Scottish wrestling celebrates its biggest night of the year this Sunday, as Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) hosts Fear & Loathing XI at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.

ICW have run the Hydro, the biggest purpose-built events venue in Scotland, for the past two years, attracting 6,000 fans in 2016 and a shade over 4,000 last November. Although the company does feel like it has peaked in many respects and has run fewer shows in 2018 than in previous years, this year’s nine-bout card is probably the strongest yet they’ve put together for the Hydro.

The main event will see Jackie Polo defend his ICW World Heavyweight Championship against Lionheart in a title vs career match, and the culmination of a feud that has defined Scottish wrestling in 2018. That match, however, sits amidst the backdrop of something altogether more uncertain. The recent revelations about the changes to the contracts of WWE NXT UK wrestlers means that this show could be the end of an era for ICW, as half of the roster will be limited in who they’re able to wrestle. The results here are likely to be indicative of where the company is going in 2019 and how closely they’ll be linked to the WWE moving forward.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the card in place at the moment and an attempt to predict each contest’s likely outcome.

Six-team TLC match to determine the No #1 Contender’s for the Tag Team Championships
The Briscoes vs. The Kings of Catch (Lewis Girvan & Aspen Faith) vs. Rampage Brown & Ashton Smith vs. The Purge (Krobar & Stevie James) vs. Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins vs. The Fite Network (Lou King Sharp & Krieger)

Oh dear. This could be an absolute mess. How they’ll get 12 men in and around the ring at the same time and have a match with any sort of flow baffles me.

What is less baffling, though, is working out who’ll win. I suspect that the Briscoes coming over is just a one-time deal, so them winning is unlikely, but they’ve thrived in these situations before and should help to hold things together. Another team I think unlikely to win are the former champions Rampage Brown & Ashton Smith, largely owing to Smith’s WWE NXT UK status. That would prevent him wrestling anyone contracted with WOS, which includes Sha Samuels and Iestyn Rees, one of whom will be tag team champion by the end of the night.

As for the others, I think it’s fair to discount the Fite Network, who have been firmly positioned at the bottom of the tag team division for much of their existence. Of the other three teams, The Purge have had a consistent storyline of late and with Wolfgang increasingly moving away from ICW, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them get a big win here. The same is true for The Kings of Catch, who have had a strong year and have consistently been in and around the tag title mix without ever getting their big chance. However, I’ll opt for the team that beat the Kings of Catch in an entertaining chairs match back in October. Havoc and Haskins are a good team, one ICW should use more, and I think they’d be the most effective opposition for whoever wins the tag team title bout later in the night. Prediction: Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins

Kenny Williams vs. Aaron Echo

This match has been in prospect since Barramania in April, when in classic ICW fashion, Kenny Williams lost his job in a ladder match, only to join RUDO, turn his back on his best mate Aaron Echo and somehow stay involved. Well, I say stay involved, he’s only actually wrestled for ICW once since then, defeating Andy Wild back in May. That absence has made the build to this almost non-existent, aside from one rather rambling promo from Aaron Echo.

Williams has been one of the more featured commodities thus far in NXT UK, albeit mostly in losing efforts. I’m pleased that he’s getting those opportunities and it’s likely that they’ll considerably limit his abilities to appear in 2019, as they have this year. As such, this seems like the opportune time to give Echo the big win as he’ll be more of a featured star next year. I still don’t know if I see in him what they do, but this feels like his breakout moment. Prediction: Aaron Echo

Grado vs. James Storm

I really could have done without Jeff Jarrett being added to this match as the special guest referee as that now guarantees a nonsense finish. Grado has demonstrated a much more serious side since being brought back to ICW in July and James Storm’s ICW run this year has been exactly what you’d expect of a 41-year-old James Storm coming towards the end of a long career. This was never going to tear the house down, but Jarrett’s addition definitely means either he’ll assist Grado, giving him a feel-good win, or costing Grado the match and setting up a Grado/Jarrett match for the Square Go. I don’t want the second option, but now I’ve written it down, I can’t see past it. Prediction: James Storm

Joe Hendry vs. Mikey Whiplash

One of the more solidly built contests on this card. Whiplash has been feuding with Mark Dallas since Barramania, with Dallas using the massive gash Whiplash suffered in that match as a means to stop him wrestling hardcore matches. At the same time, Dallas has completed his heel turn by treating Joe Hendry, who doubled down on his heel turn at Shug’s Hoose Party, as his protégé. Hendry then attacked Whiplash, one of the men who trained him, after a match and the feud has fairly logically built from there.

Whiplash has not won since Barramania and that has been a consistent thread of the story, as he has consistently questioned whether he’s still got it, and whether he should stick around. Whilst I do think a Joe Hendry win here makes a little bit more sense moving forward, I think this might be the moment Whiplash gets that big definitive win and sticks the proverbial two fingers up at Mark Dallas. I have absolutely no confidence in that though. Whatever happens, it won’t be clean. Prediction: Mikey Whiplash, I guess.

