An Interview With RUDO Lightning – The Two Square Go Wins And Everything In Between

He was always supposed to be “RUDO”. Even when success came as Red Lightning , Andrew Wason always wanted to shed that name. A name he never liked to begin with. A name given to him from a time where perhaps not a huge amount of fore-thinking went into these things. He’s taken a stoat down the road less travelled to get here, but finally he is what he wants to be in wrestling.

Even if he is one of the few talented enough at other aspects of wrestling to get by without doing the actual wrestling part, he is a performer. He wants to wrestle. In February he won his second ICW Square Go a full 7 years after he won it the first time. A fairytale? Maybe. But more than that, it has been the result of a lot of hard work and an unshakeable belief that he was made to do this. He was made to be a performer and all the trials and tribulations have only led to him being hungrier for success than he ever has been. He took us back to the 2012 win first.

“I wasn’t really meant to be in that spot. Of my group of pals, Jester, Lionheart, Wolfgang, Drew etc. They were the wrestlers. I wasn’t the wrestler. That’s the story of my career I suppose. That’s what got me over. Being different. They were very interested in the in-ring stuff, and they are all fantastic at it, but I really put my focus on a different element of wrestling. That being the character side. That got me to the Square Go initially”

A lot of personal grief is tied in to that time period. Tragedy that made wrestling nothing more than an afterthought but then the Square Go win also turned it into a much needed distraction.

“It was difficult for me to process the 2012 Square Go because it all happened very quick. It was in the January. My partner and I lost a baby. She was pregnant throughout that period and then unfortunately, late on, we lost the baby. I just had to take a bit of time away really. To process that and everything that happened. If I’m honest, and Dallas said to me in the past as well… first title run served as a way to help me back in to wrestling and gave me a distraction after having suffered such a personal tragedy. That’s the circumstance that sort of led to me being the champ

That outlet became essential for both the performer and man. While he doesn’t see it as a positive period in his career in a lot of ways, and its certainly wasn’t a positive time personally, it was a period where he was the best villain in the game. Such an arsehole he drove many a dafty fan to try their luck during his title run. I personally witnessed folk square up to him more than once. Perhaps fully committing to being a villain is a wee bit easier when negative emotions are powering you every day.

“My mental health was poor throughout the first title run. I think as well, I had put what had happened in to the back of my mind. Staying busy was the most important thing. That was around the time the Oran War and Kelvin Brawl was happening so it was all go for a long time and that suited me. I suppose I was just using wrestling as an outlet back then. As a way of expressing myself. I was a different character back then. We were all in that phase of sort of shooting on each other as it were

Everything had to be based in reality. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder anyway, about life, so it was easy for me to get fully invested in that, but I took it too far sometimes. I was admittedly at times (not often) rude to people. That was just my coping mechanism for everything that happened in that time period but I regret a lot of it now”

As tragic and life affirming as losing a child must be, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. His partner falling pregnant again during the title run was a blessing and perhaps marked the start of the healing process mentally.

“Fortunately my partner actually fell pregnant again. That happened after I’d won the title. I dropped it right after my son was born because I was going away in a paternity leave type situation. My head wasn’t in the game. Because of what had happened before I was worried about there being problems again. Thankfully it was all ok. My sons 6 now and he’s very much alive *laughs” “

Anyone with a child in that age range will know exactly what Rudo meant by ‘very much alive’ but I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way. After losing the title there was a bit of a down period and at a time of rough mental health its hard to separate a natural dip after a very busy and successful spell with something more. It has taken pretty much all of that 7 year spell for Rudo to realise that his spot was always there for him. All he had to do was put forward the very best version of himself.

“As much as I love the school, and I enjoy promoting and producing shows; I didn’t get in to this business to do that. I enjoy working in the business, but I got into this to be a wrestler and until someone tells me I cant do that anymore, I’ll always do it. Until I get a bad injury or whatever Ill definitely still wrestle. Even if its on a lower scale, I do it because I love performing”

RUDO on what brought him back to in-ring competition

“I took quite a drop after I lose the belt because that was it for me in essence. After Kelvin Brawl, I was in an out a lot. The injuries had taken their toll. It was an uncertain time for me. This Square Go, we get here because, not because im the best wrestler on the show. Again it was emphasis on character that got me there. The circumstances are different. I’ve dealt with a lot of my demons”

Dealing with demons is something like a constant negotiation. They never go away fully but you can placate them. Send them on their way to other pursuits while you can get on with your life in the meantime. Learning how to deal with this and making peace with the fact that you’ll probably never eradicate them is half the battle and Rudo is set in a very healthy routine when it comes to dealing with the bad spells. Head down. Keep quiet. Let it pass.

“For me now, you need to be able to see when something is wrong or when something like that is going to happen. Personally now I just shut myself away and let it pass. That might take a few days or a couple of weeks but…it does pass

“There’s people I’ve spoken to in the past that feel mental health can affect their wrestling or training. Wrestling should be your outlet for this stuff. It gives a sense of wellbeing and something to do. Something to look forward to. If you’re having a bad time this is a good thing to do. You’ll meet like minded people”

Having dealt with these issues and later becoming a trainer, it puts Rudo in the best possible position to deal with the multitude of individuals and their issues that pass through GPWA. Indeed, he sees it as not only a way of learning how to wrestle, but a way of learning how to live. Many have come through the Asylum door and transformed themselves. Learning a skill in the process. The importance of having an outlet when your mental health wavers cannot be underestimated and Rudo went on to explain just how common these issues are in wrestling, and at the same time how wrestling is the perfect remedy for them.

“Everybody in wrestling has experienced it (mental health issues) in some way. Just because of the nature of what we do. There’s anxiety tied in. Performance anxiety. Comparing yourself to others. Its definitely something you can throw yourself in to. Even if you aren’t feeling great. It gives you a sense of achievement and for me, that can make you feel valued. It can make you see things differently and think differently”

In my personal journey I found medication didn’t really help. The thing is. I tried a few different ones. One made me worse. One did suppress the way I felt but I felt made me numb. I felt it suppressed all feelings I was having. So it was hard to get motivated. Even positive thoughts and feelings aren’t there

“I was going through the motions. Everything just becomes routine and you aren’t up or down. That maybe led to me having a lot of the issues I had in wrestling. It led to a massive weight gain as well because of the chemical changes it brings about”

There are certainly pitfalls to taking anti-depressants. Speaking from experience nothing Rudo said about them is untrue but there are more severe cases that make the drawbacks worth it. Worth it just to see some sort of order and contentment come in to your life. Weight gain has been the issue that has lingered the most since coming off medication, as well as becoming a bit more prone to injuries, as he went on to explain.

“I was always around the 12-13 stone mark and went up to about 16 when I was on them and have struggled since, so its never left me. I don’t feel even since then, even when I’ve very small bouts of depression and anxiety that I’d ever consider going back on them

I’ve always found other ways to take it away or ease it. My personal coping mechanism is just shutting the door, keeping quiet, watching a TV show, a film, reading a book or something. That sounds basic and I understand people have far more complexed issues that aren’t going to be taken away by a box set but that’s just my way

Eating is another coping mechanism and that can cause health issues. It has done for me. The anti depressants were in my opinion partly to blame for me getting injured in the first place. My body was fuckin falling apart at the time. Up to that point I was always very fit and had never been hurt then suddenly I’m here with this bad injury”

Whilst his own experience may not be one he’d be keen to repeat, Rudo was keen to drive home that every person responds differently and the effectiveness of these medications will vary based on the severity of the case but don’t just accept that its the only path you can go down if you’re suffering.

There are other ways to get a grip on it or at least attempt to do so. It was an experience while wrestling for PBW during the Belladrum Festival that led him to make the decision to come off the medication. Despite wrestling in an exciting environment well out of everyone’s comfort zone, there was no enjoyment there.

“Maybe people have good experiences on them, I’m not doubting that, but I didn’t. I feel doctors see it as an easy way out. If you’re lucky they’ll tell you some of the bad side effects but more often than not they wont. If I’d known (what side effects there could be) I’d never have taken it. I’d have found another way.

I know that’s not possible for some people. I completely understand that and as I said, I considered my own case to be quite mild in comparisant to some. I’m just speaking from a personal point of view. You’re fighting a losing battle with your feelings and you take this tablet that fucks with all your hormones

“I had massive sugar cravings and all that. Not being able to get out of bed was a big problem. We done Belladrum a few years back for the first time. Exciting situation. Wrestling at a festival. I was taking Mitrazipine at the time. Which just makes you feel like a zombie. It absolutely killed my thoughts. I couldn’t enjoy this weekend at all because of these tablets and that’s when I thought, no more”

His advice for anyone who may be going through similar struggles is a simple as it gets. If there’s something or someone in your life consistently pulling you down? Don’t put up with it. The option is always there to remove that problem. Be it a person, an activity you dread, or ever supporting Partick Thistle. The option is always there to remove the thing that’s making you miserable.

“I’m just a quiet guy. Zero drama. Aw the shite in yer life…just drap it. If there’s someone in your life causing aggro, just get fucking rid. People take that literally but if there’s somebody in your circle that has a negative effect on you. Its rude to turn round and tell them you’re removing them, but you do have the choice to interact with them less. For a very long time I just enjoyed being at home. I had my family there. I felt comfortable. Its my house. There was just no drama there. I was in control”

Another solid bit of advice, echoed by Kid Fite in a recent Facebook post on his mental health, is warning against using substances to cope. It may provide short term relief. That short term relief may be extremely effective, but it remains a very short term release. Leaving your body craving more of whatever your poison may be.

Alcohol can be the absolute worst in the sense that it is a depressant. Chucking it on top of the existing depression that courses through you on a daily basis is akin to madness. A bit like a diabetes patient cracking open a big bag of sugar and tanning it in one go. It just doesn’t make sense. There was a stage where Rudo did feel the drinking was out of control but nowadays he wisely steers clear of the demon drink. Instead he blows off steam by eviscerating folk on the mic and winning aw the Rumbles.

“I used to be out and about all the time. Drinking. At one point in my life I do feel I had a drink problem and I just stopped. If you’ve got a hangover with depression it isn’t the best mixture. There’s obviously different scales. People who are suffering more than you and I. Some people do need medication and thats fine. I felt that my case was relatively light and I felt that my doctor jumped on the medication route pretty quick. There was an option there for me to not go on them just yet and maybe it was one of those things. It might have gone a lot different for me if I didnt”

Coming off the medication didn’t happen because Rudo wanted to give everything to wrestling. It was wanting to be the absolute best father he could be that eventually led to the decision being made to come off the medication and try to find another way.

“There was a stage where I struggled to be a father. I had my step daughter and then my son was born. I didn’t feel settled in to the role of being a dad until I stopped taking that medication. Its a bad thing to say, the way its coming out, but the way that I love my kids now…I didn’t feel that way towards them back then. Because I felt I was taking something that was preventing me from feeling that way”

Rudo on his personal experience with anti depressants

Its a strange feeling when these medications fully leave your system. There’s an adjustment period where you have to get used to feeling absolutely everything again as Rudo describes.

When I came off them I felt this massive haze disappear. This clarity. Over the space of 2 years this clarity came over me. All of this kicked off when I decided I was stopping taking them. Because I felt…this is fucking with me a wee bit” It was just something that I had to do. It was a period of my life where I did what I could to function”

“If I was to give anyone any advice, it would just be that people need to be self aware. Aware of any genetic issues that might arise as well and make sure you aren’t more at risk than the average person. There may have been a history of MH and
alcoholism in my family. I had to remind myself of these things to stop going down a very dark path. When my son was born I stopped all that”

There was a time where Rudo even considered bringing his struggles with mental health in to his wrestling persona, but it became problematic. When the thing you use to escape becomes intertwined with the thing you’re trying to escape from, its no longer an escape. Why be your heavily depressed self in a thing like pro wrestling when you can be literally anything else.

“I’m relatively open about it. Back when I cut a promo about it. I was trying to turn it into something creative. I was like ‘this is how i feel right now, lets try and do something with it’ I don’t think there’s ever been a wrestling character who’s diagnosed with depression. I ended up not liking it because it was me bringing it in to my work. Weighing me down a bit and taking a bit of joy away from something that served as a good distraction”

Rudo sat opposite me for the whole 2 hours we spoke as a man who didn’t appear as someone who suffered with mental health issues for so long. That has to be inspiring to anyone out there going through this. It inspired me and is a big part of the reason I was even able to write this interview up at all. He is living proof that even if its hard and you lose that battle of wills with your own mind on occasion…YOU CAN GET BACK UP.

You can show this soul sucking devil of a thing that you are in control and regaining that control over your life can be such a freeing thing. Even if its not permanent, with every battle you win confidence grows. A feeling that even if its a real fucking slog…YOU CAN DO IT.

“There’s no better feeling than when you do get through things like that. Being able to sit and say to yourself…I’ve done this man. I’ve been able to get through to this. There’s days when you are going through it when you do want to give up and when you get better, you’re glad you didn’t”


“Between the two Square Go’s. After 2012 Square Go
everything went awry for me. That led right into quite a serious injury. 2019 is essentially me picking back up where I left off all that time ago, with a clear mind. A lot more mature and
focused”

A comeback to wrestling on shows brought about an opportunity to finally solidify a name change he had wanted to implement for a long time. As much as the name Red Lightning had name value because of what Andrew Wason achieved while using then name, it still wasn’t cool. It wasn’t really anything truth be told. Like one of they toys you pick up in the corner shop that has a hilarious replacement name for a well known cartoon character so the toy company disnae get sued to fuck. The introduction of the “RUDO” Sports and Entertainment brand after The Black Label had disbanded allowed the Rudo name to seep into people conciousness, making it easier for Red Lightning the wrestler to become Rudo for good.


“I’ve wanted to be Rudo Lightning for a long time. I told Wolfgang that 5 years ago. Thats what I wanted to go by. Its difficult to change it when you’ve used one name. The Rudo brand opened the door for it. In my mind that was the first step to transitioning in to using it. Joe (Coffey) started referring to me as Rudo. It got to the point where I realised I could go with that name full time and no one would really bat an eyelid. From a branding perspective, its much more respectable. It sums up me because it has wrestling significance. People get it”

Despite all the success as “Red Lightning” its not a name he has any affinity for even in retrospect. Its always been daft and now its gone. It has gone the same way as all the personal demons. Right on the scrap heap. A new dawn. A new day. A new life. And he’s feeling good.

“Red Lightning was always a stupid name. It was just one of they things that stuck. I’ve never liked it. It was embarassing. There was a point I was gonnae drop the Lightning and just be Red, but it never happened. I wanted something more marketable. It was embarrassing to tell people. Like workmates or people not involved in wrestling, they as what you’re wrestling name is and you tell them Red Lightning. They go “whit? it sounds like an energy drink” *laughs*

It would have probably been easier to ease into and accept the name if it was ever his own idea but being given the name removed any kind of attachment to it. Maybe a good thing when it comes to fully committing to something else.

“It wasn’t my idea either. I was just given it by a promoter and it stuck. Suddenly its 5 years later, then its 10-15 years later and its stuck. WWE or anyone else are never going to call you that or take you seriously with that name

“Take Wolfgang for example. That’s instantly a wrestling name. Its not beyond the realm of possibility that this guy is called Wolfgang. Lionheart is another one that has significance. Jack Jester stands out. At least if I went with Rudo and become known as that, it means something”

Every wrestler is influenced by someone. You have to be. If you aren’t you’ll probably be pretty shite at it. Rudo has always stood out for a variety of reasons but when you strip it back and hear the various influences that have combined to make the Rudo we see today, it makes a bit more sense. Maybe having influences that are at opposite ends of the scale is the key to making it work. The strongest of those influences being World Of Sport mainstay, Rollerball Rocco.

“The man who trained was Spinner Mckenzie. He was part of WoS at the time Rollerball Rocco was arounf. Didn’t do TV that much, but he was on the circuit. Spinner came to our school one day. He had a website called British Wrestling Database and came under the guise of a reporter but really he was there to check the school out. Over the next few weeks I started to learn a bit more about him. Eventually he became our trainer”

Spinner Mckenzie was right into that style and opened our eyes to it. Everyone has their own influences. There’s people influenced by, Stone Cold, Eddie Guerrero, Bret Hart etc. Its hard to get people out of that way of thinking. When we were all young guys at 16 years old, I think I was the first of our group to open my eyes to the wider scale of wrestling. That there was more out there. Everyone else was very influenced by current wrestling.

rudo on being introduced to the world of sport style

This was a time where it wasn’t as easy as a quick Youtube search to find out what to expect for a performer. Rudo went on a fact finding mission to consume as much Rollerball Rocco as he could. Sourcing DVDs that sparked a childhood memory.

I went online and managed to find some DVDs of his work. Around 2004-2005. I put it on and I recognised him right away. The gear, the moustache, the whole look. I thought I’d seen this guy before. It turned out he was one of my granda’s favourites. I was too young for it at the time, but he watched re-runs and stuff like that and at some point ive seen this guy on the telly and hes seeped into my consciousness”

That was it. The vision was there. If everyone else is doing it a certain way, what better way is there to stand out than by going about your work completely differently.

“So when I seen him it sparked me and I just started watching it. I thought the landscape of wrestling as it is now, everyone’s watching the likes of ROH and everyone’s influenced by them. Then you had the WWE guys who were influenced by that. There was nobody doing this British stuff or next to no one anyway”

“I committed myself to coming up with a style. Very influenced by Johnny Saint and Rocco. They way he moved, his subtle mannerisms. I just thought….I could be a modern version of this guy. I’m not saying I’m just like him, because I’m not, but the character. That’s what it is. It has steaks of that and i just thought, I need to stick to that”

“NXT UK is British Wrestling presented as such. For me its something that I’ve always wanted to do. The ICW Title run took me away from that sort of style, but sometimes I need to remind myself of what I am, what I want to do, and what I want to be. Its never changed. I’ve been distracted at times, but its never changed. I’ve always had a very clear vision of what I want to be and how my character should be”

RUDO on the vision for his character

Rollerball Rocco may influence the gear and his era may have shaped Rudo’s wrestling style but the attitude and constant aversion to having any kind of decent relationship with his boss is all Stone Cold. Their dynamic has always pitted Rudo as the baddie of the dynamic but the current storyline which led to Rudo winning the Square Go this year is very much a throwback to the days of Austin being right in the face of his arsehole boss attempting to deny him of things he and the fans feel he deserves.


“At the moment I’m sort of fine tuning and honing the character. Someone was going to get in Dallas’ face that night and I don’t think anyone for a second thought it would be me…until it happened. Then it made all the sense. Tapping in to your inner Stone Cold is another thing. Stone Cold is someone I’ve watched a lot. As a wrestler he has had an influence on my wrestling and the way I carry myself. So more that meshed with Rollerball Rocco.

I had a 4 or 5 year gap where I wasn’t able to develop that character and I feel if I had those years I’d be in a lot better of a position now. After that a lot of people started doing that style, whereas back then that was the thing that made me stand out”

His peers may not think he needs to, but there’s a hunger in Rudo to grow and improve even at the ripe old age of 32.

“Everybody’s trying to stand out. I was having a chat with Kay Lee Ray recently. Even now, I was saying to her I want to do more. I want more. And she was like ‘naw..this is your thing, this is you, you don’t need to do all that other stuff’ and I see her point but I’m always hungry for more”

He feels he’s become a better overall performer due to his in-ring absence. Constantly in some kind of verbal duel with someone, most often his arch nemesis Mark Dallas. As good as Rudo was on the mic before his extended spell away from in-ring action, there’s no doubt he absolutely mastered the art of holding a crowd in the palm of his hand during his time as the leader of various enterprises with designs on taking over ICW. The Black Label in particular was an era where Rudo and his two best pals garnered some of the burniest heat you’ll ever see in a wrestling ring.

“Strangely. I don’t know how this is possible. I’ve managed to become a better performer without wrestling over the past 5 years. Developing a better understanding and being able to look at things from a different angle. I’m just a bit more sure of myself and my abilities than I was before”

“Shugs in 2015 when The Black Label was formed was when it really became a full time gig again. That was me just taking this one wee tiny role and making the absolute most of it. My mentality was that I had to make this work. This is my only chance to put all of this right. I had to throw myself completely into it and at that time I was happy not to be wrestling. I was more comfortable doing the mic stuff. Eventually I did wrestle when I was able but I did get injured again. But…I feel like that was success for me. Taking that role as Spacebaws GM and turning it into something special with The Black Label”

The Black Label was definitely a career defining era for all three of the men involved. All three speak about it with great fondness for a time where things were a bit mental. They were truly hated and they got to be hated as a unit.

“Black Label was a brilliant time in my career. I loved being able to go out there with my two pals. Guys I started out with and make folk absolutely raging *laughs* GPWA has been fantastic and I’m glad we started it. But I’m a performer. That’s what I do. I perform. And over the past few years ive no been able to do that to the extent that I wanted. I’ve always wanted to wrestle but just didn’t feel able to do it to the best of my ability until recently. A lot of the guys were like ‘why are you daein this? you don’t need to do this?’ because I’m good on the mic and stuff, but this is what I want to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do”

I remembered Dallas coming past and I just heard him go “Red, You’re on fire just now” That was the first time I thought, I was doing well in this role. Even though I wasn’t wrestling I was working as hard as anyone else on the show. I had to apply myself to a completely different character. A completely different role. That turned out to be the thing I’m most known for or most remembered for amongst Scottish wrestling fans

Rudo on his time away from the ring as an on screen authority figure/leader of the rebels

From relative obscurity, to closing the show in front of 4,000 at the SECC as Mick Foley intercepted Rudo’s attempts to steer the main event in Drew Galloways’s direction. It was an amazing turnaround and proof that if you keep working at it, the results will come.

He also led The Black Label out for their match for control of ICW in front of over 6,000 at The Hydro and as much as he’d have loved to be able to wrestle on those shows, to be so integral to the story that you’re involved in vital moments anyway is proof of how impactful that character was. He described a calm coming over him ahead of the SECC show. Assurance that he was absolutely capable of what he needed to do and he was going to knock it out the park.

“Of course the SECC was huge. All the boys were nervous. Yet I found myself feeling relaxed. I had a big moment in the show with the promo at the start and Foley interrupting but I was so confident. I knew what I was doing and there was no way it was going to go wrong. To get that opportunity was amazing though, going from not being involved in the company to 4000 people booing you in the SECC. Its mental. I was very proud of that. Then of course a year later its another huge crowd at The Hydro and I’m involved again, leading The Black Label out

Getting to work closely with a good friend who for a lot of years he scarcely got to see in the flesh was another huge positive during The Black Label run. They may have started at the same time but Rudo credits Drew Galloway’s influence during his ICW run as another factor that made him a better performer.

“When I started interacting with Drew more that was a big deal to me. We are friends, but I cant say we’re close because of how far apart we are. We don’t get a lot of chances to speak. It was good to share that time with him. He came back. I said bye to him in 2007 and id hardly heard from him. He’s a busy guy. All of a sudden 7 years later he’s back and involved again”


“The next year we’re told you, Jester and Drew are going to be a faction and we were all buzzing about it. It was great to get to work together. I learned a lot from Drew, working with him was such a huge thing. Always being by his side at shows, in the ring, we all bounced ideas off each other. He valued my opinion. I was able to learn from him and he was happy to give me advice at that time.

“Even though I wasn’t wrestling then it definitely helped shape me into a better wrestler. Working with Damo helped a lot as well. He was always someone who supported me and pushed me on”

ICW isn’t the only place Rudo has made an impact during this current run. It’s not even the only place he’s won an over the top rope battle royal in this calendar year. Winning Wrestlezone’s Regal Rumble event and securing a place in the main event of their biggest show of the year, a regular 1,000+ sell out called Aberdeen Anarchy.

“I’ve kept contact with them for a long time. They reached out to me and said we’d like you to wrestle Damien at Aberdeen Anarchy. I was right up for it because it was an opportunity for me to go into a company and be trusted to main event their biggest show, against their champion. Regarding The Regal Rumble, the story changed on the day. I wasn’t meant to win it but they decided to have me win and cash it in that night and have Damien chasing me leading to Aberdeen Anarchy”

Winning the title in as close as you can get to foreign land in his own country was a surreal experience for Rudo. A bad guy from Maryhill coming in and scooping up all the big prizes in one night. You could see the logic behind it but it took a bit of hype work from Rudo on social media to drum up some heat. Having the unenviable task of having to follow Pac (formerly Neville in WWE) and a cage match, they had to craft a story in a month that had the fans buzzing at the prospect of Damien taking the title back.

“It went online that I had won the belt and it got a bit of buzz. The thing about going up there is that it is a different scene. The people who go to these shows dont watch ICW. Some do, but most dont. Most dont have a clue who I am. I win the Regal Rumble. I’ve got 28 days to get a bit of heat before anarchy”

“They had no idea it would get the reaction it did. When I won they could hear a pin drop. From then on I get on the mic and we build a story from well. That was good for me though. They thought that it was a better idea for Damien to be chasing going in to the big one. I think it probably did give them a wee bit of a buzz from our neck of the woods. Getting people talking about it. I’m trying to get it over and carry the flag of that company for a month”

From Red Lightning to Rudo Lightning

Rudo’s insistence on being referred to as Rudo is partly wanting that name to become synonymous with him, but its also partly to do with being seen as someone different. Red Lightning was a talent but had his moments where he maybe wasn’t the easiest to work with. Rudo is the opposite. A performer, a promoter, and someone with a mind for wrestling that few can match.

“That was one of my main things when I came back. I wanted to be an asset for any company that I work for. I want to be able to come in to a company and be able to promote their shows. Utilising my social media and being able to help them. Going in to companies, putting on a good show, and just generally being professional”

“Thats a bi-product of being not the best in 12-13. At times I was unprofessional so now I take pride in being the opposite of that. Taking my work seriously and being very professional”

The addition of Kay Lee Ray and Stevie Boy to the coaching team and Rudo admittedly not being the “wrestler” of the group has led to him assuming more of an all consuming role with the company as opposed to personally teaching a lot of classes. He has found his feet as a promoter as well. Utilising social media will to get word out there about upcoming shows and news regarding the school. A jack of all trades, and a master of …well quite a lot of them actually.

