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.
“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”
As 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. ”
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.”
“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.”
“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”
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. ”
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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*
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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!
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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*
“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 up 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 ”
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.”
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
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”
“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.
“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.
“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. 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.
“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.
“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.”
“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. ”
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
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.
“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”
“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”
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.”
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.”
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”
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
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.
“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 glamorous 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, but 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”
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”
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”
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. ”
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 safety 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 severely 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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”
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.”
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”
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”
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?”
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 and 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*
“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.
“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”
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
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
“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”
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”
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
“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.
“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
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”
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”
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”
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.”
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”
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”
“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.
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”
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
When 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 getting 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”
“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”
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”
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”
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”
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. Even 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.
“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.
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* ”
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”
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* ”
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*
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. ”
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.
“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 one 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.
“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.
“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.”
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* ”
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
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…..
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
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
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
Last but not least. Plug the utter bejesus out of your social media stuff!
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.
“I’m just putting it oot there, Season 3 of Rick and Morty was f****n shite”
It had all started so well tae. I walked in to The Howlin’ Wolf pub on Bath Street in Glasgow a wee bit late, having walked past it maybe 4 times in a shocking attempt to find it as I quikcly realised I only recognised the name because its what Wolfgang calls his Swanton these days. When I eventually did get there, I was greeted by Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray sitting with a dug. A real life dug they had brought along to this apparently dug friendly pub. When conducting interviews its important to be professional you see. Show up on time, don’t get lost, don’t ask anyone if they’ll do one of they delayed vertical suplexes on you like The British Bulldog used to. Be very journalism I guess is the point here, and that duty of responsibility is the only thing that stopped me running right out the back door and shouting “A FUCKIN DUG!? YASSS” when I seen Berty the Pug. Giver of life and more importantly paws. A good boy. The good will that came from the dug’s appearance vanished entirely when my man Stevie started giving Season 3 of Rick and Morty a bit of stick. It was different mate. Not all highlights, but shite? Mon noo. Ease up on the accelerator before this misguided opinion takes off. A bit like his career has done over the past year.
A fine way to segway into wrestling stuff eh. That’s what this interview was initially about before we got all caught up in the land of dugs and Rick and Morty. The wrestling. Kay Lee Ray and Stevie are not only a couple, but a couple of brilliant wrestlers. The uniqueness that comes with them going through the trials and tribulations wrestling throws at them as a unit made this interview one of my favourites to conduct, but at the same time, they brought a dug, so they could have spent an hour calling my beard shite and I’d have walked away thinking it went well. Because dugs are life. Well, wrestling then dugs. Or more specifically, wrestling at The Hydro….then dugs. As Stevie explained when he spoke about his match. A fatal four-way death match for the “King Of Insanity” crown which may or may not see people die in a pool of their own blood and snotters when the big show takes place on Sunday. Some eerie promo’s from the competitors as they had their psychological state assessed ahead of it properly set the tone for what’s to come
Stevie “It was something different. They just told me they wanted me in to film something, I showed up and had no idea what it was. They laid it out. It’s loosely based on The Joker Diaries. I’d never seen it but they fired on the computer and I was like “Aye…I am so down with this” there’s a wee bit I keep telling people because it just makes me laugh. In the promo my hand is completely white, because the wall behind me had just been painted. So I grabbed the chair and chucked it off the wall and when I turned it round I realised my full hand was white. That’s how my hand’s down at my side the whole time. I pull it up to spark the fag and it goes right back in the pocket *laughs*. The promos have added something extra to the match. People keep asking me if I’m looking forward to it and I keep saying I’m looking forward to the Monday morning. See if I can wake up and go “its done man” and I’m in one piece, I’ll be happy. I think its going to be a yearly thing. I don’t get why they wouldn’t want to capitalise on the interest in it so I assume it will be something they build on. Another reason I’m glad its come about is that I think we lost the insanity a wee bit of a while in ICW. We lost that edge. We used to be the company doing all this mad stuff, and as much as I’m not a death match wrestler and its so far from what I want to do long-term, I want us to bring that back, so I’m excited to do this”
