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.
Knowing Mr Coffey’s Japanese connections, admittedly I was concerned. What if this is a Yakuza hit? Has Joe finally looked to seek vengeance for me voting for BT Gunn as 2014 wrestler of the year? Has he found out I do actually prefer tea? I entered the venue tentatively, and worried about how many Germans I’d be on the sharp end of for being 3 minutes late (I wis gettin batteries for the Dictaphone awrite? aff ma case) but when I entered the lights were dimmed, there was no staff in sight and I honestly didnae have a fuckin clue what was happening. Assuming I was missing somethin, I asked the only employee I could see whit the score was. “Where do I go?” I enquired, assuming there was a secret restaurant behind a trap door; he pointed downstairs so down I went, to be met with the toilets, and some discarded. Definite hit. I’m fuckin deid here.
Turns out Nanakusa closes between half 2 and 5. Says it right there on the window as ye walk in. Joe was across the road, saw me looking confused and lost and summoned me to Steak and Cherrys. It was never a hit. Only thing Joe Coffey hits is dafties. The thing he hits them with is lariats. The things he hit me with during the course of this interview were word lariats. If you don’t know what word lariats are well…neither do I. I’ve made that up. I’m certainly not making this up though. This is where you get the real benefit of a face to face interview because for the hour and a half that I spent with Joe Coffey on Tuesday, one thing absolutely shone through, with every word he said, every movement he made, and even the salad he ordered in Steak and Cherrys. Every single facet of Joe Coffeys being right now suggests that he is more than ready to become ICW Champion. This is HIS time, and he earned this shot by doing things HIS way. In Joes words, no matter if he becomes ICW Champion on Sunday or not, Drew Galloway will known he’s stepped in the ring with the best wrestler in Scotland. The war has begun.
We stated off breezy. Some general chat about the weekend ahead. Folk may be forgetting that aside from The Barras, Joe takes on Big Damo in Newcastle on Saturday. When he takes on Drew, he gives away quite a height advantage right away, and if Big Damo gets standing on his chest, he’ll also be giving away quite a significant rib advantage (Cause Drew has hunners and Joe will maybe have 2 or 3 left, thats the joke there) Joe told us that while he was relaxed and had a good training week ahead of the big weekend, he’s been working with a fractured carpal (in laymans terms, that means a sare haun/wrist) so the likelihood of him hiptossing Drew all the way to Bairds Bar are slim. He doesn’t feel the injury will restrict him wrestling wise though, because his bones are made of titanium and he has the healing power of 8 unicorns. In other words. He’s mighty (get used to that btw, it’s gonnae happen a lot) With the general chit to one side and grub ordered, we got down to the nitty gritty. Before we move on, have a wee picture so it breaks up the numerous walls of text that will grace your eyes throughout this article.
How ye feeling about the weekend?
Relaxed. Had a good training week. As the documentary (on ICW On Demand) showed. Looking to add the ICW World Heavyweight Title to a growing list. All eyes are on Independent Wrestling right now, and ICW are leading the way in terms of companies to watch, so that means the world will be watching that match. Really looking forward to testing myself against Drew as well. He’s the pinnacle in terms of Scottish Wrestlers. But I’m the new generation. He’s part of the same generation as the likes Lionheart, Jester, Wolfie, Red Lightning etc. I’m part of the next generation. Myself, Mark, Jackie Polo, even the likes of Noam Dar. I’ve done something he’s not as well. I have accolades of my own. Wrestling in Japan. Wrestling in the Korakuen Hall and stuff like that.
So tell us about your experience in Japan. Any funny stories you have, and the general affect the trip had on your outlook towards wrestling.
It gave me that little bit more focus. Its just a shame that Zero-1 didnt work out to a full time position, because they’re skint. Theres only really one or two companies now. New Japan obviously being the main one. It gave me an extra focus, so its a shame it never worked out full time. We had a good group of Gajins. Myself, James Raideen. Who I wish people could have saw more of. Honestly, remember Triple H with his blonde mullet? He was his spitting image. Guys like that, and of course Jonathan Gresham (works regularly with SWA when hes over here) and eventually Mark coming over the following year.
In terms of stories, After the shows we’d be taken to a sponsor dinner, usually in a hotel. One night we didnt get taken to a hotel, the veterans were but we got taken to this spa.