“We’re all at the point where we can still wrestle. The opportunity is there if we so wish, to wrestle on these shows. I don’t class myself as a coach anymore. I still give a lot of mentorship to the trainees but my job here really is more the day to day stuff with the asylum and shows. I dont do a lot of teaching classes anymore. I do on occasion but i admit its not where my strength lies. I’m good at advice and good at helping the guys on show day. That’s when I’m at my most useful”

Its not just GPWA students who can come to Rudo for advice. You’d be daft not to tap in to the wealth of knowledge that exists across Scottish wrestling even if you are committed to one particular school.

“I always like to help people that no matter where they come from. Recently Sammi Jayne introduced me to Ashley Vega and Angel Hayze. It was a bit me giving advice on what they’d been doing but also for me to see if they could help out on our shows. I regularly do that for our guys and its something I enjoy. I’d never shoo someone away if they want my advice”

“It would be nice to be able to sit down with everyone once a month and tell them, this is what you need to do, this is what you need to change, but the fact of the matter is, we arent a full time business. We are all very busy. But if anybody asks, they will never be ignored or turned away”

“Our main program has about 45 in it, then we have 20 starting their 8 week induction, and another beginners class that has about 20. There’s about 80 odd people coming in here a week, across different days. The main class you’ll find the people who are really serious about doing it full time. That’s where they really improve. Getting taught by the best wrestlers Scotland has to offer”

Rudo was keen to point out the upside to training with GPWA without disrespecting other schools who have produced some of the best talent on the scene today. GPWA just offers a different way of doing things. First class trainers on hand, all with their own unique set of skills paired with glowing CV’s.


“Its the value for money. You’re being taught by the best in their respective fields. Wolfgang was at Mania on a Sunday, and he was in here on Tuesday training people. Lionheart is the ICW Champion. Kay Lee and Stevie started a bit later than us and have a different perspective. Both wildly successful in their own right as well”

“Lionheart and Jester are also in the public eye right now because of Rogue To Wrestler. I’m always wary of things like Rogue to Wrestler but it turned out to be a really good show. It was a genuine representation of how the school operates. We came across really well”

GPWA caught peoples attention because the concept was something completely new. Trainees started with an 8 week long induction course and the trainers would assess after the 8 weeks if it was in everyone’s best interest to continue training. A model that has been replicated in many places elsewhere since.

“The intake classes are for people who aren’t really sure. They want to give it a bash but aren’t sure how far they want to take it. If they’re not into it, or they’re not up to the standard required, they can leave without committing to it if they want. People surprise themselves. Others see its not what they thought and stop”

“The intake’s different now in terms of how we assess the new trainees but the setup is the same. We’ve got Ravie Davie, Leyton Buzzard, Kez Evans, The Purge, Sam Barbour etc. They all came through this setup. They had never wrestled before. Came right through the program and are doing great things now. That’s the thing we were missing. Success stories. People with name value who have come from our school. We have that now.

We had a good facility, good coaching team, but there’s no assurance that these 5 great wrestlers are going to be good coaches. I feel we’ve developed a lot as coaches and as people over the last 5 years. We can now say this program works. Our training system works. Theres schools all over (ger, eng) using this system, including America. We’ve had American guys in here to take seminars and I think we’ve influenced how they conducted their business when they went back to America”

A sense of entitlement from trainees is not something tolerated amongst the coaches. The philosophy is simple. If you work hard, listen and really want to make something of this, you can. Moaning about not getting what you feel you’re due gets you nowhere and that mentality seems to have came from a group of wrestlers who made something of this scene when it didn’t really exist.

“There was ups and downs with a lot of the guys and it goes back to what my strength might be. I can scan a room and get a feel for who might have a future in wrestling. If I say to one of the boys about slacking off, and things they need to watch. That’s the stuff I’m good at. Making sure people are conducting themselves properly in wrestling”

Eat yer greens, practice yer arm drags and dae yer squats or Operation Rudowolf is gonnae EAT ye!

“Young wrestlers and trainee wrestlers think you make the transition from trainee to wrestler overnight. Its never as simple as that. Especially in this day and age where so many are looking to impress. There’s nothing to gain from moaning about not getting opportunities. You have to go out and earn them”

There are opportunities in house for the trainees, with the more established ones being used regularly on the Wrestling Experience Scotland shows that Rudo and the school run, but there is also regular £5 wrestling shows at The Asylum showcasing the best up and comers the school has to offer as well. If you’re good enough the work is there.

“Everybody has the chance to develop but you should always be training. If you’re at a point where you aren’t working every weekend, you have to keep at it. Back in 2008 and 2009, I’d have loved for us to have a place like this. If we had a place like this we’d have all developed at a faster pace. Occasionally established wrestlers will train here.

“WEEEELLLLL… ITS A BIG SCHOOL. ITS A BIG SCHOOL CALLED THE ASYLUM

“We offer them the 5 pound wrestling shows but theres so many wrestlers here now its hard to even get on those shows. Its a competitive environment. Different schools offer different ways of training and some people are better suited to a more regimented program like Source, or maybe a bit more relaxed like the way PBW do it. Where its not so heavily structured”

At this point Jack Jester entered the room we were conducting the interview in and started scrannin a smoked sausage out the packet. An example of the type of dedication you’ll get from the trainers at GPWA. That man has his protein on the go so he could help train the newbies. Dedication.

“Its important to engage with new trainees and see who could struggle. They might need a bit more attention. You need to make sure that they’re comfortable with anything you’re asking them to do

When we got into the storied history of Rudo and Grado, there was a sense of pride about that particular element of his career. Being able to help get eyes on the product by being the best possible counterpart to the guy who has the attention of not just casual wrestling fans, but your everyday punter. Grado has worked with the best villains wrestling has to offer but Rudo is right up there with the best of them.

“When it comes to Grado, a lot of people take credit for his success, but Grado is the reason Grado has been a success. He developed a character and stuck to his guns and it got over with the crowd. Its hard not to admire that. I think at that point in time, leading in to that show, and probably for about a year following that, you know, he was the top face, I was the top heel, and we done a lot of business everywhere. BCW, PBW, Pavillion, Oran War…etc”


“What happened in Kelvin Brawl. Shit happened to me without me meaning it. The character aspect of what i was doing caught Rab and Greg. It wasnt supposed to be me in that match. I wasn’t meant to be in it. Because I was getting such a big reaction online, they changed it”

The Kelvin Brawl was a 1,000+ sellout at a time where that wasn’t commonplace. Being in the main event, tagging with a Scottish comedy legend in Greg Hemphill is not a feat to be sniffed at. Especially when it was Grado teaming with Rab Florence who would provide the opponents. After all, Rudo was Grado’s counterpoint at that time. The ying to his yang. The wank to his good guy.

“Who else would it be? Its back to Grado and me again. We bounced off one and other quite well and always had good chemistry I felt. We had a match in Aberdeen and I didn’t think it was that good, but it was more just the fact, at the time, it was more of a favour from my perspective. I was using it as a way of trying to ease myself back in to wrestling slowly so that wasnt us at our best but we’ve had some really good matches”

None better than that first match. Super Smokin Thunderbowl in 2012 had Rudo vs Grado as the first half main event for the ICW Title. Grado was red hot at the time, capturing the audiences imagination before they really knew what he could do in the ring with a series of hilarious youtube videos. That match was the perfect introduction and to make it work it needed a great villain. Grado overcame the odds Andy Ruiz Jr style and won the title, leading to wild celebrations. As if the big man had just skelped one in the top corner to win Scotland the World Cup as opposed to winning a wrestling title in The Garage.

It felt special. He was one of them. Rudo is most certainly not one of them and took great pleasure in ordering the match to be re-started later in the night due to a refereeing error. Rudo won the re-started match, and Grado’s moment of glory was erased from history. It was a story that gripped me as a first time fan. You felt Grado’s pain and wanted to see how he’d bounce back. You wanted him to win. To evoke that kind of feeling takes more than just a charismatic good guy. He needed a villain.

“What was special about the first one although Grado had experience, he was still kinda new. It was one of the first times Grado the character had wrestled. I remember after that going to Dallas and saying, we need to do this. We need to have this match. There is no other option. This needs to happen. It would have been mental for them not to go with it. I think that match, and i’m not taking personal credit for anything, but its hard to ignore the fact that match, set off a lot of fireworks around Britain. For various things”

Various things including the documentaries that brought ICW into sharp focus in the public eye. Most would consider Insane Fight Club to be the starting point for it all, but the documentary made by Vice around the time of that first match was the first time we got to see the people behind these characters. The documentary was initially intended to be a bit of a piss-take but they soon realised ICW was nae joke. There was a hint of regret about Rudo when discussing these documentaries, as he chatted about the possibility of him being involved in the first Insane Fight Club.

“The British Wrestler was a good documentary. It was very well made. Being able to pull the drama out that much and put it into a documentary. It was fascinating. For me that led to several other things happening. Rab and Greg came in. Gave us a bit of a rub. I personally think between The British Wrestler and Oran War/Kelvin Brawl was probably the catalyst for Insane Fight Club. Which of course led to the revival of British Wrestling”

His reasons for not wanting to be involved in the first Insane Fight Club documentary are understandable but in hindsight something that is tinged with a bit of regret. Uneasiness at how it might turn out seems silly now that the crew who were involved have been involved in pretty much all the documentaries ICW have produced and are well known amongst the roster but there’s always the future and clearly Rudo has a story worth telling.

“I felt uncomfortable with not knowing how it might turn out. I regret it not because I might have been popular because of it. I regret it because my son will never get to watch that back and see that. So I regret that for that reason”

“Some of the crew that were involved with that were involved with Rogue To Wrestler as well so we have a good relationship with them now. Even when the second one happened I wasn’t around”


“It was just bad timing. It was a shame for my body of work up until that point having been the big villain on the show, or being the champion, but everything big happening I missed. With the Black Label and being the GM and the owner. I was only ever in Glasgow. I never went on the road
other than the very last tour and you’re left thinking ‘why wasnt I doing this the whole time”

That seems to be the only lingering regret though. This run has felt almost cathartic for Rudo and he seems to be enjoying his work more than ever before. The 2019 Square Go briefcase is in his weaponry and he goes in to the Shug’s weekender and integral part of the team. An appearence at Grado’s Big Family Bash at The Pavillion was another highlight as he took on Adam Maxted in front of over 1,000 fans. Finding contentment on a personal level as a dedicated family man has tied in nicely with Rudo returning to doing the thing he loves. His story is proof that you can overcome anything and be whatever you want to be.

“That was success to me. To have completely flipped that. From being a week away from leaving the business, to the point we’ve come to now. I shared it on my FB recently because the post came up. It was me basically saying my time is coming to an end in the business. I really felt that was the case at the time”

“Having overcome such a huge tragedy personally and going on to achieve what we have achieved. We now have a family. My partner attained a qualification is now working in that field. I’ve come back to wrestling and done good things. Its the kind of thing that people might feel inspired by. People would think they’d have never known that. People might have things like that eating them up and they feel like they can never get over it, but they can. You can overcome personal tragedy and thrive after the fact”

Thrive is indeed what Rudo has done. He is living proof that you can go from rock bottom all the way to the top again. He went from a week away from retirement to re-inventing himself and he now stands before you the 2019 Square Go winner. If he can overcome his demons, so can you.

Thank you to Rudo for his time and honesty. Thank you to David J Wilson for helping me get photos together. Also to Brian Battensby for the Wrestlezone pics. Thank you to anyone elses photos I may have used as well. If I’ve no credited you give me a shout.

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An Interview With Drew McIntyre – Part One – The Journey To Wrestlemania

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An Interview With Jack Jester Part Two – Battles With Drew, No Kinky No Party and The Black Label B*****d

Jester

READ PART ONE HERE. ITS REALLY GOOD

After 8 or 9 graft ridden months as ICW Champion all of a sudden the opportunity of a lifetime was placed in front of Jester. Maybe even TWO opportunities of a lifetime, with the impossible choice of having to pick just one of them. Either make up for time lost and spend as much time with his recently released WWE superstar best pal Drew Galloway as possible after years of scarcely seeing him more than twice a year, OR pretend you hate the big beautiful bastard to the point that not only the people watching believe it, YOU actually believe it. Selling out one of Glasgow’s most iconic venues in the process as you go on to share a career defining achievement and match with a pal who wasn’t going to feel like a pal for a while.

“I knew he was coming back but the majority didn’t. It’s hard to keep a secret these days with the internet etc. This has always kinda happened with me and Drew, we’ve been mates since we started training. I moved to Ayr and we were best mates, then suddenly he gets signed so you go from that to seeing him twice a year when he’s over for tours. So this was really the first opportunity we’d had in years to really be pals again, but we couldn’t. He arrived home a week before the show and hid out in his house, because all it would have taken was for one person to see him in Ayr and connect the dots that he was coming to ICW. So he came in the back door and he was kept downstairs because we wanted it to be a legit shock. Renfrew hits out with the “you’ve got no friends left” line, lights go down, lights come back on, there he is. They still didn’t react until his hood came down and even then they can’t believe it. Why is it allowed? Isn’t there the 90 day no compete clause? Then the earth shattering genuine reaction came. People bursting into tears and all that. It was massive. Anytime a moment like that happens and it’s so massive for the company its hard to take it all in. To see Drew standing there with that fire in his eyes with that reaction along with it. It was amazing.”

Even if your friend is living the dream, if it turns into a nightmare for them personally it must be difficult to see. Drew knew he had so much more in him than the bits and pieces he was being allowed to display in WWE and his release was more of a relief than a letdown. An opportunity to make memories and show them why they signed him in the first place. The perfect person to work with was of course the current ICW Champion. The guy who had been at the top end of the company for the better part of a year and the guy who also happened to be that same best pal who had been in your corner all these years.

DREWJEST

“I knew Drew hadn’t been happy for years and I was always kinda his conscience in that respect. Reminding him that as bad as he felt about his spot that he was still earning good money and getting to be a full-time pro wrestler with the biggest company in the world. I know you’re hating doing what you’re doing, but you’re at RAW tonight, while we’re doing the same thing but in community centres and all that. I wasn’t trying to make him feel shite about not appreciating it, it was more to try to perk him up and make him realise that as bad as he felt, he was still in a great position. So to see him come back the way he did, and the way he was standing there. With that intensity. He cared. It poured out of him”

drewAs much of a heart racing, blood pumper of a moment that undoubtedly was, after the better part of the year leading the company as a fan favourite, Jester found himself on the sare end of people just being plain mesmerised by seeing Drew at all. So mesmerised they paid little attention to their stricken champion. Who had just wrestled a top quality talent in Martin Stone, before taking a doing from the NAK as Chris Renfrew attempted to cash in his Square Go briefcase, before the third and final absolute sickener. His returning best pal who saved him from being a lamb to the slaughter as Renfrew waltzed to the ICW Title, immediately turned on him and left him in no doubt as to why he wanted the ICW Title to remain with Jack Jester. Drew wanted to take it for himself. He was willing to break a guy who had once considered a brother to make the impact he needed to make on the wrestling world. It was pain that Jester used to fuel the pair of them on the road to what was at the time the biggest match in Scottish wrestling history.

“That show bothered me for a long time, I’ll no lie, when he came back and then he turned on me and tossed me off the stage through the table, they were still chanting for him. I remember lying there and feeling hurt. It sent me into a bit of a headspin and I was gutted that they didn’t really seem to care. Just pure self-pity. That’s all it was. I know now they were reacting to Drew and still taken aback by the fact he was there at all, but honestly, it was the best thing that could have happened. Then we had to make them hate him. We built it from there. It had to feel real. Me and Drew weren’t pals for that period. We didn’t see each other. The only thing I said to him was, until this payoff happens, you can’t be my pal. I need you to upset, and vice versa. If I don’t believe in it? How are you supposed to get the fans to believe in it? It had to look as real as possible. We’ll be pals after but until then we cant be.”

“He was constantly doing things to upset me, I was doing the same, we were never telling each other what we were going to say, then we done the angle in the pub, where he was doing the speaking thing was Billy (Kirkwood)and I showed up. He says any other questions and I think I mentioned his Dad, and he just flipped. I fell and cut and my heid open. Dallas flipped over the table and cut his arse on a glass *laughs* and in the end he’s raging, standing over me going “I know where you live! I’m gonnae fuckin stab you!” I was like…thats not Drew. That’s not the kind of person he is. I’m outside kicking off with Dallas. You know why you’re doing it but we were so caught up in it at that time it felt real. ”

JestDrewwww

The major string to the bow that came from the whole emotionally draining affair was the fact that when it was all said and done, two best pals could look back with fondness on that time they sold out The Barrowlands as the ONLY match announced for a fucking pro wrestling show run by a Glasgow based company. Unthinkable just a few short years earlier. A motivated Drew Galloway helped the company go to the next level and that feud was something special.  Having a figurehead like Drew made everyone involved with the company up their game, and considering the fact that their game was already wielding 1000+ crowds and notoriety, the only thing to do was go bigger. There’s no doubt that Barrowlands match was a pivotal point in that growth as Jester had the title ripped from his grasp in front of a red-hot crowd. A landmark moment in ICW and British wrestling in general and a moment that meant a lot to Jester in particular because without The Barrowlands, he might not exist at all.

“Selling out the Barrowlands is a career highlight. An absolute dream. My granny and Granda met there. I remember them telling me stories about it. My granda telling me they couldn’t afford hair gel, so he would put margarine in his hair. All the guys would be combing their hair in front of the lassies, then you’d flick your comb to get all the margarine off it into the gutter. There was a guy who used to play clarinet and everyone used to get up and dance. There would be a point in the night where everything would stop and a few folk would get brought up on to the stage, and there was all these wee doors, and you’d pick a number and whatever was behind that door you’d get to keep. Stuff like tickets for things, silverwear and china sets. Stuff like that. My granny choose a number and it was a toilet roll *laughs*. That’s in the Peoples Palace funnily enough now, the thing with the doors. So without that venue, they would never have met, and I’d never be here.”

JesDrew3

“Now we’re in the same hall wrestling. I let it get to me. As far as ICW running it goes, that’s a Glasgow institution. The Barrowlands is. There isn’t another venue more Glaswegian. The people who have performed there. Bowie etc. Its like nothing else. Even if you go down to where ICW’s merch stand is, and you got to cloakrooms and its all individual coat hooks. Even the toilets, it’s the same ceramic urinals and that’s all cracked and smells ah pish *laughs* Up stairs you’ve got a pasting table at the side where you can get cans of lager. I don’t think there’s any need for them to be selling cans at a pasting table really but that’s what the Barrowlands is. That’s the way people like it. It’s the wan place in the world you don’t want a cold beer.”

The venue sold out well in advance before anything other than Jack Jester vs Drew Galloway was announced. That’s how much it meant. At that time, there was nothing bigger in British wrestling and they told a story that few other duo’s in the UK could replicate. Less a wrestling feud, more two brothers having a stoater of a fall out. Proper chucking auld pool cues and fitba boots at him type of stuff. There was only one way to resolve it, and that was in front of 1,200 sweaty Glaswegians in Glasgow’s most iconic venue.

“I’ll never forget Duncan messaging me and asking me “how does it feel to have sold out the Barrowlands. Only me and Drews match was announced and we’d sold out a month in advance. If you ask Drew, at the time he called it his greatest achievement. This is someone who’d done Wrestlemania, but personally that topped it. Coming back to the company after all that time and achieving something with his best pal in a venue that meant so much. I remember travelling there that day and the emotion of the day just getting the better of me. A song came on and I honestly felt like I was going to burst into tears. It was a mixture of everything.”jeDrew

“Even at that, we didn’t do the big plan for the match, because I couldn’t look at him. We’d gone too far at that point. We had no interest in helping each other. Drew’s dad was in the crowd, my parents were in the crowd. Drew had recently lost his mum as well. When it was all over and I went back, I just said to him ‘this is your time’ and I know wrestling is this “fake sport” but nothing’s ever felt more real and it was just great, because after that match…I had my pal back. It was all over. It took a referee counting to three and it was just gone man. The cloud had lifted. It’s a hard thing to do now. It takes a while to build and take a certain amount of commitment to what you’re doing and where you want it to go. Its a thing folk aren’t prepared to do anymore most of the time”

It was a case of everyone being in the right place at the exact right time to make something work. No matter what sacrifices those involved had to make to create something brilliant, they were willing. They were even willing to harbour genuine resentment for each other just to add weight to the experience for people watching. Genuine emotion is what makes wrestling what it is, without it it’s just guys in spandex kidding on they’ve got sore legs. It needs to make you care and that particular feud not only drew you in, it made you pick a side. It mattered.

“What I would say to anyone who’s presented with a situation like me and him were then. When the stars align and its all just right. Give it everything. Drain every single thing you can out of it. As much as I had to hate my pal to get there, me and him will always share that. We can always talk about it and look back on it”

JestDrewwww3

Once it was all said and done, not only did Lee Greig have his best pal back, Jack Jester had the real Drew Galloway back. An animal that the wrestling world had got used to living in the shadows. In truth, when he was released no one really knew just how good Drew could be. He had spent so long creatively unfulfilled in WWE but never completely on the shelf. Gaining experience working on TV and working in front of huge audiences that he transferred on to the independent scene when he re-invented himself over the course of a storming 3-4 year period. A period that saw ICW go from strength to strength with their feud acting as a launchpad for so many other things.

“Having Drew back, and he’d lived this life that everyone wanted. When Drew got signed that was still a time where it was unimaginable. WWE changed him. There was a point where it wasn’t for the good either, because he was so uptight and paranoid. It always used to dishearten me because it just didn’t look like he was enjoying anything he did anymore. He was scared of everything. In his head everybody was a threat, everybody was a danger, but then when he came back after 7-8 years and suddenly he has free rein again. He was unleashed and he had that fire again. He could be creative. Folk were blown away because if you didn’t know Drew beforehand you didn’t know he had this in him, and there’s very little chance you would have because the scene here wasn’t anything before he got signed. So he came back and they seen him doing all this stuff and they’re thinking “fuck, this guys great” stuff that he wasn’t necessarily allowed to do on TV, but he can do it all now. ”

JestDrew

“It was good to come full circle and have Drew’s starting point and ending point in ICW. Going back to the hardcore stuff, I’d been asked to barbed wire rope matches for years and I’d never said yes. It just never suited any situation I’ve been in. There had never been a company that’s had enough build for it to work and it’s not the type of match I’d take on for the sake of it. If I was going to do it for anyone it would always have to be ICW, but it had to be right. There was no better situation to do it than that situation with Drew. Dallas doesn’t often ask us to do things. It’s always us that go to him. In this case he actually did ask me to do it, so I asked him what Drew thought. He told me Drew was keen but you were obviously going to have to figure out how its done. If this wasn’t the time to do it when is? I hadn’t been doing stuff like this for a long time.”

drewjest

They steered it towards trying to bring the devil back out in Jester, Drew continually winding him up and waiting for the perfect opportunity to get his revenge. The fact that Drew’s ICW return ended with him betraying Jack Jester and his final match was him trying to get revenge on Jester for doing the same thing is storytelling at its finest. At no point in the whole affair were they not friends, yet it felt like they proper despised one and other. It felt like Drew Galloway wanted to kill Jack Jester during that barbed wire ropes match and vice versa. Brothers fight, but they always make up in the end. Even if they’re both bleeding profusely and some of them’s picking bits of barbed wire out his arse.

“When you’re out of that mindset its hard to get back into it again so we worked that angle. Brought that side of me back out. That day? I’m not usually a nervous person but I was so nervous. I think just the importance of it and the fact that I’d waited so long to do a match like this. I wondered how it could be done without it being a disappointment to people. That was hard enough to do with a guy who had free rein, but we had to somehow get it over without getting Drew hurt before he went back to WWE. We had to do in a way where it wasn’t blatantly obvious that Drew was being protected and I didn’t want it to be just a procession of me being through different things for the crowd reactions. People had to believe, even if they knew in their mind it wasn’t going to happen, that something could have happened to Drew”

The biggest problem the match had is making people believe situations Drew found himself in COULD lead to him being seriously hurt, even if you knew deep down due to his re-signing with WWE its was extremely unlikely he would be. They had to make that audience believe they could see The Chosen One fly arse first through a flaming barbed wire board with live sharks waiting underneath. Jester recalls of a similar situation during his hero Mick Foley’s retirement match, when he couldn’t understand why the crowd weren’t reacting to him kicking out of big moves early. They knew that wasn’t it. It couldn’t be.

jeDrew

“When Cactus wrestled Triple H in the cell he found it a struggle for a while because they weren’t reacting to him kicking out of heavy stuff early on. Then someone said to him down the line, this is a massive match, a retirement match, the fans KNOW you’re not going to lose in the first 5 minutes. They know you’re going to kick out. So it was a similar process. There was a few things I suggested that Drew was unsure about, not really wanting me to put myself through that, but I just felt like I didn’t really have a choice. I had to do something. He was worried about me being safe and all that but my point was, that wasn’t the goal for that match. It needed to be dangerous. People needed to believe I was in danger. It needs to be scary. So I was taking some serious stuff. The superplex from the rope to the floor. Powerbomb through the table. I was really tied up a few times as well. It went back and forth a few times through the day, wondering if I should have tweaked the match and taken certain bits out but I knew if I did do that I’d have been angry at myself. We had to make folk care about it while working in the parameters of what we were able to do. I felt the build was done really well. Everything I wanted to go in to it did. We set the scene for it really well in the build up (dimming the lights before Drew’s video packages etc) can we get a constant noise on the go. Not music, but something that gets a bit of an atmosphere going while the ring’s getting set up. I wanted it to be a spectacle. ”

A spectacle it indeed was, and it was one that left Jester with a few new scars but ones he undoubtedly wears with pride. If you’re going to permanently mark your body because of pro wrestling, make the marks matter. Like a wee scrapbook on your skin to tell the grandweans about. “See that 4 inch red mark on ma foreheid son? that’s from Spike Dudley attacking me wae a stanley blade. We weren’t even wrestling, he just does that to folk sometimes”. Wrestling is all about stories after all.

