“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.”
“People underestimate how fucking mental my pal is. This is a hunner percent true. He’s that mad cunt you don’t want to fuck with in the pub. Because he doesn’t tell you when he’s about to hit you. He doesn’t give it all the bravado, naw he’s that guy who carefully finishes his pint and just raps the nut on ye. And he carries that over into his wrestling. People in the crowd sometimes find out the hard way. They seem to always pick on him out of everyone in the NAK. I’m a big loudmouth, Wolfy’s a big boy, so they pick on him but he’s the one getting in there and fuckin’ smashin cunts”
Chris Renfrew on BT Gunn.
Since ICW have been running about Glasgow shutting down nightclubs, hitting each other with road signs and chucking each other on to, and off of various forms of public transport, the names BT Gunn and Chris Renfrew have been synonymous with each other. Leading the charge for ICW against the villainous Gold Label back in the those heady early days in the Apollo 23, and leading the charge against the company as an alternative when BT and Renfrew ended their own feud by turning on Mark Dallas and reforming the New Age Kliq. The NAK have never been just a tag team, or a wrestling stable. They have the mentality of a family, and the current line-up have propelled the group to the very top end of Scottish Wrestling. With BT and Renfrew’s brotherhood at the core. You could make a case for either man being called the “leader” of the NAK, but both men are seen in that regard because of the strengths they bring out in each other.
“Well you can look at it from the way the fans voted this year. He was voted most insane. Second in best wrestler by about 3 votes. He also won match of the year and feud of the year. He won best match and feud last year as well, and the gap between him and Joe Coffey for best wrestler was about 2 or 3 votes again. He can go down to PBW and come out with his multi-coloured shirts, with a flashing gum shield in, and he’s the most likeable good guy on the entire roster. Stevie’s getting there in that way too, in terms of being the high tempo likeable guy on these shows, but he’s a grimy little filthy cunt at ICW. BT Gunn in ICW has this aura. I can say 1000 words, he doesn’t have to say any and he’s sometimes louder than me. With a stare, or a look. Take for example when we beat the shit out of Whiplash with the cane. I could see people watching BT Gunn during that. Even though the action was on Whiplash, they were looking at BT even when he wasn’t doing anything.”
BT’s mind for wrestling is an element Renfrew feels is perhaps even more underrated than his skills in the ring. As he went on the explain “His mind for wrestling is second to none. If we’re on the same card, which is 99% of the time, I’ll go and talk to him and get his opinion on where we should go with it. Before the match with Grado, and I went and spoke to him and said ‘right, this is big…..what would you do?’ because thats one of the things you want his opinion on. I see him as the Shawn Michaels of our scene. He’s not quite got the same level of charisma in the sense of the more brash side. Its more like a Jeff Hardy kind of charisma, where you’re thinking ‘how the fuck are you so good without saying a fucking word’ type charisma. Everything he does comes down to having that believability. He doesn’t do motions for the sake of motions, when he hits people he fuckin’ connects. Underrated is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but I think the fact that he’s not in that upper echelon of the golden kids in this country. People like Will Ospreay, who is right now the golden child of British Independent Wrestling in many peoples eyes, Zack Sabre Jr although he’s mainly based in Japan, Marty Scurrl. People like that who are always touted as the top dudes. BT Gunn is in that category. You ask him to work any sort of match, he’ll go in there and do it better than anyone else. If you watch him closely he never has the same match twice. He always tells a different story”
“I’ve never seen BT Gunn have a bad match. Even if he’s in there with absolute shit its still quite amusing, because he starts getting wound up, the chops get more severe and he’ll start beating the piss out of people, because again, people underestimate how fucking mental my pal is. This is a hunner percent true. He’s that mad cunt you don’t want to fuck with in the pub. Because he doesn’t tell you when he’s about to hit you. He doesn’t give it all the bravado, naw he’s that guy who carefully finishes his pint and just raps the nut on ye. And he carries that over into his wrestling. He also has that luxury of anything he wants to say, he can say it through me. Its that thing where he whispers into my ear and I say it out loud. Almost like I’m the pope and he’s god speaking through me and I get to preach it to all of you.”
With BT Gunn quietly setting the anarchic tone and Renfrew being the brash figurehead the group needed, turning them in to a force in ICW was simply a case of putting the right people around them. Their closest allies in real life were the Kliq’s regular foes on ICW cards, with Wolfgang engaging in an absorbing feud with his cousin BT Gunn, and Stevie Boy regularly proving to be a dangerous opponent in the NAKs battles with the Buckies, so Dickie Divers and Darkside were recruited. An era of the groups history Renfrew looks back on with a hint of regret.
“We were a midcard nuisance. The tag division was the best thing we ever accomplished, we done some noisy things there, but it wasn’t real, because Darkside isn’t actually a part of our social circle. We are good pals with Divers, but he’s not actually a New Age Kliq guy. That might sound a bit mental. How cliquey we actually come across, but he was always one of our best pals but never declared himself one of us. That was even a thing, we went to him and said ‘fuck it, we’re sick of this place, we’re going to be this group who sticks together…etc…etc, are you in?’ and he said no. So it was never in his heart. It was never in Darksides heart either. They didn’t give a fuck really. That difference always came across, between me and BT Gunn, and those guys. That’s why it was always perceived as us being the New Age Kliq guys, plus Divers and Darkside. ”
“Whereas now it’s all of us are considered the New Age Kliq, thats why there’s different versions of us booked in different companies. I don’t think they ever felt it the way we did or wanted to fly the flag. Ever since Wolfgang, Stevie and Kay Lee have came in, they’ve done it proudly. I don’t think it was ever in Divers heart. Now we’re focussed on making it what it was meant to be. This ultimate group, causing fucking mayhem”
The current incarnation of the group have shades of early NWO and DX when it comes to feeling like a separate entity to the company they belong to, but Renfrew compares the group more to DX. Dominant but fallible, particularly in the face of two mental Dutch guys, and their simmering pot of anger of a pal from Stoke On-Trent “The NWO never really met their match did they? We did with Legion. DX had more memorable faction feuds, like the stuff they done with the Corporation and the Ministry, but there’s no real big faction feud the NWO were really challenged in. We’ve had feuds throughout. NAK vs The Bucky Boys. NAK vs Legion, NAK vs the fuckin Black Label by the looks of it.”
