn the other way, and remained undeterred, delivering a performance every time. Jackie Polo wanted this to be real, so he could show the world that Jackie Polo is not a character. Jackie Polo is not an exaggeration of a real man. Jackie Polo is real. There’s a Mr and Mrs Polo, and they still sing that song to me, about the time they called him Jackie. He didn’t want a match with Lionheart because he felt it could further his career as Jackie Polo the wrestling character, he wanted the match because as a man, Jackie Polo disagrees with the way Lionheart goes about his business. He feels that he’s an arse kisser, and if Jackie Polo can take enough jabs at the old dog to have him biting back, that’s exactly what he wants. Hearto SHOULD want to legitimately knock fuck out of him, and Jackie Polo is undoubtedly ready to fire legit blows back at him. Say what you want about Jackie Polo, but its exactly a year since this match was supposed to take place, and he’s kept this feud hot. Considering how fast things move on in indy wrestling, that no mean feat.
While the hatred between the two is undoubtedly real, there’s no doubt that they both know this could be the best match of their careers. Jackie Polo told the audience it would be rubbish. It very well might, but matches of this nature rarely disappoint. Polar opposites they might be, but they’re both performers at the end of the day and both want to showcase themselves in the best way possible. The best way to do that is to steal the fuckin show, and batter each other afterwards if ye must. The outcome of this match may give some indication as to what way the title match might go, because make no mistake about it; the majority of folk reckon Lionheart has it won. The crowd expects and they’re expected to get their moment. Obviously a no contest is possible but unlikely, so if ICW really want to show people they are putting their faith in the new school, having Polo come out on top would make a huge statement, and maybe give Joe Coffeys legions of fans a bit of hope when he faces up to on of Lionhearts old pals, the original Scottish superstar Drew Galloway.
For me a Polo win would be a brave but logical move, because Polo was the one who made Scottish Wrestling real to me. That character made it feel like it mattered. If a guy could inject so much commitment into a character, and keep it going amidst unspeakable amounts of abuse, and the occasional threat of retaliatory urination from Sweeney, it must matter. These guys must be serious. On the other side of the coin, when I went to my first ICW show, the only person I was told about was Lionheart. He was “the guy whos wrestled for WWE and TNA” and he had a belter of a match with Mikey Whiplash that night, Truth be told, I’ve scarcely seen him have a shite match, and he undoubtedly earned all those accolades you hear rhymed off when his name’s mentioned, but to gain those accolades he needed opportunities to shine. He probably needed someone older and more experienced to step to one side and let him climb up the ladder.Theres certainly a thirst from a lot of folk to see Lionheart punch Polo’s cunt in, but maybe there’s a way to do that and still have Polo with his hand raised in victory. Maybe the valiant comeback can be equally valiant in defeat as it would be in victory.
Lionheart certainly has plenty left in the tank and will have a new lease of life since his recovery, but when you put the personal shit aside, it might make sense for Polo to win. The shock value alone would make it worthwhile, because wrestling is about trickery. Wrestling is about convincing the audience that what they’re watching is 100% real, and there’s nothing more real than something that leaves you slack jawed, wondering what the fuck just happened.
That last image, and all the other ones were of course provided by David J Wilson and his excellence. The shoot interview they are taken from can be found on ICW On Demand.
Liam Thomson is the type of guy you appreciate if you like your wrestling done correctly. Everything always works. Since splitting with Kid Fite and working as a singles wrestler pretty much everywhere, Liam Thomson has been arguably the most consistent wrestler in Scotland. Providing the perfect old school bad guy opponent for everyone from the jovial bumbag wearing Grado, to the scary as fuck bawbag kicking Tommy End. If there’s any justice with this wrestling carry on, 2015 will be the year Liam Thomson gets the widespread recognition he deserves. Every great journey has to start somewhere I suppose eh. So before he gets to taking over Scottish Wrestling one backcracker at a time, he answered some daft questions for us on everything from Carmel to Papa Shango.
Joe Coffey used to have an interesting relationship with ICW. Fractious at best. Resentful at worst. He knew it had the potential to blow up, but it felt unattainable for him. There was too many ahead of him in the queue and there was no way for him to break down those barriers and get the spot his talent level deserved. For me Joe Coffey was so effective as a world hating heel in ICW because it was real. He really did feel that a lot of the show was a joke, and he probably did resent Grado enough to fuel the often palpable hatred he displayed for him during their short feud in 2013, but then Joe realised what had to happen. ICW would never have more than a mid card role for Joe as he was, and for the best wrestler in Scotland that had to be frustrating. Wrestling had never been JUST about wrestling though. As much as a lot of people wish it was, the amount of people who enjoy what the likes of Joe Coffey, Jack Gallagher, Mikey Whiplash, Doug Williams, Jackie Polo, Mark Coffey and Noam Dar do at their very best is far outweighed by the amount of people who will pay a score to see Sabu bleed, and that’s ok. Joe Coffey knew that if he was going to get the push he deserved he had to hover somewhere in between the pure wrestling style he favoured and the pure violence that became synonymous with the early days of ICW (and lives on with Chris Renfrew’s current attempts to physically and mentally dismantle Divers) He had to be a different sort of “tweener”. And he became the Iron Man.