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“One of my favourite videos is telling the whole story. It goes back to us cuddling. Wee bits backstage and all that. Its fully in black and white and when I come out the curtain it turns to full colour. I had the idea from the wizard of oz. Black and white until the action starts. It’s so well done and creates an atmosphere and then by the end its him coming down for one last hug, and that was him, he was gone again. Imagine I had thrown that away when I was at the height of doing my hardcore stuff? If I had just started doing random barbed wire matches it wouldn’t have been as special. Even though personally I did want to do it, you need to know when to hold back. One day an opportunity will come up that makes you think ‘im glad I saved it for this’ ”

The conclusion of the match saw Drew overcome Jester in brutal circumstances. Leaving his pal a battered and bloodied heap and spitting in the face of an unwritten wrestling rule. If you’re leaving a promotion, you leave with a loss and the winner gets the benefit of having that win as some kind of, I dunno…badge of honour. It’s a nice thing to do and sometimes it works but when its folk who are genuine pals, it’s not necessary. It’s almost patronising. If the story made more sense with Jack Jester losing the match, then so be it. It didn’t matter. What mattered is that they started and ended their story in the same place, having accomplished so much in between.

“That’s like one of they mad wrestling rules. Why does Drew need to put me over because he’s leaving? I just think it’s a bit corny. I didn’t need to win. It wasn’t going to affect me in any way. At no point did I insist I should go over. It didn’t make sense to me. If folk are expecting it? Don’t give them it. Give them something else. You’re constantly trying to get people to care so give them something to care about. He was in my environment too, he was out of his comfort zone and it genuinely pissed some folk off that he won. Private messaging me and all that. I’m like “thanks for the support, but it’s not keeping me up at night”. This whole he could have done me a favour mentality, when if anything I helped give him one of those last big moments before he went back in to the machine again. He deserved it. See because he is my pal as well? I think its a bit of a riddy. Like “get a room” ye know what I mean” *laughs*

Jestah

“I felt it was done well. I can’t see any more of those matches in my future to be honest, never say never like, but I’m so far from being in that place right now and I’m enjoying what I’m doing with Sha. People laugh because I saw the stuff being set up for a hardcore match recently and I was shaking my head and they’re like “here…what are you shaking yer heid at?” *laughs* and its no like im judging the people doing it it’s just more shaking my head at myself and how far removed I am from doing something like that right now. I honestly couldn’t imagine myself doing anything like that at the moment.”

Another thing Drew and Jester have in common was being side by side with Grado as his infectious character swept the Scottish Wrestling scene. Why stand by and be jealous when you can be your absolute best self in a match with someone who’s going to get a reaction anyway. What’s the point in fighting in when you can lean in to it and have some of the best moments of your career.

JestGrado

“I’ve been there for great things. I’ve witnessed Grado while being part of my own stuff. Its great. It just so happened that The Black Label were all pals, but as a team, it just worked. I’ve got to work with the company I love and travel and do it side by side with my mates. It’s an amazing thing. I love it. ”

“Grado used to get so much shit before he had the reputation he has now and the character he has now because he was just a daft bastard who was getting a mad reaction when he went out there and folk hated it. Full of bitterness about what he couldn’t do at that time and the reactions he was getting and it was honestly just pure jealousy. It used to bother him so much, I used to have him on the phone to me upset about it, wondering what he could do about it, and I used to tell him not to do anything different from what he’s doing just now. Listen if you’re getting the reactions you’re getting out there and you change what you’re doing to suit one jealous bastard backstage, risking maybe losing the support of 500 folk out there? Fuck that. Fuck them.”

Having folk in your corner when you’re in the spotlight as much as Grado is has to be an important thing. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate how many eyes he has put on their work by drawing in regular folk is kidding themselves on. Its daft not to take a moment and just enjoy something special. Even if you’re not particularly into it. Even if it’s not your thing. Enjoy the fact that someone is out there making the people lose their shit.

“I love the fact that I was there for Gradomania. Bearing in mind the first time I saw Grado I tried to pap him out of backstage *laughs*. Because he was just a guy walking about with his singlet on and I’m just like “whit ye daein?” *laughs* I hate that. See if there’s someone backstage who I feel shouldn’t be there, I’ll be the prick who’ll tell them ‘get oot’ There’s always some arsehole with a lanyard on telling me why they’re there and they’re from the press and all that and it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know where the appeal is. I suppose it could be cool to see some of the things, folk putting their boots on and all that, to us its boring as fuck, but I can kinda see the appeal to someone on the outside, but see if I don’t know who ye are? Why are you there? If you’re press, go to a press room, but all my gear’s lying here, this is me at my work. ”

After his initial reaction, he started to realise Grado had something no one else had. He undoubtedly belonged because this shit is about entertaining as many people as you possibly can. Folk buying tickets is what keeps it going and if you think someone in a high profile position hasn’t earned their spot, help them. Make it work, because if the fans want it, it’s happening, and there was absolutely no stopping Gradomania. Folk were in love with it and it was something you had to stand back and witness as a fan at times even if you were directly involved. A once in the lifetime character.

JesterGrado

“I didn’t know him and Dallas had this planned so I’m telling him to get out, you’re not part of the show and Dallas comes up to me and tells me “naw naw, he is” that was right back at the start at The Classic Grand during the book Grado campaign. Then he had his big night, when he tagged with Drew Mcdonald. Drew? He was my hero man. I loved the guy to death. Grado always says he was so glad that he was there. When you watched it you realised, something was going on here. Then when we done the two Insane Fight Clubs together you really got to see it unfold closely and it was an amazing experience to be part of. I don’t know why anybody would feel any different. Why are you raging that this guy’s popular? Why are you raging that you’re getting to wrestle in front of massive crowds when at that time, it was largely down to him? He couldn’t have done it by himself but he was such a big part of it especially back then”

It became a relationship where Jester was almost protective of Grado. Realising his worth and how to get the best reaction out of working with him, he started noticing folk trying to be smart with it when it helps no one. There’s going to be a spell in the match where Grado takes a doing and when that part is happening, have at it, build as much sympathy up for him as possible but when it comes to his time, you fly all over the shop for him. Take they jabs like he’s got a fist made out of cast iron. Sell the roll and slice like he’s lobbed the living room couch directly at your chest. You are there to make him look like a superstar and few are better at doing that than Jack Jester.

Gradoooooooo

“People used to be smartarses when they wrestled him, and they’d go out and tie him in knots and try to make him look silly. That’s not your job mate. Your job is to go out there, fall on your arse for him and get raging, take the Dusty punches, and highlight what he does well. That’s your job. If you feel you’re above that? Go somewhere else man. Mikey was always a great example of that. At times he didn’t love doing what he was doing with Grado because as creative as he is, he’s a purist, but he’d go out there and bump like a madman for him because that’s his job. He knew that’s what he was there to do”

The message with Jester is consistent and very simple. Don’t do things that don’t look or feel natural. Folk will smell it off you. They’ll feel that self-doubt. That inexperience creeping in to every move. Learn your craft first, do mad stuff later. Work Grado’s match first, then maybe try to get some of your best stuff in there but the match is about HIM and what HE does. No one at PBW in Balornock gives a flying fuck if you’ve got a smashin handspring back elbow mate. They want to see you get dusty punched in to next week.

“If you don’t know how to work a regular match you shouldn’t be doing hardcore stuff. If you’re not capable of getting a reaction without being rattled over the heid with a chair. We used to have a lot of folk like that and we slowly got away from that but I’m starting to see it creep back in. Guys who see all this cool death match stuff and just want to copy it because they see other folk getting reactions for it. Maybe I’m just a moany bastard but stuff like lego and things like that just doesn’t appeal to me. Stuff like that can work, like Grado when he opened the bumbag and instead of thumbtacks it was skittles but that’s Grado. That’s what he does.”

JESTGRADOSWA

A recent mad main event in Paisley saw Jester team with Grado, Billy Gunn, Sha Samuels and Lionheart and if ever there was evidence of Gradomania continuing to run wild, it was then. Grado was the person most folk were there to see, not the WWE legend who may have sold some tickets to the auld timers like me, but the young crowd were there for Grado. If they were also there to see Jester do the slosh to the DX theme, then they would not have left disappointed in any way. A recent match with PBW saw the old spark between Grado and Jester start up again.

“When Gradomania happened it angered some folk. You could step by step do the same match with me as Grado would and it just wouldn’t be the same. You’re not him. No one has what he has. I wrestled him recently for PBW and it felt like it did back in the old days. The spark was there. His time away (from ICW) has done him favours because he’s come back inspired again. He did want to embrace being the bad guy but he couldn’t fully commit to it. At the end of the day he’s a brand, and for him to be a villain on just one type of show, it doesn’t work. When he came out at that PBW show, they went mental for him. We went ages not doing anything and just enjoying the crowd. Then we started calling stuff on the fly and it was great. He doesn’t need someone trying to be funny with him, he needs folk to fully embrace his stuff, he needs you to sell for him. You’ve got to be the straight man. There’s got to be that dynamic there. I’ve seen so many matches with Grado where he’s wrestling somebody and they think ‘this is gonnae be a comedy match’…aye, it is, but he’s the comedy.”

jestgrrrr

Be yourself. Don’t look at something popular and try to be that, look at why something’s popular and take the important core aspects of it and put it in to your own work. Grado tribute acts will always just feel like Grado tribute acts and nothing more substantial. Choosing to wrestle a unique talent like that and almost doing an impression of him in the match rather than just wrestling him is a trap Jester has seen many fall in to.

“People get in situations they wouldn’t usually do when they wrestle him sometimes, you’ll have the big heel in this company and all of a sudden he’s doing something stupid, like he’s doing fuckin baby shark or something. That’s not your job. Your job is to give him the platform to make people laugh. I mean if he can still make me laugh, after aw the years of him pissing me off and me pissing him off, and all the fall outs we’ve had *laughs* the amount of times we’ve wrestled, and the amount of times I’ve seen him do his thing. If he can still make me laugh after all that, its funny. He’s got something. When you see other folk trying to replicate it, to me its embarrassing, but when he does it, it’s just funny. He’s got funny bones. Everything about him is just funny. That promo at the last show, he just kept making me laugh, the best night of my life thing became funny. Plus just to see him with that fire behind him again was amazing. ”

Jester’s attempts to de-bunk a frankly daft theory that only pals of ICW promoter Mark Dallas get opportunities in ICW. As if he hands out a leaflet before each show telling the audience who they should be reacting to. A nonsense mentality it has always been and one he never allows the trainees at GPWA to get sucked in to. You have to believe if you’re good enough and have something substantial to offer, you’ll get chances. Make sure and take them if you do.

“If you go out and get over, it doesn’t matter who you are or if he likes you or not, Dallas will bring you back. He’s selling a product here. He’s not booking a show that he wants to watch. Everybody wants to moan and blame stuff on other people. People also mention the lack of women coming through but there’s a lot less women training than men. Its not a sexist thing. If you’re good enough you’ll get opportunities. If a male wrestler isn’t good enough he wont get put on a show. You think I don’t want more females coming through the school or being on the shows we run? Of course we do.”

gpwa

“For every 20-30 guys there 1 female trainee. If you’re good, you’ll be on the show. Man or woman. Sabryna’s the perfect case (Aivil) she works hard, shes committed, shes creative, she was always trying to up her game. Don’t show up and do fuck all then moan and blame it on something else. Your finding reasons to justify you not getting booked even though deep down you know the real reason is that you’re not very good. Its nothing to do with favouritism. We need young talent. We’ve got loads of guys here we could push for Mark Dallas, but you can’t come in here and make ICW your be all and end all. You need to make your mark elsewhere because if you get put into ICW a moment before your ready, they’ll eat you alive. If you go in there and it doesn’t get over, it’s a 100 times harder to come back again, so wait until you’re ready. Wait until you know you can do this. Because its scary. Its scary when you’ve been doing this a long time so imagine how much scarier it’ll be for a trainee? Some of them have taken the opportunity and went with it”

jestoal

Two recent standouts in ICW and further afield have been Source trainee Kieran Kelly and GPWA trainee Leyton Buzzard. After they were heavily involved in the worlds longest match between their respective pals Chris Renfrew and Joe Hendry, the young standouts were finally given a one on one match at ICWs recent debut at the Glasgow Uni Union. A match that not only put their characters into sharp focus but displayed a standard in the ring that most people knew Kieran Kelly was capable of, but something people may have been slightly shocked by regarding Leyton Buzzard. Who until that point had seen the focus of his work mainly aimed at his skills as a ‘theatrical wee bastard’ as Jester so eloquently put it. They had a standout match on a very strong show and showed the future might indeed be bright.

“They were kinda the backup for the 2 experienced guys, but then they end up outshining the guys they’re meant to be backing up. Kieran Kelly has always been very very good. He’s a cracking worker. But he’s always been a shy kinda reserved wee guy. Arthur on the other hand has always been committed, always creative, and he’s a theatrical wee bastard. He’s grown up in that life he was acting since he was wee. He was in an advert for a Star Wars thing, building the wee R2D2 in the garage. He did like singing competitions. He’s got that side to him. With Arthur, he moved here from Bristol by himself to be a wrestler. He didn’t come and see how it went, he moved here because in his mind he wasn’t going to fail. He’s entertaining and he’s always trying to push himself out there, but hes not a pest. He can back it up. In front of the ICW crowd like that you can really see. I just kinda wish that match had been in The Garage.”

“You watch these two and they steal the show and that’s a good thing. These are two guys who haven’t done much yet and they’re only going to get better. It’s a sign of things to come. Its no up to guys like me to resent it. Its natural. I don’t want to be popular because everyone else is shite because that’s no sort of achievement. I don’t want folk to fail. We did Maryhill the next day and people took the time to come up and congratulate Arthur on how good it was. You don’t often see that after the night of the show itself unless its something special. If you don’t have that passion or that level of commitment, it’s not acceptable. Anything less than that isn’t acceptable. ”

The attitude that shone through in both of them is the absolute minimum requirement for Jack Jester when he and his fellow trainers at GPWA are looking for the next big thing. Even if you aren’t as good as they undoubtedly are, you should want to get to that stage. Want to improve. Actively try to better yourself on a daily basis because they isn’t clocking in at your work in ASDA or something. This is a labour of love. It needs hard graft, dedication and just a wee streak of undeniable insanity.

JesterBT

“I’m looking for folk who want to learn to work. Trainees who’ll come through and they’ll get to the point where they’ve got a certain set of stuff, they can do, and they can have a certain amount of success with that, but I want to see folk who are constantly trying to get better and improve. I want the type of folk who are coming up to me and ASKING me if they can go to seminar down south. Anything you can do to get better, do it. If I’m constantly saying the same thing and someones not listening, there’s only a certain amount of times i’ll say it before I wont say it again. If you’re not going to listen fair enough, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to get you to listen. People like Arthur, constantly trying to get better and he wants to do it the right way. He doesn’t want to do it by being a wee suck up bastard or copying anyone else. With people like that, that’s when you realise right, this is a guy I can work with, this is a guy who wants to learn, he doesn’t want to just go out there and do what he’s comfortable. He wants to learn, he wants to impress, and hes doing it the right way by working hard at it and learning how to work and he’s spewing with confidence and charisma ”

Another strongly conveyed message was about as simple as it gets. Don’t be a dick. If someone gets an opportunity, congratulate them and work out what they’re doing that you’re not. Otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of your weekends on the couch as opposed to chucking folk about.

“I’ll always say this to my trainees as well, if one of your fellow trainees is getting on an ICW show and you’re annoyed about it, why? You should all be supporting each other. You should be trying to work out why he’s getting that opportunity when you’re not. You should be trying to get better and don’t worry about being a pest either. If you go up to someone and ask them to watch your match to give you feedback and they tell you to fuck off? Disregard them, because they’re wankers.”

Leeeeeeeee

Jester in his early years realising he’d left the oven on and even though it probably wouldn’t burn the house down, it would definitely burn his scones

Wankers indeed. If someone really wants to learn, why be like that? No one lives forever. The next batch of talent has to arrive and one day take over. Wanting them to be shite is how you end up with a scene the way it was 15 years ago. If the scene is to continue to grow, it needs good training schools and wave after wave of good talent. No matter where they come from, talent is talent. Nurture it. If someone doesn’t want to help you out, fuck them.

“If you ask for advice and they’re dicks to you, don’t get upset, it’s not worth it. Mikey’s great for that, he’ll sit with any trainee that asks for advice, and he’ll go on for ages but he’s telling you. He’s giving you advice. I’ve seen it happen even with some of my guys when they’re finished and they’re not arsed, they’re just happy to get back and get a beer. Again I’ll say, I’ll only say the same thing so many times before I’ll stop. Because folk are telling you somethings good why try to get better? Then on the other hand you’ve got guys like Kieran Kelly, Craig Anthony, Leyton Buzzard and all that. Folk from all different schools who have that potential and the work ethic to get better. Ones that make you think “this guys dangerous, I need to up my game here” If you’ve got something to offer a promoter it doesn’t matter what school you come from either. Its like Luka (Paxxo) Ross (Watson) loves him. He’s now one of the mainstays on PBW shows. Ross always books all different sorts of people, different talents, but Luka now seems to be part of their core and that says it all. He’s took him away on the camps with him. If I can book a guy and say this is the date, and he’s going to show up and do his job with no fuss, you’re going to keep getting booked. These people are being booked on merit. Luka is mad creative as well and both of them as a couple are mad creative.”

jestaaaah

“If you ever show up at ICW and you just want it over and done with, there’s no point in you being there. You always need to have guys like myself and Mikey who don’t take this for granted. They care and they set a standard. You get folk who want to go out there and go “watch what I can do” but you’ve got to make them care. Sha is the only guy who’s came up here and almost became Glaswegian. Like this is his second home. All his pals are up here. You don’t consider Sha someone you bring up for a show, he’s just part of ICW now. Bram as well, he’s a mad bastard but folk believe what he does. People come up here and I think they assume because they’ve worked in this place and they’ve worked in that place that people up here will care but you’ve got to make them care”

Jester believes having a bit of something else is a vital part of making it in front of an ICW crowd, or at the very least making the little time you might get matter. Don’t be timid or they’ll eat you alive.

“You need to be a certain type of person because they can read you like a book. They don’t want you to suck up and be nice to them. They want you to make them give a fuck. If you don’t go out there and make any sort of connection Dallas isn’t gonna book ye again. He’s booking a show that the fans want to see. You need to do something. See if you’ve not got a bit of attitude behind ye, a bit of spunk, you’re not going to make that connection. If you’re coming out all polite, and like ‘I’m going to show you a great match’ they might not react. That’s ten a penny. Do something else. Stand out. Immerse yourself in it”

One of Jesters career highlights has been working at The Blackpool Tower. A venue that holds great importance to him due his love for the circus. Being able to work at the same venue some of his heroes had previously done in a different lifetime must have been a surreal moment but one of those rare ones where wrestling meshes perfectly with something else you love to create something special. A memory you hope lasts as long as the ones the lions, tigers, bears and clowns created all that time ago.

“I’ve had a few bucketlist venues in my life. The Blackpool Tower was one of them because I’m obsessed with the circus. I always have been. I know an ungodly amount about clowns *laughs* so that was always a special place because all my heroes from that side of things had all worked there. I remember, me and Brian Dixon…well we were never pals, put it that way. My name at that time was Scotland’s Lee Thomas. He gave me the name and I honestly don’t know why. Even though he’d gave me that name, he always called me Tom *laughs* there was nae point even telling him otherwise. After I worked the Blackpool Tower, I’ll always remember him coming up to me going ‘well Tom, you’ve done it!’ and it was one of those few times Brian was really nice to me because he knew it meant a lot to me. I love the fact that I wrestle in it often now for PCW. I mean me and Sha won the belts in there and it was incredible for us. I remember after we’d won, there was this one wee guy going absolutely mental so I went over and got him in the ring with us, and before I knew it there must have been about 50 kids in there with us *laughs* and I’m thinking, whoever’s ring this is, is gonnae kill me.”

JesterSha

“That moment was so special for me honestly, it was cracking man, to get that reaction in a venue that meant that much. Its one of those venues that every time I get there I appreciate it, and I’ll walk about and look at everything. There’s so much cool stuff. There’s props everywhere for the clowns, up the stairs in the tower there’s a clown museum, and the most famous clown at that time was a guy called Charlie Corolli. He done 40+ summer seasons in a row there. Mind blowing. He had 3 white faced clowns called the three Pauls and all there suits are there. Charlie Cairoli could play every instrument, including the kitchen sink. Doonstairs there’s cages where all the lions, tigers, elephants and all that used to be kept. It’s not normal cages that would be used now, these were built to last, raw iron stables. These things were built into the foundations. So you’ll be walking by and thinking “fuck..there used to be elephants in there!” I tried to show Sha this, when you go backstage there’s a black and white photo of the trapeze artists practising and that bar still hangs there to this day. Almost as if its frozen in time. Its been there for 70 years or something.”

Having that moment in a venue of such personal significance where so many of Jester’s interests share house room was career defining stuff. The reason folk put their bodies on the line week in week out if for wee bits like that. Combine that personal significance of the venue with the sheer amount of joy the moment brought wrestling wise and you have some sort of perfection. There is no doubt The Kinky Party has lit a fire under both Jack Jester and his partner in hilarity Sha Samuels. Two guys who built careers on being something completely different to what they are now, throwing themselves into this tag team wholeheartedly and making it work. Making an impact on people. Making all age groups have the simple joy of getting to forget about all the shit in their lives and enjoy two folk who are quite obviously having the time of their lives.

No kinky, no party…..EAST!

JesterSha2

“It was not planned. That match the first time against Renfrew and Mikey was meant to be a one off. It was kinda just like we didn’t have anything to do so they put us together. Sha had never done anything like this before. He was always this straight up, hardnose, cockney geezer. Even at that point I wasn’t doing anything funny. It’s just that I was such a different kind of person to him and it made him uncomfortable and that made people laugh. The fans made it. It was them that started chanting no kinky no party. It wasn’t even a thing until then. We hadn’t even thought of that before they started chanting it and we’re thinking this is fun. We could do something with this. Dallas wasn’t fully sold on it initially, and we’d got ourselves so excited about it that we needed it to happen. My focus became making this happen and convincing Dallas to let us run with this. We don’t really know where we’re going with it, but let us try.”

KinkyParty

They didn’t really need to do much to convince him. People wanted it. Simple as that. Something about the dynamic just clicked and before either one of them knew it, they were having the absolute time of their lives. Wrestling had never been more fun. It shone through in both of them and it was born out of sheer discomfort. Sha Samuels the proper cockney geezer. Pints, the fitba, a curry, a fight. That’s what he was all about. The only thing he used chains for was to wrap round his fist when he was leathering some poor bastard and on the other end of the scale you have Jack Jester “Kinky Torturer” as The Sun so accurately put it (thats definitely no sarcasm) who just wanted them to forget their differences and be pals.

“At the start Sha was reluctant and that had to show, it has to start with a straight guy who’s reluctant to get involved in it, and I was the guy trying to get him to have fun with it. You can’t build something funny without having that to start with. So I was way more keen than him and I had to get him to take to it. That got me the sympathy from the crowd because I’m trying and trying to get him to be my pal and he’s patching me. It was Mankid and The Rock. Mankind was so keen on the idea. The Rock was his best pal in his mind, but The Rock would kid on he never existed *laughs* . So folk though he was a dick and they sympathased with Mankind. The best thing is ICW don’t usually write for us. They just let us get on with it and trust us to go with it. Sha never really wrote anything either because I played off his reactions. ”

They are one of a select few…well really they’re the only tag team who have ever had an official “launch party” but when Sha and Jester came out the closet as a full-blown tag team in Newcastle it changed everything. It established this as not just a fling. They were in this together forever. A bond so strong that Sha is even willing to pick up that big studded dildo, even if it’s just so he can hand it to Jester to wallop someone with it. There was strippers with breasts of various sizes, some more impacted by gravity than others and there was a gummy snake. The absolute cornerstones of a kinky party as the google image search I done in preparation for this confirms.

shajack2“Like the launch party in Newcastle. He genuinely didnae know what I had planned *laughs* and I said to the crowd, Sha’s shiteing himself back there *laughs* and its hilarious because he was. Its nerve-wracking enough having a segment and know what you’re doing but he’s going out there without a clue. I genuinely think its one of the best things I’ve ever done *laughs* and it had to be kinda shite but heartwarming at the same time. I was just trying to rib him, putting a photograph of him wearing a white suit *laughs* he actually owns this thing and has worn it to genuine occasions, and it blew my mind *laughs hysterically* Of all the folk I wouldn’t expect to be wearing a white suit, Sha Samuels is near the top of that list. I wanted him to have that “you bastard!” reaction. So we did that. I sourced the stripper last-minute but the older lady who was involved wasn’t planned. I’ve came in contact with her numerous but shes such a laugh. So game. She switched with the stripper and bless her, she was so game. She loved it. Its hard doing that type of stuff because if it’s no happening and they’re not reacting. Its hard. I didn’t want it to be too polished, I wanted him to keep playing off his reactions, and then he’s starting to come round and we switched it and its me getting upset with him, and he’s trying to get my attention”

That switch took their popularity to the next level. Many thought that night at the ABC was the end for The Kinky Party. It couldn’t ever work! They were too different from the start. Kidding themselves on they were. It was always going to end so why prolong the pain? But like with any important relationship, someone has to fight for it, when the chips are down, someone has to buy more chips. Sha Samuels reached out and as much as they weren’t quite as dazzling as that white suit no doubt was, he offered Jester an olive branch in the form of the sexiest team jackets in professional wrestling history.

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“We done the thing at the ABC and had the fallout (after Jesters match with James Storm) Then the thing with the jackets, I corpsed throughout that, he was so funny, its hard not to laugh. With The Kinky Party, I approached it differently to how you usually would, the wrestling side would take care of itself. Its building the double act that was important at the start. We had to be a double act. We had to be Francie and Josie. That’s why I was really adamant we had to get to the point that we’d be a recognised double act. We do have a really good laugh and you can feel the spirit being lifted when we do what we do. It’s the easiest thing I’ve done in wrestling, I’ve never had anything that’s so easy and so natural. He’s so good off the cuff, so I wont tell him what I’m going to say, he just needs to react to me. ”

With a bit of gentle encouragement from a returning Drew Galloway they finally made in and have gone from strength to strength ever since. When you’re entertaining people the way they do, run with it. They’re not only giving people a bit of comedic respite in the middle of some pretty intense shows, they’re doing it while having top quality matches for the tag team titles of teams with various styles. Be it monsters like Alpha Evil and The PoD, brawlers like The Purge, or the ever charismatic Lou King Sharp and Krieger, they have had one of the most notable ICW Tag Title runs ever and have created an environment where whoever takes it off them will be creating a moment. A team who have done battle with them before and who have a huge amount of momentum are The Kings Of Catch, and it seems only natural that their paths will cross again if both can make it through their respective Hydro matches.