Renfrew choosing to side with Dallas during ICWs 100th show signalled the restart of a long standing feud between him and Red Lightning. The two are good pals away from the ring, but natural enemies within the company. Mostly because both of them have always stood up for what they believe in, even if those beliefs landed at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Red existed as stagnant force in the company for a while. Suffering from injuries and becoming slightly detached from wrestling, but the role he’s found in the company has seen him thrive as the antagonist against anything that brings people joy. First as ICW GM and more recently as its majority owner. Renfrew signalling that his allegiances lie with Dallas brings exciting possibilities in any potential NAK vs Black Label feud. Made possible by the unshakeable feeling that Red Lightning is a wanker. Properly is. There is naecunt better in wrestling at being a total dick and its a huge compliment to him that The Black Label are so overwhelmingly cunty, that even a group who attacks ring announcers and occasionally brandishes scissors are pregnant lassies can look like the good guys in comparison.
“In my opinion he’s the greatest bad guy ICW’s ever had. He would definitely need to go get some more matches under his belt before he would be at the top end as a wrestler, but he’s definitely the best bad guy the company has ever had. That’s including myself. I’m a good bad guy, but no matter how bad I was, there was always an NAK sign. Even when we’d do things like smashing pregnant burds, there was always an NAK chant. Red can say so little and just wind people the fuck up man. It just tickles me. I’d be one of the dicks in the crowd that would cheer him. Remember the thing with Lou King Sharp? ‘I fired you for being a dick!’ That made me laugh so much. That’s why he fired you. You got fired for being a pure dick. His delivery and his facial expressions make him so easy to dislike, but he carries a lot of likeability at the same time. Andy is quite likeable, but as a heel Red Lightning is the most hated boss in wrestling. It is quite beautiful. The way I look at it, is he’s like The Claw from Inspector Gadget giving it “I’ll get you next time Gadget!” that’s fuckin’ Red Lightning. He was gonna be champ and take over. Failed. Then he was gonna save pro wrestling and take over. Failed. Then he came in as GM. I think that’s a wonderful dynamic. He’s a fuckin supervillain boss. The thing with Noam Dar and Kenny as well. They’re no playing his game, so he’ll fuck with them. Its almost like he resents them for their youth and its perfect man. He’s the perfect antagonist for so many things, and it’s going to be interesting now that me and him have fell on opposite ends of the fence again”
“We’re both so far ahead of what we were 3 years ago. I would take 5 minutes to get my point across, whereas now I can do it in 50 seconds. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. I’ve known Red for a long time. He actually lived with me for about 6 months to a year when his hoose flooded and he had nowhere to go. He’s another one with a great mind for wrestling. He gets the performance aspect and the delivery. The small things like the facial expressions and how important they are. He reminds me of Jake Roberts in a lot of ways. Not for his promo style or whatever, they aren’t similar in that way. More for the fact that neither have the best body, neither have done anything that you’d consider particularly athletic in the ring, but everything makes sense. Every single move and slither related to the character. Things like leaving the ring at certain times. It all relates to the character. Red does that because he knows when to do it. Very few have the psychology of wrestling down like Red Lightning has and that’s a talent you can’t really teach”
Indeed, its the ability that guys such as Renfrew and Red Lightning have to form a bond with the crowd that sets them apart. Even if the crowd are bonded by a mutual desire to douse you in petrol and watch you barbecue in front of their eyes, its still a connection. Something many find difficult despite having constant access to their fanbases via social media. Renfrew is acutely aware of how big a role social media plays in wrestling now, and when he took aim at FSM in his promo, an element of feeling able to do that was the assertion that print media isnt what it was. “Its all on social networks these days, I don’t really buy magazines. I still buy physical books, but with magazines it just feels like its stuff you could get quicker on social media. Don’t get me wrong, anytime I’ve picked it up its good. I think the coverage of British Wrestling isn’t the best though. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate when anyone’s covering it, putting it in print and selling it to the public, thats obviously a positive, but to me that headline was insulting to the fans. To me, anyone who picked up that magazine probably fuckin knew Grado originated in ICW. There’s a handful of people who maybe don’t, but in Scotland everyone knows that. So it was almost like going out and alienating one of your own markets. I don’t think there was malice behind it, 9 times out of 10 it isn’t malice its more stupidity, but stupidity can still create malice. So when I said ‘go fuck yersels, I’m no really interested anymore’ I genuinely meant it man. ”
One of the things levelled at Renfrew by Grado was that it must “eat him alive” that they are similar in so many ways yet Renfrew works for one company, while Grado’s trottin the globe pallin aboot wae Broadus Clay and the like. It casted my mind back to the first ICW show I attended, where Red Lighting’s opponent for the next show was announced as Renfrew. At that time Renfrew wasn’t my guy personally. It almost felt like he wasn’t for me, as a new fan who was seeing him for the first time, but the regular fans seemed to love him even then. As a bucky totting, kendo wielding hero, he connected and became synonymous with ICW, to the point that he would ridicule folk wearing WWE t-shirts at the shows even then. As time went on and my own appreciation for ICW grew, so did my appreciation for Renfrew as a performer; Its that heartfelt affinity with the company that sets him apart from folk who love it, but maybe don’t place it above all else. The ‘wan company’ dig was misplaced though, as Renfrew currently holds the N7 Title at Pride Wrestling and has carved out a wee niche for himself at the family friendly Bridgeton based promotion. Its almost an unsettling happy version of Renfrew that exists at Pride, but not a “face” by any stretch. He still smashes cunts and rebels against authority, he just does it with a bit less of a ‘this cunt wid smash a bottle over the back of my heid and collect the blood coming oot so he can skoosh it in ma eyes’ vibe surrounding him, but they seem to be a family friendly promotion who know how to use Renfrew effectively.
“I still think he occasionally puts matches with guys that shouldn’t be paired, and there’s some guys I’d say aren’t quite show quality yet, but he allows me to work with guys that I maybe wouldn’t get to at ICW. Like the thing with DCT that I’m really enjoying, and we had a fuckin stormer last year out of nowhere. On paper you wouldn’t think that would be much, but even Mikey Whiplash watched it and said ‘that was fuckin brilliant!’ . Again it was me trying to bring that out in him. That feeling that he wanted to fuckin hit me as hard as he could. I do enjoy the ‘wrestling’ aspect of wrestling, and that’s a place where I do get to be a bit less character based, and have a bit of a laugh with the crowd. Act like a complete goof and have that release. It’s a different kind of enjoyment in the sense that is something goes wrong, I’m not worried about it. I’m more likely to have a laugh with it and just run with it, and at the same time I get to work with the likes of Lewis Girvan, DCT and people like that.”
“I do think he could still make a bit more noise and let people know it actually exists, but that’s not down to me. Its not my home place, so that’s just my two cents on it. Its down to him at the end of the day. But I do enjoy going there. The crowd can be a bit of a mixed bag. I do notice a difference if a Pride show falls on an ICW weekend. You get a bit of a crossover and its always a better crowd. Especially since its one of those really bright venues. People can be a bit more tentative, because if they shout something there’s a chance we’ll clock them and say something back.”