While Stevie will be trying to avoid three of the maddest bastards in the UK trying to end his life, Kay Lee has the simple task of defending her ICW Women’s Title inside a steel cage. Against two women. Who also happen to hate her. It’s a match that’s been built up perfectly to come to this potentially brutal conclusion. As Kay Lee went on to explain
“That main event match with Kasey was a really good match. I think we played the match perfectly. I wanted people to forget it was a Women’s main event and just focus on the match we produced. There was a lot of pressure, and it was nice to see that Kasey CAN step up. Its nice to see that because it’s always been just a few women in ICW who are trusted like that. Its nice to have a variety of people, and we can all work together and do different stuff. Hopefully next year there will be even more. I’m sure they’ll all be coming for my belt, but it’ll be nice for some of the attention to be on other people. There’s a lot of hype around us going in and I think if there’s anybody who can pull it off it’s the three of us. The matches I have with Viper are always good as well, so we have chemistry. It feels like we’ve been going against each other forever. Maybe one day we can be pals *laughs*, but it’s not today, It won’t be Sunday, and it probably won’t be Monday either”
The chance of duelling cage swantons had both Stevie and Kay Lee buzzing. As Kay Lee will look to emulate her big pal and steel cage veteran Wolfgang who Stevie remarked has made jumping off the cage a bit of a hobby “You could ask Wolfie what he’s upto this week, and he’d hit out with ‘Nuhin much, just gonnae set the cage up and jump aff it” Kay Lee tantalisingly chimed in with what I took to be a promise rather than a clue “Wonder who can do the Swanton off the cage better? We’ll maybe find out eh”
Balls to maybe. After that if there’s not at least one Swanton off the cage, a lawyer will be consulted. While the big one at The Hydro has always been on the horizon, it was only after a tough couple of weeks that the duo could really bring it in to sharp focus. “I feel like we’re good at keeping it in perspective. The hydro is happening, but we’re good at focusing on whats happening in the here now. Even if it’s always building towards The Hydro. This weekend for Pro Wrestling Eve, I wrestled Charli Morgan, Nina Samuels and Nicole Matthews. Three tough matches that definitely sharpened me up for this. It’s always been the focus, but its only now that we really think about it. The Hydro’s really crept up on us this year”
Stevie and Kay Lee have always been at least loosely affiliated in ICW. On a permanent basis since Kay Lee’s short stint as Davey’s replacement after an injury stopped him defending the ICW Tag Titles he held with Stevie, but over the past year they’ve really carved out an identity as a team with The Filthy Generation. A stable which recently took on new recruits in Lewis Girvan and Aspen Faith. Talks of expansion had always been in the works, as Stevie explained
“It had been spoke about since the start. Like we need more members. It needs to be a generation, there was names floated but it got to a point where we thought, we need to pull the trigger on this before it dies”
Kay Lee “There was a chance taken with this. It could have been almost too similar, to the point that we clashed instead of gelling, but I think it stuck very quickly. There was a few wee kinks to work out but we instantly thought “this works”. There’s wee things, but with a team coming together that’s always going to happen. We’d never really done anything together before either, and we all came from different training schools, but there’s wee things the boys do that pop me and I think we’ve come together well”
While the lineup is a bit younger and a good bit hairier than the NAK days, that thirst for carnage that exists in Stevie and Kay Lee made this setup perfect, and early signs show that the newly formed group has the potential to wreak havoc on the card in a similar way “The Kliq” did in his heyday, as Stevie explained.
“Its nice to be causing a bit of carnage again. It reminds me of the Kliq with hunners of cunts runnin aboot causing it. Even backstage as much as we hadn’t worked together, I knew Aspen from working him at Wrestlezone years ago and I’ve known Lewis a long time. We all knew each other but we had different groups socially, so we were almost strangers going in. So it took a wee second to get to know each other. Now when we go backstage they’re the first people we speak to. We’re having fun with it”
Kay Lee “We have merch now so its official! Buy our merch! *laughs* I was sick of getting battered as well so its nice to have a wee bit of extra hauners. We still get battered but at least now there’s people getting battered with us”
While this venture has given Stevie and Kay Lee the platform to build something of their own, their involvement in the NAK gave them the template for team handed anarchy. A period they both look back in with a great deal of fondness. If a slight bit of regret over what was seen as a slightly premature end
“We were resident arseholes. We were the bastards”
Kay Lee “How annoying did that music get for you though? Everybody said that at one point. That the music had played too many times, and I was like “Its never enough!” *laughs* The more it plays the more they’ll hate it. I wanted people to be like “fuck off!”
Stevie “We caused some riots. There was one time in Newcastle I remember we ran in on someones match, I cant remember what match it was, but that night in Newcastle we had people throwing drinks at us. People asking to take us a square go. I remember knocking a drink out of a guy’s hand at ringside, and him kinda gesturing to go for me, and I look up and see BT hanging over the ropes going “Fuckin go for itttt!” *laughs* It was chaos at times. The night we split nearly turned into a riot as well. That was a proper tense atmosphere”
Kay Lee “I think that was because it wasnt just one person leaving or something like that, it was the whole thing blowing apart. I fuckin loved it!”
Kay Lee “I feel like I was always the one in the vicinity, to be able to grab somebody before they done something daft, but at the same time I was also the one egging them on *laughs*. I’d be in BT’s ear just winding it up, telling him “he said yer maws a bitch, go!”
It was a time where having a lot of fun and bringing a lot of violence went hand in hand. Stevie remarked when he recalled a segment for Chris Renfrew’s birthday that involved water pistols, a lot of stunners, and the now defunct Gzrs.
“One of my favourite segments was Renfrew’s birthday bash with The Gzrs. It was just a pure shambles. It was such a laugh. ICW has a no drinking policy backstage but we weren’t doing anything on the show apart from that segment and getting battered, so I thought “Fuck it, I’m going out there for a laugh and getting steamin’, why not?”
“People say it ended prematurely, and I think all of us kind of felt the same. We had the problem of being so over as heels, it was turning us face. A bit like what happened with DX. I think we could easily have had another year in us as faces if we turned. Like it could have been us vs The Black Label at The Hydro. In hindsight now, when you look back it, you think maybe that was the best way to end it. We’ve all gone on from it and done so much good things. Its one of those things, where you can never rule it out (a reunion) even if its 5 years down the line”
KLR “If Triple H showed up in an independent ring, anything can happen!”
Stevie “We tend to think of the NAK being that five man group, so to us it ended prematurely, but the NAK have been around for a long time. Even before ICW. There’s been different versions throughout. So even though we were only the NAK for about a year, its been around for a long time. I think it kinda launched all of us individually and gave us a lot of attention. Something that we craved individually and as a stable. ”
One of the biggest positives from that time for Stevie was the emergence of a new side to him that has since become a big strength. The art of the promo. An art that was passed down by one of the best promo guys in the UK in Chris Renfrew. Something Stevie never really had to deal with in his days as a Bucky Boy, as The Wee Man acted as their resident mouthpiece.