While The Kinky Party very much remain a double act, the return of Grado to the ICW fold has proven welcome as they’ve had the opportunity to combine their charisma with his. Tanning a beer up the ropes is a wee bit different to slinging a bumbag over your shoulder right enough but The Kinky Party are determined their spot as the chief comedians in the comedy is not coming under threat.

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“With Grado coming back, we wanted to play it like ‘he better no come in here thinking he’s gonnae be funny *laughs* we’re the funny wans noo. I’m in Sha’s ear annoying him, trying to get him riled up so he disnae go back to Grado *laughs*. I think Kinky Party came at the right time because everything was so intense at that time, and you need a part of the show where you can just exhale. Have a laugh. You can just relax. Don’t send us out first. Put us in somewhere about the middle and give folk a chance to breathe. The crowdsurfing thing just came by accident but it became a thing we were known for. We want to have things people identify with us. Like the pre parties we’ve done, we’re genuinely out there drinking with folk, Sha’s missing his mooth. *laughs* We enjoy it. ”

Jester explained the dynamic between him and Sha as more of a married couple as opposed to two pals. An analogy that I’m sure puts the shitters up oor Sha but one that makes sense. It’s a partnership innit. With pals you can maybe not see them for a few weeks and it matters not. Next time you see them the lager will be flowing, and someone might end up getting glassed. With a partnership? If you’ve no texted in a 12 hours period you better be sleeping or deid. The Kinky Party is for life no just for Christmas and that bond has to remain sacred. If they’re going to win belts and drink aw sorts of different beers together, the trust has to be there. The trust you’d consider commonplace between married couples.

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“When we fall out it has to be treated like a married couple falling out. You’re first instinct isn’t to challenge her to a fight the next week *laughs* You go all pathetic, stomp aboot, act petty. Then we had the thing at the ABC, and he gives me the jacket, and I’m telling him I don’t like it…I love it, but its no enough. So I storm away and out comes Drew telling us to get back in and sort it out. It was a great moment.”

Wrestling fans aren’t known for their patience. Possessed with this overarching thirst to see the next big storyline happen. Never content to let it play out. If anyone thinks a split followed by what would be an excellent rivalry is coming anytime soon, think again. Sha Samuels and Jack Jester are having the time of their wrestling lives and that’s not stopping until there’s a good reason for it to stop. ”

“People know it’s not going to turn in to this split. There’s always the potential down the line but right now I can’t see it. I’m so protective over this because I don’t want it to get serious. I want to keep what we have going. People just expect it now. They’re waiting it thinking “that’ll be Jester and Sha’s feud starting now” but why? We’ve still got plenty of things to pursue and I can’t stress enough how much I’m enjoying it. Its gave me and Sha such a lift. Its gave me and Sha a new lease of life. I’d done so many things and you get to a point where you’re not really sure whats next and this came at the perfect time. Its made me love wrestling again. It pours over to even when we’re not tagging, I’m enjoying it more everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I am, even if I’m myself, you get someone chanting no kinky no party. It carries over, and we started looking at the photos, David Wilson is always so good with that, and we were zooming in on them and you see everyone’s smiling man. We kinda started realising, somethings happened here Sha. We need to run with it. But then its all about how to keep it going and be creative and no repeat yourself etc.”

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While the emphasis is heavily on the dynamic between the pair as characters, the wrestling side still needs to be paid attention to. As much as The Kinky Party have been known as violent bastards in a past life, that’s not the life they’re living now. Those characters are still in there but there’s a balance to be struck between letting them loose a wee bit when the tag titles are on the line and they’re in the ring with legit monsters, and keeping them at bay enough to make the aforementioned monsters look as scary as they unquestionably are.

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“The likes of the match with Iestyn and Bram. Its different. We have to work out how to make the match work with these two big bastards while still keeping what we have going. How do we do it and still be able to come out on the next show and be funny. Then we realised, we’re the perfect opponents for Iestyn and Bram right now. They’re so dominant and they look scary. You put me and Sha in with folk like that, and Rampage and Asthon. If im in the ring facing guys like that and I’m trying to take the piss and have a laugh. It kills them. It makes them look daft. You need to take them seriously. There’s nothing wrong with showing fear, but you have to still be The Kinky Party at first. You have to go out and do what you do, but when it comes to facing these big monsters, you need to take it seriously. ”

That match was a defining moment for The Kinky Party, who had already surprised some by managing to usurp Rampage Brown and Ashton Smith as Tag Champions, despite the dangerous team knocking the living shite out of them a lot before. They proved they have the ability to get serious when it matters and when you’re in there with bruisers like that…it matters. It matters a lot. It matters to know when someone the size of Bram hits you with a Swanton from about 20 feet in the air, stay down for a fair bit after that. Don’t be getting up, tanning a beer and taking photies. The Kinky Party are all about the fans and having a laugh when the time is right, but sometimes the fight comes first.

“You can’t have us in with guys like Iestyn and Bram and make us look like supermen. Even though we’re the champions, we need to think about it and make them look like the dominant guys they are. I can just pick Iestyn up and slamp him, but I wont. I’ve never been one to do a lot of plannin beforehand, we’ll go over a few wee things, but if you can’t go out there and have a match with Iestyn and Bram and not make it look serious? Whats the point. If you cannae make that look like a fight? Yer fucked. I started doing wee things, like now we have the jackets so I can stick the corkscrew in there. So you build it up, and Iestyns no a blood and guts guy so he’s selling it. Even when Bram done that swanton….I was in nae rush to get up” *laughs*

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“He’s huge and he’s landing on ye from about 20 feet in the air. Its knowing how long to lie there. Its knowing when to get up. They battered Sha while im out, Sha rallies a bit, then the finish to the match, we could feel it, it started having this atmosphere that folk felt ‘this is a bit heavy-duty here’ and that’s why we made it a sneaky pin and we didn’t even celebrate it in the ring. I rolled right out and that’s when you see the more serious side. We have the belts and we have to back up the funny stuff with defences. With good matches. You cannae just go out there and dance and drink beer and no dae anything, so having matches like that elevates because folk remember who we are. We remind them who we are deep down and that we can go. Then the next show you come out and its almost like you can start again. Now people appreciate you more and you’ve got a wee bit more sympathy because these guys have battered us. Same with Rampage and Ashton. It’s not my job to go out there and look like their equal. I’m not going to throw Rampage about. Thats not what I’m there for. Its storytelling man. Its using their confidence and their power against them, because they’re so confident they’ve got us, they’ve battered us before, and we come out of nowhere and beat them”

Becoming champions took The Kinky Party to another level. If you’re keeping the married couple analogy going, having the tag titles is living having a wean for a married couple. You know that means its going to stay together for at least the next wee while. Maybe take in a wee bit of sun for a first family holiday. Jester, Sha and the belts. The analogy kinda falls apart when they eventually lose the belts right enough because you wouldn’t exactly put your child on the line in a wrestling match would you? We’re getting off track here, point is, being ICW Tag Team Champions meant they were part of an elite group. That prestige meant an obligation to wind each other up as much as possible became an unwritten rule.

“When we won the belts in Newcastle that’s when we really started talking about things and documenting stuff and I’m always winding him upKinkyBenidorm on twitter *laughs* We’re doing wee videos, with him shouting “JAAAAAAAAACCCCCKK” and its just such a laugh. ICW don’t write for us but we’ve got certain things that we need to hit storyline wise. When we do backstage stuff I always tell Veronica or Jen, don’t try not to laugh, just go with it, We always kinda try to get them involved and we love. If we’re enjoying ourselves, it obviously come across. Filming stuff in Benidorm and all that. I wanted us to be a double act. I wanted us to be Laurel and Hardy. I didn’t just want to be a tag team. I wanted it to be a situation where if one of is booked somewhere, folk are asking where the other one is. It’s somehow crossed over well to family shows. Sha hates it being called The Kinky Party at family shows *laughs* he’s like ‘lets call it The Drinky Party’ *laughs* but it goes over their heads, its like pantomime, its riddled with adult references that go over the childrens heads. At ICW you can be a bit more risque, its more like an adult orientated panto, but on family shows I just feel like I’m in a panto and its great. We really enjoy doing it. Making the kids laugh and even when we come out we’re having a laugh, because we’ve been doing it for hours beforehand and we’re going out there and carrying it over, it’s an amazing thing man ”

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We all know wrestling is scripted, pre-determined, whatever you want to call it. If you’re a fan as an adult you can have a fairly accurate education guess at how things might turn out and the direction stuff is going in. Those facts can make folk a wee bit bitter towards it. Almost as if they’re active’y trying not to enjoy wrestling but if you’re not enjoying it what’s the point? Sha Samuels and Jack Jester are enjoying every second of this and they’re going to crowdsurf and mug folk off until it stops being fun.

“The Kinky Party has allowed me to be the every man as well. We can go and be in the crowd and we can mingle and all that. We can dress it up as me doing character work, but it just means I get to jump in the crowd and sit next to an auld guy and steal his pick and mix. We just have laugh with it. You need folk to identify with us. They’re the reason we exist. Without that backing there’s never a Kinky Party. Sha will agree, it happened by mistake, but I don’t know what would be happening with either of us now if we didn’t have that. I joke that The Kinky Party has added another 10 years on to my career *laughs* but honestly, at that point we were both wondering where we wanted to go and honestly. I just love it. With every big moment you know the crashing low is coming and we’d both had big moments at Shugs. Sometimes you make plans, sometimes plans are made for you. The fans made this happen, we just took something they reacted to and went with it. We’d never done comedy stuff before so its been such a removal for us and its been great.”

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With an impressive amount of years racked up between them Sha and Jester are trusted to take their work in whatever direction they want to take it. After all this is their title run, as much as the company will give you opponents, you need to make the moments. You need to make the matches matter and Jester hopes the work they’ve done as champions stands whoever’s up next in good stead. “Its a nice feeling knowing the boss trusts us to go wherever we want to take it. We never thought for a second we’d be champions so then you have the dilemma of “how does the comedy team survive” in a division that’s full of big scary bastards” *laughs*

“I hope that me and Sha have done enough work that whoever does win it from us gets the reaction they deserve. I want people to be elevated by it. Its been great. Working with different kinds of teams who have different reactions to what we do and you chop and change to suit the situation. It’s great to be able to do that at ICW and even at family shows now where we’re just the big friendly funny guys. Yer mad uncles that love a laugh. As long as we’ve got the stage to be creative we’re gonnae continue. Its great. Its proper perked me back up again. ”

Before The Kinky Party came the gathering of the bastards. The Black Label tore ICW a new arsehole throughout 2015 and 2016 and it was a time period Jack Jester threw caution to the win. Not a single fuck was given and a lot of people didn’t like that. Well…good. If you’re trying to be a prick, thats the fullproof way to know its working.

Becoming Big Kink – Black Label’s Nastiest Bastard

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Seeing that drive in Drew and the drive it gave everyone else in the company set a standard that had to be met if you were to be considered a part of this. You need to look interested at the very least. Learn how to make audience react to you instead of judging them for not doing it. It’s not your job. They’re the customers. You don’t go to McDonalds and flip the burgers yersell. It’s up to the performer to get their performance over and that’s something both Jack Jester and Drew placed a lot of importance on during that time period when they reigned supreme.

“It pisses me off sometimes when I see folk who have been doing this less than 5 years and they look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Or when folk would rather complain about crowds going down or crowds being dead rather than problem solving. ‘The crowd are dead’….are the crowd dead? Or are they just not reacting for you as much as you want? Its self-indulgent. Just because you walk through the curtain as a babyface doesn’t mean these people need to cheer you. They aren’t getting paid to cheer you. You’re getting paid to give them a reason to cheer. Instead of coming back and moaning, figure out why it hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to go and do something to change it. I think people walk through the door sometimes and expect Dallas to sit them down and give them this handbook on how to get over with his audience. It doesn’t work like that. Dallas will listen to you. He can have a constructive conversation with you and sometimes we wont always agree, but he’ll listen. You’ve got to make it happen yourself”

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“Having Drew back and seeing Drew putting everything in to it made such a difference. Drew was very much like me. He’d get raging if he saw anyone who looked like they couldn’t be arsed. It fuelled him. We had the mentality that we’ll continue to be the top guys until someone proves they can take it off us. As The Black Label, we’re the older guys, and all this young talent that can do everything are coming up that can do everything and they look great and have all the tools, but they’re bitter. They have this mentality that we get the opportunities because we’re Dallas’ pals as opposed to earning them. Being Dallas’ pal doesn’t get you over with the crowd. Being pals with Dallas doesn’t get them to react. Only you can do that”

Being pals with Dallas also doesn’t matter a fuck when, at least in storyline terms anyway, you fucking hate the cunt. The Black Label were built on solid foundations of hating Mark Dallas and everything his ICW stood for. They wanted the power, and needed to come across like the biggest team of pricks the world has ever seen. They ran the show and wanted anyone who would dare to cross them to know that was the case. Fuck with the label at your peril.

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“With The Black Label I had to be such a bastard and I had to commit to. I gave everything I had to being a genuine bastard that folk despised”

“We did that switch where me and Drew had been feuding, and at the ABC. So many things that happened in my career happened in that venue. I came out and folk thought I was gonna help Damo, and I turned and helped Drew instead. Red was there and it was just the three oldest best pals together again. We did that photo where we’re backstage (photo is below) all giving it the vickies together and there’s that same photo somewhere from years before of us doing that in Walkabout. It was one of they things that was organic. We were thick as thieves. We had guys who came in for wee stints and were affiliated with us, but we were the core group and we just caused it man. Some of they tours got wild man. There’s certain shows where the crew have thrown their headphones off and ran out because they thought there was genuine riots happening. I was just out there annoying folk, and I wasn’t really angry, but I was getting that anger out of them. If you don;t believe in your own shit, no one else would. We ruled the world man. We had everything at our disposal to make sure we stayed on top. Comparing it to the kinky party sounds daft but I’ve some of the biggest reactions from both. Like with The Black Label I just used to cause absolute havoc, then I’d stand in the safety of the ring, surrounded by security, while folk go mental *laughs* so to be getting the opposite now with The Kinky Party but still getting the reactions is great. ”

Make no mistake about it, during that run with The Black Label, Jack Jester was a bastard. He done absolutely everything in his power to draw nothing but pure unfiltered hate from the paying audience. Who gives a fuck if you paid for a ticket mate, we run the gaff, you do not. It was as simple as that and he embrace his role as chief aggressor of the group very seriously. He existed to annoy you and he had an absolute ball doing it.

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“Say I was on second, and someone would dare say something to me, and I’d refuse to work until they were thrown out. Folk used to come up and say stuff to me. Telling me it was shite. I’m like…I know. Its meant to be. I want them to hate me. If you’re angry about it, think how angry the guy is that got chucked out. It got to the point where Drew would always just let me kick everything off and he’d be my backup. Drew used to jump in front of me thinking I was genuinely losing it. Trust me, if I’m genuinely raging about something. You’ll know about it. Let me be in my head for the segment and really commit to it.”

The problem being such an unapologetic bastard is that when it came time to turn back, it was hard to make people believe in him as the loveable psycho they had made at one time considered of their idols. You call folk arseholes enough times, they just start to believe you think they consider them to be an arsehole. They forget you’re playing a character and it had come time to become something different. Drew was about to rejoin WWE and he needed one last feud. He needed a hero to annihilate and who was better for the job then his auld pal? Once again aligned with ICW after turning on The Black Label and knocking Drew out with a massive studded ‘weapon’ at The Hydro to give control of ICW back to Mark Dallas.

“I was like fuck, I’ve backed myself into a corner here. How can I ever be babyface again when I’ve been such a bastard. So spiteful. I used to target folk for different stuff and I was a proper bastard. Folk were genuinely raging. If I go and say sorry and ask them to forgive me they don’t believe in it. They don’t believe I’m the bastard I want them to believe I am.”

“Somehow we managed the big turn at The Hydro. I’ll never forget that reaction the night before when Drew said he was retiring. Folk were so taken by that, it was amazing. We didn’t plan that either and it went so far. Someone shouted something and everyone just went aff their nut at him. He was still treating it like a wrestling show but folk were convinced. This was real. Folk were watching like it was real.findrew Then someone fainted and I jumped out the ring and broke character. Dallas came out. Everyone’s out of character then banng! Drew punched Dallas. Folk were going nuts. You bastards! Folk are crying. You had a half and half reaction, like wrestling fans who got it were like “well done” and then you had the folk who feel entitled to know when its real and when its not. So you had this building with Drew getting ahead of himself, and Red kinda thinking of himself as bigger than The Black Label. It was the opposite of when I turned to join them, when I came out folk were expecting me to help Drew and I went the other way ”

The thing about The Black Label people really fucking hated is that you knew they were good. You fully despised it but you knew deep down they were at the very top because they had earned it and with Red Lightning at the helm, they had the power to stay there. A thing that comes in handy when it comes to keeping you on top is being able to do this job well. Mad concept I know, but actually being good at this and being able to adapt to any situation you’re thrown into is an integral part and a value Jester tries to instil in to his trainees as well as his own work. A lot of lessons have come from working with Sabu several times and adapting the matches to still look good without taking liberties. A relationship built between the two men that led to Sabu making Jester an offer he couldn’t refuse.

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“I know hes got a bad neck, I know hes got a bad hip, If I can’t find another way of working someone without doing stuff that puts them in danger, then I can’t work. He’s constantly being put in there with folk who are inexperienced. A guy knocked all his front teeth out, this guy obviously didn’t know what he was doing. He’s panicking because he’s wrestling Sabu, and he’s made a mistake. With Sabu you need to be on your game. I enjoy working with him, some folk say they find it hard, but to me its interesting. Its exciting. You’ve got to be at your best. There’s nothing better than meeting your hero and it turns out he is that guy. It was after a show, I remember talking to him about doing the barbed wire match and how I’d never done one before and all that and he says to me “Terry (Funk) taught me how to do them, if you want I could teach you” and I nearly burst into tears. It was surreal. I’m standing outside The Garage and Sabu’s telling me he’s going to teach me how to do a barbed wire match. I couldn’t wrap my head round it. So I’ve kinda taken wee bits from all these guys, and when you see people who are maybe 2 years in, doing in badly and almost belittling it, it annoys me. I never have and never will find using lego in wrestling funny. I’m sure it was a good laugh the first time it was done. After the match they’ll post a photo that kind of defeats the purpose of it entirely with a funny wee caption. Or they cannae wait to get backstage to they can post a photo of their chest when its been chopped to bits.”

While his standards for hardcore wrestling stay high, the key seems to be respect at all times. Respect wrestling and take your responsibility seriously, and Jack Jester will respect you. Coming in chopping 3 layers of skin and a few vital organs out of a trainee in their first match is just being a dick.

SQGOJESJST“Its folk taking liberties I don’t like. With a guy like Walter, you’re going to get these big marks. He’s a big guy and if he times it right that’ll happen, but its people who take liberties and you can see the anger in their face when they do it. Like when they do it with younger guys because they know they wont say anything, but they’re naive enough to go back and take a photo of their chest all black and blue and there’s nothing cool about it to me. I hope the guy who was in there chopping fuck out ye thinks he’s a hard man, because that’s obviously why he’s doing it”

Someone who is undoubtedly ‘hard’ is the enigmatic PCO. PCO was once one half of early-mid 90s WWE tag team The Quebecers and has continued to hold an influence on wrestling to this day. Recently performing in the prestigious Battle Of Los Angeles for PWG as well as having an eye catching match with Walter at Wrestlemania weekend a year earlier. To be doing some of the things he does at 50 after having a career most people would be able to draw a line under and be proud of takes something. It takes a love for pro wrestling and that was something that shone through in PCO when he and Jester spent some time together on the camps. An attitude that has no doubt carried in to Jesters work with the GPWA, and surely must serve as some kind of inspiration for the future, because if a guy like that who’s done everything still wants to crack out a moonsault to entertain folk, he’s built a bit differently. There’s a love there for this wrestling carry on that somehow has not been tinged with bitterness and regret over time.

“PCO is another guy I met at all star, but he’s an absolute workhorse. Carl’s been about forever and hes had so many reasons to be disheartened by this,so many reasons to give it up. I mean he’s 50 now, when I met him at all star I was early 20s. By this point he’d done everything, but he always wanted to help others out. He was always trying to evolve himself as well and he’d try out different gimmicks every month but he was so forthcoming with anyone who needed help. Mason Ryan (former WWE wrestler) started out there and back then he just wasn’t getting it. He had the look and he was getting pushed to the moon, but there was a lot of things he was struggling with and Carl really tried to help him whereas a lot of the other more experienced guys would just tell him he was shite.”

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“There’s no point telling anyone they’re shite if you’re not going to give them any advice on how they can improve. He used to work him a lot and his gimmicks were so suited to that environment and suited to making Mason look good, so he’d give him different bits of advice on how to make the matches look good and what to do at certain times. He was so dedicated and just a lovely guy, so to see the stuff he’s doing now is great. The match with Walter was outstanding. He’s out there doing all these dives and moonsaults, sentons off the ropes and all this. He took so many chops his chest was black and this is Wrestlemania weekend. This is a 50 year old man. Folk are wondering “why the fuck is he wrestling Walter on one of these shows?” and he’s thinking “I’m gonnae show ye why”

Experimentation with different gimmicks seems to be another lesson Jester has drawn with working alongside PCO. An ability to adapt to any given situation, even if that adaptation is more to highlight your opponents strengths than your own, as PCO undoubtedly knew he was doing when he got involved in a chop war with Walter.

“That kind of chopping is a different story, Carl would let you know if a line was crossed, he would let you know if he wasn’t happy, but they just stood there and went toe to toe, chopping fuck out each other and it was cool to see. If the fans are reacting to it and its working for you, go at it all day”I enjoy it when its a back and forth, and you’ve got two guys who can really work and react to the crowd so they know exactly how long to go with it, then eventually one gives up and take the bump and the crowd goes wild for it. ”

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A deep seeded love for villainy seems to be ingrained in Jester. One of my favourite aspects of going to family shows was just how absolutely terrified the weans were of him. He doesn’t do that because he hates children and wants to be in their nightmares (well….maybe a wee bit) he does that because if they’re going to experience a wrestling show the right way, they need the baddies. They need the guy with the scary eye who comes out looking homicidal and clatters his corkscrew off the barrier right in front of you as he walks past. You need the guy who’s going to jump the barrier and chase the team of wee guys round the perimeter of the Paisley Lagoon.

“I love being a villain at family shows. I love being the guy to wind the weans up and give them a fright. You’ll get wee guys giving you stick, and usually take a few steps past them before I turn round and shout something back. You’ve got to make them believe you’re the villain. I’m no being a dick. If folk ask me for a photo I’ll gladly take it, but ask me when I’m a babyface. Don’t ask me to do this stuff when I’m trying to be the devil. ”

Jack Jester – Star of film and television

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Along this journey Jack Jester and ICW have been on, there’s been vital moments along the way. Things that have helped the company grow to what it is today. Putting exposure on what they do to a wider audience of people who aren’t necessarily interested in wrestling. In fact, a lot of them probably think its a bit daft. That fake shit yer auld uncle used to like before he got intae the boxin’. A real mans sport. The British Wrestler documentary with Vice was the first time ICW was really put on a platform for a wider audience to see. Leading to Insane Fight Club and Insane Fight Club 2 on the BBC

“It was the first time I became synonymous with one product. I’d need to watch it again. We all went down for the premier then we went back down and done this wee show in a working mens club to kinda promote it. We filmed that video and just had a laugh, Grado talking about his pieces being an embarassment compared to mine. ”

The Vice Documentary lead to an infamous road video filmed on Mark Dallas phone when the crew went down to see the premiere of the film. A chaotic couple of days ensued fuelled by misery, cocktails, good pieces and megabuses.

“I don’t like London. I’m more likely to knock back work down there because it drains ma soul man. We were only meant to be a small part of that but the guys realised we had something and made us the main focus. It was back in the earlier days so it was when we were first getting a bit of momentum. It was funny because we watched it and we didn’t know till later that Alan Rickman was behind us the whole time. Grado was having to go up and talk about stuff and all that and we were all heckling. They put on this small show as sort of an example of what we do. It was in this wee pub in Bethnal Green. It was like it was frozen in time from the 60s or something man. The barmans telling ye he’s done a life stretch for murder. It was just us down in London causing it lately. It gave us a wee bit of a sort subculture status online”

When Insane Fight Club was first released Jack Jester became a celebrity overnight. His storyline of becoming ICW Champion in front of his Dad watching him wrestle for the first time was the perfect complement to the stories told by Mark Dallas and Grado and really built up the achievement as something special for Jack Jester as a wrestler and a person. It mattered and that came across, helping show reach unprecedented levels of success.

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“With Insane Fight Club we all has a meeting to start off. It was a guy called Adrian McDowell who directed it. It was so full on. We filmed it over the course of a year but it was all the time. Every show. Honestly I think he ended up with 150 hours of footage and its for a one hour show so it was so full on. Going in to all out backstories. Then Grado became a big focus of it because he was kinda the every man. The funny guy. Like when we first started getting recognised, he used to go on about it being a pain in the arse, and I wouldn’t mind it, and that’s because when they come up me they’re a bit intimidated or maybe they’ll just politely ask for a photo or something, but with him they’re coming up to him and jumping on his back and all that because he made them feel like he was their pal. He had that appeal”

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“When it was coming on the TV we all piled into my grans, my mum, my sister and everyone. We’re all buzzing and Grado’s like ‘My Ma’s shiteing herself, she’s sitting here with the dishtowel over here heid n everything’ because obviously she was in it as well. It was meant to be just BBC Scotland but it went on the network. They were originally aiming to hit 100k for the views and I’m pretty sure we topped over a million on that first night. Me and Dallas went out to celebrate it and that’s when you proper started noticing it. You’re walking down streets you walk down all the time but you can overhear folk talking about it, and you’re wondering if you’re supposed to turn round or just pretend you’ve not heard it. Especially looking how I do when you go out, I dress a bit different and with the big earrings and the beard etc, its hard to miss me. That was when I got a wee taste of that jealousy Grado because folk are a bit put out at the extra attention I was getting, but I don’t get it. If more folk are recognising me or any of us, that means more eyes is getting on the product YOU work on.”

