Do you ever just feel broken? Nah never mind, that’s shite. We’ll try again. Opening line. Make it profound. This is about serious shit Marty boy. Make this count.
Depression is like…….. nah bin that man. That’s nothing. Depression is different for everyone. That’s alienating people so it is. One more swing then patch the opening line.
I am so fuckin tired.
That’s it. That’s the one. That’s the opening line. Its perfect. Relatable to everyone because aren’t we all just fuckin tired? Even if you’re a person reading this who has never considered themselves to be mentally ill in any way. There’s one thing we all have in common. We are so, so fuckin tired.
After 10-15 years of pretty nasty depression, followed by a couple of years of actually feeling ok, then a short period of “Oh fuck, I think this is getting bad again” and now what has felt like an eternity of being absolutely fucked by this shit again, I’ve had enough experience of dealing with being mentally ill to know that this is the worst it has ever been for me personally. There’s been times in my life where I felt I had zero prospects professionally, nae pals and nae chance of avoiding dying alone where I felt my overall mental health was better than it is now. This is after becoming a published writer, having one long term ride of a burd, being an uncle, having anything between 4 and 5 pals and accomplishing a lifelong goal of interviewing my hero Mick Foley (dunno if you guys heard but that happened) This is what makes this particular spell such a head fuck of a thing. In theory I know there are lots of things to live for and to be happy about, but a lot of the time none of them matter. That sounds a bit cold, what I mean by that is that they ALWAYS matter a lot, which makes the fact that there’s times where I don’t FEEL like any of that matters all the more worrying.
Constantly being in a state where you feel absolutely everything far too much and you also don’t feel anything at all is like being at war with yourself. You know you should care. Caring is important. Sometimes the haze clears long enough to enjoy the wee moments that make life what it is. Like my wee nephew running up to me and giving me a big cuddle that also doubles up as a headbutt in the general direction of my crotch. That will always clear the fog. Or just spending hours lying in the same position watching some shite tele with the burd. The haze sometimes clears long enough that I can appreciate that. Or when I get to spend significant time with my pals without having a constant voice in the back of my head telling me everything I have said and are about to say is shite. Shite and wrong. Sometimes the haze fucks off for long enough to enjoy that. These wee moments are nice but are becoming increasingly more difficult to come by and the one and only instinct I have is to cut myself adrift when this happens.
No man is an island right? That’s a saying that definitely means something to someone. Probably. A LOT of men however, are socially stunted shut ins desperate to avoid almost all forms of human interaction. Fuck all left to give other than the bare minimum required to keep going. Hiding under the guise of a normal guy who’s just getting on with it. The usual. The shit you’re meant to do. Job, family, mrs, beers w/boyz, fitba, coupons, darts, Game Of Thrones fanfiction and last but not least…BEERS. Keep the façade up for long enough that you actually start to believe it too.
I don’t want the façade anymore though. I don’t want to pretend this is a period I am negating quite easily because it really isn’t. My mind has not been healthy for such a long time now I’ve forgot what it felt like to be ok again. For that 2-3 years where I’d got to a place of not being constantly fucked by this, I had forgotten what it was like to be here. Almost complacent that I’d figured this out and I wouldn’t end up back in the same state. Its almost like my brain reset itself only to decide it actually preferred the bottomless bit of sad and deciding it wanted the abyss back. This is getting a bit heavy but eh? Don’t want folk to check out early. There’s a message to convey here. Important as fuck.
The wrestling community, particularly in Scotland, was absolutely shaken to its core a month ago when we lost an integral part of that community far too soon. Adrian ‘Lionheart’ Mccallum was a man who conveyed nothing but positivity in his work. An all action performer in the ring, a confident voice on the microphone, a man who had survived a lot of adversity and emerged stronger for it and a man who had come through all that adversity to enjoy what felt like a career purple patch. It was all going right after probably too many years of having his fair share of shit going wrong. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that depression isn’t just sadness. We all experience that and I think that makes people (usually well meaning people) feel like they can dish out advice on how to tackle something that makes you feel like a failure even when you clearly are not that. A thing that makes you feel like your accomplishments are not your own. How could they be? A fuck up like me doing all this cool shit? Come off it.
It’s a dirty hulking beast of a thing that can and will destroy you even when you should be bulletproof. It literally kills people every day. It kills men at an alarming rate and while it will never stop doing that, we HAVE to do all we can to reduce it. We just have to. Its not an optional thing anymore. Its an epidemic. Every single person reading this will have been affected by suicide in some way, shape or form. Chances are they will be affected by it several more times before they sign their scorecard for eh…life (tried to make that a golf metaphor cause The Open’s on but I don’t think it got over) Its hard as fuck because speaking up means having to deal with it but its time to speak the truth on this. The only way to combat it is being open in my opinion and as much as I don’t think that opinion matters a fuck because of mental illness, the fact that I’m a card carrying veteran of this shit should at least mean YOU listen to me, even if I don’t.
When I attended ICW’s tribute show for Lionheart I really wanted to do a wrestling review of it. One of they things I used to do all the time with all the slang and the hefty bantz. That one. 5 minutes in to the show I knew that wasn’t happening. It was a night when, as good as it was, the wrestling didn’t matter. That show was part of the healing process for so many people who cared about that man and ultimately, that’s all that mattered when it came down to it. One thing that impressed me so much with everyone who took to the microphone that night is that they let it show. They put their grief on display because hiding it does no one any good. People need to see the pain this horrible thing leaves behind so they can understand just how much pain an individual has to be in to knowingly put their nearest and dearest through that.
If you’ve ever attached the word “selfish” to someone taking their own life, I get it, you’re angry, but it makes no sense. How can a thing that means you literally stop existing be a “selfish” act? Who is anyone to say someone should stick around and put themselves through hell on earth just so you don’t need to deal with feeling some sort of way about it? It is the least selfish act you can do because selfishness implies there’s future gain in the action. If you do something selfish, you benefit from it at some point. No one has ever benefitted from dying, even if that death means pain goes away, because so does everything else.
While everyone who spoke that night was impressively honest and full of strength, the person who got me the most was Viper. She was not afraid to say what she really wanted to say and as much as it tore yer heart to bits, it was so necessary. Its ok to feel that wee bit of anger. Its not anger directed at the person you miss. Its anger at the situation. Its anger at feeling like you could have helped and not knowing what else you could have done to prevent this. Being honest and feeling your pain out loud is the only way to properly convey how fucking devastating it is. A person who touched so many lives in such a brilliant way, couldn’t not fucking bear to be on this earth anymore. Peak of his powers personally and professionally on the surface, but underneath the beast was doing its work. Undermining everything positive. Making it seem unimportant or just plain not true.
Viper’s words brought a tear, just as Mark Dallas, Joe Hendry and Grado’s words had earlier in the night, but the main event perhaps trumped it all for emotion. A thing few artforms could replicate quite like wrestling can. The Kinky Party vs Polo Promotions paid homage to Lionheart the performer, Lionheart the man and also somehow wrote a concluding chapter in the man’s most significant career feud without him even being there as Jackie Polo was the last one to leave the ring. If that frog splash from Sha Samuels didn’t instantly make you tear up, you are probably not ok on the inside. Maybe not dead entirely, but your inner wiring is definitely at least a bit fucked.
I sincerely hope that show and the one that happens tomorrow help the healing.
The fact that any of his closest pals are performing at all right now is a testament to them, but to face this grief head on in situations where it will be simply impossible to put the big man to the back of your mind is admirable. Tomorrow Adrian’s last show goes ahead. A show he booked for a promotion he was correctly very proud of. Celebrating its 8th year of existence having built it from the ground up. It goes ahead exactly as it was planned and while this will be the last Pro Wrestling Elite show, I hope the memories this leaves behind at the no doubt packed out Citadel Centre means it not the last of the wrestling his hometown of Ayr sees.
I’ve always been conscious of writing things about mental health where the conclusion has some beacon of positivity in there but that’s not always the case. Sometimes there’s fuck all positive to say and manufacturing something so the whole thing feels a bit lighter defeats the purpose of writing it in the first place. Mental health issues literally kill people. So many fuckin people. All the time. There are people in your life suffering right now and you don’t have a fucking clue. Mostly because they probably don’t fully understand what the fuck it is they’re going through either. Help them. Speak about your experiences with dealing with this shit both directly and indirectly. The more everyone talks the more normal all of this becomes. The more normal is becomes the less people feel ashamed of something they have very little control over. Don’t suffer in silence then vanish. Someone gives a fuck. In most cases several people do. The most terrifying thing about this is that it can strip away all your defences without you really knowing its happening. The first clue you get is that morning you look in the mirror and see it. Awake but asleep at the same time. Thinking about everything and nothing all at once. So fuckin tired. Done in.
Stay in the fight. Speak to someone, even if it doesn’t make you feel any better, it will make you feel somewhat connected to…something. Take care of each other.
This was going to be a long winded thing about mental health, but it didn’t feel right. There will be a time to talk more about that.
People have a huge void in their lives today. One that wasn’t there this time yesterday. Those people have each other and that will be of great comfort, but they don’t have him and ultimately, there will be no comfort for that.
It is so unbelievably tragic that a man who had so much left to give felt like this was his only option. Him no longer being with us shouldn’t make anyone feel ‘could I have done more?’ it will, but it shouldn’t. I hope anyone feeling that way can let go of that soon. Its not your fault, its not anyone’s fault. Its just the worst possible outcome of mental illness. The reason it is taken so seriously. It robs people of time they deserved.
Adrian Mccallum deserved more time. Not because he was a good guy (and he was) Not because he was talented wrestler (and he was) but because he was loved. He deserved to feel that. Even if its hard to feel it when you’re suffering mentally, one day the haze would have cleared, even if just for a moment, and he would have felt it. He would have realised he was cherished and appreciated and maybe the demons would have stayed away for a while.
People have spoken about the togetherness in the Scottish/British Wrestling community really being helpful in the immediate aftermath. Seeing the tributes across the board. People sharing in his memory together. People who barely knew him but were still touched by his presence. Then there are his friends. His family. The people who knew him well. They are the ones truly experiencing grief right now, even if it feels like the rest of us are right there with them, we aren’t. None of us can truly know how any of them are feeling. Yesterday their pal was here. There were memories still to be made. Laughs still to be had.
Today all that exists is painful longing. Heartache. Well its not all that exists. The memories already made. The right good ones. The life defining, friendship defining, relationship defining, career defining stoaters. In times of tragedy like this, that’s the one slight positive. In a world filled with shite. Filled with misery. All that good stuff comes to the forefront. People remember why they loved. What bonded them to the person they’re missing. For a moment they feel like he’s still here. The memories will ensure that in a way, he always is.
Keep posting the tributes. It will make people smile even if the smile is tinged with sadness. It will make those closest to him smile just like Adrian seemed to in pretty much every photo I’ve seen since this happened. He revelled in making others happy like many of the saddest people do. He revelled in it because he knew when they were laughing at his patter, a funny snapchat or anything else he might do to make someone smile, that they weren’t feeling as bad as he did at times.
Please reach out if you’re feeling off in the wake of this. This is not just some celebrity who’s work we appreciated from afar. He meant so much more than that to so many. I distinctly remember leaving the sit down interview we done on cloud fucking nine. At that time I had no idea why people of that standing would ever speak to me at all, far less for a couple of hours, but he shared stories, spoke with honesty, and made me feel like a superstar that day. He had a way of doing that it seemed.
Men have a way of pretending its fine when its not. A way of admitting to having a problem and only revealing a percentage of it. Never wanting to seem weak by admitting they suffer. Fuck weakness. Fuck this outdated idea that men should be men. Adrian Mccallum was far from weak. He persevered through so much personal tragedy. The loss of one of his closest pals in wrestling to cancer. The loss of a large chunk of career to injury. The loss of seemingly his purpose in wrestling. Yet the last time we saw him wrestle, he was adding another title to his collection. Triumphant in another main event. He overcame all that shit to reign supreme.
He went from “nothing for you mate” to ICW World Champion.
He went from having his neck broken by a move, to using that move as part of his redemption story.
He went from “fanny” to hero.
He went from Lionheart to “Mad Leon”
More importantly than all that, he was loved. To everyone feeling it a lot more than I am today, I am so fucking sorry for your loss. I’m sorry your pal, your brother, your mainest man. I’m sorry he’s no longer here. He might have deserved more time but with the stories, the photos and (in time) the matches being shared his memory will live on.
R.I.P Adrian ‘Lionheart’ Mccallum.
If you are suffering from mental health issues and feel you need some help, please reach out to someone. Below are some phone numbers you can call/websites you can visit. Even if its not an option like this, speak to someone.
He was always supposed to be “RUDO”. Even when success came as Red Lightning , Andrew Wason always wanted to shed that name. A name he never liked to begin with. A name given to him from a time where perhaps not a huge amount of fore-thinking went into these things. He’s taken a stoat down the road less travelled to get here, but finally he is what he wants to be in wrestling.
Even if he is one of the few talented enough at other aspects of wrestling to get by without doing the actual wrestling part, he is a performer. He wants to wrestle. In February he won his second ICW Square Go a full 7 years after he won it the first time. A fairytale? Maybe. But more than that, it has been the result of a lot of hard work and an unshakeable belief that he was made to do this. He was made to be a performer and all the trials and tribulations have only led to him being hungrier for success than he ever has been. He took us back to the 2012 win first.