“It just wasn’t fun anymore. We were wrestling in front of nobody, nobody gave a fuck, crowds were going down, there was no unity between us. The only places you could get work were ran by people who just wouldn’t the the fuck out the way and let the younger ones thrive. They wouldn’t let us be creative and use our own ideas.”
Renfrew on why he nearly left wrestling.
During the interview Renfrew felt like a wrestler totally absorbed by what he does. Still picking the thumbtacks out his back from his defence the night before against Mikey Whiplash, with the ICW World Heavyweight Title sat glistening on his mantelpiece, almost staring at us throughout the interview, he seemed like a man who was a million miles away from ever considering quitting wrestling. It’s almost a galling thing to recall that he was very close to letting it all go, before an intervention from Dallas long before their days of writing shows together persuaded him to give this mad wrestling hing another go. “It just wasn’t fun any more. We were wrestling in front of nobody, nobody gave a fuck, crowds were going down, there was no unity between us. The only places you could get work were ran by people who just wouldn’t the the fuck out the way and let the younger ones thrive. They wouldn’t let us be creative and use our own ideas and were more likely to force us into doing things without actually looking at the bigger picture. That’s exactly what independent wrestling shouldn’t be. You should have that freedom to be yourself, because that’s what places like WWE and other bigger companies pick up on. The people allowed to show their real personalities. So I was disillusioned and as I said, I grew up on that attitude era/ECW type of wrestling, where everything was loud and had blood, guts and everything else. Saying things you should’t say and breaking down the 4th wall. That really didn’t exist here, and I thought ‘well this is going nowhere fast, or ever’ so I planned to quit but wasn’t going to make a big grandiose thing about it, but I went to Dallas and the rest is history”
The scene in Scotland and the UK in general continues to gain traction, but before ICW set the bar as high as it currently is, the scene was not quite the professional, consistently entertaining environment you see now. More resembling something that you could describe as “below-par” or “pish” if ye prefer your assessments a bit more brutally honest.
“People would be stunned if they went back and watched some of the stuff before ICW came around. Where we are now, compared to 6 or 7 years ago is like night and fuckin day. From the beige halls we were performing in to some of the venues we run now. Even the ICW production values that we thought were good at the time, look fuckin mental now. Like the setup at the Classic Grand. But even then, the shows were still entertaining. Some of the wrestling has aged terribly though. We watched Never Mind The Baws the other day, and it had that warm fuzzy feeling to it because it was the first time we ran The Classic and it had the big Gold Label vs ICW thing, but you look at some of the cards we were putting on back then and its night and fuckin day. That wasn’t really the problem with it generally though, the scene just had no heart. It had no buzz, and people just didn’t give a fuck, then ICW came along and that was it. A fuckin’ cult was born.”
Renfrew planned for his final show to be an ICW, but it was the show itself that persuaded him otherwise as much as anything Dallas said to him that night, as Renfrew recalled “It was just the amount of fun I had doing it that made it special to me. There was a streetfight, and now maybe people take that kind of thing for granted, but back then, these were fuckin rarities. Some of the things we were doing are the kind of things you do now on some of the smaller indy shows and they still lose their shit for it because they’re not as used to it. You throw someone on to the merch table and you’ve got people goin ‘awww fuck, match of the year!’ and it was that sort of environment in ICW back then. I was allowed to unleash with this jeans and t-shirt character, and I was allowed to be myself, as opposed to this ladies choice character. Like, what the fuck does that even mean? Sounds like a fuckin’ tampon. “The Human Tampon” Chris Renfrew. There’s a match with me and Damo where I was doing that gimmick, and I think I’m even maybe a wee bit bigger than him! So that just shows how different everything was as well. So you had a lot of people content to keep running their shows in their wee sports halls and what have you, then Dallas came along and said ‘fuck this shit, lets create the Attitude Era of British Wrestling’ ”
Feuds like BT Gunn vs Renfrew back in 2013 were the foundations of that movement. Pitting former best friends against each other, and culminating in a huge moment where Renfrew re-aligned himself with BT and cracked his boss over the nut with a kendo stick in the process. The moment Renfrew declared himself to be a “Mark Dallas guy” felt like that storyline coming full circle. Perhaps Dallas realising a few of the things that Renfrew had to before coming round to BTs way of thinking, but the deep emotional connection that came with that feud is something that Renfrew tries to carry into all
his work in the company, and an element that makes the company unique and always at the forefront in British Wrestling.
“I think the fact that everyone is always compared to us says that we are the bar. We are the only company with the constant stream of mainstream exposure, and when a new company seen to be at the forefront emerges they’re always compared to us. We also have a crossover appeal that no one else seems to have. Things like Jimmy fuckin’ Corkhill showing up in Liverpool, and it has folk going like ‘whit the fuck’s this ICW patter?’ thats stuff that people wouldn’t think to do but we have wacky imaginations when it comes to shit like that. I think we’re a part of Scottish culture now. Certainly Glasgow culture. We got the shout for the John Hartson thing, and even look at that mad dude who pulled all the faces at Jackie Bird on Hogmanay. Where’s the first place he shows up after that? In a promo with Jack Jester.”
Another element that sets ICW apart from the pack is the fact that its the promotion that the wrestlers get the most enjoyment out of. Knowing that even the most ridiculous of ideas will at least be listened to and judged on its merits. Renfrew singled Joe Hendry’s recent form in ICW as an example of a wrestler perhaps getting to spread his wings a bit more on ICW shows than they are elsewhere. “Is Joe doing anything like that with other companies? The difference between us and other companies is we let guys do their own thing and have some freedom. We don’t even see Joe’s songs until he shows up with them. Would other promotions have the balls to do that? That’s such a big part of Joe’s thing. Giving him that mic time and letting him thrive, so I think that’s why some guys thrive here when they maybe wouldn’t in other promotions. Because we’re willing to give them that freedom. Davey Boy is another example. He’s a different animal for us than he is elsewhere. I’ve told him that. Davey Blaze the wrestler I think is just kinda awrite, but Davey Boy? You can relate to Davey.”
ICW will probably forever be linked to ECW. Even if they surpass everything ECW ever do, folk will still come back to that old question. I suppose the question is, at what point to the comparisons stop being complimentary? ECW were trailblazers but they also didn’t run their business properly, so maybe ICW is more of a refined version of the captivating chaos that ECW was. Well as refined as anything can really be when you cover it in Scottish accents, often delivering a language that only we understand, but certainly for now Renfrew sees the comparisons as a huge compliment to ICW and what they are trying to achieve as a company.