It was the feud with James Scott in the second half of 2013/first half of 2014 that changed it all for Joe. He went from having the most under-appreciated match of the card every month to being the focal point in the best wrestling feud ICW had seen in a long time. Every match was a classic. Not just because they had styles that meshed perfectly, but because they trusted each other to tell the story. For me, all the best wrestling feuds are the ones where both opponents put their complete trust in their opposite number, no matter how they might feel about that opponent personally. Without that mutual respect and trust, matches always seem choreographed and wooden. For me the best matches are the ones that look choreographed without that actually being the case. Two wrestlers completely in sync (this is starting to sound a bit romantic eh? why don’t yees just get a room ffs) James Scott and Joe Coffey had that and as Joe now stands on the precipice of becoming “the guy” its important to remember how much of a role the former 2 time ICW Champion played in that. People tend to forget, James Scott was the original “guy”. James Scott in the first incarnation of the Darkside character was the “guy” before most people knew how significant that was and for Joe Coffey to truly evolve into an ICW force, he needed to take out one of the kingpins. James Scott fitted the bill, and in the process of doing that, he had some of the matches of his career and it all ended in him finally having the that thing he needed to make him stand out.
Once the feud with Scott came to an end, Joe needed more scalps. That feud gave him a better footing in ICW and lead to the streak of his career. Overcoming Brian Kendrick at Still Smokin in what was as underrated a 10 minute opening match on a card as you’ll see, before taking out another former 2 ICW Champion during the run of Fringe shows, when him and BT Gunn knocked 11 shades of shite out each other at Studio 24. Mikey Whiplash is the latest former champion to fall at the feet of the Iron Man, but for me, before he gets the chance to raise that belt above his head as his very own, he needs the whole set. Every former ICW Champion sitting on his mantelpiece. He currently has three out of six, and if you look at the six ex champions individually, you see why each of them was chosen to be “the guy” at some point.
Drew Galloway was the first champion because he was a big handsome talented bastard. Darkside and BT Gunn were both 2 time champions because they were the guys who put on the best matches at that time. Red Lightning was champion to unite the audience in disdain for him as he pinned every cunt they ever loved. I’m no just talking favourite wrestlers either, he pinned yer maw, yer granny, yer favourite character oot Breaking Bad, My Blobby oot Noels House Party. Anyone you hold dear, he pinned that prick and called that prick a prick while he was doing it, before sticking the middle finger up at all the pricks in the crowd that thought it was going to end any other way. Then we had Whiplash. The wrestling genius who could make any type of match with any type of opponent work, and then we had the only guy with the widespread popularity with the ICW fans who could conceivably usurp Whiplash. Jack Jester. Each and every one of them served a particular purpose as champion, and now we’re back with Drew.
ICW want to go global. Thats not just buzzword bullshit. ICW want to provide a product that continues to embody all the things that made ICW popular in the first place, whilst adding bits and pieces that give the product more widespread appeal. Drew Galloway ticks all of those boxes and is undoubtedly the only person they could conceivably put the belt on that has the appeal to allow the title to be defended in so many different countries against such diverse opponents. These title defences are fairly hollow in the sense that you know fine well there’s fuckin nae chance Matt Hardy is becoming the ICW Champion, but the defences put ICWs name out there and if ICW are going to continue to grow and make an impression on wrestling in a wider sense, Drew needs that belt. Drew will continue to hold that belt for the foreseeable future and in doing so he’s going to break yer hearts quite often. The heroes that everyone adopted as ICW grew to what it is today will be the guys that Drew puts down. He already broke so many NAK hearts when him and Renfrew brutalised each other for 15 minutes before Drew eventually retained, and if you’re looking for a prediction from me (why the fuck wid ye be? I’m a helmet) my prediction is that Joe Coffey WILL be the next ICW Champion. But it wont happen at Barramania.
What will happen at Barramania will be one of the best ICW Title matches in the company’s history if its done right, and that is fucking exciting in its own right, because Joe is ready to be champ, and will be hell-bent in going out there and proving that, but this wee simmering feud with ICW GM Red Lightning, and the fact that Red is in the best shape he has been since he won the belt almost 3 years ago, leads me to believe that Joe will not prevail on March 29th. A lot of things will conspire against him to stop that happening, and Joe will have to topple ICWs new “authority” before he gets his hands on the gold, and whilst he’s doing that, Drew will be helping the company take over the world.