“I wasn’t really meant to be in that spot. Of my group of pals, Jester, Lionheart, Wolfgang, Drew etc. They were the wrestlers. I wasn’t the wrestler. That’s the story of my career I suppose. That’s what got me over. Being different. They were very interested in the in-ring stuff, and they are all fantastic at it, but I really put my focus on a different element of wrestling. That being the character side. That got me to the Square Go initially”
A lot of personal grief is tied in to that time period. Tragedy that made wrestling nothing more than an afterthought but then the Square Go win also turned it into a much needed distraction.
“It was difficult for me to process the 2012 Square Go because it all happened very quick. It was in the January. My partner and I lost a baby. She was pregnant throughout that period and then unfortunately, late on, we lost the baby. I just had to take a bit of time away really. To process that and everything that happened. If I’m honest, and Dallas said to me in the past as well… first title run served as a way to help me back in to wrestling and gave me a distraction after having suffered such a personal tragedy. That’s the circumstance that sort of led to me being the champ“
That outlet became essential for both the performer and man. While he doesn’t see it as a positive period in his career in a lot of ways, and its certainly wasn’t a positive time personally, it was a period where he was the best villain in the game. Such an arsehole he drove many a dafty fan to try their luck during his title run. I personally witnessed folk square up to him more than once. Perhaps fully committing to being a villain is a wee bit easier when negative emotions are powering you every day.
“My mental health was poor throughout the first title run. I think as well, I had put what had happened in to the back of my mind. Staying busy was the most important thing. That was around the time the Oran War and Kelvin Brawl was happening so it was all go for a long time and that suited me. I suppose I was just using wrestling as an outlet back then. As a way of expressing myself. I was a different character back then. We were all in that phase of sort of shooting on each other as it were“
“Everything had to be based in reality. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder anyway, about life, so it was easy for me to get fully invested in that, but I took it too far sometimes. I was admittedly at times (not often) rude to people. That was just my coping mechanism for everything that happened in that time period but I regret a lot of it now”
As tragic and life affirming as losing a child must be, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. His partner falling pregnant again during the title run was a blessing and perhaps marked the start of the healing process mentally.
“Fortunately my partner actually fell pregnant again. That happened after I’d won the title. I dropped it right after my son was born because I was going away in a paternity leave type situation. My head wasn’t in the game. Because of what had happened before I was worried about there being problems again. Thankfully it was all ok. My sons 6 now and he’s very much alive *laughs” “
Anyone with a child in that age range will know exactly what Rudo meant by ‘very much alive’ but I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way. After losing the title there was a bit of a down period and at a time of rough mental health its hard to separate a natural dip after a very busy and successful spell with something more. It has taken pretty much all of that 7 year spell for Rudo to realise that his spot was always there for him. All he had to do was put forward the very best version of himself.
“I took quite a drop after I lose the belt because that was it for me in essence. After Kelvin Brawl, I was in an out a lot. The injuries had taken their toll. It was an uncertain time for me. This Square Go, we get here because, not because im the best wrestler on the show. Again it was emphasis on character that got me there. The circumstances are different. I’ve dealt with a lot of my demons”
Dealing with demons is something like a constant negotiation. They never go away fully but you can placate them. Send them on their way to other pursuits while you can get on with your life in the meantime. Learning how to deal with this and making peace with the fact that you’ll probably never eradicate them is half the battle and Rudo is set in a very healthy routine when it comes to dealing with the bad spells. Head down. Keep quiet. Let it pass.
“For me now, you need to be able to see when something is wrong or when something like that is going to happen. Personally now I just shut myself away and let it pass. That might take a few days or a couple of weeks but…it does pass“
“There’s people I’ve spoken to in the past that feel mental health can affect their wrestling or training. Wrestling should be your outlet for this stuff. It gives a sense of wellbeing and something to do. Something to look forward to. If you’re having a bad time this is a good thing to do. You’ll meet like minded people”
Having dealt with these issues and later becoming a trainer, it puts Rudo in the best possible position to deal with the multitude of individuals and their issues that pass through GPWA. Indeed, he sees it as not only a way of learning how to wrestle, but a way of learning how to live. Many have come through the Asylum door and transformed themselves. Learning a skill in the process. The importance of having an outlet when your mental health wavers cannot be underestimated and Rudo went on to explain just how common these issues are in wrestling, and at the same time how wrestling is the perfect remedy for them.
“Everybody in wrestling has experienced it (mental health issues) in some way. Just because of the nature of what we do. There’s anxiety tied in. Performance anxiety. Comparing yourself to others. Its definitely something you can throw yourself in to. Even if you aren’t feeling great. It gives you a sense of achievement and for me, that can make you feel valued. It can make you see things differently and think differently”
“In my personal journey I found medication didn’t really help. The thing is. I tried a few different ones. One made me worse. One did suppress the way I felt but I felt made me numb. I felt it suppressed all feelings I was having. So it was hard to get motivated. Even positive thoughts and feelings aren’t there
“I was going through the motions. Everything just becomes routine and you aren’t up or down. That maybe led to me having a lot of the issues I had in wrestling. It led to a massive weight gain as well because of the chemical changes it brings about”
There are certainly pitfalls to taking anti-depressants. Speaking from experience nothing Rudo said about them is untrue but there are more severe cases that make the drawbacks worth it. Worth it just to see some sort of order and contentment come in to your life. Weight gain has been the issue that has lingered the most since coming off medication, as well as becoming a bit more prone to injuries, as he went on to explain.
“I was always around the 12-13 stone mark and went up to about 16 when I was on them and have struggled since, so its never left me. I don’t feel even since then, even when I’ve very small bouts of depression and anxiety that I’d ever consider going back on them
“I’ve always found other ways to take it away or ease it. My personal coping mechanism is just shutting the door, keeping quiet, watching a TV show, a film, reading a book or something. That sounds basic and I understand people have far more complexed issues that aren’t going to be taken away by a box set but that’s just my way“
“Eating is another coping mechanism and that can cause health issues. It has done for me. The anti depressants were in my opinion partly to blame for me getting injured in the first place. My body was fuckin falling apart at the time. Up to that point I was always very fit and had never been hurt then suddenly I’m here with this bad injury”
Whilst his own experience may not be one he’d be keen to repeat, Rudo was keen to drive home that every person responds differently and the effectiveness of these medications will vary based on the severity of the case but don’t just accept that its the only path you can go down if you’re suffering.
There are other ways to get a grip on it or at least attempt to do so. It was an experience while wrestling for PBW during the Belladrum Festival that led him to make the decision to come off the medication. Despite wrestling in an exciting environment well out of everyone’s comfort zone, there was no enjoyment there.
“Maybe people have good experiences on them, I’m not doubting that, but I didn’t. I feel doctors see it as an easy way out. If you’re lucky they’ll tell you some of the bad side effects but more often than not they wont. If I’d known (what side effects there could be) I’d never have taken it. I’d have found another way.
“I know that’s not possible for some people. I completely understand that and as I said, I considered my own case to be quite mild in comparisant to some. I’m just speaking from a personal point of view. You’re fighting a losing battle with your feelings and you take this tablet that fucks with all your hormones“
“I had massive sugar cravings and all that. Not being able to get out of bed was a big problem. We done Belladrum a few years back for the first time. Exciting situation. Wrestling at a festival. I was taking Mitrazipine at the time. Which just makes you feel like a zombie. It absolutely killed my thoughts. I couldn’t enjoy this weekend at all because of these tablets and that’s when I thought, no more”
His advice for anyone who may be going through similar struggles is a simple as it gets. If there’s something or someone in your life consistently pulling you down? Don’t put up with it. The option is always there to remove that problem. Be it a person, an activity you dread, or ever supporting Partick Thistle. The option is always there to remove the thing that’s making you miserable.
“I’m just a quiet guy. Zero drama. Aw the shite in yer life…just drap it. If there’s someone in your life causing aggro, just get fucking rid. People take that literally but if there’s somebody in your circle that has a negative effect on you. Its rude to turn round and tell them you’re removing them, but you do have the choice to interact with them less. For a very long time I just enjoyed being at home. I had my family there. I felt comfortable. Its my house. There was just no drama there. I was in control”
Another solid bit of advice, echoed by Kid Fite in a recent Facebook post on his mental health, is warning against using substances to cope. It may provide short term relief. That short term relief may be extremely effective, but it remains a very short term release. Leaving your body craving more of whatever your poison may be.
Alcohol can be the absolute worst in the sense that it is a depressant. Chucking it on top of the existing depression that courses through you on a daily basis is akin to madness. A bit like a diabetes patient cracking open a big bag of sugar and tanning it in one go. It just doesn’t make sense. There was a stage where Rudo did feel the drinking was out of control but nowadays he wisely steers clear of the demon drink. Instead he blows off steam by eviscerating folk on the mic and winning aw the Rumbles.
“I used to be out and about all the time. Drinking. At one point in my life I do feel I had a drink problem and I just stopped. If you’ve got a hangover with depression it isn’t the best mixture. There’s obviously different scales. People who are suffering more than you and I. Some people do need medication and thats fine. I felt that my case was relatively light and I felt that my doctor jumped on the medication route pretty quick. There was an option there for me to not go on them just yet and maybe it was one of those things. It might have gone a lot different for me if I didnt” Coming off the medication didn’t happen because Rudo wanted to give everything to wrestling. It was wanting to be the absolute best father he could be that eventually led to the decision being made to come off the medication and try to find another way.
Its a strange feeling when these medications fully leave your system. There’s an adjustment period where you have to get used to feeling absolutely everything again as Rudo describes.
“When I came off them I felt this massive haze disappear. This clarity. Over the space of 2 years this clarity came over me. All of this kicked off when I decided I was stopping taking them. Because I felt…this is fucking with me a wee bit” It was just something that I had to do. It was a period of my life where I did what I could to function” “If I was to give anyone any advice, it would just be that people need to be self aware. Aware of any genetic issues that might arise as well and make sure you aren’t more at risk than the average person. There may have been a history of MH and alcoholism in my family. I had to remind myself of these things to stop going down a very dark path. When my son was born I stopped all that”
There was a time where Rudo even considered bringing his struggles with mental health in to his wrestling persona, but it became problematic. When the thing you use to escape becomes intertwined with the thing you’re trying to escape from, its no longer an escape. Why be your heavily depressed self in a thing like pro wrestling when you can be literally anything else.
“I’m relatively open about it. Back when I cut a promo about it. I was trying to turn it into something creative. I was like ‘this is how i feel right now, lets try and do something with it’ I don’t think there’s ever been a wrestling character who’s diagnosed with depression. I ended up not liking it because it was me bringing it in to my work. Weighing me down a bit and taking a bit of joy away from something that served as a good distraction”
Rudo sat opposite me for the whole 2 hours we spoke as a man who didn’t appear as someone who suffered with mental health issues for so long. That has to be inspiring to anyone out there going through this. It inspired me and is a big part of the reason I was even able to write this interview up at all. He is living proof that even if its hard and you lose that battle of wills with your own mind on occasion…YOU CAN GET BACK UP.
You can show this soul sucking devil of a thing that you are in control and regaining that control over your life can be such a freeing thing. Even if its not permanent, with every battle you win confidence grows. A feeling that even if its a real fucking slog…YOU CAN DO IT.
“There’s no better feeling than when you do get through things like that. Being able to sit and say to yourself…I’ve done this man. I’ve been able to get through to this. There’s days when you are going through it when you do want to give up and when you get better, you’re glad you didn’t”
“Between the two Square Go’s. After 2012 Square Go everything went awry for me. That led right into quite a serious injury. 2019 is essentially me picking back up where I left off all that time ago, with a clear mind. A lot more mature and focused”
A comeback to wrestling on shows brought about an opportunity to finally solidify a name change he had wanted to implement for a long time. As much as the name Red Lightning had name value because of what Andrew Wason achieved while using then name, it still wasn’t cool. It wasn’t really anything truth be told. Like one of they toys you pick up in the corner shop that has a hilarious replacement name for a well known cartoon character so the toy company disnae get sued to fuck. The introduction of the “RUDO” Sports and Entertainment brand after The Black Label had disbanded allowed the Rudo name to seep into people conciousness, making it easier for Red Lightning the wrestler to become Rudo for good.
“I’ve wanted to be Rudo Lightning for a long time. I told Wolfgang that 5 years ago. Thats what I wanted to go by. Its difficult to change it when you’ve used one name. The Rudo brand opened the door for it. In my mind that was the first step to transitioning in to using it. Joe (Coffey) started referring to me as Rudo. It got to the point where I realised I could go with that name full time and no one would really bat an eyelid. From a branding perspective, its much more respectable. It sums up me because it has wrestling significance. People get it”
Despite all the success as “Red Lightning” its not a name he has any affinity for even in retrospect. Its always been daft and now its gone. It has gone the same way as all the personal demons. Right on the scrap heap. A new dawn. A new day. A new life. And he’s feeling good.
“Red Lightning was always a stupid name. It was just one of they things that stuck. I’ve never liked it. It was embarassing. There was a point I was gonnae drop the Lightning and just be Red, but it never happened. I wanted something more marketable. It was embarrassing to tell people. Like workmates or people not involved in wrestling, they as what you’re wrestling name is and you tell them Red Lightning. They go “whit? it sounds like an energy drink” *laughs*
It would have probably been easier to ease into and accept the name if it was ever his own idea but being given the name removed any kind of attachment to it. Maybe a good thing when it comes to fully committing to something else.