“We aren’t compared to them for the wrong reasons, its for every single one of the right ones. Its compared for the crowd reactions, the mad crazy scientist leader who’s leading us forward, the renegade attitude, the alternative nature of the product and all that. So every single comparison is a good one. When you go back to the days where you grew up watching ECW, and someone turns round as days ‘aw yous are just like them’ fuck man. Thats cool as fuckin hell. Its the ultimate compliment really. Like see when you have something you want to emulate and someone tells you “aye, yous have done that….yous have done that exact thing” its pretty cool. We are different though. We have warmer moments than ECW did sometimes and we’ve got a wee bit more of a sense of humour than they did, but they did have their moments in that way as well. Its not wrestling comedy as such, WWE have tried that for years and its always shit. The only time they really managed to be funny was when people like DX were allowed to work off script and were allowed to be themselves, thats was funny, but when they were forced to do all the written stuff it was never funny. We have things like Joe Hendry’s song aimed at Lionheart (Liooooonheart is a fanny, to the tune of Seven Nation Army in case anyone’s not seen it) it wasn’t even wrestling related. That was just taking the piss out of him for taking selfies with his dug, and that’s just funny on a comedy level never mind a wrestling comedy level. But aye. The comparisons are nothing but flattering. Especially me and Dallas. That was our shit growing up. Attitude Era and ECW. ”
The possibility of surpassing ECWs largest ever live crowd currently stands before ICW as they prepare for their biggest show to date at the 11,000 capacity Hydro in Glasgow. A dream for a company with such a strong ECW influence in it, but considering the 4,000 capacity SECC sold out 2 months in advance, and the largest ECW crowd is 6,000, you wouldn’t bet against them. In fact, if you can get a bookies to give ye odds on a crowd of 7,000 or more, I would put every last sheckle you’ve got on that shit, but I’m nae financial planner and once lost my life savings to a bad poppers investment (basically just bought £20 worth of poppers) while surpassing a crowd of 6,000 is a huge goal, its almost a secondary one compared to the goal we dare not speak of but the one that Renfrew and Dallas definitely have their sights set on. An 11,000 sellout. “6,000 is the record so its definitely do-able. The thing about it is, we have about 50 other shows in between that as well, so its a case of not neglecting them either. But that’s the challenge. We’ve barely even got started, not even announced any of the talent of the matches for it yet. The seeds are always getting planted though. There always ideas floating around. To get 6,000 and beat that record is one thing, but to sell the fucker out? I don’t know how that would place us history wise. I think the whole world would definitely have to sit up and take even more notice.”
I think its just my time more than anything else. My journey intertwined with a lot of other journeys, but I’m glad Drew came back and changed it all because I wasn’t ready for it the first time around.
Renfrew on his pursuit of the ICW Title
It would be remiss of me to not mention a wee moment in the interview that gave me the fuckin fear. This has always been the element of wrestling I’ve never wanted to lose no matter how many wrestlers I meet or how many even speak to me like I’m no the scum of the earth. During what was a fun and informative interview, Renfrew still managed to make me shite mysell, because he’s still Chris Renfrew. He’s still that mad cunt who’s voluntary gets flung on barbed wire and thumbtacks every now and then. After Renfrew offered a bit of sympathy towards Grado taking most of the stick for TNA and FSMs misgivings, a wee question slipped out that maybe shouldn’t have. I knew before it left my gub that it wisnae going down well, but fuck it. You’ve got to ask a few wrong questions to know whit ones are the right ones eh? Exactly, and thankfully that brief moment of “oh fuck” was short. Basically I asked if Grado having a short reign with the ICW title always the plan. I shouldn’t have. “You’d need to ask Dallas” followed by a brief look that said ‘wind yer neck in, prick’ was the response. I will not be asking Dallas. Or anyone for that matter. No even Grado’s maw, and she seems a lovely wummin. Renfrew’s reflections on his own path towards the title were honest.
“I think its just my time more than anything else. My journey intertwined with a lot of other journeys, but I’m glad Drew came back and changed it all because I wasn’t ready the first time. ” With a lot of weight dropped from the tail end of 2012 until where we are currently, Renfrew’s in ring style now is more akin to what he produced back in 2009 as opposed to the wrestler he was when I first seen him in 2012. An essential part of his rise to the top.
“I knew I wasn’t as good as I could be. Even when I watched some of the 2009 stuff back and saw some of the stuff I was doing. I could fuckin go man. And around 2012 I realised, I’ve forgot how to go. I had kind of coasted on the popularity I had and the character based stuff, and I’d forgot how to go. We done so many steetfights and things like that, that I’d actually forgot how to do the wrestling side of things. Drew was the major tipping point for me. If I’m laying out my career, the night of the Drew Galloway match was the start of the change in me. Well I tell a lie, it was London and Kendrick
who really started it. Because when I got put in that spot, of the main event, teaming with BT against London and Kendrick, and the card was stonkin’ man. One of the best cards we’ve done on the road ever. Then Dallas done one of his motivating things, where he comes up to me during it and goes ‘here mate, I think this is actually one of the best shows we’ve ever ran’ and I’m going ‘shut the fuck up man, I’m on last” but when we had that match and I realised I could hang with those guys, thats when I thought ‘I can still do this shit’ If I can hang with them, I must be awrite. So the in-ring stuff had to come back up to par. I’m a good enough athlete anyway, I’ve got strength, I can move and I’ve got the mind to match, so I was doing myself injustice and wasting years, but I’ve hit 30 now and for me that’s a wrestler’s best years.”
