ICW’s first big outing of the year was their version of the Royal Rumble, the Square Go! which featured the traditional over the top rope match alongside three big title matches and the ICW debut of James Storm. After being held in Newcastle last year, this year’s event was at Glasgow’ O2 ABC.

Insane Championship Wrestling
Square Go!
February 11, 2018
Glasgow, Scotland

Watch: ICW on Demand

Your hosts for the evening are Billy Kirkwood and William Grange, whilst the best ring announcer in the UK, Simon Cassidy, is present and correct as always.

#1 Contendership Falls Count Anywhere
James Storm def. Jack Jester

Mark Dallas’ use of foreign imports continually baffles me. For every Ricochet or War Machine, you get an almost immobile Super Crazy. Almost all of those imports seem to be influenced by late 90s nostalgia, which is fine in small doses, but not really good enough on your big shows. Storm fills that middle region between a world-class addition and actively detracting from the card. I’m a big fan of his from his time in Impact and you know what you get with him, as you do with Jester. A solid three stars and a bit of change and you’re done, and that’s exactly what we got.

Aside from the pole shot to the head and Storm’s subsequent kick-out at one, this was a thoroughly enjoyable opener. There was the inevitable brawl through the crowd and comedy spots, such as James Storm chugging his beer with quite impressive speed, but it didn’t overstay its welcome and had the right amount of intensity. A couple of Last Call superkicks and an Eye of the Storm through a table got Storm the debut win, setting up a title match the next night against either BT Gunn or Bram. ***

Post-match Storm, who was looking incredible svelte, cut a promo on how much he loved Glasgow and what a great bloke Mark Dallas is – the usual stuff. Interestingly though, Jester inadvertently hit Sha Samuels on his way to the back, teasing a break-up of yet another ICW tag team.

ICW Women’s Championship
Martina def. Kasey

“We’ll be joined on commentary by Red Lightning, which is like giving your brain a smear test”. Billy Kirkwood, 11 February 2018.

Sadly, nothing in this match came anywhere near amusing me as much as that did. I’ve explained before that Martina’s gimmick grates on me, but my biggest issue here was the work. They had no real chemistry and there were more botches than I cared to count. I could have forgiven the sloppy work though, if we hadn’t had such a rubbish finish. Kasey hit Martina with a PK, only for Red Lightning to pull the ref out of the ring. Iestyn Rees, who joined RUDO back in January, hit the ring and speared Kasey, before draping Martina over her for the cover. This was bad. *

ICW Tag Team Championship
Ashton Smith & Rampage Brown def. The Purge

I was pleasantly surprised by the build to this match. Polo Promotions, who won the straps at Fear & Loathing X, lost in ninety seconds on an episode of Fight Club to Brown & Smith. Those two men, who have been used surprisingly sparingly since featuring on the ITV WOS show last year, are now managed by the Wee Man, who has been wafting about since Davey Blaze went off the radar. The Purge were de-facto number one contenders, having won a four-way match back in December, but I half-expected them to force Polo Promotions back in and give us a clunky three way.

Instead, we got a solid tag match that was a real coming out party for James and Krobar. The structure of the match, with Rampage pairing off with Krobar and Smith with James, masked any weaknesses and allowed them to get their stuff in and look good in their first big test in ICW. We again got distraction in the finish, which was unnecessary, but the match itself was good. I just hope they have something planned for Brown and Smith, because the tag team landscape in ICW is looking very thin indeed. **1/2

ICW Unified Championship
BT Gunn def. Bram

Fear and relief are often equivocal emotions. The fear you experience as a child when your parents address you by your full name or when you are summoned to the head teacher’s office is often met with the relief of realising you’ve done nothing wrong. The fear of doing poorly in an exam or a job application often turns to relief upon discovering your results or getting that acceptance email. That same relationship exists with wrestling. In the wrestling bubble, we tend to fear that dream matchups can’t match our often ridiculously lofty expectations, although that fear can become unbridled relief when they go above and beyond our wildest imaginations.

Fear was my predominant emotion heading into this match. The fear that Mark Dallas would actually put Bram over and make one of the most controversial figures in British wrestling his main guy. In the end I left with relief. Relief that Gunn emerged as champion, but an immense sense of disappointment once again at the company’s booking.

The match started off really well and I was all set to label it the best Bram match I’ve ever seen. From his front flip into the crowd, to selling Gunn flying off the structure of the ABC, this had the real big fight feel about it. Yes, the walk and brawl Bram was there, but it made sense and Gunn seemed to elevate him. Yet, once things seemed to be reaching their crescendo, they rapidly went downhill. First it was the weird concussion spot they seemed to be doing with Gunn, which would have worked if he hadn’t just nailed Bram with a brainbuster. Then came the exact same sequence as the women’s match – Red Lightning removes ref, Rees hits the Alpha wave, RUDO member goes for the pin. In the end Bram went for the cocky pin and was caught in a roll-up, allowing Gunn to retain. **3/4

It’s the right outcome, and perhaps on balance slightly better than I expected, but these booking issues are what ICW need to overcome if they want to be considered in the same esteem as companies like PROGRESS and RevPro. Not every match has to be a workrate classic, and I don’t expect there to be no interference whatsoever, but not in all three of the title matches on the show.

Stevie Boy wins the Square Go!

The Square Go is always good fun. It’s not a complete rip-off of the Royal Rumble, with five ‘random’ participants bringing weapons to the ring and the winner having a title shot that can be cashed in at any point in the year, much akin to the Money in the Bank contract.