“It wasn’t my idea either. I was just given it by a promoter and it stuck. Suddenly its 5 years later, then its 10-15 years later and its stuck. WWE or anyone else are never going to call you that or take you seriously with that name“
“Take Wolfgang for example. That’s instantly a wrestling name. Its not beyond the realm of possibility that this guy is called Wolfgang. Lionheart is another one that has significance. Jack Jester stands out. At least if I went with Rudo and become known as that, it means something”
Every wrestler is influenced by someone. You have to be. If you aren’t you’ll probably be pretty shite at it. Rudo has always stood out for a variety of reasons but when you strip it back and hear the various influences that have combined to make the Rudo we see today, it makes a bit more sense. Maybe having influences that are at opposite ends of the scale is the key to making it work. The strongest of those influences being World Of Sport mainstay, Rollerball Rocco. “The man who trained was Spinner Mckenzie. He was part of WoS at the time Rollerball Rocco was arounf. Didn’t do TV that much, but he was on the circuit. Spinner came to our school one day. He had a website called British Wrestling Database and came under the guise of a reporter but really he was there to check the school out. Over the next few weeks I started to learn a bit more about him. Eventually he became our trainer”
This was a time where it wasn’t as easy as a quick Youtube search to find out what to expect for a performer. Rudo went on a fact finding mission to consume as much Rollerball Rocco as he could. Sourcing DVDs that sparked a childhood memory.
“I went online and managed to find some DVDs of his work. Around 2004-2005. I put it on and I recognised him right away. The gear, the moustache, the whole look. I thought I’d seen this guy before. It turned out he was one of my granda’s favourites. I was too young for it at the time, but he watched re-runs and stuff like that and at some point ive seen this guy on the telly and hes seeped into my consciousness”
That was it. The vision was there. If everyone else is doing it a certain way, what better way is there to stand out than by going about your work completely differently.
“So when I seen him it sparked me and I just started watching it. I thought the landscape of wrestling as it is now, everyone’s watching the likes of ROH and everyone’s influenced by them. Then you had the WWE guys who were influenced by that. There was nobody doing this British stuff or next to no one anyway”
“I committed myself to coming up with a style. Very influenced by Johnny Saint and Rocco. They way he moved, his subtle mannerisms. I just thought….I could be a modern version of this guy. I’m not saying I’m just like him, because I’m not, but the character. That’s what it is. It has steaks of that and i just thought, I need to stick to that”
Rollerball Rocco may influence the gear and his era may have shaped Rudo’s wrestling style but the attitude and constant aversion to having any kind of decent relationship with his boss is all Stone Cold. Their dynamic has always pitted Rudo as the baddie of the dynamic but the current storyline which led to Rudo winning the Square Go this year is very much a throwback to the days of Austin being right in the face of his arsehole boss attempting to deny him of things he and the fans feel he deserves.
“At the moment I’m sort of fine tuning and honing the character. Someone was going to get in Dallas’ face that night and I don’t think anyone for a second thought it would be me…until it happened. Then it made all the sense. Tapping in to your inner Stone Cold is another thing. Stone Cold is someone I’ve watched a lot. As a wrestler he has had an influence on my wrestling and the way I carry myself. So more that meshed with Rollerball Rocco.
“I had a 4 or 5 year gap where I wasn’t able to develop that character and I feel if I had those years I’d be in a lot better of a position now. After that a lot of people started doing that style, whereas back then that was the thing that made me stand out”
His peers may not think he needs to, but there’s a hunger in Rudo to grow and improve even at the ripe old age of 32.
“Everybody’s trying to stand out. I was having a chat with Kay Lee Ray recently. Even now, I was saying to her I want to do more. I want more. And she was like ‘naw..this is your thing, this is you, you don’t need to do all that other stuff’ and I see her point but I’m always hungry for more”
He feels he’s become a better overall performer due to his in-ring absence. Constantly in some kind of verbal duel with someone, most often his arch nemesis Mark Dallas. As good as Rudo was on the mic before his extended spell away from in-ring action, there’s no doubt he absolutely mastered the art of holding a crowd in the palm of his hand during his time as the leader of various enterprises with designs on taking over ICW. The Black Label in particular was an era where Rudo and his two best pals garnered some of the burniest heat you’ll ever see in a wrestling ring.
“Strangely. I don’t know how this is possible. I’ve managed to become a better performer without wrestling over the past 5 years. Developing a better understanding and being able to look at things from a different angle. I’m just a bit more sure of myself and my abilities than I was before”
“Shugs in 2015 when The Black Label was formed was when it really became a full time gig again. That was me just taking this one wee tiny role and making the absolute most of it. My mentality was that I had to make this work. This is my only chance to put all of this right. I had to throw myself completely into it and at that time I was happy not to be wrestling. I was more comfortable doing the mic stuff. Eventually I did wrestle when I was able but I did get injured again. But…I feel like that was success for me. Taking that role as Spacebaws GM and turning it into something special with The Black Label”
The Black Label was definitely a career defining era for all three of the men involved. All three speak about it with great fondness for a time where things were a bit mental. They were truly hated and they got to be hated as a unit.
“Black Label was a brilliant time in my career. I loved being able to go out there with my two pals. Guys I startedout with and make folk absolutely raging *laughs* GPWA has been fantastic and I’m glad we started it. But I’m a performer. That’s what I do. I perform. And over the past few years ive no been able to do that to the extent that I wanted. I’ve always wanted to wrestle but just didn’t feel able to do it to the best of my ability until recently. A lot of the guys were like ‘why are you daein this? you don’t need to do this?’ because I’m good on the mic and stuff, but this is what I want to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do”
From relative obscurity, to closing the show in front of 4,000 at the SECC as Mick Foley intercepted Rudo’s attempts to steer the main event in Drew Galloways’s direction. It was an amazing turnaround and proof that if you keep working at it, the results will come.
He also led The Black Label out for their match for control of ICW in front of over 6,000 at The Hydro and as much as he’d have loved to be able to wrestle on those shows, to be so integral to the story that you’re involved in vital moments anyway is proof of how impactful that character was. He described a calm coming over him ahead of the SECC show. Assurance that he was absolutely capable of what he needed to do and he was going to knock it out the park.
“Of course the SECC was huge. All the boys were nervous. Yet I found myself feeling relaxed. I had a big moment in the show with the promo at the start and Foley interrupting but I was so confident. I knew what I was doing and there was no way it was going to go wrong. To get that opportunity was amazing though, going from not being involved in the company to 4000 people booing you in the SECC. Its mental. I was very proud of that. Then of course a year later its another huge crowd at The Hydro and I’m involved again, leading The Black Label out“
Getting to work closely with a good friend who for a lot of years he scarcely got to see in the flesh was another huge positive during The Black Label run. They may have started at the same time but Rudo credits Drew Galloway’s influence during his ICW run as another factor that made him a better performer.
“When I started interacting with Drew more that was a big deal to me. We are friends, but I cant say we’re close because of how far apart we are. We don’t get a lot of chances to speak. It was good to share that time with him. He came back. I said bye to him in 2007 and id hardly heard from him. He’s a busy guy. All of a sudden 7 years later he’s back and involved again”
“The next year we’re told you, Jester and Drew are going to be a faction and we were all buzzing about it. It was great to get to work together. I learned a lot from Drew, working with him was such a huge thing. Always being by his side at shows, in the ring, we all bounced ideas off each other. He valued my opinion. I was able to learn from him and he was happy to give me advice at that time.
“Even though I wasn’t wrestling then it definitely helped shape me into a better wrestler. Working with Damo helped a lot as well. He was always someone who supported me and pushed me on”
ICW isn’t the only place Rudo has made an impact during this current run. It’s not even the only place he’s won an over the top rope battle royal in this calendar year. Winning Wrestlezone’s Regal Rumble event and securing a place in the main event of their biggest show of the year, a regular 1,000+ sell out called Aberdeen Anarchy.
“I’ve kept contact with them for a long time. They reached out to me and said we’d like you to wrestle Damien at Aberdeen Anarchy. I was right up for it because it was an opportunity for me to go into a company and be trusted to main event their biggest show, against their champion. Regarding The Regal Rumble, the story changed on the day. I wasn’t meant to win it but they decided to have me win and cash it in that night and have Damien chasing me leading to Aberdeen Anarchy”
Winning the title in as close as you can get to foreign land in his own country was a surreal experience for Rudo. A bad guy from Maryhill coming in and scooping up all the big prizes in one night. You could see the logic behind it but it took a bit of hype work from Rudo on social media to drum up some heat. Having the unenviable task of having to follow Pac (formerly Neville in WWE) and a cage match, they had to craft a story in a month that had the fans buzzing at the prospect of Damien taking the title back. “It went online that I had won the belt and it got a bit of buzz. The thing about going up there is that it is a different scene. The people who go to these shows dont watch ICW. Some do, but most dont. Most dont have a clue who I am. I win the Regal Rumble. I’ve got 28 days to get a bit of heat before anarchy”
“They had no idea it would get the reaction it did. When I won they could hear a pin drop. From then on I get on the mic and we build a story from well. That was good for me though. They thought that it was a better idea for Damien to be chasing going in to the big one. I think it probably did give them a wee bit of a buzz from our neck of the woods. Getting people talking about it. I’m trying to get it over and carry the flag of that company for a month”
From Red Lightning to Rudo Lightning
Rudo’s insistence on being referred to as Rudo is partly wanting that name to become synonymous with him, but its also partly to do with being seen as someone different. Red Lightning was a talent but had his moments where he maybe wasn’t the easiest to work with. Rudo is the opposite. A performer, a promoter, and someone with a mind for wrestling that few can match.
“That was one of my main things when I came back. I wanted to be an asset for any company that I work for. I want to be able to come in to a company and be able to promote their shows. Utilising my social media and being able to help them. Going in to companies, putting on a good show, and just generally being professional”
“Thats a bi-product of being not the best in 12-13. At times I was unprofessional so now I take pride in being the opposite of that. Taking my work seriously and being very professional”
The addition of Kay Lee Ray and Stevie Boy to the coaching team and Rudo admittedly not being the “wrestler” of the group has led to him assuming more of an all consuming role with the company as opposed to personally teaching a lot of classes. He has found his feet as a promoter as well. Utilising social media will to get word out there about upcoming shows and news regarding the school. A jack of all trades, and a master of …well quite a lot of them actually.
“We’re all at the point where we can still wrestle. The opportunity is there if we so wish, to wrestle on these shows. I don’t class myself as a coach anymore. I still give a lot of mentorship to the trainees but my job here really is more the day to day stuff with the asylum and shows. I dont do a lot of teaching classes anymore. I do on occasion but i admit its not where my strength lies. I’m good at advice and good at helping the guys on show day. That’s when I’m at my most useful”
Its not just GPWA students who can come to Rudo for advice. You’d be daft not to tap in to the wealth of knowledge that exists across Scottish wrestling even if you are committed to one particular school.
“I always like to help people that no matter where they come from. Recently Sammi Jayne introduced me to Ashley Vega and Angel Hayze. It was a bit me giving advice on what they’d been doing but also for me to see if they could help out on our shows. I regularly do that for our guys and its something I enjoy. I’d never shoo someone away if they want my advice”
“It would be nice to be able to sit down with everyone once a month and tell them, this is what you need to do, this is what you need to change, but the fact of the matter is, we arent a full time business. We are all very busy. But if anybody asks, they will never be ignored or turned away”
“Our main program has about 45 in it, then we have 20 starting their 8 week induction, and another beginners class that has about 20. There’s about 80 odd people coming in here a week, across different days. The main class you’ll find the people who are really serious about doing it full time. That’s where they really improve. Getting taught by the best wrestlers Scotland has to offer”
Rudo was keen to point out the upside to training with GPWA without disrespecting other schools who have produced some of the best talent on the scene today. GPWA just offers a different way of doing things. First class trainers on hand, all with their own unique set of skills paired with glowing CV’s.
“Its the value for money. You’re being taught by the best in their respective fields. Wolfgang was at Mania on a Sunday, and he was in here on Tuesday training people. Lionheart is the ICW Champion. Kay Lee and Stevie started a bit later than us and have a different perspective. Both wildly successful in their own right as well”
“Lionheart and Jester are also in the public eye right now because of Rogue To Wrestler. I’m always wary of things like Rogue to Wrestler but it turned out to be a really good show. It was a genuine representation of how the school operates. We came across really well”
GPWA caught peoples attention because the concept was something completely new. Trainees started with an 8 week long induction course and the trainers would assess after the 8 weeks if it was in everyone’s best interest to continue training. A model that has been replicated in many places elsewhere since.
“The intake classes are for people who aren’t really sure. They want to give it a bash but aren’t sure how far they want to take it. If they’re not into it, or they’re not up to the standard required, they can leave without committing to it if they want. People surprise themselves. Others see its not what they thought and stop” “The intake’s different now in terms of how we assess the new trainees but the setup is the same. We’ve got Ravie Davie, Leyton Buzzard, Kez Evans, The Purge, Sam Barbour etc. They all came through this setup. They had never wrestled before. Came right through the program and are doing great things now. That’s the thing we were missing. Success stories. People with name value who have come from our school. We have that now.