Then came the next one. Having recently welcomed Drew Galloway home it was time to make the best of his glorious presence and one aspect of that would be including his story in the sequel. A further look in to ICW and how it had grown since the first documentary aired and the resulting success.

“The second one was more focused on us touring and trying to promote stuff for that. A lot of stuff didn’t make the cut actually, like we had an eating competition etc. We had Toal in a pram at some point. Going to Brookside was the best though. I couldn’t believe, folk live there man. It’s an actual place. The best thing was, Jimmy Corkhill was there. Folk are just going about their business as usual, looking out their window’s and seeing Jimmy Corkhill there…..in Brookside. Grado’s giving it ‘its like cuttin aboot wae Bieber’ because you’ve got folk flooding out their houses to get photos taken and all that. It was just madness. Drew was involved with that so we got into the backstory with me and him a bit more leading up to The Barrowlands”

It allowed a wider audience to see a bit more of the story that captivated British wrestling at that time as Drew and Jester barrelled towards their ICW Title match at Fear and Loathing.

“Drews mum had recently passed so it went in to that a bit. She was like my mum as well whenever I’d stay there, obviously I wasn’t from there so when I’d stay I wouldn’t know how long I’d be there. I always had a great relationship with his family. Both documentaries done amazing things for us. In terms of bringing eyes in, it was so important. We didn’t want wrestling fans to watch it, or well we knew they would anyway, but we needed to do enough interesting things where if folk were flicking through the channels they’d stop and go ‘wait a minute, whats this?’ It was amazing because before that we were just this wee company who ran nightclubs in the town. We had popularity. We had this kinda subculture status and even back then we could tell we had something, but after the Fight Clubs I had auld women coming up to me knowing who I am, and even if they’ve no watched it or they don’t know exactly what I do but we became more recognisable.”

“We worked with the same producers on both Insane Fight Clubs and then again on the new show we’re doing. Rogue To Wrestler. It’s a different thing in terms of us being the ones behind it as opposed to being the subject of it. It was difficult because there was the potential there to make it look a bit daft. We had to make sure we were doing it the right way and putting it across right, but we had no doubt the producers would do a great job on it. We’d built up such a rapport with them there was never any danger of that”

Insane Fight Club II - This Time it’s Personal

Armed with plenty of experience of at least being in front of the camera in a reality TV setting, Dallas and co had an idea of their own. They would be the ones driving the bus, instead of getting steamin up the back of it. They wanted to make a show of their own and the concept they came up with was rogue to wrestler. A show that would take down on their luck people who have maybe come from hard backgrounds and giving them the chance to turn their lives around with powerbombs n that. Instead of a one off documentary, it would be a series and having recently finished filming it Jester beamed with pride at the finished product.

“Its coming in February, what channel? we’re not sure yet, but we know it’ll be February. There’s going to be press about it starting from the new year. People are going to know what’s happening. The good thing about it is, with the Fight Club docs, we filmed for so long and got so much material, then once it was done that was it. It was over. With this, we’ve filmed three episodes. We gave them so many different challenges that led them to the point of being ready to go out and perform. The people involved had given us a rough idea of what had went on in their lives, and really this show’s about them, as opposed to the Fight Club ones being about us. We learned so much about them over the course of it and these people have ben through some tough stuff. So to see them put themselves out there and even take part in this has been amazing. Some of them suffer really badly from anxiety and things like that and it was impressive they even signed up. Dallas was laughing and even our producer was laughing when we watched it back because this is our TV show that we’ve filmed and I was literally on the edge of my seat watching it, wondering what was going to happen at the end. For anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on? Its going to be great. Honestly, I’m so, so happy with it.”

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One of the reasons they were so over the moon with it was the light it shone on Glasgow. A positive, uplifting story of people changing in front of your very eyes through wrestling. Obviously the main point is to entertain folk but the work everyone involved put in to it wasn’t to make something throwaway or daft. This is a project they really believe in.

“Even on my days off I’d come in here and film cut aways. We did so many daft things to help the process. Its very Glaswegian. We filmed daft wee things to help add to it all. Stuff like guys sitting on the grass at half 2 in the afternoon in George Square and all that. But its good. Its funny. We laughed all the way through it and by the end, I honestly couldn’t thank them enough. Jen and Elspeth who spearheaded the whole thing (producers) have seen it many times now and love it, but the big boss who took a lot of convincing just to make it at all, absolutely loves it now. She just didn’t get it, but she was balling her eyes out watching it. The whole team were so engrossed in the filming, it was nice to see. At times in that industry there can be a bit of disconnection between what you’re filming but when we went into their offices all the name tags are changed now to wrestling personas. Things like “Mad Dog” Egan and all that. It took over their whole office for a while. Its great. The work they done considering we filmed it with very little in terms of cameras and equipment. Its came across really well and all my fears and my nerves about it have kinda gone now. I’ve seen it and I can relax. Now I can push it to the moon because I know its good and I’m just dying for folk to see it.”

“It makes ICW look great as well. All the different shots at the venues we run, especially The Hydro. They really put over the skill of wrestling and the seriousness that it takes to be good at it. These people had never done anything wrestling related before. One person hadnt even watched it ever. So to see their attitudes change was amazing. They went in with the attitude “its fake, how hard can it really be?” so it was good to see that slowly change and for that to come across on screen.”

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As much as it showed ICW in a positive light it also gave folk a wee peek at how things are done at GPWA. The school Jester and Lionheart both have a hand in running and the school where that hilarious photo of them doing DDP yoga poses above was taken. The show gave the audience a look at how the coaches sync up and apparently a lot of that syncing comes from synchronised stretching.

“The dynamic between me and Lionheart was interesting to see as well. We do this all the time, but we’re different people. We’ve got a similar mindset when it comes to how we approach it but it was interesting to see how we differ. There are times where he’s in the ring doing drills and stuff and I’ll be on the floor or on the apron and when folk are feeding out, I’m giving them advice before they rejoin the queue. It was interesting to see that all play out. The fact that the people who made it are so in love with it means a lot. THEY cannae wait to get it out, so its great to have the might of them behind us. Its our first jaunt into formatted TV so its great to have that confidence in what we’ve produced from the people who made it. It’s about the people who have been part of the show. Its about the “rogues” and our role is presenting the show as best we can and helping them get their stories across. We gave them an experience that they’ll never get again and never could. Without sounding too dramatic, it really has been a life changing thing. You can see people change in front of your eyes in the process of it. People start to look better, talk better, feel better, and these are people who have been through some proper heartbreaking things. Utterly heartbreaking. Because we’re dealing with real lives and real people, it comes across differently than if it was just a group of wrestling trainees. It had to be approached in a certain way because if we in any way looked like we were trying to set these people up and make them look silly. It would make us look like bullies.”

There was also misconceptions as to what the show was going to be in general. When the ad went up initially there was a rush of eager wrestling fans wanting to sign up but that wasn’t what they were looking for. People assumed it would just be a bunch of criminals having a wrestle. Not the case. They were looking for people who just needed an opportunity in any form. The less you know about wrestling the better, because you’re sure as hell going to find out this is serious and the seriousness it takes to make a career in this happen came across every well.

“I think when people heard the title “Rogue to Wrestler” they were thinking along the lines of us taking someone who’s just out the jail for something serious and putting them on display. We can’t do things like that because then you’re almost glorifying it, and what is the poor victim going to think about that? Sitting in the house watching the person who assaulted you have this life changing experience? So it’s definitely not along those lines. Its about folk who have had a tough time who want to better themselves, and show folk “this is me now” and I’m really really happy with how it’s turned out. Its been great to be a part of and I’m just so impressed and excited with how its been put together. Its been nice to sit back and see the finished product and not feel like we could have done certain things better or even just differently because they’ve done an immense job putting it together. People worked over their hours to make it what it is and I can’t wait for folk to see it”

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Its a simple enough concept and one that was a continued theme throughout an interview that wound up spanning 4 hours after initially being scheduled for 1-2. Take wrestling seriously. That doesn’t mean don’t enjoy it and have a laugh with it, but take it seriously. Get good at it and don’t get pissed off if it doesn’t happen for you right away because the chances are, it not happening for you right away is the best possible thing for you. You have to learn as you go. It takes a lot of graft to get to ICW and to get to the required level you need to be willing to graft.

“I’m protective of ICW because we’ve built something here, and I hate seeing anyone come in who I don’t think should be there. Taking it for granted, and moaning about being asked to do things. If you’ve been about for a long time, you get your say, we all have a moan, but folk who are quite frankly not giving it everything when they’re lucky to be there in the first place. You need to give it absolutely everything. I’m no saying go out and hurt yourself, but give it everything you’ve got. They watch the fans react to the established guys”

“If you cannae adapt to new things, you cannae work. I’ve never wanted to be a sympathy booking or just considered part of the furniture. I’ve always took pride in being able to change it up and give people something to think about it. If you had your favourite dinner every single night, you’d end up craving just about anything else. Doing the same thing over and over never works. You need to give people something to be invested in”

The reactions Jack Jester is getting right now as part of The Kinky Party is ample proof that he’s nae sympathy booking. He’s not just there because that’s the way it’s always been, he’s there because he and Sha are vital cogs in an ICW that is telling some of its most engaging stories in years. No Kinky. No Party.

Massive thank you to David J.Wilson for fishing out some cracking shots for me. Also thank you to Warrior Fight Photography. Hope Wrestling. ICW. Jack Jester’s official facebook page, the internet, I think some of the photos are from The Herald? Some folks phones. You get the jist. A lot of good photos

An Interview With Jack Jester – Part One. Becoming Jack Jester. ICW Champion

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Across its history ICW has had a few mainstays. The building blocks that make a company recognisable at every stage of its growth. The franchise players. The ones having to put up with being side eyed and told their success is a by-product of their friendship with the owner and nothing to do with their unquestionable talent. Among the most vital of those building blocks over the years has been Jack Jester. Many of the ICW and Scottish Wrestling’s biggest moments have had him in the middle of it. Corkscrew in hand, unapologetically causing it as either a hardcore bastard, a right nasty bastard or most recently, a kinky bastard. Aside from that, without him reaching out to Mark Dallas back in 2010, with an idea that only an adult orientated show could handle, ICW as we know it today might not even exist at all. After becoming immersed in the local BDSM scene thanks to meeting one of his best pals who would go on to become his wrestling valet, the idea was born for “Scotlands” Lee Thomas to become the Jack Jester we know today.

“It came in stages, the character obviously takes years to build over the years as you find things and add things to it over the years. Before that, Scottish Wrestling was bare. There was nothing there. It wasn’t as bad as it had been maybe 15 years or so ago, but when you look back at the quality of it, there was nothing there. So to make any sort of money, you had to go on the camps.”

Jester’s induction to the camps happened completely by accident after future Black Label comrade and good pal Red Lightning done something so daft that only a potent mixture of youthful exuberance and red-blooded patriotism could be blamed.

Jestttttttt “Red Lightning was part of the Scottish camp team and he, when travelling back up on one of his days off, insisted on getting his photo taken on top of the ‘Welcome To Scotland’ sign…and he fell aff it! *laughs*. So he was out injured and I got the call and asked if i could replace him for a while on that. It was my 18th birthday, and I went to Weymss Bay Holiday Park, and I just remember it being scariest thing. Not because I was nervous for the shows, but because I walked out and there was about 4 or 5 folk there. I’d been wrestling for a wee while up until that point, obviously starting out with BCW. Which wasn’t at the level it is now but they still ran the same venues. Actually, if I remember right, I ditched my prom date to wrestle at the Kilmarnock Grand Hall” *laughs*

Persuading the poor lassie to maybe patch the prom altogether to watch her potential date do a bit of wrestling wouldn’t have been as appealing as it might be now when BCW consistently pack out these venues. A different time. A different, altogether less Jestoooglamorous set-up but it would have taken huge commitment to give up a once in a lifetime experience. Or maybe the burd was just heavy annoying. In any case, it caused Jester to develop a bit of a love/hate relationship with the venue that would go on to be the scene of some of his biggest matches. Including an official shot at Drew Galloway’s TNA World Title. “I’m sure there was about 50 folk there and you could imagine how dire that would’ve been for a venue that size. I always had a love hate relationship with the Grand Hall as its incredible now. Graeme obviously gets the stage now for the bigger shows and the setup is a lot better. Back then everything felt a bit flung together. I’m all of nothing when it comes to character. If I didn’t feel it was right or it wasn’t clicking I’d be more inclined to say take me off shows, because I wasn’t comfortable. I was off and on, and coming up with all sorts of stupid names and all that. Looking back on some of the photos and stuff I don’t know what I was thinking”

“Scotlands” Lee Thomas

“The camps became a thing I done every year after that. I moved from Haven to Allstar. At that point I was still Jack Jester on the camps, butleeee when I went to all-star, they took that away from me. Made me wear a kilt, wave a Scotland flag etc. I was there to replace Drew essentially after he got signed. I ended up working for them on and off for years. I moved to Liverpool and I lived there for most of the year, just coming back every now and then, but I didn’t take any other bookings anywhere, because it was the type of situation where if I asked for 2 days off to come up to Scotland for a show, you’d likely get a call as soon as you get here saying ‘just come back in 2 weeks’ and you’d end up losing a lot of money”

Before the journey to becoming the hardcore icon happened, Jester learned his craft in his early days when he was based in Liverpool for most of the year. The type of sacrifice that showed a huge amount of faith in his own ability, but one that was also a necessary part when it came to learning your craft back then. There wasn’t an abundance of training schools or experience to be gained on your doorstep. As a result, despite being limited already, the Scottish wrestling scene had to do without Jack Jester for a while before his ICW re-genesis came about.

“I was gone from Scotland for years at that point, and then I had this idea (for ICW). The idea came about organically as I’d recently got involved in that scene (BDSM). I’d met Lolly, we hit it off and became best mates. Obviously you know it exists, watching it on the tele and all that when you maybe shouldn’t have been. Things like Eurotrash, Sexcetera and all that. You know that there’s alternative scene that no one knows about, where everything is very secretive. All of a sudden through hanging about with her, I’d become immersed in this scene, and I was meeting all these folk that were so open, so friendly and maybe the first time I’d ever met folk who were completely sure about who they were. People who were proud to say this is me and that’s it, and that really opened my eyes up. If I hadn’t been introduced to that scene and put in environments and situations like that I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am now. I would never have known there was this different side to the world essentially”

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Becoming Jack Jester – The Hardcore Icon

Being exposed to this enlightened world where the people in it aren’t riddled with self-doubt gave Jester an idea. He needed to get on the phone to a certain Mr Dallas who had run a few shows under the name “Insane Championship Wrestling” a few years earlier before putting the company on hiatus. There was only one company and one promoter where this character could see the light of day in Scotland. It needed to be an adult audience and back then that sort of thing was a rarity.

“I started to come up with the bare bones of this character and I thought “There’s no way I can apply to anywhere else bar an adult company” and they weren’t ten a penny back then. Even now they aren’t. I phoned Dallas, and at that time I didn’t know what the look would be or any of that. I had Lolly as my valet and she was the dominatrix, and it was almost as if I was this kinda guy who was just hanging out with her while she done that stuff. I was adamant it wasn’t going to be a hardcore thing even though I had always enjoyed that type of wrestling. Mick Foley/Cactus Jack was the reason I started to enjoy wrestling in the first place. At that time I was adamant I would never do it until I had earned my stripes. Until I could work. Until I had learned wrestling. When its done badly I can’t stand it. If you’re in there doing hardcore stuff, and you’re ring positioning is shite, and you’ve no footwork, it’s never going to look good. If you can’t do the basics you’ve got absolutely no right hitting someone with a chair, or putting them in to thumbtacks”

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The first taste of the more ‘adult’ version of Jack Jester we seen today took place in Maryhill and while he had an idea of where he wanted the whole thing to go, there were some teething problems in the early days, or ‘randomly paddlin’ guys arses’ problems to be more precise, but once they worked out the kinks, they came up with something that drew a reaction never really seen before at least locally. Having a manager with a very particular skill set started to come in handy as Jester began to flesh out this character over time.

“The first time I ever done the BDSM thing was in the smaller hall in Maryhill that we run now with GPWA. It was against William Grange. I was feeling like there’s no point in having Lolly just beside me unless she’s involved. There’s no point having anyone with you if they’re no doing anything, be it a valet or a domanatrix valet in this case. Even in cases when I’m working with someone with a valet, I’ll always come up with something to involve them, otherwise, what are they there for? So Lolly came oot, she had a paddle, she had a noose, and she used to come out and just randomly start paddling guys arses and all that *laughs*. I had to keep saying to her, I know what you’re trying to do, but stop just randomly doing it during the matches, cause I’m trying to get something across in the ring, and no ones watching me because you’re out there randomly paddling guys arses” *laughs*

When the arse paddlin subsided they collectively realised Lolly had a skill few others could replicate or indeed regurgitate. She could spew on command, and when you chuck some red food colouring in the mix, and hunners of cider, you’ve got yourself the recipe for a good old-fashioned blood spew “Lolly could make herself sick. So we came up with something using that. I was backstage, this is right before I come out, I’m back there feeding lolly with pancakes covered in red food colouring and she’s washing it down with cans of Strongbow. I’m sure if I remember right, I threw Grange out the ring, and Lolly just toddled over, threw her hair to the side…it was so eloquent *laughs* and all this red stuff comes pouring out all over Grange. He was a good sport and let me do it. The reaction was like nothing I’d ever heard before. They weren’t cheering, they weren’t booing, they weren’t laughing, it was like a mixture of everything. There was guys wanting to react but couldn’t because their burds were there. Parents walking out with their kids. That’s when we realised….we’ve got something here. We might not know exactly what it is yet, but we’ll make something out of it. Over time it was more about me starting to look more the part. That was when I ditched the colourful gear, grew my beard etc. Its taken a long time to just fine tune it. What I am now didnt happen because I’d planned it. Things just stuck and I added things on and it grew over time”

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An important aspect to Jester and something that anyone going down the path of doing hardcore stuff should consider was looking the part. If you don’t look like someone who can survive getting scudded over the napper with a barbed wire bat you have no business wielding one yourself, as he went on to explain.

“I didn’t want to do it until I looked old enough as well. If I started out and immediately wanted to do all that shit it would have looked daft. I’d have been a wee boy, doing stupid shit and at that point I wasn’t clued up as to when I needed to hold back. Even on the camps, I used to drop elbows off the apron every single night. Twice a day. I used to get thrown off the stage on to the concrete and this is for folk who are barely paying attention. I was young and I was fulla beans and I just wanted to go out there and do this stuff. I also didn’t have anyone telling me not to do it. I was on this team with guys in their 30s, and 40s who have been doing this a long time and no one was telling me otherwise. ”

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He has no trouble imparting a bit of wisdom on his trainees but he maybe sees a bit of himself in the ones with the youthful exuberance to go ahead with it and ignore his advice anyway. They would be wise to heed the advice of someone who learned their craft back in a day where good advice wasn’t easy to come by. Someone who’s made the mistakes before and learned from them, but if people don’t want to listen, there’s only so many times you can repeat yourself

“I will tell folk that, although at times they choose to ignore me. If you’re fundamentals aren’t right. Your footwork, intensity, your striking isn’t there, then I’m not impressed when you jump off a balcony. What am I impressed about? Anyone can do it. Sure it takes a set of balls to do it. I’m not denying that at all. Not everyone will do it, but anybody CAN do it. If you don’t time it right, and do it in the right places where people care about it you’re going to crash and burn eventually. Ignore my advice all you want.”

While hardcore wrestling is a big part of Jack Jesters story, he has standards when it comes to putting these matches together. Its an art and even if its one you don’t particularly enjoy as an individual its a craft you can undoubtedly appreciate when its done well. Something Jester has continually prided himself on throughout his career. Tell a story. Don’t bleed for nae reason. Don’t take putting your body through such heavy trauma lightly. Time it right.

“I never wanted to be a garbage wrestler either. I’ve never been a fan of weapons just being everywhere and guys pulling stuff out from under the apron for the sake of it. I was always more a fan of the Cactus Jack, Terry Funk kind of style. More than say, The Sandman. I mean there was a time and a place for him and all that but he’s always kinda annoyed me. I’ve got certain standards when it comes to hardcore matches and I think it comes from looking up to guys like Foley and Funk. I don’t like things like wrestling in jeans and a t-shirt…just because it’s a hardcore match. If that’s your look, fair enough, but I’ve never liked changing it just for that type of match. Terry Funk always wore his tights, so I always wear mine. Another thing I don’t particularly like is lightubes. I just don’t like the look of it. If you’re going to put yourself in a position to get hurt, it should look like it actually does hurt. I want folk to believe I’m putting my safJestdownety on the line. I just draw a line at some stuff. The death match tournaments and stuff now just isn’t for me. Maybe in the past, I always wanted to go to Japan and do death matches but when I look at it now, there’s no way I would. If I was allowed to work my style of hardcore match then fine, but I don’t know how much of a reaction it would get because everyone’s doing all this crazy stuff. People are hitting themselves with these light tubes and no selling it, then when the opponent hits them with it, and all of a sudden its sore. When there’s broken glass all over the ring and you’re doing pinning combinations on it but not feeling the glass, then all of a sudden you take a move on it and the glass is sore again. You’re rolling about in broken glass. You should be selling that constantly. For me its a case of it missing a story at times now, and you’re just sitting waiting on the next big thing to happen without really paying attention to the bits in between”

Looking up to the likes of Foley and Funk breeds a need for authenticity. A need for it to feel real. If you don’t look like you’re a wee bit mental, don’t be flying through tables. Don’t be getting chucked on to thumbtacks. Tell a story through the art of being a mad bastard or don’t bother at all. The infamous match in 1995 in Japan between Cactus Jack and Terry Funk where both men left in ambulances serves as a measuring stick and almost a manual on how to push that type of match to the absolute limit while managing to tell a story in the process. A story etched in blood stained barbed wire and two best pals forever bonded by what could only be described as some kind of mutual murder pact.

“Foley and Funk in the King Of The Death Match tournament is the prime example. I still watch that and believe it to this day. I believe these guys were killing each other. Funk’s head is taped up, Cactus arm is taped up, its dark, they’re fucking things up, and you can just feel this atmosphere. I’m frightened watching it. I’m sitting wondering how they must have felt, after wrestling death matches all day, and then doing that to each other to finish it off. Going out there when you’re already severelyhhhh injured, knowing you’re going out there to injure yourself way worse than you already are. Watching it back, you know this is going to happen and you still get sucked in, and if I’m caring about now when it was nearly 30 years ago, you’ve done your job. Mick always had this way about making me care about him. He wasn’t doing loads of different big spots all the time, but if he done something it always meant something and helped tell the story. Like when The Rock took that chair to his head at the Royal Rumble. That match was planned out in stages, but they did it until it was too much. They pushed it as far as it would go. Folk loved him. They cared about HIM. It made me feel things I’d never felt before. I’ll never forget when Triple H beat him in the cell, and he retired. My Ma kept me off school the next day. Because she knew, if anyone made a snide comment to me about it, I’d have fuckin wrecked the place. I’m no 8 year old here. This is high school *laughs* . Terry was the same. He had that respect. He’d go over the Japan and have the respect of that audience. He used to just snap at folks ankles, and run at them, he literally personified a madman but yet he would never shy away from asking for help. This guy wasn’t trying to look like a hardman. He was just a normal guy, apart from the fact he was a mental case” *laughs*

The allure of characters who meshed an air of unpredictability with vulnerability is something that has influenced Jack Jester throughout his career to date. If you care so much about a character that his retirement keeps you off school the next day, this wrestling thing exists somewhere deep down inside you. Its ingrained. It matters. Taking all these eye catching risks means very little if the person taking them doesn’t show a human side and make it seem like putting themselves through this ordeal is as terrifying as it looks. That legitimacy is lost when people don’t make the effort to make things look like they hurt. Call out for help when your arm is falling off like any normal person would. Kidding on you’re robocop and no selling a steel chair to the skull isn’t the right way to do it. Were aw flesh and bones. Act like it.

Jester9“One of my favourite photos is of him (Funk) all cut up, barbed wire bat in his hand, his t-shirt all torn and hanging off and you look at that and go ‘thats scary as fuck’ . Leatherface is MEANT to be scary, but he’s no. It’s no real. Terry’s just a mental case and that IS scary. He comes across as a legit nutjob. These two guys just went out there for each other, and tried to create a memory. There wasn’t a lot of folk there but the potential for folk to see it down the line was massive. I do get disheartened at times with hardcore wrestling now and I feel I probably got away from it at the right time. You’ve got feuds like myself and Mikey (Whiplash) that I hold in high regard. Its been 7 years since our first match in ICW. I’ve known Mikey for years. Since travelling with all-star. We travelled together for years, and I fuckin hated him. I really didn’t like him. Because he was an arsehole *laughs* he was. Mikey’s one of my best pals now, and by the time that we had worked for ICW, we realised we had a lot of stuff in common, and it felt daft. How did we manage to travel together for so long and be in the same company and all that not once realise we were the same person almost? *laughs*. It was like…we’re just different folk. Mikey had been in this bubble for so long back then, so he had his pals and that was that. I was young and just wanted an easy life so I shut my mouth and got on with it.”

Jester vs Whiplash – Becoming ICW Champion

Despite the rocky start to their relationship the pair became synonymous with each from the moment Whiplash stepped through the door. Kindred spirits who went on to become good pals whilst maiming each other on a semi regular basis. A unique and altogether sare relationship but one that saw a formidable bond happen in the process as they started to notice their similarities. Similarities that led to a chemistry in the ring that produced some of the best matches ICW have ever had. Even if their first match took place in not so ideal circumstances that almost forced them into straight up battering fuck out each other. Leading to a rivalry that was as much about winning wrestling matches as it was just managing to survive them.

