“That’s why our match had so much investment. People thought ‘holy fuck, these guys hate each other and they’re going to fight for the belt’ It was me and Grado, it was ICW vs TNA, and you had all these different elements that made it matter”
Chris Renfrew on the reason his ICW World Title Match with Grado.
When a feud has such a deep emotional connection with the wrestlers involved and the fans watching, it turns wrestling into something special. A form of entertainment that has no equal. Real life drama spliced with violence. That’s what Grado vs Renfrew was. In 10 years time when British Wrestling looks back on the vital moments that helped aid its growth, its shows and matches like that one that people will look upon as important moments. In terms of creating that big match feel, there is no one better than this band of Scottish miscreants and in terms of being able to make a match feel like its the be all and end all at that particular time, there’s no one better than Chris Renfrew. When asked about the ‘promo’ that lit a fire under their feud, Renfrew stood by his passionate, vitriolic words.
“Every single word about the FSM and TNA thing was 100% true, I genuinely believe that was just a case of bad journalism. In a roundabout way it was done to sell more magazines, but what it done instead was give us that last push to sell out the Square Go. Then when Grado wasn’t around, it was hypocrisy at its best in a lot of ways. He would have got away with it if he hadn’t preached the way he’d preached to Galloway, telling him ‘You’re never here, we’re your second priority, I’m going to bring the title home’ but when he gets the title he’s away pursuing other ventures”
The suggestion that Renfrew’s motivation for that promo was jealousy is one he doesn’t quite understand. While you can see where that perception comes from given the platform Grado currently has compared to his peers, Renfrew has never been one to claim his personal aspirations are the same. A great deal of respect should be shown to the likes of Grado and Galloway who fly the flag on many different fronts, but without the dedication from the likes of Renfrew to making ICW as significant as it can be on a wider scale, there wouldn’t be such huge progress being made in the first place. There wouldn’t be video games, 2-3 Uk wide tours a year, and regular 1,500+ crowds. There is no SECC sell out without people who’s sole focus is the progression of ICW, and thats at the core of Renfrew’s thinking when he faces these claims,
“People tell me its jealousy, but why would I be jealous if I’m achieving everything I want to achieve here? People have heard my aspirations. One of them was making this my full-time job. Where I wake up on a Monday and the thing I have to think about is wrestling. That’s what I’m doing right now. I don’t know if there’s many guys in the country who can check their bank balance and see their wrestling wage in every day. Another one is having ICW spoke of in the same breath as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. When the SECC build was happening and I read the quotes about this show being ‘the biggest show since….Daddy and Haystacks’ I thought ‘well fuck, that’s that one off the list.’ The next one personally was becoming the ICW World Heavyweight Champion and I did that as well. So I’ve got no envy for anyone and I find that funny that people think that. That people think I want to go to TNA or anywhere else and be a fucking joke, and give up any freedom over myself, my speech, or my creativity. That’s the complete opposite of why I’m involved in wrestling. A lot of people are tights and boots, and want to go to the top in the sense of in-ring wrestling and doing what they’re told, and there’s other people like myself who think differently”
There is one notable wrestling publication in this country that you can stoat into a shop and buy. That publication is FSM. One might think that you’d be best served as a British Wrestler to keep them on side. Renfrew didn’t give the beginnings of a fuck about that. TNA are a company with a degree of worldwise exposure who are partial to at least giving UK guys a shot. One might think you’d be best served not to piss them off either. Renfrew told them to fuck off anaw. If you doubt that Renfrew is sincere when it comes to this attitude that ICW is the biggest priority and you can achieve a lot of goals and aspirations right here at home, the proof is in words, and the pudding is aw err yer coupon. Sitting opposite him, and listening to the words come directly out his mouth put it beyond any doubt. Just like when CM Punk sat with his legs crossed with a live mic in hand on RAW and tore into the people who paid his wages. Chris Renfrew stands up for what he believes in no matter how ill-advised it might seem to be at the time, and that’s a trait you can’t help but have a degree of admiration for no matter how you see him. While Renfrew did have a wee pop at Grado missing an ICW show to do the Wrestling Road Diaries and rubbing shoulders with Punk along the way, he did speak of an admiration for the former 2 time WWE Champion.