“We had a good facility, good coaching team, but there’s no assurance that these 5 great wrestlers are going to be good coaches. I feel we’ve developed a lot as coaches and as people over the last 5 years. We can now say this program works. Our training system works. Theres schools all over (ger, eng) using this system, including America. We’ve had American guys in here to take seminars and I think we’ve influenced how they conducted their business when they went back to America”
A sense of entitlement from trainees is not something tolerated amongst the coaches. The philosophy is simple. If you work hard, listen and really want to make something of this, you can. Moaning about not getting what you feel you’re due gets you nowhere and that mentality seems to have came from a group of wrestlers who made something of this scene when it didn’t really exist. “There was ups and downs with a lot of the guys and it goes back to what my strength might be. I can scan a room and get a feel for who might have a future in wrestling. If I say to one of the boys about slacking off, and things they need to watch. That’s the stuff I’m good at. Making sure people are conducting themselves properly in wrestling”
“Young wrestlers and trainee wrestlers think you make the transition from trainee to wrestler overnight. Its never as simple as that. Especially in this day and age where so many are looking to impress. There’s nothing to gain from moaning about not getting opportunities. You have to go out and earn them”
There are opportunities in house for the trainees, with the more established ones being used regularly on the Wrestling Experience Scotland shows that Rudo and the school run, but there is also regular £5 wrestling shows at The Asylum showcasing the best up and comers the school has to offer as well. If you’re good enough the work is there.
“Everybody has the chance to develop but you should always be training. If you’re at a point where you aren’t working every weekend, you have to keep at it. Back in 2008 and 2009, I’d have loved for us to have a place like this. If we had a place like this we’d have all developed at a faster pace. Occasionally established wrestlers will train here.
“We offer them the 5 pound wrestling shows but theres so many wrestlers here now its hard to even get on those shows. Its a competitive environment. Different schools offer different ways of training and some people are better suited to a more regimented program like Source, or maybe a bit more relaxed like the way PBW do it. Where its not so heavily structured”
At this point Jack Jester entered the room we were conducting the interview in and started scrannin a smoked sausage out the packet. An example of the type of dedication you’ll get from the trainers at GPWA. That man has his protein on the go so he could help train the newbies. Dedication.
“Its important to engage with new trainees and see who could struggle. They might need a bit more attention. You need to make sure that they’re comfortable with anything you’re asking them to do
When we got into the storied history of Rudo and Grado, there was a sense of pride about that particular element of his career. Being able to help get eyes on the product by being the best possible counterpart to the guy who has the attention of not just casual wrestling fans, but your everyday punter. Grado has worked with the best villains wrestling has to offer but Rudo is right up there with the best of them.
“When it comes to Grado, a lot of people take credit for his success, but Grado is the reason Grado has been a success. He developed a character and stuck to his guns and it got over with the crowd. Its hard not to admire that. I think at that point in time, leading in to that show, and probably for about a year following that, you know, he was the top face, I was the top heel, and we done a lot of business everywhere. BCW, PBW, Pavillion, Oran War…etc”
“What happened in Kelvin Brawl. Shit happened to me without me meaning it. The character aspect of what i was doing caught Rab and Greg. It wasnt supposed to be me in that match. I wasn’t meant to be in it. Because I was getting such a big reaction online, they changed it”
The Kelvin Brawl was a 1,000+ sellout at a time where that wasn’t commonplace. Being in the main event, tagging with a Scottish comedy legend in Greg Hemphill is not a feat to be sniffed at. Especially when it was Grado teaming with Rab Florence who would provide the opponents. After all, Rudo was Grado’s counterpoint at that time. The ying to his yang. The wank to his good guy.
“Who else would it be? Its back to Grado and me again. We bounced off one and other quite well and always had good chemistry I felt. We had a match in Aberdeen and I didn’t think it was that good, but it was more just the fact, at the time, it was more of a favour from my perspective. I was using it as a way of trying to ease myself back in to wrestling slowly so that wasnt us at our best but we’ve had some really good matches”
None better than that first match. Super Smokin Thunderbowl in 2012 had Rudo vs Grado as the first half main event for the ICW Title. Grado was red hot at the time, capturing the audiences imagination before they really knew what he could do in the ring with a series of hilarious youtube videos. That match was the perfect introduction and to make it work it needed a great villain. Grado overcame the odds Andy Ruiz Jr style and won the title, leading to wild celebrations. As if the big man had just skelped one in the top corner to win Scotland the World Cup as opposed to winning a wrestling title in The Garage.
It felt special. He was one of them. Rudo is most certainly not one of them and took great pleasure in ordering the match to be re-started later in the night due to a refereeing error. Rudo won the re-started match, and Grado’s moment of glory was erased from history. It was a story that gripped me as a first time fan. You felt Grado’s pain and wanted to see how he’d bounce back. You wanted him to win. To evoke that kind of feeling takes more than just a charismatic good guy. He needed a villain.
“What was special about the first one although Grado had experience, he was still kinda new. It was one of the first times Grado the character had wrestled. I remember after that going to Dallas and saying, we need to do this. We need to have this match. There is no other option. This needs to happen. It would have been mental for them not to go with it. I think that match, and i’m not taking personal credit for anything, but its hard to ignore the fact that match, set off a lot of fireworks around Britain. For various things”
Various things including the documentaries that brought ICW into sharp focus in the public eye. Most would consider Insane Fight Club to be the starting point for it all, but the documentary made by Vice around the time of that first match was the first time we got to see the people behind these characters. The documentary was initially intended to be a bit of a piss-take but they soon realised ICW was nae joke. There was a hint of regret about Rudo when discussing these documentaries, as he chatted about the possibility of him being involved in the first Insane Fight Club.
“The British Wrestler was a good documentary. It was very well made. Being able to pull the drama out that much and put it into a documentary. It was fascinating. For me that led to several other things happening. Rab and Greg came in. Gave us a bit of a rub. I personally think between The British Wrestler and Oran War/Kelvin Brawl was probably the catalyst for Insane Fight Club. Which of course led to the revival of British Wrestling”
His reasons for not wanting to be involved in the first Insane Fight Club documentary are understandable but in hindsight something that is tinged with a bit of regret. Uneasiness at how it might turn out seems silly now that the crew who were involved have been involved in pretty much all the documentaries ICW have produced and are well known amongst the roster but there’s always the future and clearly Rudo has a story worth telling.
“I felt uncomfortable with not knowing how it might turn out. I regret it not because I might have been popular because of it. I regret it because my son will never get to watch that back and see that. So I regret that for that reason” “Some of the crew that were involved with that were involved with Rogue To Wrestler as well so we have a good relationship with them now. Even when the second one happened I wasn’t around” “It was just bad timing. It was a shame for my body of work up until that point having been the big villain on the show, or being the champion, but everything big happening I missed. With the Black Label and being the GM and the owner. I was only ever in Glasgow. I never went on the roadother than the very last tour and you’re left thinking ‘why wasnt I doing this the whole time”
That seems to be the only lingering regret though. This run has felt almost cathartic for Rudo and he seems to be enjoying his work more than ever before. The 2019 Square Go briefcase is in his weaponry and he goes in to the Shug’s weekender and integral part of the team. An appearence at Grado’s Big Family Bash at The Pavillion was another highlight as he took on Adam Maxted in front of over 1,000 fans. Finding contentment on a personal level as a dedicated family man has tied in nicely with Rudo returning to doing the thing he loves. His story is proof that you can overcome anything and be whatever you want to be.
“That was success to me. To have completely flipped that. From being a week away from leaving the business, to the point we’ve come to now. I shared it on my FB recently because the post came up. It was me basically saying my time is coming to an end in the business. I really felt that was the case at the time”
“Having overcome such a huge tragedy personally and going on to achieve what we have achieved. We now have a family. My partner attained a qualification is now working in that field. I’ve come back to wrestling and done good things. Its the kind of thing that people might feel inspired by. People would think they’d have never known that. People might have things like that eating them up and they feel like they can never get over it, but they can. You can overcome personal tragedy and thrive after the fact”
Thrive is indeed what Rudo has done. He is living proof that you can go from rock bottom all the way to the top again. He went from a week away from retirement to re-inventing himself and he now stands before you the 2019 Square Go winner. If he can overcome his demons, so can you.
Thank you to Rudo for his time and honesty. Thank you to David J Wilson for helping me get photos together. Also to Brian Battensby for the Wrestlezone pics. Thank you to anyone elses photos I may have used as well. If I’ve no credited you give me a shout.
Drew McIntyre comes from an era where no one expected this to happen. He started training during an era where there was no training. He started wrestling in Scotland during a time period where there was nowhere to wrestle. There were people, and if you paid them money, you might get some time in whatever spare room they could find to stick mats down, but it wasn’t wrestling training. There were wrestling shows, but they were few and far between and even the best companies at the time in the grand scheme of things, probably weren’t very good.
It took people with unflappable dedication to getting good at this to overcome these hurdles and get good. It took people who saw no other career path. Or at the very least saw no other career path that would bring them half as much joy as being involved in professional wrestling for a living.
Even still, few of them would have truly believed they could make any sort of impact beyond the local scene until Drew showed them how. The fact that when he was released in 2014 he considered himself something of a failure is absolute insanity. Even if he never laced up his boots again, he had still secured legendary status in Scottish wrestling history as the first one who really made it. The Chosen One. I was grateful to get the chance to speak to the big man over the course of a few hours as he travelled from town to town.
Asking Drew if he’d ever pursued any other sport (being over 6 foot tall and cut from pure granite in Scotland usually means you can take your pick) a mischievous laugh poured out as he recalled on the time during his brief flirtation with football (soccer for any nice Americans reading thi_, where, by all intents and purposes he knocked a guy out. Simply by being an fridge freezer masquerading as a human man.
“By this point I’d started wrestling, I’d debuted and stuff, so the guys were already calling me ‘Drew The Wrestler’ anyway. My last game I got a yellow for a two footed tackle, should have been a red. Next attack the guy runs past me and knocks himself clean out on my shoulder. I got a second yellow for that and even though I should already have been off, I lost the plot anyway. That’s when I realised I was maybe better suited to wrestling *laughs* The manager used to tell my team mates to piss me off on purpose because I always played better but after that I left football behind”
When you think of that core group of Red Lightning, Jack Jester, Wolfgang, Kid Fite, Mark Dallas and of course Drew himself, you have the founding fathers of what Scottish wrestling went on to become. When he was signed, you could count on one hand the amount of UK born wrestlers who had truly made an impact in WWE, you’d maybe need both hands a couple of toes to count the amount who had any sort of impact at all,
Drew changed it all. He changed the way the independent scene was viewed and put eyes on it in such a different way. Because he wasn’t a star attraction flown in for one show, treated like a superstar amongst dafties. Sent on his way with a fat pay cheque after a half arsed performance. No. He was all in and it showed. He was ready to give absolutely everything.
“I went down to a seminar down in Portsmouth not long after we’d started training. I say training it was mats in the spare room of a post office. But the set up down south was a lot better and I took the few things I learned down there and taught the other guys. We all learned from each other because back then there really wasn’t anything. You had to love it”
While Drew’s aspirations have taken him back to the WWE, many of his personal career highlights when its all said and done will be from another world. A resource that shouldn’t ever been undersold. He has quite literally been all over the globe to perfect his craft in between these two spells with WWE.
As much as the first run didn’t go as planned, in relative terms he done pretty well by all accounts, and with this run the sky’s the limit. While its had its peaks and troughs, its been a career littered with success and unique experience that make him the very definition of a grizzled young veteran (apologies to Zack Gibson and James Drake) at 33 with the life and career experience of a man in his mid 60s.
A swift return to insanity
There were many pitstops in the Drew Galloway world tour during his 3 year spell away from WWE. A huge impact was made stateside with Evolve and latterly TNA. He sold out buildings from Peebles to Palm Springs without breaking a sweat, but it was his time with ICW that holds the fondest memories. Being part of the company in its formative years and having a close relationship with many who remained after he was signed meant that it was naturally the best place to get started on the road to re-invention.
“The Gold Label really started getting things going when I was away. I’m glad I got to see it that one time because the reactions they were getting for that stuff was amazing. I was in Glasgow for a few reasons and I’d been doing a bit of media that day. I was wearing the white suit jacket that Dallas takes the piss out of me for.
“Everyone slaughtered me for it and it felt like I’d never been away. It was smaller then than it turned out to be even just a year or so later, but even at that time what they were doing was amazing. I couldn’t believe they’d pulled it off. From then on I kept an eye from a distance and just watched it grow and grow. So when I was released, the first thing I done was phone Dallas and told him to get me on the next show “
If Drew Galloway has an origin story as to how he eventually went on to become the phenom he is today, it happened that night. The storied feud with Jack Jester kicked off and the intention was very cut and dried. Come and get that Title, even if it means mowing down your best pal who grafted for years to get it in the process.
Even in realising how pivotal Drew would be the the continued growth of ICW, the fact that he was always on the go and not always available for EVERY ICW show (although he made more than he missed) was exposed by a few opponents. Most notably Chris Renfrew, who had an embittered feud with Drew ahead of the 2015 Square Go.
That was the first time the crowd started to react to Drew in a negative way since his return to the scene that had been thriving even before he arrived to energise the charge to the top. There was nothing he could do after that other than becoming the bad guy they already considered him to be. Drew go away they would say. Little did they know how much of a void he’d leave behind when he did actually go away. The feud with Renfrew brought up mixed feelings but the rabid reactions both men were getting made the change in direction worthwhile, as Drew explained.