Best years aside, January 2016 proved to be one of Renfrew’s best months in wrestling, and perhaps the best month any wrestler in ICW has ever had. Setting the world alight with a promo, and becoming the ICW champion, peppering those successes with great matches on the Friday Night Fight Club shows is a run that has helped Renfrew get to the very top. Where he sits currently. In his “I love Hakalulu” vest and Hawaiian shirt, looking down on and occasionally spitting on the rest of us. “The month of January belonged to me. A lot of people were making noise. The Iron Man was going for the Square Go and all that, but January belonged to Chris Renfrew. From start to finish. Well me and BT have been smashing it on these shows, and that’s because I’m more focussed than I’ve ever been on the actual in-ring performance. I’ve got the character side down, so its a case of focussing on other things and trying to have different kinds of matches”
As Renfrew sits atop the ICW landscape, you could maybe forgive him for losing sight of the reason he’s there. He might have immediately began the process of disappearing up his own arse, but a big part of what makes him special is that honesty and appreciation for others doing undeniably good work. Pride in his own performance that sees him take pride in others who do well. Joe Coffey and Noam Dar in particular were singled out for praise. “Noam’s got a very cool thing style wise, a lot of the time when you watch a match with someone working the leg it can be quite boring. He can work your leg in a very exciting way with the variety of moves he uses on it. He works the leg in a very strikey and exciting way than a lot of people do. The boy’s so far ahead of his years. Patience very much needs to be his virtue, but that match with Drew Galloway was almost like the resurrection of him in ICW. When he did that, everyone went ‘fuck…thats right! Noam fuckin Dar!’ they almost nicked matched of the year right at the end with that effort, because of the emotion. I’d put that up there with the top 5 ICW matches in terms of emotion. To have accomplished that in the space of what? A 2 week build? That’s some accomplishment”
Noam and Joe could be possible suitors for the title, and while his position is definitely deserved, Renfrew himself would admit he would probably be seen by those guys as an easier target to overcome than Drew Galloway being the imposing beast of a champion he was. A possible collision with ICWs Iron Man is one that has Renfrew excited, with Joe being one person who he’s rarely crossed paths with in ICW “I dont think its fair to call Joe someone who’s just a tights and boots wrestler anymore. Joe’s also really fun, with things like the face/body paint and the singing, and then he backs it up in the ring. He presents that style of wrestling where he reminds you that these guys are actually tremendous athletes, when he does his deadlifts and spinning two people at once and all that. I’m not one for pulling punches, and neither is Joe. We’ve never really been forced to collide. Which almost makes it the perfect thing. People think if you put two of the same guy together, it makes for the perfect match. 1993 Summerslam. On paper its the best match ever, but it was forgettable because it was the same two guy wrestling twice. Then you have feuds like The Rock and Mankind, Triple H and Mankind that pair two complete opposites. The way Triple H sold the difference between Mankind and Cactus Jack was beautiful to me. Like ‘oh fuck, I’ve unleashed the beast’. ”
ICW celebrating their 100th show under a year and a half after the 50th one proves beyond any doubt that the company means business, and guys with that mixture of youth an experience like Noam and Joe will be pivotal going forward. Another performer who has come into his own as he also begins his 30s is Jimmy Havoc, and the prospect of crossing paths again with him is another thing high on Renfrews agenda after the two butted heads in what you could call two of the more unsavoury matches in ICW’s history. The Glasgow Rules match followed by a Geordie Rules match, which in case you’re wondering is the same as Glasgow Rules, but with more two ended dildos shoved in people gubs.
“If I was to take people back through my history, that Geordie Rules match wouldn’t be one I’d show off now. He’s another guy I would like to cross paths with again. I think now that we’ve both almost found who we were always meant to be originally in wrestling that it would be a different prospect. Although maybe we weren’t ‘originally’ meant to be what we are now, maybe we were meant to go through this metamorphosis to become who we are now.”
Renfrew even singled out Polo Promotions for praise. Applauding the transition Polo’s “Polo Lounge” segment has gone through. Becoming one of the most anticipated segments in the company as opposed to being dreaded “Compare that segment on the 100th show to back when he would let the crowd dictate what he was doing and it would take about 45 minutes to get the point across. They fuckin killed it on the 100th show. The Bram thing was a wee bit more in-jokes, but as soon as Mark came out as Drew it was outstanding. They’ve found who they are now. Look at the This Is Your Life segment. People actually went ‘fuck it!’ and left the show during that. My missus even said ‘thats why I started drinking heavily’ because of that segment. Now? its 10-15 minutes of fuckin gold, because they found their niche. They found out how to dictate a crowd. ”
“Thats my shit. Thats my favourite game. I love that style of Japanese/Korean style horror, where its more scary what you don’t see than what you do because you’re fuckin waiting for death and death is actually sweet release compared to the anticipation of it. Its not like I’m doing it to death either, I don’t steal storylines or use the music, I more sporadically use it as a wee nod towards it. Its somewhere my character would dwell. Its somewhere the NAK’s darker sides dwell.”
Renfrew on the Silent Hill aspect of his character
As impressive as it all looks, the Silent Hill aspect of Renfrews evolved character has at times escaped me personally. So when given the chance to have a bit of line shone on it all by the man himself, I decided to dive into it with reckless abandon and ask the question on…probably just my lips. ‘Fucks this Silent Hill patter aw aboot?’ The Sultan of Silent Hill was more than happy to oblige. “It started with the Divers feud and me coming out with all the writing on me. Because I was ‘silent’ I was writing things on me to get my message across. That was compared to a lot of things, but I didn’t take that from anyone. I even got “Jam O’Malley” thrown at me, but he ran around with dick drawings on him. This is a different beast. The Silent Hill thing was more me looking around at people’s take on things, like Kenny Williams with Back to The Future, and I thought ‘fuck it, I’m taking Silent Hill before anyone else does’ That’s my shit. That’s my favourite game. I love that style of Japanese/Korean style horror, where its more scary what you don’t see than what you do because you’re fuckin waiting for death and death is actually sweet release compared to the anticipation of it.
Its not like I’m doing it to death either, I don’t steal storylines or use the music, I more sporadically use it as a wee nod towards it. Its somewhere my character would dwell.
Its somewhere the NAK’s darker sides dwell. Where we’re people who want to beat up Mikey Whiplash, but want to listen to a classical music song while we do it. I think there’s a darkness in everyone but it takes different forms, and it can either be a real life darkness where you should seek physical and mental help, or it can be really creative. People need to write horror films and games like this. Its in people brains, so we might as well emphasise that and use it creatively.”