I let out a long, sinister laugh, assuming this was the type of spa where ye get a hot coal up the rectum for pleasure….I mean eh…..a happy ending n that. Joe quickly dispelled such dirty notions
Its not what yer thinking! But I just wanted to go to sleep. We were young boys as well, so we still had to load the ring up and take it apart. And the ring isnt like the rings here, it would take a good 45 minutes to take apart. We were also doing the fucking the laundry and what have you. So we rolled up to this Spa at one in morning, and I was thinking it would this wee relaxing spa, but we went in, and it was honestly a water park. Coming up to 2 in the morning, and there’s kids running about. It turned out to be quite relaxing, but it was one of those ones where you’re wondering if you’re even awake.
In terms of wrestling stories, I’d made my debut in the Korakuen Hall, in a 6 man tag match, with James Raideen on the opposing team. James Raideen and I got on like a house on fire. He’d always wind me up about being a “Mick cunt” and he would talk about me talking like I had “a fuckin sock in my mouth, always asking for potatoes” so he had the Scottish and Irish thing mixed up. I’ve just entered the ring at the Korauken Hall. With bigger shows I tend to be more relaxed than with smaller ones. So I’m in the ring. Pumped up. Never been more at home than I was in front of 3,000 fans, and all of a sudden this thing rolls towards me. I picked up, and its a fucking potato that he’s drawn a face on. So I’m in the middle of the Korakuen Hall with a towel over my head trying no to burst out laughing.
Any matches in particular from Japan that stick out in your mind?
It was at a pay per view in the Yokohama Arena I’d say my best match happened. It was myself and Obata (recently worked with SWA and PBW) teaming together, with James Raideen on the other team. Maybe the young boys over there wouldn’t have the experience to be able to call a match, but over here its totally different. Over here you’re thrown into all sorts of different situations, so that made it natural for me to put the match together. When we got backstage, all the veterans thanked us for the match. The junior match that had been on before with all the other gajins was rank rotten, so in a way we sort of saved it with the match we put on. Towards the end of the tour I had the chance to wrestle Masato Tanaka one on one, and he came to me before the match and said “please…you call tonight” which was of course a big mark of respect. Another match I’d say stood out for me was a wee house show match with James Raideen.
I think wrestling in that style definitely gave me a unique experience. One of the guys I wrestled called Kohei Sato was one of the toughest. I must’ve wrestled him 9 dates in a row and every single night he would snapmare me and kick me as hard as he could. In one of the matches he knocked my tooth out. But thats just the way it is. I have very much the same mentality. Theres no point beating about the bush. This is wrestling, not ballet.
Joe then goes on to tell me an utterly terrifying story of how someone approached him at his gym and told him “wrestling’s fake!” so he put him in a wrist lock and asked him to say it again. With a ring set up at the gym he gave the same man the chance to take a Jackie Polo infused scoop slam and when his spine went crashing down to the hard canvas as the last breath escaped from his body, he managed to let out one last murmur that resembled “I’m sorry”. Moral of the story for me was that if you step into Joe Coffeys jungle, don’t get wide, or you’ll get eaten. Oh and also, wrestling isn’t fake. People are fake. Thats the other moral.
What kind of relationship do you and Mark have? Do you push each other on? Is there a healthy rivalry between you?
Well we tag every now and again, and we’ll always be niggling at each other about what we could have done better and stuff. Now we’re focussed on our own seperate things, because at the end of the day we’ve both got our own goals.
We will try and watch each other’s matches, and we will say if we dont like anything that each other’s doing and we’ll argue it until we’re blue in the face. Honestly, I feel sorry for anyone we’re travelling with sometimes, because the arguments get so heated sometimes and then all of a sudden there’s silence in the car.
Do you feel Mark would maybe be more honest with you than anyone else when it comes to giving you feedback and stuff
Definitely. In wrestling you’ll get a lot of people who tell you what you want to hear. That’s why I avoid the afterpartys. Not because I dont like taking to the fans, if anyone interacts with me on social media, I’ll always reply. I avoid the afterparties because you’ll get people telling you how good you are, and I think it’s very easy to get complacent and start believing in your own hype.
When I asked if he and Mark might be working together at some point in the near future, I did get the impression that they’re certainly up for it. The wee in-ring spats you’ve seen them have are a result of them going down different career paths, and that could lead to a collision course between the two. Especially since Mark and Jackie Polo heinously cost Joe the SWA belt, but one thing’s for sure, is that it would take a lot to get them to step in the ring together. Blood is always thicker than bookings and you dont batter your brother lightly. Unless he steals yer fitba stickers or something.