“He certainly pulled it off (getting the crowd on his side). He was standing over me and cutting the promo about how I’m never here and I’m thinking ‘I’m supposed to be the babyface and hes burying me’ *laughs* I know i’m not supposed to say anything back, but I can’t just lie here and take this. It made for compelling viewing for the fans and even if it wasn’t how we planned it out, the feud was red hot.
“As long as people were invested thats the main thing but he was pointing out some real personal things. I could have stayed face for longer if that hadnt happened but as long as people genuinely care thats all that matters. People were losing their minds for it when it did come around”
As much as it perhaps went a bit off book creatively, there is no denying at the time that feud was red hot. Renfrew was constantly vicious on the mic, rendering any attempt by Drew to gain the crowds favour futile. Instead he just had to play the game. Trade insults. Get a bit nasty with it. All part of the journey.
Being the top guy means being able to deal with any challenge. No matter how witty that challenge may be on the mic. That particular challenge was resolved with a tremendous title match at the 2015 Square Go where Renfrew fell short but had perhaps the best match of his career at that point. A trait that Drew become known for during his title run, bringing the best out of some already hugely talented guys.
“Its hard to get annoyed at it when you see how the fans are reacting. You cant get angry if people genuinely care. It maybe wasn’t the way we wanted the story to go, or the best decision business wise, but the numbers are growing and people are reacting. He became the hometown guy and I became the John Cena. he was right, I wasn’t there all the time, but it gave me material because I was genuinely exhausted from trying to be there all the time and I was like fuck you. That’s what sells tickets. Real emotion. And that was what we were bringing to the table”
His time with ICW wasn’t just a trip down memory lane for Drew or indeed for the company. They made the very most of having someone with such strong connections to the company who also had name recognition further afield. Maximising the time they had with a man who has a pedigree that no one has ever come close to in this country. Chuck into the bargain that he was incredibly motivated to re-invent himself and rebuild his name.
ICW weren’t getting the air guitar strummin son of a gun from 3MB (rumoured to be the real father of one of Heaths many kids. What happens on tour, stays in Heaths caravan) No. They were getting Drew Galloway. The guy who’s coming to kick your head clean off your shoulders. Jump on the bandwagon or get booted out the road.
Some of Drew’s personal high points in ICW and indeed his career are also some of the companies high points. Despite that, he considers himself just a passenger on ICWs voyage to the moon. A man who made people feel. The emotions were never higher than when Drew faced Grado for his ICW World Title at the show that was at the time the absolute peak for ICW.
A 4000 capacity building sold out well in advance to see the ultimate underdog try to usurp the king. It was a dynamic that not only had wrestling fans interested, but just people in general. Grado being a hero to so many, it made being the big bad villain easy work for an auld pro like Drew. Him at his very best is him against bonafide babyface who’s properly over with the crowd, and if you look that up in the dictionary, a picture of Grado is right there beside it.
“At ICW they were well on the way when I got there and I got to join in the fun with my pals. We just kept pushing each other to new levels. There was creative freedom there too in the sense that some things we would come up with that day. The SECC was an amazing atmosphere and felt like the right time for me to drop the title. Grado had the crowd and they were so ready to see me get beat it just made sense.
“ Having Foley involved in it too and really making the most of having him there. The crowds just kept growing and growing until eventually we reached the 6,000 mark (at The Hydro the following year). Its just mental watching it all grow, its amazing to watch the growth of all these mad Scottish bastards trying to make this thing work and make it work we certainly did”
That creative freedom is always a thing performers appreciate about ICW. To a certain extent its a collaborative effort. At its very best when it function like a team. Everyone knowing their role and fulfilling it selflessly. When you’re the star striker you’ve got a bit more scope to do….well, whatever you want really. At times with hilarious results.
“There was a time where I was wrestling Spud in Birmingham. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to do so I went to find Grado thinking “he’ll have something”. I ended up asking to borrow one of his singlets and I ended up doing his entrance that night *laughs* That was the kind of shit you’d come up with on the fly and there was freedom to do that, That’s what it was.
“One of us would come up with an idea, and someone else would add a few things to it, and then something else. It was a collaboration between a bunch of daft pals who happened to be part of this wrestling company and it made for one of the most exciting times in our history and certainly shaped me going in to my second WWE run”
It was also a place Drew became more comfortable with some of the more undervalued aspects of being a top guy. It’s far more than just having the best match on the show, signing a few autographs and calling it a day. Being the top guy means you are the skipper. You are the captain of the ship, and if it goes down, so do you. A point Drew proved as ICWs tour bus broke down en route to Norwich for their first ever show in the city.
A potentially disasterous cancellation was on the cards but the roster somehow made it to the venue only slightly late. In the meantime Drew, who had travelled alone from a booking in Outer Mongolia or Norway or some other mad place, stepped in a filled time at the start of the show with matches against anyone who was trained that was in the building that night. Thankfully the ring crew had also travelled separately, so Matt Daly, Stephen Hughes and not to mention Scottish wrestling mainstay Adam Shame can all say they challenged Drew Mctinyre for the ICW World Title, and well…..got their heids kicked in. But they can still say it.
“One time recently the show finished a bit earlier and Cena filled the time up when he was there. He just ad libbed and was completely comfortable doing that. He saw it as his role as the main guy to take the responsibility. Jimmy Jacobs was saying to me “How many people do we have who can genuinely do that?” and I understood what he meant, but why should that be a rare thing? If you can be a top guy one place you should be able to carry it over and adapt to the challenges that doing it with WWE brings.
“Once you’ve had that experience of being trusted to carry a company. To carry a brand. You might have to learn a few things along the way, but you have the basic tools to make this work. My first time around I just wasn’t ready for that. Places like ICW give you experience of doing that. Places who have a platform to help you establish those skills. Its exactly the same in WWE, just on a bigger stage”
A clear message to anyone out there wondering what it takes to go from one level, to something special. Something even they don’t recognise. It takes having the self belief to not only show how good he is in the ring, but backing it up consistently with scathing, passionate work on the mic, There’s an aggression deep down inside Drew Galloway that makes Drew McIntyre one frightening dude. Built like a brick shithouse with a Claymore that will remove the spleen of anyone who even thinks about trying it. If you believe in yourself, making others believe in you is easy. In Drew’s case he wants others to believe he is capable of anything when it comes to his pursuit of greatness in professional wrestling.
The ICW World Title Crusade (feat Matt Hardy)
One of the more peculiar title defences Drew faced on his magical mystery tour with the ICW Title was a pit stop in the USA. Defending the title against Matt Hardy in New York as Drew continued to cross off continents as he relentlessly pursued his goal of making the ICW Title known as a world title. “I beat Matt for the TNA title as well, but yeah. Hes been part of my career the whole time pretty much, so it was really cool to have him as a part of that journey”
“ I was adamant. Whenever I had a booking I’d try and make it work and have the ICW title defended on their shows. It was my job to convince them it was a good idea and it would benefit them, because it was. I had a following and people were keeping up to date. So they could either have me wrestle their local guy and have a good match that people will forget about, or you can have me defend the ICW title and it’ll get a bit of attention elsewhere. I managed to convince a few and thats how we worked the World Title aspect.It becomes a bigger deal than it would have been if i’m defending a World Title on their show”
It all dates back to the mission statement when Drew made his return in 2014. His vow was to get the world talking about ICW and that’s what he done. At times coming in for a bit of undue stick for pursuing other things at the same time but now he’s no longer actively part of the scene, you see just how big a presence he was. His professionalism and sheer talent raised the bar and the knock on effect is the improvement in so many people and promotions he worked with during his time away from WWE.
“Going back to my initial promo, I was adamant the world would know ICWs name. If they knew my name, they’d know ICW’s name as well. It peaked peoples intrest in both me and the company and it works for everyone. Thats what its all about. Building from the grass roots and making it work”
It was a time period that had a litany of highlights for ICW. Having an internationally recognised standard bearer who also happened to be a big handsome bastard is what gets you in the news. It gets eyes on you. As a certain manbeast found out during one of his appearances for ICW. A match in what is more than likely going to be ICWs last at their first ever venue in Maryhill. The match made the local papers as the pair brawled through the streets of Maryhill. Irish whipping each other in and out the chippy and somehow managing to share a fish supper in the process.
It was one of those nights that stays with the performers involved. You can appear on all the RAWs, wrestle all the Roman Reignsys you like at Wrestlemania, but few experiences leave as much of a lasting impression as having a wee scrap on a road outside the Community Centre in Maryhill. The fact that the scrap happened to be with a bit of a wrestling legend is just the icing on a mental cake.
“It was crazy. Dallas’ has the idea with the ECW thing, him being the last champ, me being the current ICW Champ at the time. A sort of passing the torch. All I knew about him was hes this crazy man beast. That’s what I was expecting so it took a while to adjust to him being different in right life. That kind of allure went away when I stiffed him one time and he looked at me like ‘whit ye daein mate’ *laughs* I wasnt sure what to expect with him but he was so nice. We talked backstage and all we did was talk about politics because he was running for office in Michigan.
“I knew it was getting close to match time and i realised we hadn’t talked about anything to do with the match itself. All I had was ‘you mind if we fight in the streets cause it’ll be in the paper” but that’s all we had until we’re about to go out and we went do you want to kick out of the gore? Blew my mind that he was willing to do that. I dont think he realised how big ICW was”
“He just thought it was another small company I worked for, but he didn’t realise until he stepped out there. Once he saw it in the paper he realised how big a deal it was. It was just fun. We just battered each other and we really didnt need to plan much. We both know what we’re doing and we just went out and had a fight “
While the feud that brought the title to Drew will go down in ICW history, the feuds he had while carrying the title served a different purpose. As much as Drew looked like a bonafide killer throughout his run as champion, he had this knack of getting another level of performance out of others. Perhaps him simply being him made them want to be the best version of themselves
“I returned it a lot stronger than when I first won it so thats been the crowning achievement of it all. I’m proud of everything we done during that time period and how much we elevated the title. I’m really proud of all the title defences. The crowds at those matches were unreal. No one wanted to me to win the vast majority of the time because they were so invested in the guy chasing it.
“Joe Coffey in particular. After that much I bloody had to turn, because if he had won it that night it would have been huge. I don’t think anyone in the Barrowlands wanted me to win that night. Coffey was so on fire but the plan at that time was me and Grado at the SECC so we didn’t do the title change, but it allowed me to turn heel and made everyone get behind him even more”
Another memorable defence happened the night The Black Label formed. A returning Jack Jester cost Big Damo the ICW World Title and revealed himself to be aligned with Drew and Rudo Lightning.
“I remember that match because by that point Damo hadn’t turned face. People were really turning on me at that point and getting behind Damo in the process and when Jester showed up and cost him the title. You could cut the tension with the knife. I remember saying thank fuck we’re doing this finish. The crowd did NOT want me winning that. Especially not by pinning Damo clean. So thank fuck we did that. That was one of my favourite moments as well with the parallels to my return and the formation of The Black Label had the crowd baying for blood. It was some buzz”
The Black Label era was a whirlwind of a time. Crowds were baying for their blood. They represented the auld pals act. Separately some of the most influential figures in Scottish Wrestling but together? An unstoppable three headed monster. The bad guys.
“You’re waiting for folk to jump the barricades because you can tell they’re dying to get at us. People are for real pissed. I really enjoyed seeing all the different emotions because the fans are just as big a part of the wrestlers. It should never cross a certain line but drawing that emotion is so important. I remember in London one time, someone threw something at me, and Wolfgang jumped in the crowd after him *laughs*
“ I was cutting some nasty promo. Brought out the TNA Title and started railing on everyone and someone chucked a bottle. It didn’t hit me but Wolfgang and Bram immediately jumped in after him. I’m like halfway to going out myself,but i realised if i went out there its gonnae be a riot, so i had to stay calm, and I didn’t want to give the heat away either because if it goes part a certain stage it becomes a negative as opposed to being the reaction you want”
An All-Star Education leading all the way to the Hall of Fame
His experiences with ICW helped shape him into the ready made superstar he is today, but it was some experiences in his formative years that helped him perfect the art of not taking any shit. While touring with All-Star, the locker room at that time were slightly defensive of their positions and saw this big strapping ‘Disney prince looking motherfucker’ strolling in looking to scoop up all the belts and their burds in the process. One of those who perhaps were’t all that welcoming with Drew was former ICW Champion and another of the key figures in ICWs growth. Mikey Whiplash.
“I was on the road with Whippy back in the day when I started out with All-Star. I was just there to learn and keep my head down. They tried to give me shit then eventually I put my hand through the back of the car one time and they stopped. Something like that sends a message and they laid off me a bit *laughs*. Then Jester came in after I was signed and he’s telling me stories about how they’d wind him up by calling him litte Drew. I was like “Listen, they gave big Drew crap too. They’ re just dicks!” *laughs*
“I learned more from him than anybody back then. We had great matches in all star. Doing 30-40 minute matches all the time over the course of about 6 months. We done some great stuff together and then we had the match for the title at The Garage that showed the other side to us both”
While Drew might be the most famous wrestler to ever come from Scotland, he isn’t the most infamous. That title goes to the late Drew McDonald, who sadly passed away due to cancer in 2015. He left his mark on Drew in his heyday as he became another who took it . Imagine a man who can put the fear of god into a 6 foot 5 monster. Imagine the larger than life Drew McDonald strolling up to you with a tan as bright and impressive as the sun itself. He told Drew what he was getting up to before their match. While Drew wasn’t at liberty to specify, we can only assume it was either highly illegal or had one or more orifices……involved.