JestWhip “Mikey debuted his transvestite character in his first match. This wasn’t announced at all. Everyone was expecting this tights and boots wrestler, folk were in shock. He had like a black shiny raincoat on, and he came out with this pink balloon he just found in the venue on the day. We broke the ring almost instantly. I hit him with a bulldog and the beam snapped *laughs*. We were second last on so that’s how the first ICW Street Fight came about, because the ring was broke. That’s when you had Wolfgang throwing folk into busses on the street and all that. Me and Mikey kinda winged it, that was the first time I’d ever had my arm attacked. Lolly had turned on me at this point and she was holding my arm while he carved it. Me and Mikey always had a mutual sorta goal for this kind of match, lets build it around 2 or 3 big moments, but don’t do it until we know the timing is right. If the timing is never right, and it never feels right, just don’t do it. There’s no point in throwing stuff away. Say I’m going to take a Finlay Roll into a barbed wire board. If we’ve not got them (the crowd) at that point? Just dont bring the board out. Because I’m no taking it just because we’ve spoke about it beforehand if its not right. There’s always wee things that we know are there if we need them. Me and Mikey were always good for pushing each other. We never put limits on it. It was always a case of doing it and seeing where it takes us, and when the crowd didn’t want to see me or him get hit again that’s when we’d stop. You have to take to the limit to know what the limit is.”

They formed a trust based on pushing each other to the limit physically and producing matches that were not for the squeamish. But it wasn’t blood and guts for the sake of it. It was two guys who managed weave a story that spanned more than two years, the final chapter being written with Jester taking the title from Whiplash at Fear and Loathing in 2013. Captivating the ABC in a blood soaked contest that saw Jester complete an arduous journey to the top of the company he had invested so much of his career in.

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“We built that understanding up over the course of the matches we had, and the thing is, he always beat me, always won, right up until the culmination at Fear and Loathing in the ABC where I won the belt from him. I knew by that point the time was right. Dallas had told me on a few occasions “I’m going to put the belt on you” and as often happens in wrestling, plans would change, and I was ok with that, you don’t need to give me a date that it’s happening you know what I mean? if you do that and it doesn’t happen then I’ve been working towards nothing. When its right, its right. That’s how wrestling is. People don’t really see that sometimes. Plans change. Things change. You have to roll with the punches. People who moan about having opportunities dangled in front of them then taken away? Cry me a river. If the opportunities come your way, make sure you take them, and if they don’t? Shut up. You’re not entitled to anything. Earn it.”

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“That match got out of hand quick. Mikey really dragged me through that. I was gone. He gave me just the right amount of time to recover and catch my breath, because I was starting to pass out from the blood loss. I still don’t know how it happened, I can only assume there was a can or something sharp on the table he flung me on to, but I’ve never felt anything like it. I could just feel it running. It had taken us so much time to get there and at that point I’m thinking I’m not going to make it through this.”

But he did. Thanks in no small part to the guy he was in there with. There’s few who could have handled the situation the way Whiplash did and instead of the match being a struggle, it became an iconic moment in the history of ICW and Jack Jesters career. With his auld man watching for the first time in his career, Jack Jester was the man. This was his time to lead the company forward at a vital time in its growth and the moment might not have been so special had it not been for Whiplash pulling Jester to the epic conclusion the match had that made the moment what it was.

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“There’s not many folk who could remain calm in that situation and push me to get to the end, so the stars aligned with me being in there with Mikey. The temptation was there to just take it home and end it early, but if he had done that, it wouldn’t have been the moment that it was. He made me get to the end. That’s one of the biggest reactions I remember because it wasn’t even like a wrestling “pop”. It was people who’d seen the journey to get to that point thinking ‘Well in, you’ve done it’. Make them want about it. Make them care about it when it happens, because when you’re thrust into that situation before you’re ready for it, its brutal. Having the ICW Title is a lot of pressure. It made me ill eventually because I had it for so long. You’re on last every show. Pressure to go out and perform every time. I personally used to let the pressure fall on me because if the show wasn’t busy, in my eyes it was my fault. I know it isn’t actually like that, but I feel like if you don’t think like that, you’re not giving it enough.”

The years of investment in Whiplash and Jesters story is something that’s a bit of a lost art in wrestling these days. The involvement of the biggest prize in ICW came a wee bit down the line as Jester and Whiplash were the final two in ICW’s second ever Square Go match. Whiplash eliminating Jester and going on to take the title from Red Lightning before Jester finally got his shot 6 months down the line when ICW sold out the ABC in their second time running the 1,000+ capacity venue.

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“People were invested in that story for such a long time and it doesn’t happen anymore. Folk want everything to happen fast. They want to win this, win that, in the shortest amount of time possible. No one cares if you’re just winning everything. Its little more than an ego trip if that’s all you do. Mick Foley wasn’t a big ‘winner’. He was a guy who made you care. He went in there and burst his arse. When he did win, people were overjoyed. They were happy for him as a person. People backstage were genuinely happy when he won his WWE Titles. The locker room just emptied and you had him up on DXs shoulders and all that. Everyone was just happy for him”

When the adrenaline from winning the title eventually wore off Jack Jester the ICW Champion, became Lee needin his bed. Almost bleeding out on the ABCs floor is draining business but being the man comes with sacrifices. The sacrifice at that particular time was a lot of sleep and probably a few stitches in favour of a tried and tested home remedy and well….booze. A lot of booze.

“We were filming for Insane Fight Club at that time, and I remember after it we had to film the afterparty. I was half deid and Dallas tells me this. I’m thinking I need to go to the hospital, and he’s thinking ‘you dont need to go to the hospital, you need to go the Cathouse’ *laughs* so I remember being in the Cathouse, and I’d used my old trick where I’d put hairspray on the cut so it would conjeal, then put a bandana on it, and deal with it in the morning *laughs*. I remember being at the Cathouse bar. Falling asleep. Dallas giving me a wee elbow lit ‘cmon champ”

The Jester and The Homicidal, Suicidal, Death Defying mad bastard

One of the defining moments of Jesters title run came when a show ICW had announced in Edinburgh suddenly became the biggest crowd they had performed in front of to this date. Dave’s Not Here Man was initially supposed to be at ICWs usual smaller venue but rapid ticket sales when Sabu vs Jack Jester was announced meant a switch to the 1,100 capacity Picture House. A show that also saw a huge match at the opposite end of the wrestling spectrum when Grado wrestled Colt Cabana.

sabu_jack_jester_3“I wrestled Sabu that show and Grado wrestled Colt. That show was meant to be in Studio 24 actually but as soon as we announced me and Sabu, it sold out in 4 minutes or something, so we had to find a bigger venue for it. This is a long time in advance. To go from that size of venue to selling out something 1,200 capacity was a dream. Sabu was still this mythical guy. I’ll never ever get bored of Sabu. I’ll never not get a buzz from the fact that Sabu’s my pal *laughs* people don’t understand it because I’ve worked with him so often but it’s just surreal to me. I watched him and Cactus Jack wrecking casinos together in ECW, so to get the chance to pick his brains and spend time with him will never not be cool to me. ”

That match had the top billing at ICWs first ever four figure crowd and had the added stress of one half of the match being held up at the airport and not arriving until the second last match had started. Giving them just enough time for a quick handshake and exchange of pleasantries before one half of the match snapped a coathanger in half and tucked the sharp end on his boot. For future use in some sort of gouging incident over the course of a mental 20 minutes or so at the end of a landmark night for the company.

“I’d never met the guy and we heard he’d been held up at the airport. I already wasn’t in the best nick, I’d been out the night before and I fucked it. It was stressful as fuck. Matches go by and it gets to the one before we’re meant to go out. He’s still not there. Panic. He finally showed up, so I introduce myself and we really had no time to get any kind of plan in place. It was a case of me saying “I know what you do, this is what I do, lets wing it” kind of thing, and despite booking Sabu, Dallas didnae think to bring chairs *laughs* so the only chair we had is this bright pink folding chair that was all broke and just like normal catering chairs. The last thing I remember is him snapping a wooden coathanger, putting the spike in his boot, and saying “I’ll see you out there” and I’m thinking “fuck”. The whole time I know its in there, but he didn’t know I knew, so I’m just wondering when he’s going to pull this thing out. At that time he was one of my heroes and I wasn’t all that comfortable maiming him with the corkscrew but knowing him a bit better now, I definitely wouldn’t hold back *laughs* One of the coolest things and no one thought he was there. The rumours were swirling about that he wasn’t there. People used to say he’d always no show and they assumed that had happened, then suddenly the drums for his music hit, and this unbelievable noise comes out. Even I was reacting. It was one of those moments where you’re just in awe”

A genuine appreciation for how Sabu remained dedicated to his character after years of putting his body through agony to gain his reputation in the first place stayed with Jester after that match. For better or for worse, he’s a mad bastard. He is homicidal, suicidal, and even with a burst hip he still defies death in a variety of ways. He lives it and even if his particular brand of wrestling isn’t for you, its hard not to respect someone who wants to give folk their moneys worth no matter what. If you pay for a ticket to see Sabu, you’ll get Sabu.

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“He always had that air of legitimacy about him as a genuine madman. When I worked him again at the ABC he’d been absolute doing me with my spike and all sorts. So I rolled out the ring for a break, and I don’t know where he got it from, but the next thing I know he’s standing over me with a massive ladder above his heid *laugh* I’m thinking, he’s pulled that out his arse or something. I swear he can sniff out tables. Honestly. I’ve wrestled him before and I’ve hid tables around the ring. So he can’t find them. Some nights its just not something you’re keen on, and if its like a pasting table, I won’t do it. I think it looks stupid. This promoter had a pasting table and I thought “nut, Its no happening” but I knew if he knew it was there he would use it, so I hid it. Of course he fuckin found it *laughs* set it up, and there it was. Sabu was so good at selling. He was always asking for help and holding his neck or his head. It all looked real. He learned from being around guys like Terry Funk and Foley when they were at their best. He basically took Cactus Jack and added acrobatics to it. He was fearless, and he lives up to his billing. I wrestled him and he’d separated his shoulder and broke his collarbone the night before and we’re telling him in the back he doesn’t need to do this. We can play it safer. He’s adamant that’s not how its going to happen. “People have paid to see Sabu” its hard not admire that. You do get folk who show up and they clearly can’t be arsed. People who don’t really do dangerous stuff and still come and half arse it, yet Sabu had the option of just not doing that and refused it. He’s a real enigma. A proper character and an absolute maniac.”

What is wrestling without folk like that? Your mad uncles that might ruin your birthday party but will always have the best stories whenever you can get 5 minutes of cohesive sentences out of them. That first match and their subsequent meetings have made them more than just guys that are pleasant to each other out of necessity. Jack Jester and Sabu are actual pals, two folk who come from such different backgrounds and have gone down two entirely different paths to get where they are in wrestling, somehow being drawn to one and other anytime they’re in the same country. If that doesn’t sum up the mad alternate universe the wrestling scene exists on, nothing will.

Part Two will be up tonight. I wanted to do it in one part but it was gonnae be heavy long so this means you’ll no get a sore arse sitting reading it in the one go. Don’t say I’m no good to yees. 

Thank you to David J.Wilson, who actually dug through his photos for some of the older shots. Very kind of him. Also thank you to Warrior Fight Photography. Thanks for all the photies guys. Your work is heavy appreciated. 

 

An Interview In The Asylum With Mark Dallas

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Mark Dallas started ICW with little more than the clothes on his back and brother, he had a dream. A dream that one day this wee wrestling company from Maryhill, Glasgow would get to the stage where the people who work there ply their trade in the wrestling business full-time. Its been a right bendy road at times. Anything worth having in life tends to kick you in the teeth a few times before you eventually get it, but three years in a row running a triumphant beauty of a building like the Hydro would suggest ICW are doing just fine. Better than fine. The fact that Dallas was running about stressed while looking for turnbuckle pads when I showed up to interview him is a wee insight as to how far this has all came. Think about it, I went to a building that exists purely as ICWs office and GPWA’s training school to interview Dallas, where he works full-time as a wrestling promoter, and his first stressor of the day was trying to find one of the turnbuckle pads he owns and stores in ICW’s very own HQ. If you told Mark Dallas in 2006 that by 2018 an inability to find some of the many ICW branded turnbuckle pads he owns would be a real problem, he’d probably have laughed at you.DallasThing

Or maybe he’d just nod and go “fuckin right” because having that conviction you’ll get there one day is a big part of building a succesful venture from the ground up. If you don’t believe in your own vision, how can you expect anyone else to? He did find those turnbuckle pads eventually with the help of Ravie Davie, who stoated into the building shortly after me to record a promo video with Dallas and Jack Jester for a reality show they’re filming in the coming months. Turnbuckle pads, reality shows, a roof office with a pool table and a signed Bill Murray poster amongst other trinkets of feelgood shit. Walking through The Asylum was eye-opening before Mark even broke breath to me for the interview itself. ICW is no longer just an independent wrestling promotion. Its a workplace. It had grown exponentially even since I last went there to do an interview 2 and a half years ago. Considering the humble, at times chaotic beginnings the company had, its remarkable to see.

“We’ve learned from the ground up. There wasn’t really any great role model in the promoting side when I started. I was 21 or 22. So I had to learn on the job. I’m meant to be the guy that knows the way to do things, when promoters are generally double my age. So we had to learn from scratch. Our most recent Fight Club show is a prime example of how that’s helped us. A lot of things went wrong, yet you can’t watch that show tell me it’s not a good show. It was madness at times. Wolfgangs ran out about 10 times to batter folk. Reds running about aw err the gaff cutting promos calling people bints (and bastards). It felt like an old ICW show, it was fuckin mental. People were getting injured and things just had to get changed on the fly. And it felt good to come through in difficult circumstances and pull out a great show, it’s a testament to the character in the locker room. Theres a buzz about it now and its great to see. Its going in the right direction, and as much as it’s hard work, we’ll get there”

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With the emphasis firmly on bringing through new talent and giving opportunities further up the card for some of ICW’s mainstays, there’s very much a fresh feeling about ICW right now, meshed with a large dose of that unpredictablity that made ICW such a force in the first place.

“I think we’re finding our groove again, and we’re back in to just doing what we set out to do and not worrying about what other people are doing. That being storyline driven stuff, and building to the bigger matches on the big shows. Giving people what they want to see, but also making people care about it. Instead of just saying “here’s this indie guy vs this indie guy” and that being that. No reason for it whatsoever other than shit like “aw this guy does 16 great reversals…awesome”. Thats not what we do. Our stuff is more like “I want to see this guy fight this guy because he shagged his sister…they’re gonnae go to war” that’s fuckin wrestling mate”

Each to their own and all that, but there’s a reason the Attitude Era is so fondly remembered. Even if watching some of it back can be uncomfortable and at times a lot shiter than you remember, it made you care. The stories pushed peoples buttons and made them favour WWE’s product over the bigger marquee names WCW had to offer. It’s a philosophy at least in wrestling aimed at an adult audience that will never change, as Dallas went on to explain while firing balls around his luscious (recently re-turfed) green pool table. “Don’t get me wrong at all, its awrite bringing a big name in for one match and selling a show off the back of that. I’m sure the matches are good, but I’m running a city where I want the fans to come back again and again. The fact that we’re Scottish sometimes comes into folk’s thinking as well. We’re seen as less relevant because we’re up in this wee country in a wee corner of the world and its bullshit. Barramania this year is a prime example of ICW standing tall and showing people what we’re all about. That showed you all the talent that’s now rising to main event status, and the talent underneath that’s coming through that’ll help us get to that next level again.”

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Keeping it storyline driven means rewarding your long-term fans. Their investment makes companies like ICW tick and that’s how people like Stevie Boy and DCT end up rising to the top of the pack. The fans have seen every step of their journey to the top and it has been rewarded by Dallas giving them main event slot on Shug’s Night Two. Considering both of them shared their first ICW main event’s as singles wrestlers at Spacebaws many moons ago, it’s a sign of the forward thinking philosophy ICW has adopted that the match up will be repeated with so much more importance attached to it. Stevie defending his recently captured ICW Title against DCT.

“I think that match is something that shows the way forward for ICW. Here are two people owning the main event. Making themselves main eventers. I think the overall night DCT had at the last Fight Club taping made him a main eventer. It’s not that he didn’t have the credentials before, that was just him showing people he’s a force to be reckoned with in ICW. Thats an ICW wrestler if there ever was one. He knows how to get the crowd behind him. Knows how to have a great match, and he knows how to get everyone believing in him. I think he’s very very underrated in pro wrestling. I’ve never heard a crowd not shout “oh” when he comes out”

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Stevie’s journey has been a remarkable one. Still only in his mid 20s, yet with more experience than most of his peers and an enviable ability to adapt and grow as a performer.

“Stevie’s become the man. That’s another guy who started with ICW when he was very young. So young we had to sneak him in the nightclubs we used to run back in the day because he was too young to be in them legally. Him, Noam Dar and Davey Boy were all the same. He’s grown up in ICW and now he’s the fucking man. He’s got his own crew, his own coll faction that everyone seems to be right behind. Everything’s clicking for him and these two motherfuckers at their peak are going to collide in the Main Event of Night Two with the ICW Title on the line”

“It’s an opportunity to shake things up and inject a bit of new life into the company. A lot of these guys have been here for a long time but they’re still very young. I think that blows peoples minds sometimes. A guy like a Stevie Boy is 26, 27 years old. Lewis Girvan is another one around 24-25. With the talent going away to do different things, it’s opened up spaces for other talented people to take. Obviously in some cases its big shoes for people to fill and it might take them a bit of time to get there, however that’s always the challenge. Thats what you need to do. Slow and steady wins the race as they say and I’m sure they’ll get there”

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Get there just like Noam Dar (any excuse to use this nice wee photie btw, pals bein pals…cannae whack it wae a tenny racket) and many others have over the past few years. Talented people who have grown as performers on ICW’s platform before going on to take up opportunities with WWE and ITV’s WoS. A subject people love ‘debating’ of course but any doubt that performers who take up such opportunities are doing any sort of damage to ICW is quelled by Dallas.

“Its pride for me when I see people who as little as 10 years ago were involved in an industry that was a laughing-stock, compared to what we see now. Now we’ve got guys on mainstream tv, guys going to do panto, going to perform with WWE and WoS. Back then you wouldn’t even think that was a real possibility unless you were somebody who’s built like Drew Galloway, and I for one am over the moon for every single one of them. I know it’s that person that has put in the work to get there but I can’t help but feel a little bit of pride seeing the succeed when ICW was a part of their journey. How can you perform if you don’t have a platform?”

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It was a platform used to perfection by Drew Galloway (pictured above kicking his bosses teeth down his throat) Now back for a second run in WWE looking sharper and more polished than ever before. Drew was already the best Scotland has ever produced before his initial WWE release and return to ICW but since then? Big man’s become one of the very best at this on the planet and re-invented himself in such an emphatic way that you barely even recall the years where he seemed to be stuck in place. ICW’s relationship with WWE, which led to a recent appearance by Triple H at an ICW show in Cardiff, naturally comes under scrutiny from fans and Dave Meltzer alike 😉 but Dallas offers a unique and sensible perspective on it.

“Drew (Galloway) is a prime example of the sort of relationship we have with WWE right now. You see a lot of people going from ICW to WWE and they think it’s a one way street when that’s really not the case. The wrestling business has always been like this. Drews time with WWE came to an end, so he came back here, enhanced his character, made it cooler, then he went back to WWE a bette performer. There’s guys who have gone over to WWE recently who worked with ICW, are they going to stay there forever? No. Hardly anyone stays there forever. If they do it’s an anomaly. You might get 10-15 people. The likes of Shawn Micheals, Undertaker etc. Other than that? It’s a rare thing. Eventually they’ll leave WWE. In the past people would leave WWE aDallasnd it would be highly unlikely that they would ever go back. Now? People can leave WWE, end up somewhere like ICW. Their enhanced status helps ICW draw bigger crowds, they get the chance to work on their character and improve, the people who work with them in ICW get the rub from working with them, they get the chance to alter their persona and maybe become something else in wrestling. Then they’re in a better position to make an impact if WWE bring them back for another run. That’s a thing that will definitely happen but it’s obviously going to take longer than 2 or 3 years”

Trusting the process is something wrestling fans can struggle with at times. Social media has made reacting to things you see so instant and easy, and its often difficult to see the bigger picture. That can lead to folk talking, or the lack of a better term, absolute shite. Wrestling is stories. Some of them are big epic novels, some of them are wee 500 word efforts about a parrot who learned how to swim but refused to teach the other parrots because he identifies as a dolphin

“That’s the thing with social media. Imagine they had that back in the day and you’ve got the Iron Sheikh jumping on Facebook or Twitter after the match saying to Hulk Hogan ‘Thank you for the great match brother. Hope we can do it again soon Hulkster’ Wrestling would never have been anything know what I mean? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and all that, but the internet gives them the platform to bother everycunt else with it, and that I don’t agree with *laughs* We’re getting to a stage with the internet now where people should be able to differentiate between what’s good and what’s a pile of shite, instead of everything being treated as if it of equal relevance, because some people are absolute fuckin’ gonks…..quote me!” *laughs*

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“This is a long-term plan for the industry as a whole, to create more opportunities for the workers within the industry and in turn for them to be in a position to further their careers and make more money. It’s great to see guys who have been affiliated with ICW like Killain Dain, Aliester Black, Nikki Cross, Drew, Noam etc and they go on TV and do something important, or get recognition. Things like make a difference and shows the world the high quality of talent that comes from ICW and how much working with ICW can help you get to WWE in the first place.”

In recent years Dallas has become something of a celebrity himself. A status that he embraces and why not? When there’s an audience for something you create and take pride in, perform in front of them as much as you can while they want to see it. ICW is Mark Dallas’ bread and butter and always will be as long as people want to see it but the exaggerated version of himself you see on-screen is something else. The fact that his on screen persona being so well-known also enables him to perform on wrestling shows outwith ICW, without the added stress of being the man responsible for that particular show going to plan is a luxury and one he enjoys when the opportunity arises.

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“I am happy with the fact that ive been able to use the name value ICW has given me to pursue things like doing comedy, spoken word shows, and also doing different TV work like Scot Squad. To be honest with you the other wrestling gigs are just…a laugh. It’s great to be able to be part of a show and the only thing I’m doing on that show is the segment I’m booked in. It’s completely different from being a promoter. I can’t speak for what its like compared to actually wrestling on a show, I’m sure there’s a lot of stress involved when it comes to planning your match, but I’m sure also as soon as that match is over your stress is finished, whereas my stress is the from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep on a show day. It’s nice to get away from that and also make a nice bit of money from it in the process”

Performing on show’s geared towards family audiences also gives Mark the chance to perform in front of his young son Danny. With ICW being an 18+ product chances like that have been few and far between over the years so being in that position is one he relishes. In particular this Saturday when Wrestling Experience Scotland run a show in ICWs first ever stomping ground in Maryhill.

“When it comes to the family shows, I like performing in front of children specifically. Seeing kids going crazy and getting excited for what we’re doing is nice. I always get them chanting ‘jobby’ at the bad guy and they’ll go mental. I love stuff like that. If it wasn’t for the fact that we as children grew up watching people like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and stuff like that then would we end up being adult wrestling fans? I doubt it. I think a lot of people forget that at times and you get things like people saying John Cena should turn heel. Mate, John Cena’s beloved by children all over the world, and when he’s an old man he’ll be remembered for that the same way Hulk Hogan was”

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If being involved in a show at the venue where it all started wasn’t enough excitement, yer man’s whizzing off to see The Rolling Stones afterwards. As ye do.
“I’m buzzin for this Maryhill show because the last time I went to Maryhill it was the bigger hall because with ICW, as there was no way we could run the smaller hall. But the small hall was the first ever ICW arena. With ICW growing as it did, I’ve not had a show in there since about 2010. To be able to go back there 8-9 years later is incredible. Surreal. It’ll be a family show so my son gets to be there as well which is cool as fuck. Him getting to see his Da being involved in a wrestling show is something I love. Its my team vs Red’s team. It’s the two boys from Maryhill, so that aspect comes into it as well. A lot of ICW originals involved as well as the up and coming talent. So its going to be a brilliant experience, it wont just be a normal family show it’ll be a bit like a blast from the past in terms of where ICW came from. There won’t be any alcohol! *laughs* although there will be after because me and Jester are getting absolutely honkin, bouncing in a car and going to see The Rolling Stones at Murrayfield”

I planned on plugging that show in this bit as it’s a stellar card top to bottom but its only went and sold the fuck oot so my advice would be to just mug anyone wearing a wrestling t-shirt over the next few days and see if you get lucky. At the very least you’ll come out of it with a nice new watch and a pair of decent Fila sannies. No belters, but clean enough to wear oot

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That Maryhill show gives Dallas and Red Lightning a chance to showcase their storied rivalry in front of a family audience. A rare chance to bring their unique back and forth to a family show and a true test of their willpower when it comes to not calling each other arseholes and other such slurs not fit for a family audience.

“Red is my arch nemesis We’ll be in our 60s with big heavy beer bellies at a legends show and we’ll waddle oot and start slapping each other and hopefully people still care *laughs*. We are destined to never see eye to eye. It’s the same in real life as well. We’ve known each other a very long time but we still bicker a lot and that definitely comes through when we’re performing. That’s not to say we don’t respect each other. We definitely do, but we also bounce off each other very well whenever we collide. The results speak for themselves when we do and the reactions we get. ”

Perennial enemies with a grudging respect for each other are essential building blocks for any succesful wrestling company. Red Lightning is currently building another army, but this one feels a bit different. This one isn’t geared towards taking over completely, its more to do with gaining power from within and taking as many innocent bystanders down as possible as ICW press on with what has already been a strong year in terms of show quality. The next step is getting more eyes and ears on the new look product, as the company undergoes something of a facelift at the next show. New ICW Fight Club logo to go with a roster with renewed vigour and freshness

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New Logo pictured in the t-shirt Renfrew’s wearing. Also buy that merch. If ye like….merch n that

“For me, ICW has been putting on some of its best shows in a long time this year and it’s just a matter of time until that gets a bit more recognition on a wider scale. We went from being the coolest company in the world to all of a sudden maybe not being so cool, when you’re cool you can do no wrong, but when that goes away a bit you can’t make yourself cool again for love nor money, so as a company we’ve just weathered the storm a bit, whereas most companies in that situation would just bottom out and disappear. Slowly but surely we’ve tweaked things and rebuilt, brought through new talent, but at the same time kept the same ICW mentality where we won’t bow down to people who want us to change. People don’t realise we want you to moan. We don’t want everyone to be happy and holding hands. We want debate. We want you to react”

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“LETS BE AVIN YOU!”