I think there could be a bit of resentment towards Grado and Jester, because at the end of the day, we’re bursting our arses every week and they get more opportunities, but on the flip side of that, they’ve done so much to take the company forward and expose it to a wider audience. At the end of the day, Grado can do something I could never do.
Do you have designs on working down south more in the future? Maybe for the likes of Progress, PCW etc?
I’d love to work more down south yeah. Progress is a company I’d obviously like to work for. I did work for PCW once, against Dave Mastiff in 2012, but I had a bit of a run in with regards to getting my footage back. Basically they wanted to sell me a DVD, and I obviously refused, but I’m not entirely sure why they haven’t got me back. If it’s that, or maybe the crowd didn’t react as well as they wanted. Right now I work regularly with Target down in Carlisle. HxC, where me and Damo do the Bravehearts tag team gimmick. It was actually Damo who talked me into that, and when he first brought it to me I told him there wasn’t a chance. I’m not going around looking like I’ve fallen off a shortbread tin, but he enticed me in to doing it. Saying it would be fun, I could do the paint, he’d get paint done as well, and eventually I agreed to doing it. It ended up being one of the most fun things I’ve done in wrestling. It adds a different dynamic for me as well, in terms of getting a bit of comedy involved.
With the scene as vibrant as it is up here now, there’s near enough something every weekend, but I like to keep as busy as possible and keep the diary full, so I’m definitely looking to make more of a mark down south.
Was your evolution from being very much a straight laced ‘wrestler’ to the Iron Man something you put a lot of thought into, as a way of gaining more of a following in ICW and beyond, or was it something that happened more naturally?
Initially it started off when I started doing the facepaint. Mark will claim he gave me that idea, but I’d always had designs on doing that. One of the things that inspired it was the first wrestling figure I got being the old WCW Sting. I did like Sting, because as a young guy, the colours and the vibrancy attract you, and makes that character stick out. So my thinking behind the paint was to have the same sort of appeal to the younger fans at the family shows as Sting had for me when I was younger. Obviously Devitt started doing the paint around the same time, and started to get really creative with it. In ICW I just wanted to do different things, I tend to use Imogen Maxwell and also my friend Kimberley Fairlie who’s a makeup artist too. I always try to bounce ideas off them, and theme it around what’s going on at the time, so for example the first iron man match was the Terminator. The second iron man match I done the paint to match the shirt he was wearing in Terminator 2. So its wee ideas like that. For show me your lizard I done the lizard type thing, and for the match with Brian Kendrick at Still Smokin I done the anonymous paint, because I felt like that reflected that I felt like this anonymous wrestler, just sort of flung into the card.
Do you ever feel that despite your match invariably being one of, if not the best matches of the night, that your match maybe isn’t given the recognition it deserves in terms of promotion before the show, and the ultimate placement on the card
With the Kendrick match, I knew it was a good match. I knew it was a good match, but it wasn’t a great match. Because it was an opening match. I know what to do in an opening match, every wrestler does. I would have loved to have gone 20 minutes with Kendrick, fantastic wrestler and a great guy to boot, but I *pauses* I don’t know, it doesn’t annoy me, but I wish sometimes maybe certain matches could be better placed on the card. The Robbie Dynamite match in particular was hard because we were on before the big match, so yeah. I just always try to make the best of the time I get, no matter what.
Especially Shugs House Party, where your match brought the crowd back up after a couple of….interesting segments.
Myself and Jack seem to have this chemistry every time we step in the ring together. But yeah…that segment. Done its job man. That’s heat. *laughs*
Its things like that, where you come back and you’re told “thanks for doing that match man” because thats the crowd brought up again, and I like to think people are entertained by what I do. I always think about that time Cena said “people pay their hard earned money, and they can do whatever they want”. I always admired that attitude. He did steal my chest beating though! We were sitting watching him in the dressing room when we were down for the tryout, and he started doing the chest beating. Me, Mark and Joe Hendry are watching it on the monitor, and I’m going “are you fucking kidding me?” Obviously the Wolf of Wall Street thing was pretty popular, but I maintain that he stole it from me.
A wee example of some of the supreme technical warfare these two have produced in the past, as Jack Gallagher rolls Joe Coffey intae a wee baw and boots him right up the arse.
How was the whole WWE Experience for you?