“I wasn’t hiding behind wee man as such. He was there to do that job. So I’d never say he took the spotlight from us or anything like that. He was doing his job perfectly. I don’t hesitate to say without The Wee Man, The Bucky Boys would have been nothing. He gave us that extra dimension. Renfrew was one of the first ones who encouraged me on the mic. When I broke away from the Buckies he was the one that pushed me on. I have to thank him for that, because that was another platform for me to make an impression”
Learning his promo craft has certainly helped Stevie get to that next level, but it was never something he prioritized in a big way. Always busy with trivial side projects, like making history as part of the Bucky Boys. Daft shit like that keeps you busy it seems.
“It was never a thing I gave a second thought to if im honest. I’ve never really felt like it was needed because since I came in to ICW there’s always been something. It’s never felt like something was missing. Its only when I split from Davey and with Renfrew’s encouragement that I ever really thought about it. It got to a point where I’d show up and they’d tell me “you’re no wrestling tonight, you’re doing this promo” and I’d be like “thank fuck man, I’ve been in this company 5 year and never had a night aff ” *laughs*
Nerves did set in before Stevie went out to cut his very first promo in an ICW ring but that nervous energy and the support of Renfrew propelled him to produce something remarkably good, particularly for a first try.
“I was 10 times more nervous for that first promo than I have been for any wrestling match. That’s why Renfrew was there. In case I tripped up over anything, he was there to make the save. He was always going to come out with me I think, but I also encouraged it and I think him being there helped it become the promo it did because I had that comfort blanket there. It turns out I’ve got a natural instinct for being a wee arsehole. I seem to have a talent for it”
While Stevie prides himself on his talent for being a wee arsehole, his other half prides herself on well…being heavy talented. They both are but we’re doing a slick transition here. One thing running in to another so its an easier read eh. Kay Lee has built a reputation around the world as one of the best female wrestlers out there. Nah actually, just one of the best wrestlers full stop. Before we got to talking about Japan, The USA and everything in between, we had to start at dogs. Because dogs are life
“We are pro dogs. I actually tried to get a dog to be our tag team partner this week. There’s a wee pug at Pro Wrestling Eve, and I asked if I could take him in the ring. He’s used to it all, so they said aye as long as you’re careful. If he was ever uncomfortable I was ready to take him away from it all, but he fuckin loved it. He was getting “hes a good boy” chanted at him and I could feel his wee tail wagging. He loved it”
That allowed Berty the pug to once again take centre stage. The true subject of this interview if we’re all being honest with ourselves and a man who at the tender age of 1 almost made his own wrestling debut recently as Stevie told us
“He nearly made his Lucha Forver debut the other week but he’s still quite young. He watched the show and he seemed keen, so he’s in about it”
Kay Lee “Life’s about dugs. He’ll no let me have a dug. This is his sisters dug, but she works a lot so we’ve kinda adopted him. I understand why because of how much we travel and all that.”
The travel is undoubtedly one of the more strenuous parts of the wrestling game, but one that Kay Lee and Stevie accept and make the best of. Getting to travel together a lot of the time being a big selling point. Living in close proximity to Kay Lee’s family recently has allowed them to gain better insight and understand as to what the couple go through and how much hard graft they put in, as Kay Lee explained.
“My mum and dad realised recently how much we do now I’m a bit closer to home. We live just across the road from them and they see the car coming in at 2-3am and stuff like that, and by the next morning we’re away again to the next show.”
Stevie “When people say they want to be a wrestler, I don’t think they really know what it is. They don’t know how much of a hard graft it can be.”
Kay Lee “TNA was the first thing I done where my mum and dad realised. That was when they realised this wasnt just a hobby. This wasn’t something daft. This isn’t a dingy wee town hall. This is real. Not that I’m downplaying that kind of thing. Some of the best times I’ve had have been working in that environment and we still do those shows. Stevie had a brilliant match with Wolfy in a wee pub in Dennistoun for GPWA. ”
Stevie “You’re an international jet setter now so that kinda convinces them as well”
International jet setting is all good when you go to places like Japan and America and wrestle in front of crowds absolutely ganting for that sweet wrestling action, but it’s not always like that as Kay Lee recalled on a recent trip to Germany for a show that was a wee bit surreal to say the least.
“I done a show in Germany recently. One of the most professional shows I’ve ever done. Pyro and everything. And it was full of business men who didn’t have a clue what they were watching. No one was into anything. I was valeting for one of the wrestlers, Bad Bones and once I realised the situation I just had fun with it. I was trying to steal pints off folk and everything. I feel like I made it fun for myself anyway since no one was into anything. It was so professional as well. it was so odd to be part of it. By the end of it there was a lot of people taking photos and stuff. I just think they didn’t really know what you’re supposed to do at a wrestling show so that’s why they were so quiet”
Before Kay Lee went on to chat about more exciting jet setting experiences, we somehow got on to bigging up Sha Samuels. Context wise I have no idea how, but its going in because Sha Samuels, much like dugs, Rick and Morty, and the wrestling in general, is life (Sha Life)
Stevie “Sha is just an all round good cunt man. I’ve only wrestled him once and honestly, I fuckin loved it. It was brilliant. Naw in fact it was twice. Me and Grado foguht him and Martin Stone in Edinburgh just before Stoney left, but that was the first singles match we’ve had at ICW recently, and aw mate, what a buzz. The Canadian Destroyer was the only bit we actually had planned. The rest was just us having fun. Like we both knew we just had it. Everything was built round that destroyer”
Stevie “The first time you went it was horrible man. I hated having you away”
Perhaps the one drawback to both giving your lives to something as all-consuming as wrestling is the separation when one half ends up somewhere else. In Kay Lee Ray’s case that has been regular trips to Japan and the USA. Her love affair with Japan starting as far back as 7 years ago, before going on to make her trips more regular over the past 4 or 5 years.