“He had it all, and because they weren’t allowing him to be everything he wanted to be, he fucked off. So I’m not unique in that sense as he was at the very top and still done that. That’s what makes me question why people think I’m envious, because why would I envy people I brought in to this in the first place? Grado doesn’t know, anytime he’s been on Scot Squad or anything like that, I’d tune in with a wee smile on my face. As much as I’d throw hate in his direction when it came to wrestling, on a personal level I was very happy for the guy, being able to go out there and do what he wanted to, and he was making a lot of other people happy. The exposure for us that came with it didn’t hurt either, but for me he often didn’t use that exposure correctly. I felt that he didn’t mention ICW being ‘home’ as much as he lets on. But yeah, what we both said was real, and it was a very emotional thing because we pretty much meant everything we said. I even got a couple of insights into what he thinks about me personally, and it was a bit of an eye opener”
The verbal sparring between the two was the catalyst for the feud carrying such a huge amount of importance, but so much of the feedback from Grado cutting his own promo in response to Renfrew’s promo at The Garage spoke of this being a “new Grado”, with an edge to him that they’d never seen before. The passion that almost seeped from Grado’s pores when he unleashed his own verbal tirade would not have been possible without the anti-Grado to bring it out in him, and that’s where Renfrew deserves a lot of credit. For constantly being the antithesis to everything Grado stands for.
“We can even look back at Birmingham. The last time Grado came unglued. Who was it? Me. Right in ma grill. Because I’m the one that’s always niggling and nagging at him. Then its like two worlds colliding. Because we both adore wrestling in our own way. We’re both very different in the way we approach it and the way we want succeed in it, but that’s when you realise when you have so much in common, there’s always that one difference that tears you apart. Its just one of those things. We were good friends, but we make the absolute best natural enemies. I can see where some things get to him though. He’s a bigger celebrity than all of us, with only maybe Galloway up there, so I can see where that attention and at times the abuse that comes with it gets to him. So when I was caught up in that bubble when we had our back and forth, it gave me an insight as to what he goes through”
The Barrowlands crowd felt more like a football crowd on the night of the 2016 Square Go. Despite the negative feeling towards Grado in the lead up to the match at the Barras, the majority of the 1,600 crowd were on his side and expected victory. He might be fae Ayrshire, but this was his home turf. For Renfrew to get the away win, he needed the portion of the crowd that belonged to him to be as loud as possible and there’s no doubt they were. People were overcome with emotion and that’s a special thing to be a part of no matter where you’re allegiances lie. Even the ones who come to the big shows to cheer Grado and have 15-20 beers make that atmosphere special, because it matters. Folk get annoyed at each other and might even throw a right hook. That’s when its being done right.