Comfortable. In terms of the tryout itself, the training is what it is. I had no problems with that. I think what made it comfortable is the fact that you’re standing in the ring. Looking out at the arena, and WWE obviously like their arenas to look similar. So it feels like you’ve been in that ring a million times before, because you’re so used to seeing it in that setting through pay-per-views, weekly shows and video games. I felt it went well and got some great feedback so its a case of waiting to see what the future holds in that sense.
The appearance itself was a lot of fun. I wore my old school blazer, Joe Hendry brought his pink suit, and Mark brought the penguin suit. The rest of them all had costumes made for them, but we brought our own. Adam Rose particularly liked the school blazer.
How do you feel about the chants you get nowadays, do you feel they add an extra dimension to you or it maybe detracts from the wrestling a wee bit?
Theres nothing worse sometimes when you’re down on the canvas and you’re hearing nothing, so it almost acts as a 12th man for me. It keeps me going. Its that type of atmosphere that gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, and the thing about it is, that the chants were all organic. The Iron Man thing seemed to start when I started beating my chest, but it was nothing to do with that. It started when I went up to Darkside and stood face to face and said “I AM THE IRON MAN” and all I heard was “doo doo doo doo” and thats where that started. The mighty wrestler chant seemed to start from one drunk guy, and kudos to him, because it’s caught on from there. I remember at one point in that match with Liam, when I got him over for the Boston Crab and all of a sudden it occurred to me what they were chanting, and I looked around in bemusement thinking “who are they chanting for?” I welcome it though. Thats where the whole “ultrons” thing comes from, because in a sense I want to crowd to be like football ultras.
What would you say your favourite matches have been to date?
Recently I had a great match with Crusher Craib at Wrestlezone. He’s a guy who should be looked at a lot more on terms of bigger guys.
The one with Noam at the Barrowlands. Could have done more it, but it was still great.
The best of 5 sticks out, every match was so different, Noam being a different style to me, we meshed well and all 5 matches were different. The matches with Darkside were also brilliant. Plus he has an MMA background, so that was a new challenge for me. Knowing you can be hit with anything at anytime. Steel cage match with Mikey Whiplash at SWA. Again, I’m out my comfort zone there. So that was another challenge. Had a couple of great matches with Rampage Brown too, one in Tidal a couple of weeks back.
See to be honest, this is not me just saying it, I get something out of every match. I could sit and give you good points and bad points to every match I do. Although I’d say for the past two years I’ve had about 95% good matches with people, although it always depends who you’re in there with, and if they can push you to your limit.
How did you feel about winning ICW Fans Wrestler of The Year?
The accolades are nice. Its good to have people recongise what you do, and that they appreciate it and enjoy. For me, personally, its driven me more. I want that award again. And its nothing to do with me wanting the spotlight, its about having that recognition, and people recognising that what you do is worthwhile.. Essentially wrestling is the creative side. You’ve got the canvas, and just like and artist, you need to create art on that canvas, and thats what I want to do. Thats my passion, thats my art. So I want to get better every single day, every single week, every single month, every single year. So winning the award again is one of the things I’ll be chasing along with that ICW World Heavyweight Title
You recently had a t-shirt brought out, what’s your thoughts on that?
Hideous. Its not what I agreed to. I didnt agree to the colours, or to have it look like a can of Irn Bru. I feel that it makes no sense whatsoever, and it was done to make money off of me when I was on a hot streak. I appreciate the fact that I will make a cut of that money, I don’t feel that it reflects me, I feel that it was made more for the company than me. Of course I’m donating any money I make from the t-shirt to the Princes Trust, but that t-shirt is not what I agreed to.
There was a red one that was supposed to come out and I thought that one was ok, but then the next day I looked on Facebook and there was this orange one.
You’ve worked both heel and face in ICW. With your villain persona being centrered around cleaning up the company and seeking vengeance on Grado. Do you prefer that side of your character, or the side you’re currently portraying in ICW? Was there any genuine bitterness behind the old villain persona?
Its one and the same to me. I enjoy both. It just reflects how I feel at the time.
Oh yeah, I was bitter, I was pissed off. I lost out on a lot of money from my personal business and personal endeavours. I had the option to perhaps take action legally, but I didnt think it would be for the best from a wrestling standpoint, and the company I sustained the injury in haven’t reciprocated that gesture in my eyes. I spent hundreds of pounds on physio just to get back to a level of fitness that would allow me to return to working with my own business outwith wrestling, and obviously getting back into the ring, and since then I’ve been left on a few of their shows.