“I’ve been going to Japan for 7 years. First time I went to japan I was 18. I didn’t go for 2 years after that but still, that’s amazing to think that. It was hard because I was on my own. There was this journalist who worked with the company that helped me a bit. Showing me about and stuff, but I was basically on my own. I think more recently I’ve been getting to know Japan, and a lot of it is what you make of it. A big part of enjoying it is who you’re with and I’m always out there with my best pals. People like Viper, Toni Storm and of course Nixon before she got signed”
“That’s not a slight on the Japanese girls at all, but if you’re out there without friends it can be very very difficult. I’ve been lucky to have my pals with me every time. Every time I’ve been to Japan there’s been great nights out and moments I’ve enjoyed. Toni Storm kind of has to do it on her own sometimes because she’s got a big commitment with Stardom. I kinda like the agreement I’ve got with them right now, I go in January, I go in May and if I can keep that the way it is I’d be very happy. I think they’re happy with that as well. We spoke about it a wee bit and it was a bit of a co-incidence with the way the dates worked out, but its got to the stage now where companies here have kinda got used to that. They expect me to not be available at these points and cater to that so it works out well. ”
Having familiar faces makes it a bit easier on Kay Lee, but knowing how much these trips are helping her progress as a person and wrestler is a fine way to soften the blow.
“I do miss home. I miss Stevie. But having that familiarity being with pals helps a lot.”
“it depends how hard the schedule is. January we have more training days. Its not mandatory but it is at the same time. Me and Viper go them a lot. I always love the pop when she does something they don’t expect her to be able to do. She’s a great example for me, in terms of adapting to situations they throw at her. If they give her something she can’t do she wont just down tools and tell them she can’t do it, she’ll do something that’s at least close to what they’re asking and they go mad for it every time”
While the two Scots have made a huge impression in Japan, it is not without its tough moments, or indeed moments of true inspiration with a hint of envy when it comes to learning from one of the best in Io Shirai “Training is hard over there though. Maybe not as hard as some of the horror stories you hear, but still very hard . There’s one drill in particular everyone hates. Its handstands. You need to do it for 2 minutes then drop into a headstand for 1 minute. This is Io Shirai and she’s one of the very best. If shes there I’ll be at training every day. I’d love to see her in ICW one day because she’s just amazing. She used to be a gymnast so she can do all that nae bother. After the handstand you’re already feeling a bit sick, then you have to drop into a headstand for a further minute and if you get through that good. Well done. You’re gallus. Then you do drills where the person opposite you either does punches or kicks, and they go down the line until they’ve got everyone. Its hard work. Io is so good, I hate her but I love her. Ye cannae be jealous because shes just so good. She’ll do it all, and while everyone else is dying, she started doing push ups. Still in the handstand. I was like “You can get tae fuck”. I fuckin hate you. Why are you so good. I want to be you”
Her experiences in training with talents like Io Shirai have no doubt helped Kay Lee get to a level where she can hang with people like that, although she was never too far from that level in the first place, being genuinely inspired by talents must be a special thing when you’ve been doing a job for as long as her and Stevie have done it.
“I’ll watch my matches back with Io and it always leaves me with ideas. It sparks me like that which is nice. She speaks great English as well which helps. I didnt exactly come in as a trainee either. I had that bit of step about me so that made it easier”
While matches with Io are highlights, Kay Lee is also fond of her battles with one of her best pals. Mae Young Classic semi finalist and current Progress Women’s Champion, the very talented Toni Storm. Even if one of those matches ended up three times as long as originally planned.
“I’ve had great ones with Toni Storm. Its funny sometimes because they do things a bit differently over there. Over here there’s a bit more creative freedom, but they do it differently in Japan. Me and Toni had this 12 minute match planned once, and the promoter comes up right before it and tells us “I’ve changed my mind for the finish, time limit draw, 30 minutes” and we’re like “for fuck saaaaaake” We’ve got this 12 minute match planned and now we need to somehow stretch that out over half an hour. It was good, but it was difficult because we didnt have the time to prepare and get in the mindset for a match like that. We had one a Korauken Hall recently, but it was part of a tournament so you knew one of us would have another match that night. It felt like it had come full circle because we’d wrestled each other all over the world and now we had the chance to do it a Korauken so it was a wee bit disappointing because neither of us wanted to do anything that would hurt the other, knowing whoever won would go on to the finals that night”
While battles with familiar foes and pals like Storm make the whole culture shock easier, its battles with the homegrown talent that have been really eye-opening. As Kay Lee explained when she spoke of taking on Mayu Iwatani. One of the smallest people she’s ever come across in wrestling who dropkicked her haufway back to Glesga Airport.
“Mayu’s very quiet but I’ve had some great matches with her. Hell of a wrestler. She kicks fuck oot ye. I remember my first impression being reluctant to hit her because she’s so small. Then she dropkicked me and I was like “naw, fuck this” she doesn’t just dropkick you, she tries to send you out the ring. The first time I took that I thought to myself, naw, never again”
Regular trips to Japan have been paired with regular trips to the USA for Kay Lee, working with Shimmer against many of the competitors that made up the field for the Mae Young Classic, which Kay Lee herself exited in the first round but made a strong impression. Although her first trip to the states led to an experience that might have needed a bit of therapy to get over. Her first WWE show being The Undertakers first Wrestlemania defeat
“First time I was over there was for New Orleans during Mania 30, where The Undertaker lost to Brock Lesnar. That was my first WWE show. So that was me. I’m never coming back to a wrestling show”
Stevie “I was fuckin raging about that because the bookies were taking bets. I thought to myself, if any cunts gonnae dae it’ll be Brock Lesnar and I was so angry with myself. Thats one I’ll take to the grave.”