“He was the wildest character I’ve ever been around. A genuinely good guy who helped me a lot, but he terrified me when I first met him. I was 17-18 and up comes this giant, tanned, Scottish man telling me the unspeakable things he was up to just before the match and basically rounded it off with “see you out there”.
“We wrestled once on All-Star when I was just starting out. Both of us wore kilts but he was the baddie and he was the good guy. He was so easy in there and we ended up having fun”
He was always a great laugh and he always had good advice. Most of our interactions he was always very giving. A lot of the time was when I was with WWE and he was always there to give advice and try to point me in the right direction. To have that from someone so respected in Scotland but also a guy with such a crazy reputation and he loved that reputation”
It was a reputation that saw him involved in Grado’s first ICW match. Teaming with him in a 6 man tag match that was Drew McDonald’s only ICW appearance. His legendary status in Scottish Wrestling will likely see him enter the ICW Hall Of Fame one day. Drew McIntyre had the honour of being the second inductee himself and returned to ICW during his period out with injury to accept the induction. Joining Mark Dallas, Jack Jester and Sha Samuels for a segment that felt more like a scene in a soap opera than a wrestling segment.
Drew acted as peacemaker and made ICWs hot couple see sense. They had to stay together for the good of the show. They laughed. They cried. They mocked Drew for his contractually inability to swear only for some mild profanity to slip out. They had fun. As much as the company prospered during Drew’s tenure, it prospered because they were in it together. Committed to making a living off this mad thing no matter what it takes and enjoying it in the process.
“That was awesome. I was so happy to have that happen. It was a big deal to me. Meant as much to me as any title to be recognised like that and be in there with someone like Carmel who done so much in ICW. We didn’t really know where we were going with it we just knew I was gonna stop them fighting and urge them to stay together for the good of the show. We sort of ad-libbed it all but it was such a laugh. I was coming back for my dads wedding anyway so it all lined up. I spoke to Hunter about it and he was happy for me and totally fine with me doing it. He wanted to do something on the website about it as well so that was cool”
“To go with his blessing and even some promotion for it. It was nice to come out and talk to the crowd. The bit where you cant swear and they’re taking the piss. I spoke about it being cool that my wife got to see what was keeping me away all those years, so she finally got to see it for themselves. All my family came along as well so it was a special night”
Endorsed by Kurt Angle. Approved by PWI. Next stop? World Champion
Not long after becoming an ICW Hall Of Famer, he faced another man who happened to be on the same ICW show as Drew that night Kurt Angle main events not lost on Drew how significant it is that Kurt Angle chose him to be one of his last opponents in TNA. Closing a legendary chapter in his career by handpicking three opponents for his final matches.
However it was in WWE where Kurt really hammered the point home. Succumbing to his own moves and by all accounts, taking an absolute kicking in the process. Perhaps the last wrestler that Kurt Angle made look like an unstoppable beast and when you consider people he’s provided that service for in the past include the likes of Brock Lesnar, you realise big Drew fae Ayr is in rare company.
“Its crazy to me that he wanted to work with me in both TNA and WWE. Roode, Lashley and me. Drew fae Scotland, the guy who used to be in 3MB. It was his idea to tap out to the ankle lock when I wrestled him on RAW. He was insisting “This is whats gonna help you, tapping me out” Who am I to argue? He was taking my mad moves, like the Finlay roll off the top. The big Alabama Slam. The big heavy chops. It took me to a different level. That meant the world because the Drew McIntyre name was mud at that time. That was Drew Galloway that done that and it helped me rebuild myself to the point that I could come back and make it happen as Drew McIntyre”
Appreciative yes. Complacent? never. Being the last guy Kurt Angle made look like a killer is something you can definitely brag about but never something to rest on your laurels about. Not in Drew’s mind anyway. Always moving to the next challenge. Taking experiences he’s had to date and making himself a better performer going forward. The wisdom that comes with being a 33 year old with 16-17 years experience already.
“Old Drew had it in perspective. I was thankful, grateful, but the next week we start over. Its a cool thing to have, but its something I’ll use to propel me forward rather than getting an ego about it. Alright thats cool, but thats done now, treat it like you’re brand new and still have everything to prove”
It was a sure sign to Drew that he was going in the right direction. A similar feeling to when he was named in the top 10 of PWI 500 after being released. These feelings of satisfaction are fleeting when your eyes are on the top but a wee nod to let you know that you’re headed down the right road never hurts, and Drew admitted appearing so highly in the list was a real buzz after growing up reading any piece of wrestling media he could get his hands on.
“I made it in to the top 10 of the PWI 500 which was nuts for me. That might not mean a lot to some people or not as much as it used to anyway, but when you’ve only been involved in it in the 300s and 400s, to make such a leap and be one of only three non WWE guys in there was a huge vote of confidence for me and was tangible proof of the impact I’d managed to make. I was joint 10 with John Cena, and the only non WWE people that were above me was I think Jay Leathal and Okada. Both guys who were prominent with big promotions. So that meant the world to me, to be spoken about in such esteemed company”
Andrew Galloway Snr was also mightily impressed by the feat. Taking pride at the name he passed down to his boy being named as one of top 10 wrestlers in the world. He has been there throughout the journey and is clearly someone Drew admires a great deal. The memory of his late mother
“That means the world to my dad as well. Hearing the family name in the public eye like that. I always say to him, I’m still Drew Galloway when I’m not using that name *laughs* but he loves that I made that impact with the Galloway nameand so do I. I’m very proud of everything I achieved of what I done as Drew Galloway. Its made me a better Drew McIntyre as well, although like I always tell my Da, we are actually the same guy“
The unrelenting pursuit of a World Championship and being The Hitman of the NXUK Brand
The path for Drew at the moment is get to a world title. Get even the slightest sniff of an opportunity and take it. Money In The Bank presents an opportunity like that and even though the odds are never for you Drew is bigger than most, more agile than most, and almost certainly at least decent at climbing a ladder. With the motivation of having an anytime World Title shot on the line? Big man is coming for that briefcase and when he had that it really doesn’t matter who has the title. Then at least theoretically, his intention is to win them all. Including the WWE UK Championship, which is now defended on WWE’s newest weekly show. NXT UK.
“I told Triple H I was jealous (of Finn Balor appearing at NXT UK Takeover) The reaction was amazing and he loved it, then him and Jordan had an awesome match as well. I enjoyed it as a fan but I was certainly envious because its something I’d love to be involved in. Its great to see so many of the lads and lassies getting that exposure and showing the world how good UK wrestling is. How good Scottish wrestling is! “
“The crowd really make that unique and you want to tune in for the wrestling but also to get a feel for how they’re reacting to it. I would love to be involved in some way. Even if it was just a promo or something. I’d love to do the Bret Hart gimmick where I’m a bad guy in America and a good guy when I’m in the UK. There’s really not a lot of places that would make sense now but it could be great in that setting”
“I’ll stroll in giving it “Its awrite lads, i’ll win that world title for us” *laughs* Its definitely crossed my mind to do that whole angle and to be on that show as the guy who’s seen it all and was a part of the growth of it in the years I was away from WWE. Pushing the aspect that I want to be part of NXTUK and a part of the main roster and I’m doing it for NXTUK. It has literally crossed my mind as I’ve been watching it because the crowds are so different. Very similar to how different Bret was received in Canada.
“I think it could definitely be interesting but I love what they’re doing with it now and so happy for some of the guys getting that exposure. Guys from ICW and all over the UK scene getting to show everyone just how good they are“
“If I’m seen as a ruthless villain in America and then I present myself different on NXTUK and drive home that aspect that I’m representing their interests on the main roster. I made a point of working with Pete Dunne when we were both in the Rumble and I think we planted a bit of a seed. Once he got in there i wanted to let him do his thing. I wouldn’t let many guys pull me down and stomp on my arm but I wanted people to see how good he is”
“For a big guy, there is scope to get a bit of shit if you take too much punishment but I wanted to give guys like Pete and Aleister (Black) a bit more because I believe in them and want them to do well. We’ve had a couple of tag matches and we definitely have a bit of chemistry there. We had a few sequences that were great so there’s definitely something there and he’s a talent I would really love to work with in the future”
Walter is another who piques Drews interest and its plan to see why. Another mountain of a man who is actually capable of going strike for strike with Drew, an attribute few can claim to have. With Walter being the man to finally usurp Pete Dunne’s historic WWE UK Championship reign, it seems a natural foe for Drew and perhaps an opportunity to maximise Drews popularity in the UK.
“I was really intrigued by Pete Dunne and Walter. He always catches my attention. Any big man that hits hard always catches my attention”
Indeed, it surprised Drew that the two never crossed paths during his time on the independent scene, but Walter was mostly based in Germany and not looking further afield. Times have changed and he seems to be on a one man rampage to scoop up every belt possible, but one man who was very much around for Drews peak period on the independents was Killain Dain, formerly known as Big Damo and a regular opponent of Drews in ICW and several other promotions in Scotland.
A match up Drew insisted had to happen when he saw the gargantuan hairy Irishman who he had actually met several times before but didn’t recognise him at all. He wasn’t to be blamed for that, Damian O’Connor changed pretty much every aspect of himself in a wrestling sense. A thing that takes guts and that wasn’t lost on Drew when he first set eyes on him after his release.
“I’m surprised it never happened when I was on the indies because we are very similar. I remember when I was doing the 16 carat tournament and wondering why the hell we weren’t working together. He’s like the Austrian Big Daddy except he’s in shape! I was annoyed because I had noidea why I hadn’t worked with him. Damo was the same. At first I saw his look and just knew we would work well together. He has the size but its so unique“
“Soon as I saw him work I wanted to do something with him and it was the exact same with Walter. Like it would fit perfect on the family shows like BCW or something him being the big badass foreigner and me being the hometown hero. The Impression was that hes been around for a long time and he didnt really want to leave Germany but the past few years he’s travelled around and everyone’s like ‘Why’s he not been doing this the whole time?’
Damo was a similar puzzle to Drew although that one was hilarious in the sense that Damo wasn’t an entirely new person to Drew when he first clapped eyes on him.
“When you see what Damo used to look like and compare it to now it looks like that Damo ate another Damo laughs. Its like he found his long lost twin and just absorbed him. I was reminded we’d been around each other for a long time and he came over to America for Mania one year and we hung around a bit but I didn’t recognise him when he came back. He had changed so much I just thought he was the hot new talent on the scene and wanted to know what he was all about.”
“I told everyone that was the guy I wanted to work with. All the promoters. I needed to be on with When I first saw him when I came back I was like ‘Who the fuck is that big guy?’ and someone said ‘Thats Damian, Drew. You know him! And I was like “oh” laughs I think we were friends on FB as well and I still wasn’t sure. The matches we had were incredible because he’s just so unique. A man of that size that can move like he does”
The ballad of the dashing ones and a three man band
Working with the likes of Walter and Killain Dain is what Drew always wanted to be doing, but life sometimes takes you down another path. Wrestling in particular seems to have a way of pushing people down creative dead ends and being able to turn that into something positive is a desirable trait. While 3MB were mainly used as comic relief during their near two year run, it was never something Drew half arsed.
Nor did Heath Slater or Jinder Mahal. Jinder can now call himself a former WWE Champion. Heath had a tag title reign and a bunch of kids. Drew has the lessons learned from all these weird and wonderful experiences he’s had on his wrestling odyssey. Lessons he hopes will one day push him towards his final form. Being able to call himself the World Champion.
“Whenever I was on TV, all of us gave it everything. You have to do that no matter what role you’re in. If you dont do that, you and the fans will be miserable. At least if you’re out there giving it everything and having a laugh the fans are going to join in with it. If you go out there half arsing it, no ones in to it, people in the back are pissed off”
“It wasn’t the dream. I know that. It wasn’t what I was there to do initially. I came over with main event aspirations but I don’t think I was fully ready for it back then. 3MB as much as it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing was still something we gave a lot to and I think that’s a mentality I’ve carried throughout my career”
Giving it all he had was really all Drew could do when put in a situation that seems destined to fail no matter what you put in to it. It at the very least felt like failure and a dead end creatively if Drew ever wanted to be taken seriously in the future.
“We became good friends and managed to laugh about it whenever we were frustrated. There was a comradery between us. Jinders been World Champ and Heaths got kids (and tag titles) Jericho told me recently he literally forgot I was in it or that it was even a thing and thats a big compliment. 3 years of that and its no longer what any of us are known for the most. It makes me feel old though because there’s a whole generation who grew up with me doing that”
“Sometimes I get people coming up to me and going ‘ I used to watch you as a kid when you were in 3MB’ and I’m like “you are a kid” 18-19-20 they grew up with that. Makes me feel old hahahaha. Because I was on TV when I was young. I realise that every day when I wake up. Everyone calls me sir and shit, so they assume I’m at least 40, and then they hear my age and they go in to shock *laughs* “
The photo below may come as a shock to those with short memories but Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes can boast of a Tag Title run as a team. The team was a bit thrown together and it wasn’t the path either of them saw themselves going down. Both men had big singles aspirations and expectations from the word go. That was perhaps the main reason for it not becoming the unquestionably excellent tag team it could have been.