I was pissed off at a few things at that time, and I obviously felt ICW was becoming more bloody. To me it was overkill, and theres a lot of other things you can do to hurt people without that sort of stuff. It was when I saw a match with light-tubes, I think that was it for me. This hasn’t cleaned up. We are not a garbage deathmatch company. I actually cut a promo after a match when I realised my leg was cut, and I went off on one. Thats obviously where a lot of save pro wrestling stuff stemmed from
With the match at the weekend with Drew, do you feel that no matter the outcome, the match will improve your standing in the company, and help your reputation in general?.
I think ive only ever been in ICWs main event once, against Jester in Maryhill. So I’m looking forward to that. Everyone’s watching. It’s the last thing people will see on the night, so it’ll leave a lasting impression on peoples minds. In terms of the tour, I want to go in to the tour as champion. I want people who might be coming along to the shows for the first time to see that this is the new direction ICW is taking. If I look at it like I train, I always set myself goals, and even if I dont reach that goal right away, I’ll keep plugging away until I do. So even if I dont take the belt on Sunday, I’ll keep grafting until I do, but make no mistake about it. I’m looking to win the belt on Sunday.
Would it be extra special to take the title at the Barrowlands?
100%. People think its a foregone conclusion that Drew steps out the Barrowlands as champion. He’s in there with one of the top, if not THE top wrestler in the UK. I’ll take on anyone. I think it would be extra special to do it the Barrowlands. Especially with that atmosphere.
My big fear is that this will be my one and only opportunity and if I don’t win, I’m right back down the contender pecking order, which is frankly bollocks. If I do win, Drew can certainly get his rematch though. That’s fine with me.
How do you feel about the fact that Drew hasn’t had much to say regarding you and this match in general?
I’ve got two theories. One is that he’s very busy. Drew is a full time professional wrestler. He also has numerous other titles to defend, but at the same time there should be a focus on the company that has helped drive you forward. Which ICW has done. The revolution is something I still don’t understand, I’m not really sure what it is, and I’ve still not seen it. So yeah, one theory is that he’s busy, but I’ve not seen him revolutionise anything in ICW, and if the whole revolution was to get ICW on television, I’m still searching my TV listings waiting for it.
The other theory I have is that he’s pushing it to the back of his mind because he cant hang with me in the ring. Then again maybe he’s playing mind games with me. Maybe he’s letting me get all amped up, but I think its more likely that he’s pushing it to the back of his mind because he’s not just going to be in there with a man, he’ll be in there with an Iron Man. He’s not in there with a wrestler, he’s in there with a mighty wrestler. I’m not the revolution, I’m the evolution.
He’s never been in the ring with anyone like me. Since he’s came back his opponents have all be chosen for him. Its similar to in boxing, where opponents are handpicked. He’s come back here and been earmarked for success. The same way he went to WWE and was handpicked for success. It was a cool moment for ICW when he came back and made his statement, but that doesn’t mean you can jump ahead of me in the queue. Its a similar thing to MMA fighters being pissed off with CM Punk, at the end of the day it makes good business sense, because he draws money, but that sense of injustice is still there. I’ve been teetering on the edge saying its not personal, its business, but at the same time, there hasn’t been one bit of media on me. So maybe it is a bit personal. Maybe he just doesn’t rate me. But for me I’m looking at this match like a prizefight. I’m going in with absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Drew’s a great champion, but in my eyes Drew has everything to lose.
Last but not least, any message for Drew ahead of the big match on Sunday?
He needs to bring the best that he’s got. I dont mean the best he’s ever had at Wrestlemania, or on Raw or Smackdown. At Barramania he’s facing a totally different animal. And he’s going to need to have a lot more in the tank to get the better of me.
And with that, we were done. Once the tape was off, Joe started talking smack about everyone from Jackie Polo, his brother Mark, Jamie Feerick all the way to the likes of Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake, but those are our wee secrets. We chatted away about NXT and such things too, but again. That’s all off the record. Information none of you swines are privvy to. One thing that’s for sure, is that there’s a look in Joe Coffeys eyes that says he’s fucking ready to become ICW Champion, and in his eyes there’s no doubt. When the final bell rings, and the war is over. The rebel has won.
Cheers to Joe for meeting with me and putting up with my incessant mumbling to answer these questions.
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Credit to David J Wilson for the images used. All crackers.