A bit of vocal support from a fellow globetrotter in Wolfgang helped any pre match nerves when Kay Lee made her Shimmer debut in front of an enthusiastic crowd. None more enthusiastic than the big man himself.
“Big Wolfgang came to watch me in Shimmer. He was over there on holiday with his mum and dad and he told me he was coming to see me at the show. So that was nice. A few people reacted when I came out, but hearing that big roar from Wolfie was nice. Especially in a company like Shimmer, it was a big deal. Since then its been most April’s then in the Autumn for a wee jaunt. America’s fun”
As fun as America undoubtedly is, Kay Lee has never seemed more in her element than when she goes up against her former perennial foe. A rival who was so good as an enemy, she became a pal. Leading to a poignant finale when Carmel ended her career at last year’s Hydro after the match where Kay Lee first captured the ICW Women’s Title. From the first match they had together, to that finale and the countless battles in between, their feud became one of the most notorious in ICW, as Kay Lee spoke about passionately.
“The death match was meant to be the end of our feud essentially, but then it just ended up that we never, ever stopped *laughs* We’ve wrestled everywhere from Glasgow to Denmark. I knew nothing about the retirement. I remember being a wee bit annoyed the night before because I wasn’t getting my own way. I didn’t want to win at The Hydro the way I did, but I kept getting told no to how I wanted to do it. So I thought “fine, yous want me to be a face, I’ll hit oot wae aw the fuckin gory bombs then” and it turns out it worked out really really well. Then she done her speech and it made more sense. There was a reason for it, they just didn’t want to tell me the reason. She wanted it to be a surprise and I’ve took that wrong way. So when you see me sitting on the ramp crying, that was genuine because I had no idea she was going to do it”
Kay Lee certainly has more battles with Carmel under her belt than anyone on planet earth, but she also crossed Stevie’s path during the all couples feud between them and Carmel paired with her other half, Liam Thomson. A massively entertaining bit of inter gender goodness that led Stevie to experience something Kay Lee had a lot of experience dealing with. Carmel’s exceedingly sare kicks.
Stevie “It was good humoured, and again thats because of the couples thing. There’s freedom to do things you wouldnt normally be able to do with someone else. Some of the tour matches were a wee bit mad, but they were always a lot of fun. Working them was just effortless. They’re both so good. You get that quite a lot, Kay Lee probably more than me but ive noticed it with travelling about a lot recently. Sometimes you can walk into a locker room and folk are reluctant with ideas. With them it was just effortless. They didn’t even need to ask, one of them would find you and just tell you ideas they had for the match and usually we’d say aye ”
KLR “Carmel was the easiest person to work”
Stevie “She kicked like a motherfucker though. I thought she’d broke my ribs the first time she kicked me. It was the stomps. Then the penalty kicks, when she punted ye man. She knew how to kick”
KLR “Aye see ye learned. Ye learned not to feed. I’d take any move in the world off Carmel, but as soon as I seen that boot coming I was like ‘noooo’ ”
In ICW intergender matches aren’t restricted. Both genders being allowed to freely scud each other stupid, as Stevie’s horror stories about Carmel’s kicks can attest. Kay Lee has plenty of experience in that area, as she almost perished thanks to a dangerous spot in the crowd during a match with Mikey Whiplash, which to use her words saw the venue “attack” her. The venue in question being the legendary Studio 24 in Edinburgh. A place where the walls had actual real human sweat glands somehow embedded into them
Stevie “I prefer the inter-gender stuff when its me and Kay Lee against two other guys. I feel that really pushes Kay Lee to bring out something different”
“We done inter-gender on the all-star tour recently and its a different ball game there. I wasn’t on any terms allowed to hit the female on the other team. We were in with a guy called Little Legs. Who’s a little person as well. I fuckin loved that. Would honestly do it every day of the week. I worked him for about 5 days in a row and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Seriously, look up his stuff, he was in Harry Potter and all that. He’s so good”
Both Kay Lee and Stevie were at the recent ICW show where none other than the man himself showed up. The beak. Big Hunter. Paul to his pals. Triple fuckin H”. A nerve racking experience but one that showed them both just how much of a special time in wrestling they exist in.
Kay Lee “When Triple H showed up everyone was nervous. I knew I had to cut a promo, and I thought theres nae way I can cut a promo in ICW without swearing. Luckily he hadn’t showed up yet, but cheers for dropping that on us on the day anyway Dallas” *laughs*
Stevie “I could write anything down on a piece of paper right now. Anything wrestling, and it could legit happen in ICW. Thats how it is right now. We had Balor, Triple H. Anything can happen. Triple H showed up right before the interval, so a 20 minute interval became a 5 minute interval. He apologised because he couldn’t stick about as WWE were running just down the road that night but he didn’t need to come at all. It was nice of him to do even that. He was sitting backstage and you realised this is the first time he’s EVER appeared on an independent wrestling show. So we must be doing something right. We’re definitely still on the right course”
A unique accolade the pair hold is being a couple who have held the same singles title. Southside’s “Speed King” Title which Kay Lee Captured in 2014. Not unusual for a mainstay in the company who had made a habit of toeing the guy’s baws, but Stevie winning the same title this year proved to be a huge moment for him in his attempts to become a regular fixture in promotions down south. Although the fact that he isn’t everywhere already is a fuckin travesty.