“That’s the perfect environment. Thats why we do this wrestling shit. People were talking about the REASON we were fighting. Connor Mcgregor is the perfect example. I’m not a UFC guy, and I stayed up to watch his fight with Aldo because of how he sold it. He’s the best promo cutter in the game no called Chris Renfrew and he’s no even in wrestling! Was CM Punk the best wrestler in the world when he was declaring that? Probably not, but he had the overall package and he delivered those words with such conviction that both he and the audience believed it to be true. When it comes to building a match in that way, I don’t think anyone’s done it quite like the way me and Grado did, but its easy enough to say that considering what we were doing was based on reality. It was awkward though. His family and my family could probably vouch that it was a tense fucking time for us, because when you go to town on someone that much, and you set fire to 3 or 4 bridges at once in the process, its not like you can just brush it off. The difference between how we use Grado and how TNA use him is that I wrestled Grado in 2016, whereas they’re giving people Grado from 2012”
“Thats not a knock on them, because it works. The Americans are bigger than us in stature. I’m a big dude in Scotland, Wolfgang’s a big dude in Scotland, but if me and Wolfy went to America…we wouldn’t be that big any more. With Grado’s size and body type I get why they use him the way they do. The thing I always come back to is the notion that I resent his success, but to be honest I couldn’t give a fuck where he is. If he fucked off tomorrow, I wouldn’t give a shit because I’ve got the thing that mattered. It was the belt I was fighting for, and that was the thing the maybe got lost a wee bit along the way. I was giving a fuck because he fucked off with our belt. The same way Galloway did. The difference with Galloway is that, I’d go down and say he is the best champion ICW have ever had. Think about it, who are three of the top guys in that division right now? I have the belt, then there’s Damo and Joe Coffey. This is all a result of the stuff we done with Drew. We were all on a level and we were good, but Drew was the guy who went ‘nah watch this, he can hang with me’ and he naturally brought the best out in us all. He legitimised the title as a world title as well. That’s not something I could have accomplished. My role is basically to be the home-town champion”
That’s a role that perhaps has just as much importance as the one Galloway had in almost being an ambassador for ICW on a global scale. Now the title no longer dwells around his intimidating waist, it needs to be prominent. With more shows happening now than ever before, and in particular more regular shows happening in Glasgow with the Friday Night Fight Club tapings, the title has to be a regular feature and ICW are looking to turn The Garage into its spiritual home in the city centre once again, as Renfrew explained.
“The Spacebaws thing was nice. We had a few match of the year candidates on those shows, but they were individual great matches on shows that had guys who maybe weren’t ready to have that ICW banner attached in that venue. A lot of the talk was that it had become the B-venue, and it did become that in a way, with us running the ABC, The Barras and such and while they were still putting on good shows, not having the top guys on them kind of detracted from the honour of The Garage. I feel that with these Friday Night Fight Club shows we’ve sort of recreated that now. Starting with the Noam vs Drew main event, then with matches like the NAK vs Team Grado and obviously the 100th show”
The nod towards the Spacebaws shows was a deliberate one. Perhaps signalling the end of that concept in ICW with the emergence of the GPWA and the potential to run shows at ICWs base, The Asylum. A platform still exists to nurture talent, but without the weight of expectation that comes with being on a show at The Garage. As huge as these opportunities have proved to be, the potential damage to confidence if something goes wrong, or indeed potential damage to neck strength and ability to move the next day if they’re put in there with someone like Joe Coffey or Damo is very real, and perhaps the Asylum would be a more natural place for younger talents to cut their teeth.
“It creates a natural progression. If they nail it on The Asylum shows, they get an opportunity on The FNFC shows. if they nail it there, maybe they come on a tour, or get an opportunity at one of the big four (Square Go, Barramania, Shugs House Party and Fear and Loathing). I like the structure it gives us. Basically splits our year up in to 4 seasons.”
While ICW are seen as an ‘adult’ promotion, a lot of people think that means tits, swearing, blood, tits, the word ‘cunt’ used both positively and negatively (eg ‘that cunt’s a good cunt’ or ‘fuck that fuckin cunt’) blood and also tits with shades of blood. In truth, ICW being an ‘adult’ promotion just gives them more of a scope to tell a story with a deeper meaning. “It gives us a chance to tell more of an in-depth story that adults would understand, that would perhaps not go down as well on a family show. You see this type of thing tried on a family show, and its always lost on the wee kid in the front row with the Rey Mysterio mask on who wants to see someone do a Swanton. You’ve got to understand your audience, and know that the adult element of what we do isn’t just relating to how gratuitious the violence is or whatever, its that we’re telling stories for adults. Containing real humans with real flaws that you can relate to. You could go back to me and Grado and see that was definition of an adult story. Not because we said “fuck” 300 times or anything like that, its because it was real life, in the mad crazy world of wrestling. At the end of the day, when you start bringing up money and questioning if guys can pay their rent and stuff. Thats real life. Thats questioning guys lives and jobs, like the way folk need to clock in to work at an office or a call centre, its the same thing. If you’re seen as someone who wants to take that living away from them, they’re going to react”
“I wanted to create a character without a middle ground. I want to be like Marmite. No indifference, I want to be loved or hated. I wanted people to either go “I believe every word this guy’s saying” or “listen to this blown up bag of shit” I didn’t want any middle ground there, and that’s another adult thing, trying to create a character with that sort of substance”
Chris Renfrew on the idea behind his character.