Being the ICW Champion brings a different mentality towards wrestling in general, and for Renfrew that might mean a bit more self respect along with a heightened amount of respect from his peers. When he looks back on battles he’s had with the likes of Hardcore Holly and Sabu, there seems to be a mixed feeling. Pride at standing up to and taking the best they had to offer, maybe slightly tinged with regret at not making more of an impression on them offensively. “A lot of people touted me as the guy to take on Mr Anderson because of the fuck TNA thing, but if it was going to be me, it wouldn’t be a match like the Sabu or Holly matches. I’d love to wrestle Holly again. People maybe don’t know how much of matches is planned beforehand. Like if you’re ducking kicks 3 times followed by a dive and all that, that shit’s not happening randomly. When I went up to Holly before the match he just told me ‘yeah I don’t plan matches kid, just the finish’ so I was like “ok…shit” so I went out there with nothing bar the Alabama Slam spot for the finish. That was literally the match we had planned, so when I laid in the first chop, I clearly stole the reaction from Flair and Sting. I watched them do that for years, where you’d hit the chop then stop and look in disbelief. He done exactly what I thought he would too, like “who the fuck dae you think yer choppin ya wee dick? you’re gonnae get chopped” probably thinking I’m like most strawbs he beats in random indies that would be wincing. But naw. I made sure I opened up for the chops every single time. I’d like to see him and BT Gunn go at it actually. Even Sabu called that one, he was like that to BT “dude, those are the hardest fuckin chops I’ve ever felt” and he’s taken Benoit’s chops”
For all the impassioned things that Renfrew hit out with over the course of our chat, his feelings on BTs chops were some of the most emotionally charged words that left his mouth, as he went on to redefine them completely “My chops are hard, but they’re nothing compared to BTs. In fact, I think we should stop calling them chops man. They should be called gunnshots, because they’re above chops. We hit chops, other people hit chops, he hits gunnshots. Even the chops he hit Kenny with in their last match. I never actually saw them, but I heard them and it sounded like they happened in the same room as me, and I was right up the back of the venue. I kinda envy him for that, I know I’m a good chopper, but he just seems to get that wee bit more venom on his. ” The love for BTs chops is based on a belief Renfrew holds that to make it in wrestling, you have to be able to handle yourself in general. “You need to be a wee bit handy in wrestling. Like if a match is going wrong, you need to be able to cover it with some decent looking striking. So you need to be able to handle yourself, like if you start kicking the shit out of someone to cover a bad match, they might start kicking the shit out of you back, and you need to be able to handle it. That’s just my opinion on it. Some people might think thats a shitty way to be, but most people wont, because when you’re in there with guys who maybe aren’t show-ready. Or you’re in with guys who’re a bit forgetful, and they plan a whole match and think its ok then just fuckin freeze like a rabbit in the headlights, you have to cover your bases and give the crowd something to remember the match for the right reasons.”
A man who has never had any trouble drawing people in to what he does is Wolfgang. It was a question Renfrew asked ME that led to this chat, as he asked my personal favourite show and after tens of minutes of deliberation, my answer was Hadouken. And the reason? Prince Devitt vs Wolfgang. A guy I’d seen wrestle once, but I already believed would end up being one of the very top guys in wrestling from that match alone, his opponent that night was Fergal Devitt. “It’s been a while since we did a main event like that. He was an import, but a different kind of import and we captured something very special there. That match has such a big fight feel to it. People had almost forgotten what Wolfy could do until that point, but he got in there and hung with the best. People sometimes people forget how good Wolfgang is until he reminds you”
When Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray joined the NAK in 2015, that moment was seen as the group becoming a completed unit. Stevie finally bringing years of butting heads with the NAK to an end to join his real life pals in smashing fuck out of folk. He’s almost seen as a wee brother type of figure with BT, Wolfy and Renfrew. BT and Renfrew in particular influencing him throughout the years. With BTs tutelage in the ring and Renfrew’s wisdom on all other aspects, particularly mic work. The sky’s the limit for Stevie. As a long term Stevie enthusiast that might be biased, and stating that might be considered poor journalism, but so fuck.
“I’ll always be talking to him right before he goes out. That’s why when he done his first big promo covered the Buckies split,I was in the ring in the corner. Also a wee nod at the fact that when I cut my promo on Dallas in 2013, BT Gunn sat in that exact same corner looking on at me. So there was a slight nod at that. Because again as I said, we are an adult promotion, and if anyone wants to pay us long term attention, we will always nod at things from the past and give them deeper sides of the NAK story. The fact that I’ll always declare I’m not the actual leader. I’m just the voice, he’s the mind. The thing with Stevie is that I know he has a voice. He just needs to find it. Same with anything in the world, he just has to keep on doing it so he can get better at it. That’s why I am now the best talker here, because I kept on doing it. So yeah, I’m nurturing that side of Stevie. ”
Patience may be the biggest problem with Stevie, similar to the situations facing guys like Noam Dar, Joe Coffey, Mark Coffey and others. “He’s only 23 as well and still very overlooked. He’s another one I’ve never seen have a bad match. Even take the match with Red Lightning back at the 2013 Square Go. Red Lightning ranks that as his best match EVER, never mind just the best match of his ICW Title run. He just has to be patient, because he’s just growing into a man now. Look at the name. They were The Bucky Boys, and it was perfect for them. They were fucking brilliant and he was learning how to work with the crowd and all that, and then when the turn happened he was smart enough to the business to turn but not sacrifice everything he was. So he’s still Stevie ‘fuckin Boy, but its just the NAK version. The grimy litte fucker. His entrance is still perceived as “ned music” but its that Rotterdam hard style shit. You hear a car driving by bumping that shit and you don’t get all the happy warm memories with the Buckies, you’re thinking ‘oh shit’ Its the Rotterdam fuckin’ Hooligans basically. I can see him being a top guy in the coming years, but it’ll take a few years. Once he gets the physique, and he’s gonnae end up a good looking dude as well. That’s a very Scottish thing as well, we grow into ourselves later on. Americans are like 19 -20. We get to our best at 25-26. That’s when the guys stop lookin like fuckin’ weans basically, because we don’t have the sun and the food, and the training regimes. American’s have all that and all these bangin’ steroids and that man. Ye see them on muscle beach pumpin iron and you’re like “how old are you?” and they’re like “fuckin 16 maaaaan” and you’re like “fuckin hell man”. Take Brock Lesnar and The Rock. They were like 26 when they were debuting and that, and look at the fuckers! Name a 26 year old in this country that looks like that? We got one, and his name was Drew Galloway, and they fuckin took him. They had one look at him and said “whit? you’re no Scottish anymore mate, come on over here and we’ll Americanise the fuck oot ye” and that was that”
Renfrew is of the opinion that Stevie will see more spots open up over the course of this year, and had a wee difference of opinion with the ICW fans in their voting for Breakout Star Of The Year choice. “I think he was robbed for breakout star personally. I think Lewis was good, but never really moved from the spot he was in. For me breakout star has to be a consistently good young wrestler. I’m a fuckin’ young wrestler! At what point is 30 an OLD wrestler? Terry Funk was still lacing up the boots when he was 58. This young wrestler patter, Lewis mate, you’re talented and shit, but what the fuck are you talking about? But yeah, I think breakout star has to be someone who’s broken out from their spot and moved higher, and Lewis didn’t really do that. He done well and managed to get a foothold in the roster, he’s a go to guy for a good match, but Stevie went from being random Bucky Boy to a singles star, and didn’t get lost in the NAK shuffle either. Another thing is how much he wants to learn. He’s always asking questions and wanting to get better. Even the social media side of things, he created his fan page and uses it more effectively, because thats something some guys struggle with. When it comes to social media, the experienced guys know how to use it a bit better. You said it about myself, I’m one of the ones who knows how to manipulate it better than anyone. Not just putting stuff up like ‘come to this show, its a family show etc etc’ stuff like, naw, it should be more like “this is why this matters, this is why we’re fighting, this is why you should be interested” and few guys have got that. Dallas spoke to the guys at GPWA recently and I think he covered that side a lot. You’ve got such a powerful tool sitting next to you. The amount of things I accomplish from sitting here and tapping away on a phone is ridiculous. I’m talking to someone in Australia right now about a booking and it came about because he commented on that Bret Hart parody thing and it turns out he booked Melbourne Pro Wrestling”
A bit of intrigue swept the living room of the Renfrew household as he dangled a wee carrot in front of my eager coupon by pointing out that not every member of the NAK had declared themselves as a “Mark Dallas guy” and as beautifully cohesive as the group seem to be right now, you can’t help but be intrigued at the prospect of the power struggle at the top end of ICW causing friction within their ranks. From potential friction to a bit of warm enthusiasm as Renfrew gave some encouraging words to GPWA trainee “Ravie Davie” who has made a strong impression as a roving reporter “fae the scheme, fur the scheme” at recent ICW shows, and he’s a guy who Renfrew definitely sees a future for in wrestling, but the early impression he’s made has been through utilising social media creatively.