“We speak sometimes and we have a laugh about the past but we don’t speak too much. We’re part of the same era essentially and we both used to be in Vince’s promo classes, and then randomly we were tag team champions and we never really appreciated it because we wanted to be singles guys. We’d lost the titles when we came up with The Dashing Ones and really started to get in to it. When you reflect back we definitely could have made more of it but I think it was a part of our respective journeys that had to happen”
Drew’s success away from WWE almost served as a blueprint for someone like Cody. There is wrestling beyond WWE. There is something else. The direction WWE have taken NXT in proves that. It exists no longer as developmental but almost as a proving ground for the main roster. A brilliant show in its own right and one that provides a slicker transition for performers coming from the independent scene.
“I was one of the first guys who got released and decided ‘I’m going to go away and reinvent myself’ so I guess a few people have seen that its possible and decided to go down that route themselves. When things were going well my brother said to “You’ve become a verb” which was pretty cool. I think me and Cody always had the raw tools there but we’ve gone and learned how to make ourselves top guys in our own right “
Two guys who have always had all the tools to be at the very top end of wrestling. Two guys who perhaps seemed to always know they would one day be competing with each other. The tag team might have been a bit thrown together and neither consider it a career highlight, but when you look at it now, it was maybe a bit of an audition. Seeing how they could adapt to being thrown in at the deep end a bit.
If they had the opportunity back, particularly now as WWE give a lot more focus to tag team wrestling, you’d be talking about one of the best tag teams to come out of that era. While Cody and The Young Bucks hadn’t announced the formation of All Elite Wrestling before Drew re-signed, it has always felt like Drew felt he had unfinished business in WWE and that’s where he’d end up when his contract with TNA ran out.
“When I left TNA I had an open mind but when WWE came calling, for my wife and I there was only one decision.When it comes to these things I always discuss it with her because she always thinks of it from a more pragmatic point of view. Between us we come to the best decision”
“I knew I wanted to go through NXT first, because that was the audience I was well known with at the time. Their audience is more the type of audience that would have followed me in my time away from WWE. It would obviously be intriguing if I was on the open market, but WWE was always the best decision for me and would have been even if AEW came calling“
His time on the indies had an almost poetic end. Chapters in Evolve and ICW had ended with many career defining moments. But the last match was almost poetic. Everyone knew both men involved were headed for bigger things than that but it was a nice way to round it off for Drew before he moved on to the next chapter.
“The last match I had on the indies was me and Cody, with Wade Barrett on commentary. That was a great moment for us all, Cody and I get on well and Wade’s a good mate, so to have the crowd really in to that and to have people I’m friends with involved in that match. We got so used to competing with each other, even though we were friendly. Its like as much as I like the guy and he liked me, we’re both competing for the same spots a lot of the time which means there’s a competitive element there always. So it was nice for him to say some encouraging things to me on the mic after the match. We’ve both gone on to do some big things “
It was a friendship/rivalry built on a similar mentality. A competitive spirit that has driven both of them to be the very best they can be despite the pitfalls and setbacks. They were born for this, even if one was literally born into wrestling and the other is as he puts it “Just a big guy fae Ayr”. They are naturals and two fine individuals to be leading wrestling into the future.
“We always pushed each other simply by trying to outdo one and other and that’s how it should be. You can’t just be happy to have made it to the party. You have to make something of it when you get there and improve constantly. Never get complacent and think there’s nothing else you can learn. That’s something I’ve referenced in the past. If you wan’t to just be happy to be there, go wrestle in your local town and get your enjoyment there but this is WWE. You’re on RAW. You are obligated to try a bit harder”
One person who he does have a lot of admiration for is someone who came from a similar place he did and is currently one of the biggest names in wrestling. Becky Lynch consistently uses her Twitter to further angles and show people her personality and for Drew that is essential if you’re going to use social media as a tool to further your career instead of something that could put people off you as a person.
When it comes to using real life frustrations to drive character work, few compare to Drew. His words aren’t always popular amongst some of his peers, but if he’s talking about people preferring to whinge instead of committing to getting better and you get offended? Chances are he’s talking about you. He used that venom to power the feud with Roman Reigns heading in to their Wrestlemania match.
Whilst Roman is a man Drew holds a lot of real life respect and admiration for, it was an easy villain for him to be. He tapped in to the emotion that always comes with Roman Reigns and his matches but with the added aspect of Roman having returned from a second bout of cancer. Drew was painted as the killer of the biggest comeback in wrestling.
“I suggested doing the stuff (on the mic) about the way things are in the locker room now. Its not unusual to see people complaining. Everyone knows that too. There’s people constantly moaning on social media, and gasping for fans to say nice things about them so they can RT them as some sort of proof that they’re getting a raw deal. I blamed Roman Reigns for it, because hes the leader. Basically saying “This is your yard, but its easy to be the big dog when you’re leading a pack of strays”
“I always want to be doing something interesting on the mic because it makes people think “Drews shootin on the locker room!” It is somewhat true in the sense that I really don’t have any time for the constant moaning. I don’t have time for people who are constantly complaining about their position instead of doing something about it. Getting better. Because if you aren’t getting the opportunities, fucking do something about it! Whinging on social media will get you nowhere “
When you’ve lived a lifetime in wrestling, having the ability to take a step back and realise it might not be as bad as it feels at the time comes more naturally. 3MB probably felt pretty rubbish when it was happening but now Drew has two pals for life and a chunk of hilarious memories that all form part of his story. The Chosen One is part of his story and very well might be again. The time conquering the world on his wrestling odyssey was all part of the story. The time as NXT Champion was all part of the story. A story that does not carry a definitive conclusion just yet, but the next chapter is simple. Take one of those world titles and carry it with pride. All over the world. As our biggest most successful export. The pride of Scottish Wrestling. Drew McIntyre.
Huge thank you to Drew for his time.
All photo credits go to David J Wilson and WWE. Some tremendous shots from David as usual.
I know this isnae a wrestling thing but I dont have anywhere else to put it m8
Davey Mcgarvie was your average guy in his mid 20s. Average for a guy from Possil anyway. He was missing at least three teeth, sporting a fringe that started at the back of his neck and had a seemingly endless line of spotless pairs of trainers; sporting a different pair every day as he went about his business. One morning he decided it was time for a pair of absolute nailers to make their debut. The new Air Max 3000s where a button a the side summons a tiny windae cleaner to give the gutties a right good once over at the end of each day. No chance for the dirt and grime of the day to get bedded in to these bad boys. Who would Davey be to question the fact that a borrower sized windae cleaner seems to live inside these shoes? It seemed unfair. He looked and acted like every other windae cleaner Davey had ever met but more….enslaved…more…..burdened? more…..trapped inside a wee guys gutties….for all eternity.
After a hard day of slackening jaws and pumping maws, Davey was ready to return to his home, or “the gaff of gless cheques n snapped necks” as he affectionately called it. He’d never actually dished out a doing in the house but he felt his reputation at this stage went before him. Picking a bit of month auld oose out his belly button, Davey boiled the kettle and kicked off the gutties that had been turning the heads and buggies of single maws the whole day. Stopping screaming at their weans for just long enough to work up a full on lady stauner. Erect fannies for miles. It has all in all been a good day, even though wee Kelvin Maguire had once again evaded Daveys attempts to get that tenner he owed him from a card game several months earlier. A tenner was fuck all to Davey Mcgarvie like, but its the principle of the matter eh. Don’t play the game if you can’t see the wood for the trees wee man. Don’t play a game of high stakes snap with the only cunt in Possil who disnae mainline high-grade skunk into their lungstream on a daily basis because you can bet Davey Mcgrarvie has the best reflexes in the land. Kelvin could rest easy tonight however, because Davey was gubbed. He made an unprecedented decision and opted to fire on the exact same gutties the next day. Leaving them under the wee table in the hall where Davey kept his phone, wallet, keys, and an 8 pack of Johnnys that went out of date in 2016 that he kept in the house “cause they dont go oota date, and ye never know dae ye?” . Davey sung himself to sleep as he always done by reciting Blu Cantrells bits of her hit song “Breathe” stopping during Sean Pauls bits to ask his wee dug Freckle “whit the fucks this cunt sayin? lit ever?” eventually he nodded off, excited for the Wednesday he had ahead of him.
“Whit the FUCK!” Davey had only been awake 3 and a half minutes. Barely had a chance to waistband the morning wood before he made the discovery. Not only were the gutties that had single maw fannies a flutterin gone, they had been replaced by………a pair of tiny wee dolly shoes? Fair fucks…steal them if ye so wish. They are beautiful and its a crime Davey could at least fathom, but was this a game to this person? Gutties aren’t a game pal. Gutties aren’t to be played with. Gutties are life. As much as this shock had rocked Davey on to his heels, he had an appointment with one of they wee pools of fulla wish that eat yer deid skin, and was he fuck missing it because the perfect gutties weren’t available. He’d have to opt for the next best thing. The Sketchers with literal engines on them. The fastest way he could get from A to B on foot, but the most dangerous way by far. He closed the door on his 43rd floor flat and made his way down the stair, dropping 3 jean sizes in the process, before letting a few buckets of that sweet Possil air fill his nostrils. Lets get in about it.
, Stevie The Enchanted Windae Cleaner Stevie thought the wee cunt would never leave. Part of a clan of windae cleaners who accepted eternal life in exchange for being shrunk to a 50th of their normal size and existing purely as a tool to keep trainers clean, he was wary of the path he’d chosen but figured “why no?” He had no family, no reason to be reticent to give up on the life he was living, so why no live forever? He assumed once his assigned pair of gutties he would be out at least once a day for a clean and once the gutties were discarded for good? The rest of his life would be his to do whatever he pleases with. Living inside a shoe wasn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if the shoe goes unworn for a while. The hard part was sinking in to the sole while the shoes was actually on a foot, but the rest of the time? They gutties were like 5 star hotels. Stevie had even fashioned a makeshift toilet with a functional plumbing system since it had been 2 months since his assigned gutties left Footlocker. A lot of time to think when yer tiny and it takes ye a full day of walking just to get from shoe to kitchen. More months passed. Years of what felt like every other shoe in this gutty museum getting a wear, except Stevies shoes. Bitterness set in. In a cupboard for 2 full years doing fuck all but working out how to fashion a fully functional tiny bathroom out of shards of glass from broken Irn Bru bottle.
. Bitterness does terrible things to men, even wee tiny windae cleaner men with eternal life. Eternal life means the odds are you’ll do absolutely everything at least once, so Stevie had no qualms with fucking with this wee guy, and when you’ve got nothing but time, its easy to plot. Freckle was the key. When this fudnugget goes out to do whatever the fuck he does with his days, Stevie worked out a way to get Davey’s wee dug to come in to the cupboard. Making sure the dug wasn’t tempted to much him in one gulp by taping chips round his tiny body. Knowing Freckle could not stomach the starchy treats. After a few days of getting nowhere, Stevie hatched a plan. For the first time ever, Davey having a niece was a positive. She was about as much of a wee cow an 8 year old could possibly be and regularly scudded Stevie’s assigned gutties off the wall in Davey’s bedroom because she knew a wee guy lived in there and wanted to, and I quote, “let him know how it feels to be on a rollercoaster”. Hen I was full sized before and I happen to be a rollercoaster enthusiast so how the FUCK you showing me anything bar the quickest way for a nano person to get nausea. She was a cow, but she had left one of her wee shoes on her last visit and that was the key. Freckle was introduced to the shoe, and months of training led to him being able to fetch shoes just like it. With the promise of a wee bit of square sausage ripped from the whole square sausage that was for no apparent reason chucked in there several months earlier. Apparently dugs aren’t really fussed if their sausage has started to go a wee bit green just as long as its…well…sausage.
Twelve days. Twelve fuckin days Davey had woke up to the trainers he’s laid out for the following day’s shenanigans has been replaced by a toaty wee pair of dolly shoes. His relationship with the owner of his spare key ruined in the process so convinced Davey was that they had to be the perpetrator. You can build up an understanding with the person who owns your spare key. A relationship. A love even. But this level of commitment to a practical joke was always going to be a deal breaker, even if that person if yer maw. Even after he’d took her spare key privileges away it was still happening. Even that night he tanned 6 cans of the big fuckin 500ml basins of Red Bull they punt and tried to stay up all night to see what the fuck was going on, that one millisecond he looked in a direction that wasn’t where his shoes were at, the deed had been done. Hidden cameras somehow just went dead for the 15-20 seconds it took to make the switch. Freckle was trained up from the brain up and it was all going to plan. The eventual plan was that Davey….a prideful man at the best of times, would keep this turmoil to himself. Try and suss out why this was happening and work it out on his own. That pride would lead to one of two outcomes becoming reality. One….Davey would eventually patch this nonsense, stop leaving the gutties at the front door so the perpetrator would have no possible idea as to what his preferred shoe of the day would be. Or option two…keep doing the same shit until he ran out of shoes. Today was that day. Turns out the vast and impressive guttie collection he considered himself to be the owner of had the sub total of 12 pairs of gutties in it its repertoire and well…..yer man Davey Mcgarvie had a decision to make. Miss out on the days hustle, with earnings lost anything between 20 quid and 4 grand…..or…..he could go about his daily business in a pair of children’s size 3 dolly shoes. Only one decision to be made in that situation when you’re living the life of a true hustler. Stick on the dollies and hit the streets tippy toe style
. Stevie was dumbfounded. The long con hadn’t worked at all. He wanted Davey to see that he needed to appreciate his belongings more. Especially when toaty windae cleaners lived in them. But he hadn’t learned his lesson at all and had in fact used the whole thing as a character building exercise. Using the embarrassment going out for the day in dolly shoes caused him to reflect on how he’d made others feel in the past. Stunned, Stevie popped open the sole of the shoe that now sat atop a pile of 12 and slowly slide himself out, doing a tiny wee rollie poly down show mountain before strolling out Daveys open bathroom window after a mere 9 days of walking (why does naecunt ever account for how long it would take tiny people to get about in films n that? like if yer 1000th of the size of a normal person its gonnae take ye heavy ages to get anywhere) lowering himself down pavement level, before a stray cat landed on him while it was trying to pull a half eaten tin of tuna out the bins round the back, flattening him completely. Eternal life means you never die, but it doesn’t mean you are instantly unflattened if a flattening has happened so that was him forever. 3 inches tall and flatter than the audience at a post 2017 Louis CK gig. Davey Dolly Shoes became the leader of a new breed of Glasgow gangster that promotes equality and dainty wee shoes for everyone, and Stevie? well Stevie’s proof that even if you sell your soul for eternal life, being a bitter wee schemin cunt will always get ye flattened in the end.