Something I found interesting recently was being asked what the difference was between Chris Renfrew becoming ICW Champion while being a part of the creative team, and Triple H becoming the WWE Champion while being the only person you could call a ‘boss’ at WWE without having Mcmahon as his second name. For me the difference is that while Trips controls at least a degree of everything and therefore would have had some say over his own destiny, Renfrew’s just a creative mind. Used separately from Renfrew the wrestler, and given no input as to where he ends up in ICW wrestling wise, but it was a comparison that I found interesting and decided to ask Renfrew about. Hoping he wisnae about to scoop that shiny belt up off his mantelpiece and crack it over my napper.
“I don’t manipulate the top of the card in that sense. I’m not out there cutting 45 minute promos. I’m not PAID the same way as that motherfucker is. The fact is, people think I write the shows, but in reality I’m ‘on creative’. There’s a big difference. I’ll come with this that and the next thing, and we’ll craft the shows together. Mark Dallas books all the talent. It was one of those things I always wanted to avoid because I knew I’d get that sort of backlash, with people saying what I’ve accomplished isn’t on merit. Bull-fuckin-shit man. If people talk about the two hottest rivalries arguably in ICW history, and its Galloway v Renfrew and Grado v Renfrew, what’s the deciding factor there?”
“Since I wrestled Drew, until the Grado match I never had one title match. Its not like I’d pushed myself to the top of the card. Anything that comes my way is Mark Dallas giving it to me. Its not the other way around. The fact of the matter is, the amount of times I’ve took the hit for the company or stepped in when someone else didn’t want proves that. The times I’ve went in and made a guy look good just because it was his time. Even take Davey Boy as an example, when he was going into his thing with Stevie, it was his match with me that sparked him off and made people think ‘oh fuck, he’s a killer’. Maybe that is a comparison you could draw with me and Triple H. Maybe I’m destined to be the guy who brings the best out in others. Maybe I’m the guy who can get people angry, and fuckin hit them so hard that they’ll hit me back just as hard. Realism is my big thing in wrestling. Not taking away from people who are into doing the more flashy things, but I much prefer a Nakamura knee to something like a Ricochet 630. That’s just me. That’s more my forte. I do still admire that side, Rey Mysterio for example is one of my favourites of all time, but when he done that sort of thing it made sense. That’s why I try to make my matches always look more like a fight”
The suggestion that Renfrew writes the shows and essentially runs the place is one that both Renfrew himself and Mark Dallas resent. For good reason. What kind of promoter would Mark Dallas be if he let a member of his roster run ICW and manipulate it for his own ends? A fuckin shite one, and numerous records broken and sold out shows would tend to indicate he’s actually rather good at this. As Renfrew went on to explain “So whit the fuck’s Dallas uptae then? If I’m writing the shows and doing all this shit? Renfrew’s the man? Renfrew’s fuckin Dallas’s boss? Aye ok then. You’ve met Mark Dallas. You’ve seen him when he gets angry and goes into that mad big fuckin eye bulge, where his eyes take up half his foreheid and he goes into ‘this is a lad fae Maryhill’ mode. Naw, I’m no telling that fucker what to do on his cards. I’m just putting ideas forward and doing all I can to help those around me, and telling good fuckin stories. Getting people emotionally invested. I do sometimes question it myself. Where would I be if I didn’t have the mind I have and got a chance to work on creative? But the people who’re my fans follow me because of me. Not because of my influence on the rest of the card. ”
“Me and Dallas do dispute things. At times we’ll have different ideas as to who should go over in certain situations, but the fact of the matter is, if he decides someone’s going over? That person goes over. Simple as that. That’s his role. So I think the people who suggest I run the place should go tell that to Dallas, because its essentially spitting in his face and demeaning his role in the company. It does bother us both at times. At the end of the day, when the NAK were the tag champs, its because we were the best heel team in the country at that time. We were the right guys for likes of Irn-Jew and Londrick to be beating. We were the perfect counter to the Buckies at that time as well, and see if I was so up my own shit, why didn’t I have the title? People who throw that accusation around clearly know enough about wrestling to know I’m on creative, but haven’t taken the time to look further into it. To me that’s small mindedness.