“Even take guys like Ravie Davie. You know who he is. You should not know who he is already. 700 likes on his facebook page. He’s already got viral videos from before, but the way he approaches it is unique. He was losing likes on his page, so he offered Mark Zuckerberg a square go. That’s keeping folk interested. It popped me, and that’s something Stevie Boy’s learning as well. From his point of view its not forced. Its something he uses to get his points across and you’re either with him or against him. With Ravie Davie, the last time anyone had this amount of interest in ICW without having a match was Grado. Take that however you like, but that could be a really good omen with this Ravie Davie lad. There’s possibly something there. The lads have already taken to him and so have the fans. He’s got balls to the wall chat. He’s got no fear. A lot of people you send out to do these in the street gimmicks can freeze, but not him. He’s fearless. For example, I introduced him to my missus and do you know what the first thing he said to me was? ‘Aw fuck, is that your burd mate? I’ve been winchin her aw night’ and I just laughed. I’ve not seen him wrestle, but everything I’ve heard about him in that regard says that he gets it. He’s fearless when it comes to bumping and all that, because he is from a very rough background. People will say ‘aw I grew up in a young team!’ but with him its for real. There’s a lot of naughty stuff in his past but he’s really turned to wrestling to turn that into a positive and make us happy portraying that character. High hopes for him. Another one I have high hopes for is big Flex. The minute I saw him fling that wee Khife guy with that powerbomb I thought ‘whoah, I’ve not seen a powerbomb like that since Mike Awesome’. I took training one night, and everything I could do, he could do it better. One of those guys that if you ask him to do something, he does it so well you’re just like ‘fuck you’ under your breath”
We’re ending at the start. Because normal interview techniques be damned! People usually find the whole “how did you get started?” schtick boring and wrestlers are probably sick getting asked it, but its almost an expected thing from a wrestling interview. You need to tell us the exact date of your first training session, and what form of transport you took to get there, or this is invalid. How do we even know Renfrew was present at this interview if he disnae tell us what he had for a piece during the half time interval of his first show (whit the fuck dae ye mean wrestlers don’t bring pieces wae them for half time? whit the fuck do they eat?) but aye. I asked Renfrew about who influenced him early in his career and he had some kind words for Adam Shame. A man who no longer exists in ICW, because he went on a COOOOOOOACH TRIP (I’m so sorry) and never came back “Adam Shame was really big influence back in the day. He really influenced me to be aggressive and be hard hitting, and almost be…real. Eric Canyon as well, I think he wrestles sporadically still for SWA, he was the one who installed the fitness side. A lot lot of the guys fuckin hated that, but they’re the ones who aren’t around anymore. Me and Damo would just get in about it and do it. Me and Damo are the only guys left from that era and we loved all that. Canyon was probably my favourite training session to go to enjoyment wise. Of course Conscience as well. He was the one who kinda took me around and gave me experience in front of live crowds, but not wrestling. So I was kind of around as a guy making up the numbers, but it gave me experience of a really big story and being in that environment. Every single one of them in that respect I have to give them their due when it came to helping me. Someone who doesn’t know they were a big influence on me in the way I kind of viewed this scene and what it could be was Johnny Moss. No one on the shows I’d been on so far looked as good as what the Americans were doing. Compared to them it all looked amateur. Then the first time Mossy wrestled on a show. This big tank of a guy who could do all this shit and that made me see what was possible. Then Devitt and Paul Tracey came up. I have this mad accomplishment where I can say I’ve wrestled Fergal Devitt….but it was in 2006 (wonder if Bram was on that card?) but he fuckin brutalised us. The thing that happened was Andre Baker (Devitts trainer) and Conscience didn’t really see eye to eye, and him and Tracey were basically sent up here to give us a doing, but it kinda installs that respect in you. If you can take that doing.”
“People hit out with all these things. ‘Stone Cold made me want to be a wrestler’ and all that. Nah man. Wrestling made me want to be a wrestler”
Renfrew on his influences.
“Wrestling has to be your influence as well. You can have your favourites, and people who help you along the way, but wrestling has to be your influence as well. Then of course the New Age Kliq guys had a big influence. When Kay Lee and Stevie came into the training school, me and BT Gunn would go down and train non-stop. If you watched our old matches you’d probably fuckin laugh at how choreographed they were because we just ran spots we’d gone over. You watch them back now and see the complete lack of psychology. I’ve hit and Alabama Slam and we’re 3 minutes in. Lionheart was another one. He was the champ at SWA and I got put in a thing with him for their belt. That was another significant thing for me, because he was the man at the time and I thought that if I can hang with him I might have something here, and I did. Me and him have a very natural chemistry together. He’s one of my favourite opponents, because you can put Lionheart vs Renfrew on at any time. Any venue. And it’ll be a good match”
Somehow we got away on a tangent about Rhyno, and Renfrew actually spoke towards the high tech recording device I was using (totally not just my phone or that) as he playfully bemoaned the fact that he doesn’t actually influence his own decisions. “Its a shame I don’t actually write the shows eh! I would have got a wee match with myself if I did. Thats for you random tweeter! Who I pretend I don’t give a fuck about, but actually do”
We were winding down at this stage, but Renfrew did take a wee moment to praise the interview, which I guess I’m including for purely selfish reasons. I’ll no ask ye about yer favourite biscuits or whits in yer fuckin fridge, but it was a compliment from Billy Kirkwood towards Renfrew about his own interview skills that brought it to the fore, when Renfrew conducted the occasional interview himself as part of the One Wrestling Show “Billy told me the other day he missed the interviews I used to do. I always used to kind of have something I could use as a nod towards the person’s extra curricular activities. Jeff Hardy is the one that always sticks out. A lot of the time we’d be in on conference calls and you’d hear the questions from the wrestling journalists. Folk who start off with shit like ‘I’ve never really been a fan of your work, until you wrestled such and such’ and its like ‘aw so ye fuckin hated me for years then?’ With Jeff I just talked to him about music, so when I got back into the wrestling stuff he was fuckin switched on to talk about it. Sometimes people involved in wrestling forget how to be humans. They ask the stupidest fuckin questions. Like “do you think Batista is actually onnnn steroids?” (Sidebar, Renfrew was daein a voice that made me think of some mad y-front wearing geek who spent most of his adolescence gettin stuffed in wheelie bins, so try imagining that to make it more hilarious) Yes…I fucking do, but I don’t want to tell you that. I done that one in the buff man. So I could just be sitting there in the scud like “Jeffrey man…Billy Corgan? what’s Billy Corgan like in real life?”