As ICW gears up for another shot at running The Hydro this year, mainstream media exposure is a big target for the company. People talking means tickets shifting and tickets shifting means the new wave of ICW talent get to perform in front of bigger, more enthusiastic crowds.

“With the revitalisation of the roster and the team ethic we’ve built, I’ve noticed over the past year the one thing we’ve been missing that mainstream exposure. Things like the BBC having cameras at the ABC for the documentary (on Viper), so this year there’s been a conscious effort to change that and there’s a bunch of stuff happening in that regard this year. We’re at the point now where ICW is well-known in the UK, especially Scotland so when our name pops up in all these different outlets they already know who we are so yeah…expect to see a lot more ICW in the mainstream media soon as we build towards the Hydro”

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Safe to say The Hydro is never too far from the thinking of those grafting away in the Asylum but for now the big focus is on Shug’s House Party 5. A weekender that Dallas promises will be the best installment of the Shug’s series yet and the way the card’s for both nights are shaping up so far, its hard to argue. As much as ICW have always been built on pushing their own talent to the forefront, there’s always room for those special “imports” that offer something a bit different and Austrian powerhouse Walter certainly comes under that bracket. I heard he met Ted DiBiase Jr once and chopped him so hard yer man literally turned to dust. Think about it, when did you last see that guy anywhere? Exactly. His match up with BT Gunn at Shug’s is one that gets the juices flowing for Dallas both as a promoter, a fan of wrestling and a fan of folk chopping the guts out each other, as he went on to explain

“I’ve been wanting to book Walter for a while but he’s a very in demand performer. I’m happy he was available for this show. People wondered what kind of opponent I’d give him, but for me there only was one opponent. BT Gunn. BT Gunn and Walter had to be the match. I’ve seen him post photos of folk whose chest he’s mangled with they chops and I’m like “cool” *laughs* I’ve seen folk like Fergal Devitt buckle at BT Gunns chops man. We’ve got this big monster Austrian guy coming for one of our own. Its like Rocky, and hes Ivan Drago. In the other corner you’ve got the plucky Scottish guy who’ll fight anycunt. No matter how big they are. And they’re gonna chop the SHIT out each other. Its Rocky 6 mate”

One match that needs no selling is the upcoming battle between Joe Coffey and Mark Coffey. If ever there was a feud that could garner fan investment with ease its former tag partners feuding. It sells itself. Just make the match and watch the zeroes jump on the end of your bank balance. Throw in the fact that they’re brothers and two of the best out there? Its going to be fucking glorious mate. I know. You know it. Dallas knows it

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“For a long time I’ve wanted to see Mark vs Joe. I think it’ll be an epic encounter. Thats not just me giving you hyperbole, I genuinely think for wrestling fans thats going to be a fantastic contest to see. I’ve wanted to do it for a while but there’s always factors stopping it. There are times they’ve not felt the time was right and I’ve agreed with them as they had other things to focus on at the time. Now I just feel like….its ready. It’s a massive thing if Joe takes that belt off his brother, and the same if Mark retains. It matters. Its something special, especially in front of the ICW who’ve seen them grow up in front of them. This crowd has seen them perform since as far back as 2011, maybe 2010 for Joe. That’s a long, long time, and over that time they’ve become two of the best professional wrestlers in the world. Now finally after all these years, they’re finally going to have that match in ICW. ”

Another encounter that sells itself is the potential match-up between “Just Justice” Jackie Polo and Lionheart. After their show stealing match at Barramania, Dallas agreed a follow up match with the victor, a certain Southern gentleman, whose aptitude for good manners is only matched by his aptitude for swagger, who goes by the initials JJJP…only for his potential opponent Lionheart to express no interest in the re-match. Seemingly going through a break down after his Barrowlands defeat. It’s a match that Dallas certainly wants to see as part of the weekender and considering the quality of the match that night, it’s a match fans must be keen to witness as well.

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“My intention as a promoter is always to see matches like that happen. The fans want to see it happen. Main event of night one is where I want to see it. That’s what I think should be the main event. There are people that were really looking forward to the Barrowlands match, and even I expected it to be something special, but honestly, I was still gobsmacked with just how good that match was. I can honestly say it was one of the best matches in ICW history. It seems to be a lot of our best matches have happened in that venue. There’s something special about that building. Hopefully we can talk Lionheart into feeling the same way as everyone else, in that there’s another chapter of this story to be written. If they do clash finally in that main event, all eyes on them, it’ll be something spectacular.”

Everyone tweet Lionheart “shitebag if ye don’t” until he signs on that dotted line.

One man who didn’t need much persuasion to sign on that dotted line is a man who actually wrestled Lionheart once before and a man who JJJP clearly takes a lot of inspiration from. A certain Mr Jeff Jarrett, who will come in as commissioner for Night Two of the showpiece weekender as he comes to the UK for a spoken word tour. All the details of which can be found below in this big poster where Jeff does that clenched fist pose every wrestler has done 1-1000 times in their career

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When Dallas put the call in to Jarrett he was pleasantly surprised by his enthusiasm not only to work with ICW, but to share his knowledge with Dallas as they spent some time shootin the breeze. Chewin the fat about the biz. Engaging in some good ol fashioned shop talk

“He’s doing a spoken word tour in July and I found out he was on a wrestlecon in London on the Sunday so I got in contact with him to see if there was any chance he could get down for Night Two. He said “You know what, for ICW, consider it done” and he found a way he could finish at mid-day to make it down to be the commissioner for night two. He’s flying up from London for it. I got chatting away to him and I think we talked for about 3 hours the first time we talked. I think people underestimate his wrestling mind because its incredible. So just to be able to sit on the phone with him and pick his brains was something special. You tend not to push that kind of chat with legends in wrestling, but when HE wants to talk about that and is asking what ICW’s like and all that its hard not to get carried away. It was a great experience to be able to talk to him for that long and made me think very highly of him. If you look throughout his history in wrestling, he always managed to keep himself prominent somewhere that matters. As a promoter, he invented TNA and made them a very good alternative to WWE at a time where no one else existed”

Alongside Jeff when he did invent TNA was his father Jerry Jarrett. Dallas might be due an invite to the Jarrett’s Christmas dinner this year as he’s set to appear on a podcast with Jerry himself. A man who seems to share Mark’s vision for how wrestling should be done.

“I’m doing a podcast soon with, of all people, Jerry Jarrett. An American podcaster who watches ICW asked me to do it. He wants people to talk to him about booking philosophies and all that kind of stuff and he said he put my name forward. I misunderstood at first and thought he meant himself, but he actually meant Jerry Jarrett put my name forward. That blew my mind. I was like….of course! That whole Memphis style where JJ comes from is something I’ve always admired. Think about it, when you look at the territories, what outlasted everything and continued to draw consistently? It’s the Memphis area. Even if it’s not just the one company, that area has always been somewhere that has drawn consistently well. To this day if they put on a legends show they could still draw 6-7 thousand people easily. Thats something special. A lot of people think my main influence is ECW but in reality it’s that, the attitude era with a wee bit of Memphis in there”

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When asked exactly how much Memphis wrestling influenced ICW, Dallas responded with enthusiasm. An admiration for the way they crafted stories shines through in his own work with ICW as he revealed the three prongs of the booking plug that makes ICW so electric! (wis pure excited when I came up with that metaphor there, if you’re from a country where plugs have more or less than 3 prongs well…kid on yer no)

“Thats my booking soup. ECW, The Attitude Era, and wee bit of Memphis. All 3 were about storylines. Even though Jerry Lawler was the champ about 38 times *laughs* that was always crafted with stories as well. Big bad guy would win the belt, they’d make hin look like a monster and Jerry would take it. It’s a very underrated territory in my eyes. Anyone into the history of wrestling, look at that territory as an example”

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While ICW knocking it out the park consistently in the ring is essential when it comes to drawing big crowds at places like The Hydro (and one day Hampden mate, it’ll happen) mainstream exposure is essential to keep growth steady. A recent venture that’s captured the imagination is Dallas’ latest TV show, the as of yer unnamed BBC show detailed in the photo above. A project Dallas is buzzin to get started with

“Some fans think I’m looking for people to train to be wrestlers when that’s actually not the case at all. If you want to become a legit professional wrestler go to a wrestling school. This is more like a wrestling bootcamp. This is more like a TV show where you get absolute arseholes and you put them through hell. I want good tv. I want the voice over guy to be saying stuff like “Barry from Springburn has kicked off ” and I want Ravie Davie jabbin some trainee. I want arguments. Its going to be one of they shows like when they take all the wee neds and try to scare them straight. I want people just oot the jail. I want troublemakers. I want people who’ve had a troubled past. I want characters. Anyone who thinks this is just going to be the BBC filming a wrestling school and a bunch of wrestlers is missing the point. I want everyone watching this. Maws and Da’s. People who think wrestling is cheesy. I want people in Barlinnie watching this. I want grannies watching it. I want people in their work on a Monday morning to be sitting talking about it. I don’t want just wrestling fans sitting on a forum talking to just each other about how good the show is and how much is respected the business, because only they watched it. Sometimes people don’t see the bigger picture and that what you’re doing is for the greater good for not only ICW but the performers within it”

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Midway through the interview Jack Jester showed up to folk a promo with Dallas and Ravie Davie clarifying what the show was all about and I was personally privelaged to oversee the storyboard process of this promo. Many potential names for the show were chucked about, my personal favourite being “Rapscallion to Wrestler” because the word rapscallion is incredible. Dallas said we could finish the interview after the promo which might take an hour or so and I made the decision to hang about because why the fuck no. I had nothing else on the cards that day and seeing a wee promo happen from behind the scenes was something of genuine interest to me. We see these wee videos go up and the creative process never really crosses your mind. Why would it? Its not supposed to at the end of the day. Its all about how the finished product resonates with the viewer, but the whole process is nae joke. Theres is no half arsery at play here. They do it over and over again until the job is done. On this occasion the job was to clear up any confusion as to what kind of person they’re looking for to take part in this show. They want raspers. Roasters. (W)rong uns. Rogues…and above all….Rapscallions

“They asked us to put posts up about it and I knew it would be all wrestling fans responding. They got about 500 emails about it from wrestling fans so they asked us to put a video up about it so they could put it on their social media. Basically asking us to explain it a bit better. Ravie’s going to be used as an example a lot in this series as a guy that’s had a hard life. A guy thats had trouble with the law. A guy thats had a troubled past. But he’s a guy who’s then turned that round. People think when this guy wins this that he’s on the ICW roster. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ll maybe get a belt and some bragging rights, but at the end of it you’ll get the opportunity to go and train. One of the prizes will be that opportunity to train and make a career in wrestling if that person chooses. Even if someone turns out to be great, they still need to go and train if they want to do this professionally”

Anyone thinking this show might be an easy way in to the wrestling business has the wrong end of the stick. This is about using wrestling as a means to give someone with a troubled past a bit of purpose. Maybe someone with an attitude problem will have that attitude adjusted, while being taught how to display hustle, loyalty and above all respect at all times. This show isn’t about finding the next Dean Malenko. It’s about finding the next Mike Tyson. Its about finding someone who wouldn’t hesitate for a second to bite your ear clean aff, and perhaps teaching that person biting peoples ears off isn’t big or clever. One thing it most certainly isn’t, is a slap in the face to professional wrestling, as Dallas explained further.

“I don’t want people thinking I don’t have the utmost respect for wrestling because I’m doing a show like this. I’m the worst for putting the fear up people in that regard. (Ravie) Davie will tell ye, I’ll walk thought this training school when there are classes on and give them patter like “out of 30 of you, one 1 will make it!” and all that, and the trainers are telling me not to say that *laughs* but thats how it is. Don’t think I don’t have that old school mentality.”

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From what I gathered as I sat in Mark Dallas’ roof office, overlooking (I was sitting slightly below it so I was literally looking over it) a pool table with some of the most spectacularly woven luscious cloth I’ve ever seen, as we sat among posters from significant ICW events, signed posters of legends of film and the massive trophy Drew Galloway received for going in to the ICW Hall of Fame that he eventually wants sent over to him (As to how that might happen “That big bastard can pay for it to get shipped” I believe was the direct quote, followed by a hearty laugh) the point in it all is to find someone, perhaps several people, who need something to help them turn their lives around. Its designed to be entertaining but perhaps life changing and essentially that’s what ICW is all about at its core. Buy the ticket, take the ride, reach for the fuckin stars.

“There’s a lot of perks from winning it and being seen on television, but whoever wins it will have no advantage over any other trainee and they’ll still need to get to the back of the queue. It’ll be up to them whether they want to do this properly or not. Essentially it’s not really about wrestling, it’s about taking people who have had a troubled life and helping them better themselves. Maybe it’ll help someone be a bit less depressed, or help them if they don’t see their wean enough, or help them if they’ve had troubles with the law and all that. Maybe they take this as an opportuity to make their family proud”

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After recently making ICW’s second ever show “Stop, He’s Already Dead” available on their On Demand service with Dallas and Renfrew providing commentary over the top of it, the feedback recieved has made digging through the archieves a top priority. To know where’re you’re headed, you need to have a right good laugh at where you’ve been as Dallas detailed what kind of thing you might expect from a deeper look at ICWs history

“It is fun watching them (the older shows) back. It’s like watching a toddler book a wrestling show. It was my baby steps as a promoter. Barely able to walk let alone fucking run.. a wrestling show. I crawled a wrestling show *laughs* After you’ve accomplished things it gives you a bit of perspective on those and you’re more able to laugh at it. It makes you think, whenever you’ve got a problem now, just stick one of they old tapes in and you realise it’s nowhere near as bad as that *laughs*. We want to do more of that and go through some of the old ones. There’s footage of ICW’s first match from Fear and Loathing 1. It’s all on cassettes and stuff like that and it needs edited together but we want to do more stuff like that”

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“At least these are the older shows that have footage. Back in the day hardly anyone had DVDs and all that. Scott (Reid) unearthed the first ever ICW match recently and its…..*laughs*.  (At this point Scott poked his head in from the office below and said its fuckin ghastly, which just make me want to see it more) Mike Musso and Damian Diamond in a dog collar match where the top rope breaks is the first ever ICW match. I cannae even begin to imagine how horrendous it’ll be. Me and Renfew will do it but I’d like to have others involved. Maybe Wolfy, Kid Fite, Liam Thomson. People that were around at that time. In fact, why is Liam no daein an online thing for us. Why is Liam Thomson not commentating on these old shows?. There’s an exclusive mate. I want Liam Thomson involved in commentating on these old shows with us at some point”

Any exclusive that means we get more Liam Thomson in our lives is one I am happy to be able to bring to the world.

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As ICW hurtle towards another crack at The Hydro, there’s renewed motivation amongst the whole team to make this the best Hydro show ever. Marketing wise it’s been approached a bit differently, with emotive images from ICW’s history being used to garner interest without outwardly advertising the show details. Simple planting the seed of interest in people’s minds as they wonder just what they’re seeing and how they can see more of it.

“Instead of just doing normal posters with the show details on the, we decided to do a bit more of a digital marketing campaign sort of thing. So the idea was to take these 5 really ghastly photos from ICW’s history and just put the word “Insane Championsip Wrestling – Fear And Loathing” on it and nothing else, so it makes you take notice and you want to look it up and find out more about it. I’ve seen that done with different things around the city, and its a really smart thing, so there’s going to be those five. They posters will go up everywhere around Glasgow over time. When they’re done, there’s going to be a series of posters with images of ICW’s most iconic drinking moments, and they’ll be in black and white, with maybe a wee bit more information about the show, and after that it’ll maybe be a similar style with the match ups that have been signed until that point and they’ll have all the information on it. It’ll be a gradual progression and I want it to subliminally get into people heads. Those five posters we have now are jarring images, to the point that when I put them up in the street, you actually see people stop what they’re doing to look at it. To be honest, they’re pretty fucked up, but I think it’s the attitude of ICW summed up to a tee. By the end of the year we want peole who don’t follow wrestle, who don’t follow ICW to be like “what the fuck is this thing I keep seeing all round the city” and that’s the thinking behind that”

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New marketing campaigns, new logo, music and stage setup for the June 17th Garage show, new talent, new main eventers, and whole new set of challenges. ICW has indeed entered its second era, and the first challenge for this new era is topping the two Hydro shows they’ve put on so far. The next one after that is giving their eras their own names. The catchier the better

“I want this to be the biggest Hydro crowd ever. Certainly bigger than last year, which was nothing to be ashamed of at all. Just over 4000. But this year I want more. Who’s to say we can’t top the first year? Ye never know what’s going to happen between now and The Hydro. The first big names for Hydro. New look, new sound, we’ve got access to this etensive music library and a lot of things are going to be different. The stage will look cool as fuck. Everything is freshened up a bit and geared towards this new era. This is the dawn of a new era. I don’t know what its called mate *laughs* I’ve never ran a company that has gone through a full era. Maybe we’ll just call this the second era, and if we get to a third era cunts might start giving them names *laughs*”

Massive thank you to Mark Dallas for his time on what was a busy day at The Asylum. 

Thank you to David J.Wilson, Warrior Fight Photography, Chelsea Cochrane, Turning Face Photography, and anyone else whos photos I may have used. If you see your photo and its uncredited shoot me a message or sue me if you so wish

To buy tickets for any of the shows mentioned in this interview, or indeed any ICW show you fancy going to, click this link  RIGHT HERE

An Interview With Neil “The Wee Man” Bratchpiece

WMdWhen Neil “The Wee Man” Bratchpiece got involved in pro wrestling he was in the unusual position of already being recognisable for something else. A rare thing in wrestling generally and when it happens the person involved is often more interested in what wrestling can do for them than vice versa. As a lifelong fan of wrestling, Neil was never likely to fall into that bracket. We met in the bar of The Tron Theatre where Neil picked up a copy of “The List” that happened to have a drawing he’d done of Flight Of The Conchords in it along with a short quote from him. It wasn’t the first time his artistic skills had been on show, as he has made a yearly habit of somehow producing a drawing that has every single person on the ICW roster as part of it in the lead up to Fear and Loathing. A man of many talents indeed, one talent he does not possess however is being able to get chucked about a boxing ring without leaving the whole experience a very broken man, as he explained.

“My first involvement was I think in around 2010. I’d been to a show up at the Sports Bar on Sauchiehall Street. It wasnt ICW, it was like a pre Royal Rumble show they put on with some live wrestling. Off the back of that I made some enquiries about getting in to it. I knew Laura (formerly Lambrini in ICW) and I told her I was interested in gewummmtting involved in some way. From there I ended up training with Ross Watson (Kid Fite) at his old facility in East Kilbride. Me and my brother went and done a bit of training. A comedy promoter I knew had heard about that and was running a charity boxing night. He was trying to put together an undercard for this show, so he got in touch with me, knowing I was into the wrestling and asked if we could put together a match. So we put together a match where it was me and my brother against Fight Club. That was…eh *laughs* well we were chucked in at the deep end. They’re hard-hitting boys. I wouldn’t change that for the world of course. That’s the way it should be.”

When wrestling commentators gush about how the ring apron is the hardest part of the ring, imagine a ring made up entirely of ring apron, with a few ragged nails and a three-inch thick sheet of concrete on top. Then imagine every time you land face first on this surface, a swarm of bees appear from thin air and make a beeline for your right arse cheek. Each one stinging it at the exact same time. THAT’S how hard a boxing ring is. Kid Fite and Liam Thomson having the name “Fight Club” wasn’t some ironic thing either. They could fuckin fight.
“So not only was it in against them, it was also in a fucking boxing ring. I was the smallest in the match and also we were the heels so I was getting chucked aboot, sidewalk slams, snap suplexes and aw that. We brawled out to the bar and it had this stone cladding on the floor and he just snap suplexed me on to that. Nae holding back”

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“Every time I took a bump I thought I’d broke my ribs, but it’s just non stop. To the point where I literally crawled backstage after the finish. That wasn’t me putting it on at all. The ring was so hard even Ross said after taking maybe one or two moves on it “that ring was pretty hard eh” and I’m like “aye mate, a wee bit” I think Dallas got wind of that and got in touch about ICW from there”

His first ICW involvement wasn’t as the manager of champions. The term “Bucky Boys” didn’t even exist other than being the thing auld ladies said when they’re asked to describe the group of guys that just mugged her. Instead Neil was brought in to warm up the crowd a bit before getting his baws booted by Noam Dar and Rob Cage but it gained a level of interest that made Mark Dallas sit up and take notice and he was soon involved in the company on a more permanent basis “I actually rapped Renfrew’s ring entrance which was Shimmy Shimmy Ya by ODB. He had re-written the lyrics to make it more Glaswegian and gave me them but there was no chance I was learning it before show time so I done the original version. So I done a few things like that and got a bit of press off the back of it and I think at the time Dallas really appreciated that. Even at that stage Dallas was always thinking ahead. Telling us what venue we’d be running next and all that. At every stage I was like “Nah I’ll believe it when I see it” but I learned not to doubt him after a while when it kept coming true”

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From then on Neil was asked to link up with two up and coming wrestlers from the PBW Academy who would later be known as “Davey Boy” and “Stevie Boy” who joined forces to become “The Bucky Boys”. A team who would go on to have a huge hand in ICWs early development into one of the biggest and best independent companies in the UK. For Neil as much as their gimmick suited ICW perfectly at that time, how they meshed together ring was just as important as the catch phrases and the quality entrance music that gets ye jumping about like you’ve just tanned an eccie even if its been several hours since you actually did last tan an eccie.

“Right from day one, even though they were much smaller than they are now physically and stuff, they totally clicked as a tag team. That’s my favourite type of tag team as well. When you have the big power guy paired up with the smaller agile guy. Right from day one, even just observing from outside the ring it was amazing to see how well it worked. At that age, Stevie was naturally sort of taking the role as a ring general. He really knows what he’s doing in there man”

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As strange a concept as it may be to fans who weren’t around for those early days, Davey Boy and Stevie Boy actually didn’t come in to ICW together, and were presumably a wee bit perplexed when they were approached by a comedian telling them the trio were in fact all cousins, but whether it was the family bond or just the fact that they were three hard-working guys who really wanted to make this work, but as soon as they joined forces something just clicked, as Neil went on to explain.

“They were working separately when they first came into ICW. Probably way too young to be working in that venue at the time *laughs*. They were both really talented, but Dallas thought they needed some kind of hook to get them over with the audience. He came up with the idea to put us together and we sort of all developed the idea together. Dallas put it together, either him or Renfrew came up with the name, I came up with the cousins thing. I hope I’m not shattering anyones illusions here but to this day folk still believe that. I told them the character ideas I had. One being a mad criminal the other being a rampant shagger. Before I’d even finished the sentence Davey wanted to be the shagger and it just clicked that way. As brand new (Scottish for good) a guy as Stevie is, his work ethic is good if you give him anything like that he’ll just immerse himself in it”

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Any new fans of ICW who perhaps aren’t fully aware of how popular The Bucky Boys were should definitely go back and check out some of the earlier stuff they were involved in. A pair of died in the wool ruffians and the country’s best hype man who liked to have a laugh while they took care of the more serious business of tapping other tag team’s jaws and winning titles. Something they became so good at that other promotions made enquiries about booking them, but in a fashion that would see them embarrassed instead of championed.

“It was amazing to be a part of it. Especially to be a part of something that was so over. It was so popular with the fans. As soon as that music hit no matter the venue it always went mental. One of my favourite feuds was when The Sumerian Death Squad came over. Every time they came over it was unreal. As soon as I met them, I knew they were the real deal. They were tremendous professionals as well and it was just a pleasure to be involved in everything we done with them. They were a couple of big, scary boys as well but they were so easy to work with”

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All good things come to an end as they say and as wonderful as The Bucky Boys journey was, it was never for life. They were both young and hungry to carve their own paths and when the time came to blow the whole thing apart all parties seemed to know it was time. Although I don’t think any of the parties involved could have quite envisioned just HOW the whole thing came about as Stevie turned on his cousins to align himself with one of their moral enemies. The New Age Kliq. A moment that will go down as one of the most significant in ICW history “I knew myself that it was kinda winding down. Personally I felt like I was saying a lot of the same stuff in promos and it was getting to a stage where they had nothing left to prove as a tag team. When Stevie did turn, it was no sell job or anything like that, my reaction is genuine, I was fucking gutted. Evwee manen a bit angry. It was a natural time for it to happen and the feuds that have happened since have been some of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. Leading to Davey vs Stevie at the SECC”

The turn lead to the pair colliding in a singles match for the first time in ICW, with the Zero-G Title Stevie had won while still part of the Buckies on the line. It was the match trusted to set the tone on ICWs biggest show at that point, in front of an unprecedented 4000 people at the SECC. Quite a leap for a pair of “boys” too young to be in the nightclub they made their debut on. The significance of getting to go out there first wasn’t lost on Neil, who managed Davey Boy that night and cut a visceral promo on Stevie before Davey triumphed.

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“It was quite an honour to see the be trusted to go out there first. I had a wee promo that night as well, but the match itself was just brilliant. It really summed up the passion in ICW seeing that story come to an end on such a big stage and seeing the passion that went in to it and genuine emotion coming through in that. I think it was the perfect choice for the opener and set up the rest of what was a brilliant night for the company”

That led to a run with Neil managing Davie as almost the last Bucky Boy. It took a while before they evolved into something else and really hit their stride as a duo. Neil turning on Davey in disgust when Davey elected to join forces with Joe Hendry, before Davey saw the light and decided practicing the art of bad bastardry with The Wee Man was the path he wanted to go down on the way to ICW running The Hydro for the very first time.
“Working with Davey was great. It eventually clicked when we turned I reckon. After a wee while I felt like I was sort of doing the same thing, but cut in half *laughs*. When Davey turned, that’s when we really started enjoying it. That very quickly became the most fun I’ve had in ICW. You get to release so much pent-up shit as a baddie. You just kinda worry less about folk liking it, because they’re not meant to like it. That’s when I really felt we hit our stride as a wrestler and manager, leading in to the feud with Joe Hendry. I thought as a kinda duo, that was when we started to really work well”

For some reason we spent the next few minutes discussing Roman Reigns and why he hides what is undoubtedly an impressive chest under that body warmer. Maybe when exposed his nipples hide as some kind of defence mechanism and he doesn’t want school children who idolise him wondering why he’s nae nips. 