Kay Lee “I won it against Martin Kirby and for me that was some of my best stuff. He came to me with all these ideas and asked if I’d be up for them and I just said aye right away. I had so much fun working with him. Martin Kirby is one of my favourites. Great wrestler. He could wrestle a brush and it would be good. I think it would have been great no matter who I won it from, but working with him made it brilliant”
Stevie “I think he’s one of our joint favourites, he’s so good. It’s not really worked out for him in ICW yet, but thats not a slight on the company at all. I think they just need to let Kirby come in and be Kirby”
Stevie’s moment came as the title had been vacated due to Davey Richards inability to make it to a show. As much of a huge moment as it was for him, he had very little time to think about it due to the hectic schedule he and Kay Lee had undertaken that week.
Stevie “Davey Richards had the title but couldn’t get to the show because of some kind of visa issue. So it was me and Chris Tyler, with the belt vacant. We were first on. 10 minute match. They told me I was going over.It was my first title in England so I was buzzin about that as well. It was one of they things that I didn’t really have time to think about it. We were on the Fight Club Pro show the night before and travelled there right after that so I didn’t really have time to even get nervous about it. ”
KLR “It’s strange that it never really occurred to me that we’ve both held that belt, because I remember saying to you when you won “Its heavy” ” *laughs*
“It is that. The promoter asked me if I wanted to take it home, and I was like “Mate, I don’t think my shoulder could even cope with that”
While that was his first piece of significant singles gold down south, Stevie has been vying for big time singles titles for a while now. A match with Red Lightning in 2013 with his ICW Title on the line proving to be another career favourite during Red’s brilliant title run where he really set the blueprint for villains in ICW.
Stevie “Andy still says its his favourite title defence. I loved it. Initially I panicked because of how big a match at was. Me used to being in a tag team and if I fuck up, some of the blame goes on other people, but this was all me. I don’t think there’s anyone better I could have been in the ring with in that situation than Andy. See if I can finish my career and they say I was half the heel that Andy was during that run, I’d be happy. He was like an EastEnders bad guy. So witty on the mic. See even now because he’s a Dad, and that transfers to his work, he’s unbelievable. Any segment Red Lightning is on you can guarantee I’m on the other side of the curtain watching. There was no one else that could have made that as good as it was. I think anyone else being the head of the company at the time might have dictated to me, wheras Andy was so open to everything. A lot of the ideas were my ideas and he was so receptive to it. As nervous as I was, I was eager to impress. I was madly in love with wrestling and wanted to go out there and do everything I could and instead of holding that back he encouraged. I’ll always look back on that as one of my favourites. Looking back on it now I could have been at the time like aye i can do this on my own, but i was very focused on the Buckies at that point.
Red Lightning isn’t the only veteran who has had an impact on Stevie. Kid Fite has also been a huge part of both Stevie and Kay Lee’s careers. Both of them citing the PBW promoter and ICW resident hardnut as a big part of the reason they’re still even involved in wrestling, never mind both of them being on WWE’s radar. While they started at Source Wrestling School, they both feel they were fine tuned under Kid Fite aka Ross Watson’s tutelage.
Stevie “Ross is the reason I stuck at this. We were ready to leave wrestling, and Ross told us to come to training with PBW”
Kay Lee “We were 17 and we’d just moved into a flat, so we didn’t know where we were finding the money either, and Ross just goes “Know whit? Don’t worry about it, just come along” He started getting us bookings to get experience. We don’t give him enough credit. We’d done training but we needed the experience and he got us that experience”
Stevie “We knew how to wrestle. We had an idea of what it was, but he really fine tuned that”
Kay Lee “We did try and help him out a bit. Doing training sessions for him and stuff. But we were happy to do that because without him we might not still be doing this”
Stevie “He’s a gem of the guy. It might be a bit cheesy but he’s one of our guardian angels. He’s looked after us. He’s been brilliant in the ring lately as well. He done his shoulder around the same time as me, but he REALLY done himself and I think only now he’s really starting to get the confidence back and its showing. I wrestled him a few times since the injury and before there was definitely mental barriers there. He wasn’t the Kid Fite I met all those years ago, but he’s back to being that same guy now. I think the world of the guy. We argue and bump heids a lot but to me that just shows how close we are. That just means we are actually pals. He’s a master of getting on my nerves but I love him to bits for it”
The Bucky Boys made up so much of Stevie’s early career, and with so much happening since their ultimate demise its important to never lose sight of how huge they were in building the ICW tag division, and launching the singles careers of its two members. A journey coloured with major moments, including the duo’s two ICW Tag Title reigns and that mesmerizing moment where Stevie attacked his best pal and ended the group for good. The destroyer that literally destroyed Davey
“Man. I mind me and Davey having to do a walking tour of London on the day of the first ICW show there and it was the worst day of my life man. We’d stayed up all night drinking the night before, and we had to go from the venue all through London. We got the belts that night as well in the triple threat with the SDS and The NAK”
The night where it all ended was one that will go down in ICW folklore, as it signalled the beginning of the new NAK, and the beginning of a reign of terror Stevie hasn’t stopped since “Its mental. I’m getting the anniversary stuff coming up on Facebook since its Fear and Loathing time and some of the stuff is from 5, 6 years ago. I’m like no way man. I’m actually getting auld. I was a wean when I first started, and I’ve got grey hairs in my beard. I get asked about it a lot. Obviously I was young at the time and worked different jobs and everywhere I went there would be someone who knew me from The Bucky Boys. I wouldn’t change a second of it. Blaze is one of my best pals in the world. I love Neil to bits. Even the way it ended was brilliant. It was a story coming to a perfect ending. Blaze takes the destroyer brilliantly. For so long he was the one I couldn’t ever do it to, and when I finally did it was like “Maaaaaaate, that was amazin. You’ve got a natural talent for landing on yer heid”