Some people will tell you the best stories are true stories. A true story gives you the chance to empathise with the characters, a feeling that if it can happen in their lives, it can happen in yours just as easily. Some will tell you the more outlandish the story the better and that fiction is the best form of storytelling. Escapism. Where we can create other universes, superheroes, aliens, even the lord god himself can exist in the land of fiction. For me, a combination of the two is perfection and that’s why wrestling exists. For people who like their reality to not be all that real…but they want it to be at least a wee bit real at the same time. They want it to feel authentic. They want the two people staring each other down in the middle of that ring to look like they want to murder each other. They want it to be Jackie Polo vs Lionheart.
The first time around I have absolutely no doubt they legitimately hated one and other on a personal level. Hate is a strong word but it’s not used without basis here. There was no mutual respect. No secret friendship. Nothing resembling a relationship of any kind except perhaps co-workers. When Lionheart broke his neck a rivalry based on mutual dislike became a rivalry based on white-hot hatred. Real heat. “Another retirement looms” might seem like three simple, almost innocuous words but the timing of it lit the feud on fire. Pals of Lionheart absolutely fuming with what was deemed to be Jackie Polo making light of something life altering and potentially career ending. Did Polo flinch for a second? Did he fuck. The reason for that is simple. Jackie Polo is the best character in the UK today. When it comes to being absolutely 100% committed to whatever he’s doing in wrestling, there is simply no one better. He knew what he was doing when he tweeted that and didn’t regret it for a second. Why would he? You were supposed to hate him and if you think what he tweeted crossed a line? Good. Use that hate and boo that ears clean off him the next time you see him live. When he’s a villain there’s few who come close to doing it the way he does.
He will ignore you when you ask for a photo outside the venue. He will chuck your autograph book in a puddle and watch as your treasured memories become soggy scribbles. As part of Polo Promotions when they were baddies they were bad, they used dirty tricks, anything it might take to get the job done and when the crowd started to go with them? He chucked himself right in to that as well. If you ever wanted a photo or even an interview (hint, hint) with him, that was your chance. His character was a fan favourite so you got that with all the bells and whistles. The teletubbies dancing, high fiving, ice cream tanning, scooptastic, all singing, all dancing Jackie Polo and when that was over and CAPTAIN JAAAAACK came back, he had to find a way to make them hate him again. Too many were still cheering. Still loyal to the scoop. He had to become something else.
While all that was happening, Lionheart was picking himself off the floor. Stunned by his comeback from a career threatening injury being met with, to tell the absolute truth, indifference. The crowd weren’t with him. As much as I’m sure everyone was happy to see him back doing what he loves doing, it wasn’t enough to get them to throw their backing behind him, and it crushed him. Not Lionheart the wrestler, Adrian McCallum the human being was dumbfounded by it. How could this be? How could they possibly prefer the guy who had based a lot of his career around winding folk up as much as possible? What did he have to do to get them to love him? Break a few limbs as well? Lose an eye? A baw? What would it take. Truth be told nothing he could have overcome to make it to that match would have been enough. Once the audience have made their minds up, there’s little you can do to change that and even if it wasn’t a landslide, Polo had them that night. They wanted him to win and when he did, they revelled in it much like Jackie did himself. It was time for Lionheart to become something else. In wrestling if you can’t adapt, you can’t have a career at this. It’s as simple as that. Things change, opinions change, and when they do? You have to change. They didn’t want to cheer? Ok then. Make them boo as much as possible instead. Make them belligerently thrust the middle fingers in your face like Austin in the late 90s. Make them hate ye. Make them care.
While Lionheart was becoming the “fanny” who ruled the Zero-G Division, Polo was happily dominating the tag division alongside his best pal Mark Coffey. After that first match, there was two chances of Jackie Polo and Lionheart ever meeting again. Nane and fuck all. It just wasn’t on the cards. They were happy to do their own thing entirely separate from one and other until things changed again. Suddenly over the course of his feud with Joe Hendry, the crowd started to back Lionheart. Who knows what made it turn, maybe it was a simple as the performances he was putting on in the ring, maybe he was just giving off that energy that wrestling fans cling to. That energy that makes you believe this and this alone is what that wrestler lives for. This company, this title, these fans. He suddenly became the guy who he wanted to be that night at the Barrowlands a few years earlier when he hit rock bottom at the sharp end of Jackie Polo’s boot. You’d think a neck break would be the lowest of the low when it comes to reflecting on your career to date, but to me anyway, that night was even worse for Lionheart. They rejected him and it hurt. He was defeated and it hurt. Then it was suddenly on the cards again. Almost from nowhere. Standing face to face in the middle of the ring during the 2018 Square Go you felt it. This wasn’t just a wee throwback scrap. No nostalgia at play here. This was it. It was on once more. It was only a matter of time until they would meet again.
Polo tried his absolute best to become the bastard he once was and continually resisted the match. Even breaking out a wee fake retirement to kick it all off. They still weren’t having it. Polo Promotions for life. There’s a charisma about the guy that once you really see it, its hard to unsee it and suspend your disbelief to dislike him. Its something I’ve never personally found possible. Even through the never-ending This Is Your Life segment, and the pacing slowly up and down the ring in Edinburgh just to see how long folk would keep reacting to it, and even the Hillsborough reference when ICW debuted in Liverpool, you can’t take your eyes off it when he’s on his game. Once you start appreciating his work you can’t suddenly unappreciate it. A true villain and a master at getting a crowd to care about what he’s involved.. Even if the thing they care about is his untimely death. The sequel came around. Barramania 4. A full 3 years since they first sold out that venue with just their match announced. It was happening again, Polo finally signed on the dotted line and we were finally getting the sequel. This time the crowd were split down the middle I’d say. Lionheart no longer considered the perennial fanny by most, even some Polo fans must have at least had a grudging respect for how he turned it all around and with that we just had a rip roaring screamer of a match. The match of the year so far in ICW but what made it so good was that sense of desperation in Lionheart. He NEEDED that win, whereas Jackie Polo was sure he was getting it no matter what.
On that night self-assurance trumped desperation. Jackie Polo won once again and a crestfallen Lionheart was left considering if he’d made the right decision to get back in the ring with a man who just seems to always get the better of him. His bogey team. A guy who had taken up residence in Lionhearts conscience and was showing nae signs of giving up that lease anytime soon. Lionheart chucked it after that. He was done. Another retirement was less of a looming possibility and more of a certainty until one almighty slap from Sha Samuels woke him up. This wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.
When Jackie Polo emerged at The Barrowlands as “Just Justice” Jackie Polo it must have been disorienting. Even a wee bit funny. What was he uptae? What was his game with this patter? His game was simple. Get them to hate ye again. The perfect opportunity popped up at Shoogs Hoose Party a few months later when DCT stunned the world and became the ICW World Champion. An unthinkable rise from being the guy taken under Polo’s wing a few years earlier to join Polo Promotions, to being the first one from that stable to earn the right to call themselves champ. But first on that very same weekender came act three. A generous offer from ICW promoter Mark Dallas had ol Just Justice signing on the dotted line for Lionheart vs Polo 3 and when Lionheart was finally convinced to give overcoming his greatest foe one more shot, the seed was truly planted for what’s to come this Sunday. This time it wasn’t desperation fuelling Lionheart, it was a sense of injustice. A sense that he’d let Jackie Polo win the mind games for too long and on this night he would not be beaten. Even if Jackie pulled a shotgun out his trunks and blew Lionhearts head clean off, he was still getting his hand raised at the end of that match.
It was another blistering encounter and confirmation that despite their deep-seated disdain for each other that they had chemistry in the ring. Neither of them probably wanted to admit that to themselves or each other when they first locked horns, but things change. They probably didn’t hate each other on a personal level quite as much as they did back then (although I sincerely doubt you’ll see them out for a beer together anytime soon) and it was another match that was captivating from the very start. Could Polo do the unthinkable and hand Lionheart a defeat that would be impossible to come back from? The very possibility of it had everyone transfixed. Every near fall. Every time Polo hit a big time move and Lionheart somehow got the shoulder up there was gasps. A growing feeling that this was finally HIS night. Low and behold it was. Even the very move that broke his neck wasn’t enough to put him away that night. When that final frog splash landed and the referee counted the three it was a release. It was redemption. Finally he’d proved that he was at the very least capable of beating Jackie Polo. Something he and many others have doubted at various points in this saga. Did he have it in him to block out that wee voice telling him he cant do it. Did he have in him to block out his opponent telling him he can’t do it? The answer was yes.
With newfound belief, Lionheart immediately stated that he was coming from the Grand Slam at The Hydro. The ICW Title being the only major title in Scotland he has never held (besides the one in the promotion he promotes himself) and a title he has come within bawhairs of holding on many an occasion, he wasn’t up for settling for a spot in a multi man stramash or a feud against a younger talent where he made them look dynamite as he done often in his Zero-G Title run, he wanted the glory. He wanted that shiny belt and DCT would be the man who he’d have to overcome to finally reach his destiny. Until it all changed….again.
No one was really sure what kind of character Just Justice was at that point. There was humour to his character, and no shortage of patter in that impeccable Southern accent. There was no longer any doubt as to which side of the hero/villain divide he leaned towards that night at The Garage, when DCT’s title defence against Bram descended into chaos, ol Just Justice made his way from his position on commentary that night to seemingly jump to his pal and former stablemate’s aid. Or did he? Instead he tore his pals world apart. Took his trusted mentor and manager Coach Trip and summoned him to stand by his side as he picked his old mucker apart. Leaving us in no doubt as to who would be answering DCT’s open Title challenge at the next show. Jackie Polo smelled blood and not only that, he smelled gold.
In his mind that title was going home with him and its that unwavering self belief that makes you either love or hate Jackie Polo. When he squeezed the life out of DCT with a side headlock to the point that he just couldn’t go on, he had won the companies biggest prize with something so simple it was perfect. Even Jackie Polo diehards didn’t know how to react as he unleashed a merciless beating on DCT after the match before almost dismissing the title and leaving through the crowd. No fanfare. No parties. No hugging his most loyal fans and blowing a kiss to the Mrs. None of that. Outlaws don’t play that shit. Outlaws take what they want and move on to the next one. In the company where the majority of the fans would at one time face the opposite direction whenever he appeared, he was now the man, and he’d cut down one of his most trusted allies to do it. If he’s willing to do that to his pal to take the title, think what he might be willing to do to someone he fucking hates to keep a hold of it, especially when the match takes centre stage at a beautiful big building like The Hydro.
Lionheart’s career is on the line and he finally has the opportunity he’s always wanted against a man he’s always wanted to gain the upper hand over. All the pieces seemed to be falling in to place nicely for him to be crowned the main man, but wrestling is never that simple. “Just Justice” Jackie Polo may have taken a loss to Lionheart at Shoogs Hoose Party but Lionheart had never beaten Jackie Polo. He’s never beaten the man who’d get drunk every night and talk about virility with some old grandmamma decked out like a christmas tree. He’d beaten JJJP, but he’d never beaten “JAAAAAAAAAACKIE POOOOOOOLO!” the most vicious, ruthless, unapologetic bastard on the roster and a guy who could not give a fuck about your reputation or what this means to you, only what it means to HIM and all this means to him is hanging on to that gold and finally putting the Lion down for good. On paper Lionhearts motivation may be seen as greater the Jackie Polo’s. Not only does he win the title he’s always coveted, he keeps his career alive, and technically levels their personal score at 2-2, but when Jackie Polo took the hat and jacket off, dropped the accent, and subsequently dropped Lionheart like a sack of totties at the last Garage show you saw the rebirth of Jackie Polo. You saw someone who couldn’t give anything even resembling a fuck if Lionheart’s career ends this Sunday. The only thing he cares about is leaving a stunned Hydro STILL the ICW World Heavyweight Champion.
That’s what makes this, for my money anyway, the biggest main event in the history of the company. Simply because this feud has meant so much over so many years and even when it wasn’t actively happening you always felt it there. Under the surface. Ready to explode at any time. What better place for it to explode than at the biggest show of the year, in the main event, all eyes on them.