That’s getting some information and taking it negatively. So you know what? if you compare me to Triple H, then fine, because whits he daein right now? motherfucker owns wrestling. Full stop. Cause see when Vince passes, Steph and Trips own the fucker. If you want to compare me to a guy who’s been around since 1995 and now fuckin owns the place, go ahead. It wasn’t that when he was the best wrestler on the planet when he was keeping the attitude era afloat. Even Taker wasn’t as big a deal as Triple H in the Attitude Era. Taker’s stood the test of time, but Taker went down to the midcard for a lot of the time Triple H was the top heel in the company. So aye, go ahead and make the comparisons. I’ll be getting them for the rest of my life. Even when me and Dallas are retired and living in Hakalulu, smoking cigars and getting Scott Reid to write the shows, people will still go ‘the only reason you’re in Hakalulu smoking cigars is because you’re the bookers pal’. Aye but who’s sitting in Hakalulu? Same with Triple when they tell him “you’re only where you are because of yer burd” Aye well, I’m away to defend my title on RAW then home to shag my ever so hot wife. Who’s winning there?”
An appreciation and understanding for Triple H’s role is maybe not something Renfrew expected to happen as a result of them becoming champions of their respective companies on the same night, but at the end of the day their roles are not so different, and having someone as an example who continues to break new ground in the business with his work on NXT, while at the same time being hated for his role on the main roster product, is not the worst thing in the world. Plus he gets to be compared to Triple H, without having a nose that takes up 95% of his face, so that’s always a plus. While the admiration for the head honcho of the WWE is there, Renfrew admits making wrestling his full-time profession has made watching the product as a fan a lot more of a tiresome task.
“I don’t watch the product anymore. Its my job so when I come home I want to switch off from it and do other stuff. I keep up with it and know whats going on, and of course when a match like Nakamura vs Styles pops up, you go out of your way to watch that. Anything involving Brock Lesnar as well, as for me he’s just the definition of a pro wrestler.” Another thing that has become a more trying task recently is going on fan forums. The level of shite patter (no essentially what Renfrew meant, but words to that effect) becoming too much to abide. “No one involved in shows really goes on them anymore. It became mind numbing, so essentially they’re shouting into the fuckin wind at this stage. I just don’t see the point in wasting energy on people who don’t like you and neglecting the ones who do. Its like people who like ballet. Do you think they give a fuck about what I think of it? they don’t, because they’re still selling tickets for 75 quid to the upper-crust. They’re catering to folk who like ballet.”
On that surprisingly ballet themed note we’ll adjourn until tomorrow night. Possibly afternoon. The rest of the interview includes much patter about BT Gunn, Stevie Boy, Renfrew’s early influences and even some nice words about Noam Dar. Basically I broke out the starmix and the second half of the interview was conducted on the crest of a wave created by a potent sugar buzz. Everyone saw colours and it was the colours that made the second half of it such a shiny happy affair. Nah but, theres also ragingness, and something about a horse. Tune in.
This is already a lot of words, so part 2 will be up tomorrow night. All credit to David.J Wilson and Warrior Fight Photography for the photos.