As it happens with every world class interview, we tied in nicely with how it all started. With a surprising admission from Renfrew that he IS actually jealous of Grado in on regard. “I’ll give ye this right, that’s one thing I AM jealous of Grado for. The one wee thing I feel that way about. Billy Corgan man (Smashing Pumpkins frontman and now a backstage employee with TNA) Smashing Pumpkins are one of my favourite bands ever. He’s doing some pretty cool things over there. Especially with the music. I think The Nobodies by Marilyn Manson was used recently, and I was kind of grudgingly like ‘I really like that song’. It didn’t fully come out of nowhere. If you remember back in 2000, he was involved in an angle in ECW with Steve Corino. So he’s a big wrestling guy. Plus he’s fucking minted, which doesn’t hurt. I will admit when he put his wee video up with Billy Corgan I was a bit envious. Even Drew was talking about it *at this point Renfrew fires right into an excellent Drew impression, wisnae sure if it was Drew himself, Mark Coffey or Renfrew I was interviewing at this point* saying that they go backstage, fuckin knackered and Billy gets the guitar out and is like ‘any requests?’ its fuckin brilliant man!” I was asked to make the executive decision on whos impression was better, and like all good journalists I dodged it entirely cause the answer wisnae “you mate…definitely you” truth be told they were both really good, but Mark Coffey’s made me laugh a bit more. Sorry n that. I’m hoping my honesty in this matter will keep relations between Snapmare Necks and the ICW Champion nice and sweet but who fuckin knows. We did agree that Drew’s a fuckin beast and when it comes to selling for him, there is no choice. If he hits you, he’s putting you on your arse. Simple as that. A fact that referee Thomas Kearins can attest to.
“One of the best bumpers in the game is a referee. Look at every move he’s ever took. It never looks shit. He took a stunner fae me in Edinburgh and sold it brilliantly. Everything he’s ever took from Drew, sold brilliantly. He’s one of my favourite people and he’s got such a thirst for the business. He’s getting more involved in the office side of things, with social media and stuff, because he’s that tap into the youth. He’s 10 years younger than us, so he has that connection with the younger audience.” A hugely important demographic for ICW to utilise, and as a 26 year old guy with a 19 year old burd, I can attest, the generational gap between people at that age and old bastards who are in the process of bypassing their mid twenties is essential. “18-30 is essentially our demographic. We don’t want to lose touch with the younger generation and what they’re into. He’s also fearless, and he’s one of the fuckin’ lads. Which is a huge part of ICW. People that are almost kinda laddish. I hate that term. Not that cheeky nandos type of wanker, but we like our partying. We like your bevvying. We don’t just hang out and talk wrestling all the time. We like to go out and be a bit mental man. You need to fit our bill in many respects and Thomas does. That’s why some people will gel with us and some wont.”
As much as I like Thomas, we can’t round this off with Renfrew waxing lyrical about a ref. Its just not rock n roll is it? Refs are the enemy mate. Always have been, always will be. They are the denyers of destiny. The ones’s who turn a blind eye to that handball or the baddie pulling the nunchucks out his back pocket and scudding the goodie with it. So to round it off, I asked Renfrew about his aspirations in the future now he’s the holder of the ICW World Title . “Going abroad is something I’ll look into a bit more, but I’m really keen to take ICW as far as it can go. I want On Demand to be as big as it can be, and I want us to run shows every weekend if we can. TV would be nice. If it happens it happens, but its not the be all and end all at this point. With On Demand we have creative freedom and control everything. I did call this on an interview years ago, netflix is telling us that TV isn’t as important as it once was. Anytime I ever buy a DVD now, its for something special. A box set or something. A collectible item. Aside from that its all streaming. I don’t mind the 5.99 a month, thats a packet of fags essentially, but when 10 million people think like that? That’s a lot of packets of fags. So when this on demand thing came out, I was like ‘this is something different’ because we control and produce our own content. There no BBFC telling us what to do. I just want us to keep growing to the point that everyone can make a living from this. I want us to be able to sign guys. I want us to get to the point where we can say things like ‘ICW just signed Grado….ICW just signed Jester etc etc’ so we’ve got these guys, and ICW is always the priority. If you get a phonecall about another booking, you’ll have to be like ‘nope, ICW have a show that night, I’ve got to be there’ to get guys to that level and all of us keep building and building. I don’t think its a million miles away, I feel like we’re getting much better creatively. The Hydro show has focussed as well. Since Fear and Loathing theres been a change and everyone’s thinking ‘we need to make a bit of noise’. Its not always going to be supershows, but we want more and more decent shows with good crowds. You’ll have the shows with crowds of 1,500 and maybe even the odd crowd up at 10,000, but its about getting 500 people into a nightclub on a regular basis. Even if we need to start looking at our most loyal cities like Newcastle and running more there. We’ve got the video game coming out as well, and we want comic books and all that. Not just making things for the sake of making money. Make things that you want to see, and trust that like minded people will see it the same way and think ‘fuck, i want to buy it’ and they do it for that reason. Not just because its ICW”
It was a pleasure being in Renfrew’s company for a couple of hours, but for all the intimidating “don’t want to fuck with this cunt” vibes he gives off, the big thing that shone through is that he completely and utterly loves wrestling and ICW. The passion for ICW might lead him down some paths that few others would take, but he probably doesn’t give a fuck, because he has the thing that matters. That ICW title, and the photo below tells you all you need to know about what that meant. Real emotion from a man who realised his dream. Its hard not to admire that.
Big thank you to Renfrew for his time and use of his living room, and as usually huge thank you to David.J Wilson and Warrior Fight Photography for the crackin photos that make the words a bit less sore on the brain.
Follow Renfrew and ICW on all the social media’s. You probably already do, but in case ye don’t. Dae it.