The band of brothers kicking the shit out of each other at Insane Championship Wrestling in the pavilion halls and nightclubs of Glasgow for the last few years are now ready to take their unique brand of entertainment south of the border as ICW prepares for landmark shows in London and Newcastle in the coming months.
And the BBC has made their job an easier one after the monumental success of their ICW documentary Insane Fight Club, which aired on Tuesday night to more than 1.5 million people across Britain.
We laughed with Grado, we rejoiced with Jack Jester and we shed a tear with Mark Dallas during one of the most positive, endearing and celebratory insights into Scottish, and Glaswegian, life to grace our television screens in a very long time. As popular show The Scheme proved, too many of us are all too ready to mock parts of the Scottish lifestyle, to degrade ourselves by focusing on our less praiseworthy aspects without celebrating the shining lights we all know. The setting of Glasgow would have been enough to warrant a mocking, morbid documentary but throw in the much maligned and laughed-at art of professional wrestling and you have a fertile patch of dirt for the BBC to cultivate a no holds barred dissection.
But the documentary team didn’t do that, and they need to be praised for avoiding what would probably have been the easier, but more inaccurate, route.
What we got was an uplifting portrayal of the kind of everyday bloke we all know, working his tits off to use what skills he has to make a real go at something he’s loved all his life. We saw a son share one of his passions with his parents, who gushed with pride and tentative joy as their boy was beaten and bloodied all over the ABC. And we saw the culmination of a dad’s endeavours to provide for his wife and son.
I’ve seen criticisms of the show’s focus on these three characters, but the BBC got their format spot on. The Bucky Boys, Red Lightning, Mikey Whiplash, Chris Renfrew – all of these were viable options for the show’s focus but with such a small run-time, looking at the new champion, the owner and the icon was the only way to go.
Mark Dallas spoke about his decision to bring in Colt Cabana and Sabu for shows Dave’s Not Here Man and Fear and Loathing respectively, saying that these workers would bring in new fans to the shows while the ICW action would keep them there. That proved to be true for the majority of those taking in their first taste of the Insane, and it was a similar case for myself almost a year ago.
I’d heard about this larger than life character, this chubby fella that came out to the ring to Madonna. It was the charisma of Grado that first took me to an ICW show, but it was the efforts of James Scott, Mikey Whiplash and the Bucky Boys that encouraged me to return for another one. And another. And another. Joe Coffey; Lionheart;, the New Age Kliq; Jimmy Havoc; the stars of the documentary Jester and Grado. These guys ensnared me with their in-ring exploits. For the countless individuals who have already committed to taking in an ICW show after this documentary, that’s what will make them come back. James Scott and Joe Coffey working a series of absolute masterclasses; the NAK attacking everybody in their path; Kay Lee Ray and Carmel tearing it up every single time they share the ring; Grado’s incredible battles with Whiplash. If you give ICW a chance, they won’t let you down.
Dallas said during the show that the ABC event wasn’t the end of anything, it was just the beginning. He’s right – ICW’s ascendancy is only going to continue, their plateau a long time from appearing on the horizon. The BBC documentary has helped them jump a few steps ahead on their journey to the top, for that is surely where they have the potential to go. Touring the length and breadth of the UK to crowds of 2000+; a foray back onto television; perhaps even excursions to mainland Europe to spread the doctrine of the Insane.
The sky’s the limit for Dallas, Jester, Grado and chums, and BBC’s smash-hit will only help their ascent.