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That led to a singles match between Davey and Joe Hendry being the opener on ICWs biggest show a year later. This time packing over 6,000 into The Hydro a year after the SECC triumph, but one thing remained the same. Davey Boy in the opening contest with The Wee Man setting the tone on the mic, as Neil went on to explain “Two years in a row opening the big show. Me doing a promo first on the live show, after Billy of course. It was an honour. Full credit to Joe, we were out there to be the bastards and set up his big Bohemian Rhapsody entrance. Which he actually put together really quickly, so that’s a testament to the guys talent and work ethic. I watched the promo back and the fans start chanting shut the fuck up, and thats when I started doing the “EH?” thing. When I watched it back that was my favourite bit. Just that single guttural noise was my favourite bit of the whole thing and I thought to myself “I might just do that at the next show” It was a natural thing. It’s always the way it happens. You can plan stuff but the stuff that catches on quite often just happens when you’re out there.”

Fans of ICW in recent years will know exactly what that’s referring to. It’s hard to describe with words, but it’s essentially Steve Austin’s “What?” chant pumped full of Bucky and a wee bit of that flem ye get at the back of your throat if you’ve overdone the fags on a night out. It has on some mad level formed a connection with the ICW audience who were repeating it back to The Wee Man even when he was making a habit of calling them every name under the sun. Mostly some kind of variation of “virgin”.

“I figured after “What!” and “YES!” got over so much nothing was off-limits. It’s definitely more influenced by Steve Austin though. I’ve been watching that whole era back on the network a lot and he was so unhinged. It was almost like an unintentional thing. I’ll no lie, there’s a few things I’ve definitely lifted from that era of Austin. Even if it’s not intentional you can watch something back and think “I’ve just nicked something from Austin 2001″ *laughs* ”

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Neil being active as a standup and performing to comedy audiences as well as wrestling audiences leaves him with a bit of a unique perspective on the differences between the two. His enjoyment of wrestling audiences particularly almost serving as an insight as to why he continues to involve himself in a thing where big burly bastards can and will chuck you about at will. “Some of the bravado from speaking in front of wrestling crowd has definitely influenced some of my better moments doing comedy. I figured kinda recently, and I’ve thought this for a while, I’m actually much more at home in front of a wrestling crowd. I love doing comedian rap battles and all that as well, don’t get me wrong, im very relaxed and comfortable doing all that, but I almost enjoy performing to a wrestling crowd more. ”

In the early days it was certainly easy to understand why as The Wee Man’s job was essentially to come out and make near the bone jokes about news stories that were wide-open for ridicule. Something that sees like it would be endlessly fun “For a couple of years at least I was coming out, as a face, and coming out with topical gags that I would never dare to say on a standup comedy show. I mean just the shadiest chat. I think back to things I’ve said and notes I’ve had from shows years ago and I honestly wonder where this horrible shit came from *laughs*. I’ve just always thought, I’m not trying to be nasty or anything, ive always thought if you make light of fucking horrible things it helps you deal with them and I always felt wrestling crowds were more open to that sort of thing that standup crowds at that time. I’ve toned down a bit now with the topical stuff, but looking back I think it fitted better back then because at that time I was more playing to a live crowd as opposed to worrying too much how it comes across on demand and stuff. The more the company develops the more it becomes about how things look on the footage, and chat like that has a shelf life. You’d watch a show from even a few months ago and none of it would be relevant anymore”

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While the singles work with Davey did breed plenty of success, Neil has become known to be a bit of a mastermind with the auld tag teams. His recent work with the outstanding Rampage Brown and Ashton Smith has cemented them as a permanent fixture in ICW. A role their talent undoubtedly commands, but one they had struggled to find in the ultra competitive ICW roster. The Wee Man brought them out as surprise opponents for Polo Promotions merely 2 months ago and while it wasn’t their first ICW appearance, the impact they made that night and the impact since has left fans in doubt that they’ll be knocking the living shite out of tag teams for a long time. As evidence in the above photo where they leathered The Kinky Party AND their photographer while Neil decided to pick up his camera and take a few snaps of the destruction.

“They’re awesome. I was so chuffed to get to work with them. Rampage has been in and out at ICW, particularly on tour shows, and they’d been in as a tag team before. They came in and destroyed Pure Gangster at one point as well. It was that sort of thing where everytie they’d show up they would annihilate folk. There was very little reason why they shouldn’t be showing up and doing that all the time. You could tell by the crowd reaction when I introduced them in The Garage. Immediately you could tell the crowd sat up and took notice. They’re brilliant man. They’re both world-class. Even just looking at them you can tell they’re the real deal. A couple of very scary boys. I watched footage back from the last show and I’m very aware of my physical limitations but honestly, I have never looked tinier *laughs* They’re both huge. I think Ashton might have a slight edge height wise, but you don’t realise how big they are until you’re standing next to them and you look like a toddler with a wee suit on *laughs*. It’s not just how cool and intimidating they are, it’s that destructive style they have that really makes them stand out. I mean I said my favourite type of tag team is a bigger power guy with a more agile guy, but Rampage and Asthon can both do all of that. I wouldn’t want to arm wrestle or race either one of them, put it that way *laughs* ”

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Being the mouthpiece for a couple of the scariest bastards in wrestling (or indeed the world itself) will certainly be a time-consuming endeavour but Neil did leave the door open for potentially linking up with Davey Blaze one day in the future. At the very least Davey has a lifelong fan in his former manager.
“Davey’s had a wee bit of time off for various reasons but Davey’s brilliant. Particularly in the last feud we had with DCT and Coach. I can’t stress enough how brilliant Davey was in that feud. Some of his expressions and things like that told such a brilliant story. He’s so good at that type of thing, you almost get the story just from his expressions and all that. You don’t need my words or anything else. He’s so good at that and he leaves you in no doubt who you should be cheering in that much. I honestly think no one can touch him in that respect. He can be so funny but also scary at the same time and thats something he does so well. I’d hope to work with him again definitely. Hopefully one day. I’d definitely love to work with him in the future”

While the door to working with Davey again remains open it most likely won’t be in any sort of match against Davey as Neil discussed his dalliances with the in-ring side of the game. A side he consistently stresses is more difficult than anyone could imagine and something he never wants anyone to think you can just “do”.
“I’ve trained to the point where I know some of the basics. Since then I trained a bit with Wolfgang and learned a bit more. If im totally honest with myself I’d like to do more. I should do more. Just to drum in the fundamentals of it. Not in the sense that I’m going to try to be Will Ospreay *laughs* just more like I don’t want to be shambles and make anyone else look bad. I’m also hesitant to ever give anyone the impression that you can just step in the ring and do this. I’ll be the first one to tell you…..you cannae *laughs*. Trust me it fucking hurts. I’m getting on a bit if I want to make a career of it in the ring as well” *laughs*

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At that point I did remind Neil that DDP had set a precedent for older folk giving the wrestling a go and making a success of it but he reminded me DDP happened to be about a foot taller than him and I guess that’s fair enough. Being a big ride who already has a relationship with one of the biggest wrestling companies going is advantageous if you decide to embark on a wrestling career in your thirties, but whilst a full-time in ring career is likely never going to be his path, the flirtations he has enjoyed with that side it and just observing from ring side so much has given Neil a huge appreciation for the work pro wrestlers put in.

“At my size if you want to be a wrestler you need to really put the work in and you either need to be a mad high flyer or a technical wizard. The stamina and conditioning has always impressed me. You expect the smaller guys to have that, but right up to heavyweights they’re all well conditioned. It takes a lot to put together even a 10 minute match. The amount of conditioning it takes to even do that is unreal. Wolfgang defies the laws of physics. I don’t understand how he does the things he does”

Despite the physical limitations and limited training The Wee Man does have a decent record when it comes to stepping in to the ring. Somehow managing to tally up a 4-0 winning streak, “all clean wins”  as he put it, albeit with a bit of a knowing smirk,before a tag match that pitted him and Davey against DCT and Coach at last yeat’s Shugs House Party weekender brought it to an end. That streak included a singles bout with Coach, aka Adam Shame, which felt more like a series of Laurel and Hardy sketches than a wrestling match and Adam Shame is someone who Neil has a huge degree for respect for.

“I think I was 4-0 at one point eh? The Coach Trip match was a lot of fun. A few videos from that went viral. All credit to Shamer, who really made that great. He’s such a pioneer for Scottish Wrestling and really helped me through that. He’s one of the best guys to go to for advice and stuff. He’s one of the guys who built wrestling in this country and he goes out his way to help other people over. Even backstage and stuff, he’s a leader, and hes also a hilarious guy. One of the best guys in wrestling for sure. Even at the tail end of that match, for all it was, I was done. Honestly, I felt like I’d main evented mania or something so that tells a story of just how hard it is. ”

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Age is perhaps more of a secondary concern than many think in terms of the limitations involved however as Neil spoke of an accident he had before getting in to wrestling that left his hip held together with a steel plate.
“Besides age and size, I’ve got a steel plate holding my hip together so that’s not ideal. This was before I got involved in wrestling. I was in the Arches, and my pal was doing a one man theatre show. They had seating that went up 12-15 feet up and he was leading me up to the sound booth at the back and I kinda stepped out, thinking the platform went all the way down, but it didn’t, so I tumbled down. Shattered my hip, my wrist. I was in a wheelchair for a while. So that kinda hampered me a wee bit. When I got into it, maybe if I hadn’t had that injury I’d have given the training more of a proper go and done a bit more. I’m always hesitant to detract from what wrestlers do. I’m always reluctant to be that guy coming in as a non wrestler and making out like its easy. I never want to seem like im anywhere near on a par with the folk who do this for a living. Risking their health all year round. ”

As if there has ever been any need to make wrestlers seem any MORE intimidating but Neil went on to make a point that shook me and I’m sure will shake you. Wrestlers are not only likely to be far bigger and better than you when it comes to a fight, but they literally practice taking punishment over and over again. Almost to the point that it becomes….normal.
“Wrestlers can fight, but it’s how much punishment they can take is what you should be scared of. MMA boxers trained to dish out, but wrestlers are specifically trained to take punishment and still come up for more, thats a huge part of wrestling. Thats’s why id advise everyone not to get in a fight with a wrestler, even if you get a few digs in, they’ve had worse” *laughs*

Neil’s interest in becoming involved in wrestling at all of course stemmed from a childhood love of it. Introduced to it by his older brother David, also a comedian and the man who had the pleasure of stepping in to the ring with Neil to get flung aboot like wet washin in a boxing ring by Fight Club, he went on to follow it throughout his younger years.

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“My brother got me into wrestling. That was late 80s I guess. He was getting VHS or maybe even betamax tapes of shows. At the time wrestling wasn’t even on tv in britain and he had a pal in Wales that had cable tv. So they were one of the first folk in the country to be seeing wrestling shows. I specifically remember Royal Rumbles the best from when I was wee. Seeing all the different characters come out one after the other. I was the only one who had seen wrestling in my school. No hoagieone had seen it. It wasnt a thing back then. I was hooked back then I remember Gremlins 2 came out and it had a cameo from Hulk Hogan. He was such a big deal in America, but when it came out in Britain they’d actually edited that out and replaced it with archived footage of john Wayne with the gremlins *Laughs*. In every version now you see the Hulk Hogan bit but at the time wrestling was so not well-known that it was replaced with a mad bit from a western with Gremlins edited in *laughs* because no one in Britain knew who he was. I remember at the time being furious because I knew he was. By the time it came out on video they would have put the Hogan scene back in because at that point WWF was on Sky so people would have known who he was. By that time folk at school were doing Hogan and Warrior impression and im like “Guys, I’ve been into this for a year or two now!” and I was frustrated because it took them so long to get into it.”

While Neil grew up as one of earliest wrestling aficionado’s, long before the days of sweaty unibrows on the internet for some bizzarre reason feeling they’re the best authority to rate the physicality involved in wrestling, not everyone in his family seemed to “get” wrestling in the early days of his involvement, when venues like the SECC and The Hydro become the norm its hard to not sit up and take notice.

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“My Da, especially when I was a teenager, he’s just never got it. He’s a huge fitba guy and he trained my primary school fitba team when I was younger. He’s right into comedy and entertainment, but wrestling is this alien thing to him He just didn’t understand, and when I started getting involved in it I still thing he maybe didn’t take it seriously but the more it went on and the bigger the shows got the more he sort of took notice and started to take it more seriously. Then It got to a point where my mum and dad were asking when the next wrestling show is and that. My maw particularly still gets concerned. I sort of hide how much physicality is involved in it a wee bit from her. My maws always been wary since the accident. I’ve got a big sister as well who’s also very concerned although she appreciates the showmanship and the entertainment aspect of it. I’ve said to her to come to a show, as she lives in London, but I kinda get the feeling she’d be watching through her fingers a lot of the time”

Growing up around people involved in entertainment certainly saw Neil catch a bit of a bug for it all. One that’s been hard to shake. While other jobs have come and gone they served to be nothing more than time fillers for someone who just wanted to do what he was good at. Being the lead writer on BBCs Breaking The News,writing and performing in various online sketches for the BBC, as well as an appearance in the BBC show Scot Squad, have all provided excellent opportunities that have led to Neil finding himself in a situation where he makes his living from entertainment.

“It’s hard to make a consistent living out of just writing, so for the past wee while its been a combination of things that keep it going. I suppose they all kinda count as part-time jobs when you put them together. Being the lead writer on breaking the news and ive wrote for a couple of radio 4 things. I sort of justify it in a way that I’ve had a lot of jobs but working in comedy is probably the only job where I’ve experienced promotion in some sense*laughs* Just thinking of it logically there’s something significant in that.
It’s the only thing ive ever done I’ve really wanted any sort of promotion in either. I’ve worked in a bar but I’ve never wanted to be the bar manager. It was always just a time filler”

In terms of what’s coming in the very near future Neil was reticent to jinx it but by the sounds of it, a lot of exciting things are in the works. None more so than his most recent video that pits The Wee Man the character against Neil himself in a rap battle. Something he has much experience being involved in as the host of the Comedian Rap Battles. A monthly fixture at The Stand in Glasgow.

“I’m doing more videos. My most recent one is The Wee Man vs Neil Bratchpiece, that’s one im looking forward to a lot, its serving as a promo video gor the Glasgow Comedy Festival aswell. We’ve got a lot of shows coming up. As bullshit as it sounds, ive got stuff in development, but its all looking good. We’ll wait and see eh”

As it took me fuckin ages to get this done the video is actually out now. Have a swatch at it

A string of videos telling the story of “The Worlds Worst Paedo” went viral in 2016. In those videos, Neil played the part of the World Worst Paedo, who continually mistook his real life friend and fellow wrestling personality Chris Toal to be a child. seemingly never learning the lesson that he was in fact an adult, atlhigh Neil shed a different light on it. Painting him more as more of a misunderstood character who knew Chris wasn’t a child but was still in love with him anyway.

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“Toal gets recognised a lot more which im a wee bit relieved about. Younger folk recognise me from that. I appreciate that they can recognise me without all the Wee Man stuff. That came about I had the idea for the first one, it was just me mistaking him for a wean *laughs*. It was originally meant to be a vine or an idea for one anyway, so I spoke to Toal about it. It never happened on vine which probably worked out better. That’s part of a larger collection of sketches, there was more people involved in that, it was done as a taster sort of thing, but I always intended to put that character online as dodgy as it might be. A few folk were affronted but it was a bit knee jerk reaction to it. We came up with a few other sketches with those character, storyboarded them, Toal came up with one as well. A lot of people chipped in with ideas and it turned into this wee series.”

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Whilst it was undoubtedly odd to be recognised for playing The World Worst Paedo in a series of videos that went viral on Facebook, it represented a welcome change to being recognised for something that happened before Facebook was even a thing. Long before the days of yer maw being a fully fledged, commenting on all yer photies member. “I was chuffed but its such a strange thing to be recognised for. As potentially dodgy as the subject matter is. I’m still adamanat about this, justify it, joke anything, but also but if you pay attention he’s not actually a beast. He’s just a guy who really fancies Chris Toal and can’t come to terms with how he feels about it. When you think about it Chris is just a small man and he knows that but he just really fancies Chris Toal. He’s not like an evil character he’s just a bit confused *laughs* ”

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Even although he has his fingers in a lot of pies (dont laugh, you’re an adult for christ sake) when asked if he’s ever thought about wrestling becoming a full-time gig, it was something that raised a smile. A pipe dream

“Obviously that’d be awesome. Even in a manager role I’d need to work out the physical aspect because im guessing you’d still need to pass a physical before they’d employ you. I’d like to manage a bigger guy in that situation. I think that would work best You want to make your wrestler look as dominant as possible so that dynamic would work best. Even at my most enunciating and clear, I still think they’d be a bit confused as to what I’m saying over there. I widnae say naw, but it that way but im not holding my breath too much
Huge thank you to Neil for his time. Also to David J Wilson as usual for the photos and anyone else who’s photos ive used. If I’ve not given credit, give me a shout.

Like his Facebook page and keep up to date with what’s happening with him HERE

Follow him on Twitter HERE

Follow him on Instagram HERE

Comedian Rap Battles which Neil hosts happens on the first Wednesday of every month at The Stand in Glasgow.

Also get tickets for all the ICW shows Neil is involved in HERE

 

10 Questions With……Kez Evans

A whole new concept! 10 questions, no more, no less. Always exactly 10. Always with an “up and coming” pro wrestler. What “up and coming” means will be manipulated to suit the situation of course, but first on this new and exciting ride is none other than…..SqGoKez.jpg

Kez Evans. A GPWA trainee and a guy who didn’t have the best of nights at this year’s ICW Square Go. Entering Number 7, and well…..getting pied off everyone who entered from numbers 1 to 6. A ring full of people who had varying degrees of hate for one and other putting all that aside to take turns rejecting him, hitting him with their finishing move, before Sha Samuels unceremoniously dumped him out to be the first man eliminated. A sobering experience but one necessary if success is on the horizon. Character building is important. Wrestling for Kez Evans has so far had its ups and downs but his in-ring talent has been a shining light throughout.  He was even chosen to main event the first ever show held at ICW and GPWA’s base “The Asylum” up against Wolfgang (Or “WWE superstar Wolfgang to give him his proper title) and produced a match well beyond his experience level at that time. A fine way to kick off a singles career that he’ll be hoping has many more highlights like that and of course his bout with Mr Anderson last year.


We’ll start this interview off at…well…the start eh? How long have you been training with GPWA now and how is it going?

I was in the fourth intake and started back in April 2015. Training’s been going great and it’s always evolving to still be challenging every time I go to train.

What made you decide to take the plunge and give training a try?

Been a fan of it since I was 10 years old. I got into it in the weird way though, everyone usually says they were flicking through channels and saw it. That wasn’t my way of getting into it. I was visiting my Dad in hospital because he suffered a heart attack (don’t worry he’s fine) and I went to pick a magazine and I saw a Smackdown magazine, fuckin JBL was on the cover, don’t know why I saw him and got interested. I skimmed through it and found myself wanting to watch it, first ever show I saw was WrestleMania 21. I’ve watched it ever since and always said I really want to do that one day. Then one of my best friends saw that GPWA were having an intake and we jumped on the opportunity and that was that.

You were in the main event of the first show at The Asylum (ICW – Futurama) 2 and a bit years ago now. What are your memories of that match with (WWE superstar) Wolfgang? How do you feel it went?

My memories during the match were a bit of a blur, I can remember the build-up towards the match even more because I was so terrified. Keep in mind, I was only doing this for 6 months at the time, and had one battle royal and two tag matches under my belt. Then Wolfgang comes up to me during training and says “Aye so it’s me and you for the main event of this show.” I was so terrified, some nights I’d just have random freak out moments when it hit me that this was happening. I think the match went well, looking back you can tell how new to it I was, I cringe at certain things I done and tried to get over. But I’d never change one thing about it.

Wolfgang has since gone on to big things with his stint as ICW champion and WWE recognition. The whole team at GPWA have a wealth of experience. How much of a plus is having trainers of that calibre to call on?

The GPWA are so spoiled. We have 2 rings, 5 coaches, each with around 10+ years experience all with their own style of wrestling. We have an amazing training facility and sometimes we all just take it for granted, we don’t realise just how good we’ve got it. When Wolfgang comes back from the Performance Centre in Orlando, we do every drill and exercise he done over there. We are so spoiled and I’m thankful for it

You were part of the tournament GPWA ran last year (since re-branded “The Drew Galloway Invitational” for this year’s offering) showcasing the top trainees in the country. How was being a part of that and how do you feel it can help trainees progress going forward in future years?

It was pretty cool being in the tournament. This was after watching the WWE UK tournament and everyone was all hyped about this tournament trying to make it as big of a deal as the UK one. Sadly I lost in my first match…..(hate you Leyton) But it’s a great to show new talent to audiences and it gets new talent working in different environments. I mean the second night people were wrestling twice in one afternoon with hardly a break, and not against other talent from their own schools either, it was other schools talent too, so it’s a completely new challenge for them. It can help get them over with the audience watching guys try to win a tournament to show they are the best.

As I recall oor Leyton got quite a brutal tanking for his troubles. Revenge is a dish best served with your boot on the throat of the guy who beat you…as the famous saying goes

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What are your goals for this year? A square go appearance was surely a decent way to kick it off at least in ICW terms?

Last year around March, around my birthday actually, I had my biggest match to date when I wrestled Mr. Anderson. I watched him with my mates as a kid and now I’m standing across the ring from him and he’s doing his intro whilst my friends are watching. It was pretty crazy at the time. After that match I was sure things would kick off in terms of me moving up in the business. But due to myself and how I handle and perceive things, I became stagnant. It was around summer time a few months after the match and nothing changed, I was still on GPWA shows and was happy I was but I wanted more. I saw friends and other trainees from the school get on other shows and wrestle in front of thousands of people whilst I was still backstage watching on, I was happy for them sure but I wanted in on that too. For the past 6 months I became extremely unhappy with myself, felt like I wasn’t going anywhere and that I wasn’t as good as I was before, at some points I really wanted to chuck the whole thing altogether cause I felt like I didn’t bring anything to the table. But I started off this year a bit better, I was in the Square Go, not for long mind you, but just enough time to get the bigger audience looking at me so that’s good. I do want to become a well-known name in ICW, and get my brand of offence over with the crowd and work with many of the big talents that work there, but I’m not gonna hold my breath and get my hopes up. Just because I was in the Square Go for about 45 seconds doesn’t mean I have my place set in stone there. But hopefully I’ll be more involved there this year.

In a Square Go with no wasted spots, just having a place at all is a huge thing. Even if it was one of the sillier parts of it, that’s what ICW is all about. Being able to laugh at yourself and being able to fucking wrestle. If the focus is on that, doors won’t be swinging open they’ll fuckin fly open. 

Speaking of the Square Go, how do you plan on exacting revenge on those who shunned you? Or indeed any ‘journalists’ who may have been guilty of irresponsible reporting on your appearance

I won’t jump them the first time I see them, I’ll take my time, I never forget who’s done wrong to me. Patience. And in terms of other people who shunned me, with your case calling me a nobody, as brutal as the comment was, it’s true. I’m still a nobody in everyone’s eyes. One of my goals is to become a well-known name and for people to pay to see me, whether they want me to win or lose, I frankly don’t care, all I know is they wanted to see this guy.

No gonnae lie, I’ve said a lot of daft things in reviews. Some more brutal than calling Kez “a nobody in a sea of somebodies” but this is the first time I’ve felt bad about it so well done. Your apology letter and my favourite auld wrestling figure (the Earthquake one that had moving legs because wrestling figures used to be terribly designed and hardly any had moving legs) is in the mail winging its way to you. Honestly mate I was only kiddin right. You’re somebody. You’re Kez Evans. Never forget x

kezzzzzz

Who in particular would you really like to wrestle on the Scottish/UK scene that would best showcase your own abilities?

Scottish scene has so much good fucking talent that it’s scary. That’s another reason why I doubt myself sometimes cause I look at some people and go “Well how can I top that? They are just too good.” I would love to face the Coffeys, that’d be a really intense couple of fights there. I’d love to face Mikey Whiplash, just in a straight one on one bout and see if I can hang with one of the best in the country. I’d also love to fight Bram as well because I have a death wish. There’s so much talent I haven’t yet faced that they could help showcase my abilities. Guys like Andy Wild, Jackie Polo, DCT. I reckon Stevie Boy and I could have an amazing bout too. There’s too many wrestlers to count, apologies if I didn’t specifically say your name if you’re reading this but you are all on my list of who I want to face.

Who have been your biggest influences both from before you started training and since then?

My biggest influences before I started where a massive list, I can’t pick a favourite wrestler, cause I go through phases of watching just one guys matches and being like “aw he’s amazing, he’s my favourite” so I can’t really answer that. Maybe just wrestling in general influenced me. And the people who influence me now are my coaches and some of the guys who have started working for ICW and other places, guys like The Purge, SBX, Layton, Ravie, Soldato and Thacther, they motivate me a lot even if they don’t know it, but they do. Seeing them become more successful makes me proud that I go to the same school. The coaches influence me too because they are the ones who taught me what I know, what I’ve always wanted to do and they believed in me even when I didn’t think I can go far with this. But they did, and I don’t want to fail any of them

Any upcoming shows you fancy telling us about? 

Wrestling Experience Scotland have 5 Pound Wrestling at the Asylum on March 18th, and live in Dennistoun on the 30th.

Tickets +info for all upcoming Wrestling Experience Scotland shows can be found here 

Follow Wrestling Experience Scotland on Twitter HERE
Like them on Facebook HERE

Last but not least. Plug the utter bejesus out of your social media stuff!

Facebook page – Kez Evans
Twitter page – KezEvans95

Thank you to David J.Wilson and Warrior Fight Photography for the photos

Shooting to do at least one of these a fortnight. If there’s a talent you think should be highlighted anywhere in the UK or beyond by all means give me a shout with your recommendations. I might ignore ye if I think said person is a bit pish but give it a pop anyway.