Once the world is conquered, and ICW sits on the mountain top. Then it has to be Joe Coffeys time. Joe Coffey adapted everything he is for ICW, and he done it without being best pals with anyone important. He achieved it with hard work, and dedication to making his skillset work in the environment and that’s a special thing. That willingness to adapt and evolve has been the driving force behind so many special things for Joe. More mic time at shows, more match time, more interesting matches. Being given the platform to put on wrestling clinics at EVERY big ICW show, and being given the platform along with Noam Dar to captivate audiences in 4 different cities in a 5 match series that reminded everyone who had the fortune of seeing it that Scottish Wrestling isn’t just blowing up because of cultural changes and mainstream media coverage exposing it to a wider audience, its blowing up because we have some of the best pro wrestlers on this fuckin planet. Nae offence to our Noam or anyone else, but Joe Coffey is the best of the bunch in my eyes, and when Joe Coffey stands opposite the most influential Scottish Wrestler of all time (who else has come close to the worldwide recognition that Drew has?) he will be standing opposite what he aspires to be. Without the same natural physical gifts as Drew was born with, Joe had to work hard to craft the character you see before you today. He had to learn what the audience needed from him and how he could provide that without sacrificing his own beliefs too much.
So he became other worldly. He became a beast. He took that engaging work you see in the ring and applied it to his character. Every time a challenge has been put in front of Joe Coffey in the past 2 years in ICW, he has met and surpassed expectations and FORCED his way into this match at Barramania by earning enough support to be voted ICW wrestler of the year for 2014, amidst stellar competition from BT Gunn, who had also sparkled in every match he was in that year. Another former champion toppled. Validation from the fans confirmed, and now they sing his name louder and prouder than anyone elses. They do that because he’s the best. They do that because even though it might not seem logical that Joe takes the belt from Drew at this point, he makes them believe he can. They beat their chests with him, and buy in to everything he is, and whilst thats the case, they will make the atmosphere inside the Barrowlands fucking electric for that match. So much so that it might even will Joe to do the unthinkable, but even if he doesn’t do it at Barramania, there’s no doubt in my mind who your next ICW Champion is. He’s a wrestler. He’s a fair bit mighty. His name is Joe Coffey.
All credit for the brilliant photos to David J Wilson
There is no excuse for poorly researched journalism. None at all. Unless your subject matter is obscure enough to evade returning any results on google, it should be properly researched before you put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. Or you communicate your words through an interpreter via morse code. I don’t really care how you get your words out there, but its important that you have a bit of integrity and research them before you do. The article The Guardian put out today was not researched at all and I’m not even going to link it. You all know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to go on a huge ramble about this, because there’s people with more important voices than mine that will have words to say about it, but I will say this. The United Kingdom has the most vibrant Independent Wrestling scene in the fucking world right now, and thats down to a lot of hard work and sacrifice from people to add professionalism to it. A lot of hard work and sacrifice from people to make the in ring product unmissable in the case of some promotions (ICW and Progress namely) a lot of hard work and sacrifice to turn the holiday camp and family show circuit into something that kids and adults both want to be at. Making the quality of wrestling across the board so high that fuck ups dont feel like the norm. Bad matches stick out like a sore thumb. Bad promoters are outed, and bad schools gain bad reputations.
THAT is what British Wrestling is. Whilst theres a lot of egos and infighting at times, theres also a great unity when tragedy strikes. Lionhearts neck break, Kris Travis being diagnosed with cancer, and the willingness from fellow workers and fans to help out any wrestler who suffers a career threatening injury. They buy merch and send well wishes while that person attempts to heal and get back to doing the thing they love. THAT is what characterises British Wrestling. Not a forlorn yearning to the good old days where (legendary) obese guys bumped into each other a lot. If you still think thats what British Wrestling is, with all due respect…you’re a fucking idiot. It wasnt even British Wresting back then, British Wrestling was the birthplace of all the catch techniques the purists admire to this day. Know what we have instead of fat guys bumping into each other now? Absolutely everything. No matter your taste, theres something in this country to cover it. Even if your taste is still having rotund fellows bump into each other, we dont do that the same way we used to. We have guys like Dave Mastiff and Big Damo bump into each other, and then they go ahead and work my personal favourite match of 2014. Even the big lumps are agile and they can wrestle. Thats what British Wrestling is, so see yer wee ill informed fluff pieces? Stick them up yer arse. And if theres any room, stick Simon Cowell up there with them.
Peace and love