The feud between the two ended up being centred around the ICW Zero-G Title as Stevie captured it in London not long before turning on Davey. His first singles title in ICW and a moment he will never forget. “Danny Hope won it the night before. It was something else I never really go the chance to think about, because I was told on the Friday and I wrestled every night from then to theat show on the Sunday. Literally until we walked into Koko and seen that we were all set up that it set in. This is actually happening then? I was overwhelmed a bit. It was a cool experience. Having a bit of support there made it special as well. I didn’t expect a reaction like that. The reception I got was amazing. BT Gunn got me a framed photo of it recently. After I won the title, David Wilson’s took a photo of me and I’m giving the finger. It’s up on my wall now. We’ve got a wall full of wee things from wrestling and that’s up there. It was just an epic experience. The reaction I got and even the messages afterwards was amazing. This all eyes on me. My first singles title in ICW. ”
That led to the former best pals having the huge accolade of opening the show when ICW sold out the famous SECC. A venue that could hold 3,000 more fans than their previous record attendance. The magnitude of that moment wasn’t lost on Stevie or his stomach, but a moment that a roaming camera got a bit too close too took none of the shine off what was an excellent match on a career changing stage.
“I wish we had a bit more interaction, but I liked the feud a lot aye. I think that SECC match was the only one we had so it would have been good to maybe have had one in the build up or something. They did do well to quite us quite separate, and most the times we came face to face it was more being involved with run ins and stuff. It was amazing to face him in the first match at the SECC. Considering where the company had came from, and where we had came from personally, to be out there in front of 4,000, wrestling my best mate, the guy I started with, was such a special feeling. Then I spewed ma ring in front of 4,000 people *laughs* ”
Time must have stopped for Stevie in that moment, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of there. Anycunt who tells you wrestling in front of 4,000 wouldn’t be never racking is a liar of the highest degree and should not be trusted. It was more the collision the former tag partner made when Davey went for a big dive that caused the moment, which Stevie recalled upon with good humour.
“I was really nervous beforehand and with us being on first, you’re anticipating going out. Waiting on it. They kept delaying it and that made it worse. You’re jumping from 1,200 people to 4,00 so its a big thing. I dump bottles of water over myself before going out, so there’s always water there. Out of nerves I kept picking up a bottle of water, taking a sip, putting it back down, and doing the same seconds later”
KLR “I remember coming up to him and telling him to stop drinking so much water before going out”
Stevie “They kept putting the start off so I kept drinking more and more. The match starts and I go out after Wee Man, Davey is supposed to hit me with the big Undertaker dive, but he clipped the top rope, so instead of catching him I just moved under him to give him something to land on. All of a sudden I find myself scudding off the barrier behind me and I said to Blaze ‘I’m gonnae be sick’ but I thought I could hold it. Two seconds later I’m having to lean over the side of the barrier to spew, and I just heard 4,000 collectively groan *laughs* and I’ve looked up to see the roaming camera zooming in on my face. ”
If time stopped for Stevie, his other half watching back stage was more concerned with saving her man’s blushes. Irate that the camera had zoomed in on him in his moment of vulnerability. Only calming words from the bold Mick Foley helped calm her in that moment. Tap hauners fae big Mick.
“I was going mental back stage. I could see he was going to spew so I’m screaming at the monitor backstage to get the fucking camera off him. It was actually Mick Foley who had to calm me down and tell me it was awrite”
Hitting a bad yin took none of the shine off that moment though. One that Stevie beams with pride when he speaks about. A genuine fondness for not just the match, but the moment where he was beaten and Davey got to soak in the adulation of a 4,000 strong crowd. Truly The Bucky Boys story coming full circle.
“Even with that happening its one of my all time favourites. I loved every second of it. To hear the pop that Blaze got when he beat me with my own move. It was amazing that me and my mate got to go out and tear it up in the opening match of such a huge show. Another thing I remember is Duncan telling us not to touch the barriers when you come out. They were the venues so we’d need to pay for them. First thing Blaze does is fire me into one of them and we both fell through *laughs* the match has barely even started and I’m thinking ‘I’m already in debt!” I owe this company money and I’ve just walked out the curtain”
The Bucky Boys did briefly re-unite in ICW for some marquee matches. As two of the top villains in the company it made sense for them to come together, and it also made plenty of sense for it to not become a permanent arrangement. With both parties already off on their own directions as singles wrestlers.
“We had a few matches recently and its one of those things. We clicked again right away, but at the same time I never wanted it to be full-time again. I feel like I’m till only getting started with the solo stuff. As cool as it was, I never wanted us being back together to be the end of that. It turns out it wasn’t and it was just a part of the story”
The trials and tribulations of road life for Stevie and Kay Lee will certainly stand them in good stead if WWE ever do come calling. A thought that does cross both of their minds with Kay Lee recently making an impact as part of the Mae Young Classic as well as Stevie taking part in a WWE tryout recently. As tough as life on the road can be, finding enjoyment in the time spent together and with pals helps, and keeps the enthusiasm for doing it permanently one day strong.