Entrant #1 is Chris Renfrew, a former winner of the Square Go, and he is joined by Mikey Whiplash, another former winner. Whiplash has a kendo stick. And of course, they begin by brawling on the outside. Forget outside, they go into the crowd and the match hasn’t technically started. Entrant #3 is Lewis Girvan, who at this point has no one to fight. There’s no countdown clock but Entrant #4 is Girvan’s tag partner Aspen Faith. They muck about running the ropes, which gives Renfrew and Whiplash to finally get into the ring. Entrant #5 is Kay Lee Ray, another member of the Filthy Generation, and she’s got the strap. Entrant #6 is Sha Samuels, who’s very over, whilst entrant #7 is Kev Evans, a young GPWA trainee. He makes no friends, eating a stunner from Renfrew, a death valley driver from Whiplash, a triple superkick from the Filthy Generation before Sha threw him over the top. Next in is Kid Fite and almost a third of the way in, we’ve got very little star power. There’s Whiplash, but no Williams, Coffey, Polo or Lionheart. None of the big players. Oh wait, never mind. Entrant #9 is Kenny Williams.

Next in is Wolfgang, who proceeded to throw Lou King Sharp from the ring. Him doing that made me realise how that just two people were in the ring, the rest were on the outside resting. That annoys me. Entrant #11 is MOOSE, which improves my mood. Entrant #12 in Wild Boar and he’s soon followed at #14 by fellow Marauder Mike Bird.  Between them is OTT standout Jordan Devlin, who has consistently impressed in his ICW appearances. Entrant #15 is Iestyn Rees, who rapidly eliminates four competitors, first by using Kay Lee Ray to eliminate the Kings of Catch, before then tipping both Marauders over the top. Then comes #16. Big Tor Atterhagen. Aside from Ludvig Borga, I think he might be the only Scandinavian I’ve ever seen wrestle. He’s a big scary lad who is clearly set big things in ICW. He eliminates Kid Fite and then squares off with Moose. Moose goes over and Atterhagen is quick to join him. Wolfgang uses the brass knuckles to knock him off balance and tip him over the top. That obviously doesn’t end well, as Atterhagen then decimates Wolfie and he gets eliminated by Devlin. The Sam Barbour Experience is entrant #17, before we get Big Grizzly at #18, taking the Welsh contingent to four. Grizzly is a product of Mike Bird’s school and does look promising, moving surprisingly well for a man of his size. Then come the big boys. At #19 we get Jackie Polo, who was noticeably wearing his ‘Scotland’s Greatest Wrestler’ jacket, perhaps suggesting a return to singles competition. And then he’s followed by everyone’s favourite fanny, Lionheart. These two have a real history in ICW, and it’s not a pleasant one. Like most of Lionheart’s feuds, they actually seem very personal and their placement definitely smacks of a storyline. Perhaps a match at Barramania? Anyway, this period sees four more competitors get eliminated, thinning the field down.

Entrant #21 is Ravie Davie. I see something special in him and I want him to have a good showing, but never mind. We don’t get nice things. Bram makes his way to the ramp to distract poor Davie, who is unceremoniously lobbed over the top by Iestyn Rees. Bram then lays Davie out on the ramp with a chair. Look, if the long-term plan is for Davie to beat Bram in a big match fine, but leave the kid alone if not. Entrant #22 is Aaron Echo, who has a weapon. Well he did, but he’d drunk all the lager. Next in was Mark Coffey, who was promptly followed by Viper. Two women in the match, how very progressive of you Mark Dallas. Entrant #25 is Jody Fleisch, who is a legend. He is ridiculously good full stop, forget the age factor – I just wish ICW would feature him more on their big shows. And just when there was a good streak of entrants, we get Joseph Conners – the most boring guy in British Wrestling! That’s a slight exaggeration, but he is dull. He has a chair with him though, meaning he’s the last entrant with a weapon. Thankfully his stay is brief, as is that of Viper’s husband DCT. The last three entrants are  Leyton, Joe Hendry’s intern, Stevie Boy, who has to be considered a favourite and Joe Hendry, who recently qualified for the Commonwealth Games.

Fleisch, Viper and Hendry soon go, meaning the last six are Jackie Polo, Chris Renfrew, Lionheart, Mark Coffey, Kenny Williams and Stevie Boy. Renfrew is the first to go, eliminated by Jackie Polo, who has very much reverted to his heelish ways. Polo and Lionheart then square off again, with both then eliminated in quick succession. That leaves a final three of Stevie Boy, Williams and Coffey, who are the three I suspected were serious contenders to win pre-match. Alas, no ICW main event would be complete without some interference, and that’s what we get. The Filthy Generation come down to help Stevie Boy, and whilst they dealt with Girvan and Faith, Kay Lee Ray hit Kenny with a chair and got him eliminated. The referees then eject them, leaving the last two to slug it out. They have a good five minutes together and it ebbed back and forth nicely, with both men feeling like they could win. In the end it was Stevie Boy, who hit him with two dropkicks and finally a chair shot to knock him over the edge.

It’s impossible for me to grade a battle royal or rumble, as they’re almost impossible to do perfectly. As they go, this was good. There were some fun surprises like Moose and Devlin and there were the obvious storyline spots as well. Splitting Polo Promotions up for a while is a good move, as it allows Coffey to shine and because they had made the tag title picture very stale. The constant resting on the outside detracted from the match but it was negligible for the most post and they nailed the final three. Stevie Boy shone in the King of Insanity match; winning this gives him the chance to make a name for himself. Time will tell if that call pays off.

Final Thoughts:

A middling effort from ICW for their first big show of 2018. The constant interference and lapses back into their old bad booking habits are the lingering takeaway, but they are somewhat redeemed by the fun opening contest between Storm and Jester, a solid tag team title bout and an enjoyable Square Go. If they want to maintain their interest level and keep using the Hydro, the product has to improve. Picking Stevie Boy to win the Square Go is a start, as is keeping Gunn champion, they’ve just got to build on it.