Kay Lee “I feel like i was kind of just on autopilot with all the travelling we’ve done recently, so WWE would be the same on a bigger scale. I cant moan about it because this is what we’re meant to do”
Stevie “When you think about it, we could be doing anything else, sitting in an office getting screamed at, so that makes all the travel and stuff much easier. Especially doing it with each other. ”
Kay Lee “I was booked down in Manchester and I asked if he wanted to come with me recently. We went a wee jaunt, had a rerr day, I done a wrestle, and we came hame. It was lovely. You’ve got to count your blessings and enjoy it. If it becomes a grind and you stop enjoying it, that’s when it really becomes work. We would much rather be doing this even with all the travel than doing absolutely anything else. ”
That being said, if the opportunity arose for one or both, they are more than willing to jump at it. As Stevie said, if Vinny Mac comes through the door with that contract, it’s getting signed. Although hopefully Berty the Pug’s name would be on there too.
Kay Lee “I’ve never turned down any opportunities in wrestling. I think its silly to do that. People can be reluctant. People can even be reluctant about WWE. Thinking it means they need to go back to training every day and all that. You know what I’d actually really like that. Especially if I was earning good money into the bargain. It would be nice to have that structure. We do all the same things as signing with WWE would entail, but it would be nice to have a bit more of a structure about it. I’d definitely love to end up there, but its not everything”
Stevie “That’s obviously the main goal. It’s the reason we all do this. I’ve got other goals for now that I’m focused on but it’s always in the back of my mind. They’re aware of me, I’m aware of them. I’ve always wanted to travel the world while doing this, and I can do that without WWE, but see if Vinnie Mac walked in one day, handed me a contract and said “right Stevie, stick yer signature on that” I’d be like “hand it over”. Its Viper that keeps you positive man. She keeps saying it “life is good” and great having that positivity. We travel with her quite a lot and its great to have that. You can be in the car after tour. Everyones seizing up. You’re sore, and she turns and goes “Aye but, think about what we’re doing right now” and it makes you think of it in a more positive light again. Its taken a long time to get here, I’ve been doing this for 12 years but its getting to a point where I feel like aye. Its happening. I’ve started to travel a bit more around the rest of the UK, so thats my goal for now. Winning the speed king and debuting for Fight Club, I think that’s broke down a bit of a barrier for me when it comes to doing that. Going back to the tryout, the only slightly disappointing aspect was that they don’t give feedback. Iwent in with the mindset that they’d tell you what you needed to be doing, but they don’t do feedback. As long as I know I’m going forward, I’m happy. I’m making my own name”
KLR “Its a situation that I’d love it to happen but if it never did, I’d be very happy with what I’ve done in my career. ”
One thing the pair will perhaps want to tick off the bucket list is something neither have done yet. The grand finale for this interview. Usually I don’t really structure them to come to a particular conclusion but this was special. This was a rare moment in time where it was absolutely acceptable to ask a couple if they wanted to fight each other and I had to cash in on that. So far we’d petted a dug, chatted about Rick and Morty, shattered any illusions about Stevie being actually filthy by discussing a mutual love of staying in the shower for fuckin ages and I even got offered a bit of Haggis Pakora. The rules were oot the windae long before we got to the grand finale, but when I dropped that question in, the buzz that came from them both secured it as a sure fire winner. A slam dunk as they say in baseball. Do you ever want to feud with each other?
Kay Lee “Actually since the FSM thing, we have actually been in a match together. It was a multi man thing for Fight Club Pro. We had a wee kiss at the start, done a wee tag move, then he tried to chuck me out the ring to steal the win.
Stevie “I tried to do ma burd and win the match *laughs*. I didn’t though. I lost. But the intention was there. If any booker is willing to book it I would happily punch lumps out my burd”
Kay Lee “Ye know what, I’m probably the only burd you could say that about and people would say ‘Aye I’d quite like to see that actually’ *laughs*. I like the fact that nobody will go ‘Ooh that shouldnae be happening”. I do appreciate that, as much as it usually comes with me getting kicked in the face”
Stevie “One thing I liked at Fight Club was that we came out to same music, so hers had played and then when I’m coming out they start giving it ‘You fucked up’ before they realised *laughs* but yeah. I’d relish getting the chance to punch lumps out my burd”
Kay Lee “I think it would be a great match as well. It would just be a case of getting us against each other somehow, but we’d both do it in a heartbeat”
Stevie “If anyone emailed me tomorrow saying I want to book you vs Kay Lee Ray, I’d be like ‘send me the date!” its something we’re definitely up for doing”
So there you have it troops. They’re enagaged to be married yet want to batter each other in a wrestling ring, and if that doesn’t make them extra endearing to you, I’m afraid there’s little hope for you as a fan of this wrestling carry on.
Oh aye btw. They’re engaged. They just casually dropped that in there somewhere along the way. Brought a dug, great news, and a fuckin top interview. Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray. Certified good cunts.
Was a pleasure chatting to Stevie, Kay Lee, and of course Berty. They brought a fuckin dug. Other wrestling people I interview need to somehow top that. Maybe a bear? Aye. Next wrestler I interview needs to bring a bear or at least a wolf or the interview does not go ahead.
Huge thank you to David J.Wilson and Warrior for the pictures used. And anyone else who’s pictures I might have used. If you would like credited and I’ve no done it, send me a message and I’ll rectify that heinous error.
See the t-shirt pictured way at the start there. BUY IT HERE