British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. The ICW Originals (Wolfgang, Noam Dar & BT Gunn)

British Strong Style’s appearance was one of the first announcements for Fear & Loathing this year and I think this is probably the best booking outcome. The build hasn’t been tremendous but I think the BSS guys are a draw for the more casual WWE fans and the return of Noam Dar to the promotion where he made his name definitely added more to this than any other regular roster member would have done.

There’s a strong chance this is every BSS six-man tag team match you’ve seen this year, but I think in front of the Hydro crowd and against a team of guys who’ll all relish the opportunity, this should easily be one of the night’s best matches. A feel good win for the ICW Originals makes a lot more sense, especially as the outcome of this is unlikely to have any real long-term impacts on the promotion moving forward other than for BT Gunn. Prediction: The ICW Originals.

ICW Tag Team Championships
The Kinky Party (Jack Jester & Sha Samuels) vs. Alpha/EVIL (Iestyn Rees & Bram)

The Kinky Party have held the titles since April, defending them on a number of occasions including against Alpha/EVIL in July at Shug’s Hoose Party in a relatively entertaining encounter. Since that victory, both members of the Kinky Party have been defeated in singles action, with Jester losing to Bram and Samuels to Rees. The latter of those contests was what set-up this match, and the finish there likely plays into the outcome here. Tension between Jester and Samuels has been teased occasionally throughout the last 12 months and Jester accidentally clocked Samuels with a steel chair in his match with Rees, allowing the big Welshman to hit the Alpha Wave and pin him. I think the Kinky Party explodes here, either before or after the match, and drop the titles in the process. Prediction: Alpha/EVIL

Queen of Insanity match for the ICW Women’s Championship
Viper vs. Kay Lee Ray

One of my most anticipated matches of the night, and another with a solid backstory to it. Kay Lee Ray had said earlier in the year that she wanted to wrestle men exclusively in ICW moving forward, before Viper requested a match with her at Fear & Loathing. KLR reluctantly accepted, but only on the condition that this was the first-ever Queen of Insanity match in ICW. These two are without doubt two of the UK’s best female wrestlers and I have every faith in them to deliver an absolute banger. Viper has been champion for almost 10 months, and I think that reign will come to an end here, as KLR has been portrayed as having that mental edge in the run-up to the event and in the go-home angle Viper had the advantage, which in the WWE-esque booking mentality of Mark Dallas, should mean KLR wins. Prediction: Kay Lee Ray

ICW Zero-G Championship
Mark Coffey vs. Joe Coffey

Coffey vs Coffey was supposed to take place at Shug’s in July but both men were pulled for WWE-related reasons, meaning that it has been pushed back to here. You’d think that that would have allowed them to marinate the match a bit more and create more hype behind it, but no, it’s not really got that much attention as both men have regularly been busy and not able to compete on ICW shows. Mark has wrestled for ICW just three times since winning the belt back in April, defending it against Matt Cross and Aaron Echo and defeating Paxxo earlier this month in a non-title contest. Joe, meanwhile, has wrestled just twice for the company all year, defeating Mikey Whiplash in September and Aaron Echo a few weeks ago.

What build we have had has been focused on Joe Coffey being the dominant brother and turning his back on Mark, because he supposedly cannot bear him having the spotlight. Having Joe win the title here wouldn’t shock me at all, as he has such cache in ICW and has a big match coming up with NXT UK that a title win could be parlayed into. However, as I’m convinced that all three other belts are changing hands, I’d plump that this one is the most likely to be retained. Mark is someone that ICW can and need to get behind a bit more and the Hydro offers him the opportunity to show his quality heading into 2019. Prediction: Mark Coffey

ICW World Heavyweight Championship – Title vs Career
Jackie Polo (w/ Coach Trip) vs. Lionheart

I think we should have all seen this coming. Lionheart’s seminal victory over Polo at Shug’s Hoose Party clearly set him on course for the Hydro, and realistically Polo/Lionheart IV was the best option, hence Polo dethroning DCT back in September and pinching his manager Coach Trip.

The feud between these two has been compelling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t bug me that we’ve had it at three consecutive shows. The issues between them are legitimate, and Lionheart has made a stirring comeback since his neck injury and is arguably peaking right now. Polo’s adoption of the Just Justice gimmick was amusing, as was his unnervingly good cowboy accent, and that has played directly into this match because Lionheart may have beaten Just Justice, but he’s never beaten Jackie Polo, The King of Chat. That said, this feels like Lionheart’s coronation as champion, made all the more obvious by the adding in of the career stipulation.

My biggest concern for this match is whether the two men can recreate the magic they produced at Shug’s Hoose Party. It was not a workrate classic or a MOTY contender, but it was a tremendous display of how much callbacks and psychology can improve a match. Every inch of their feud was worked into that contest and Lionheart’s victory felt all the more special because of it. Matching that is going to be hard, let alone topping it, but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. Prediction: Lionheart

Overall Thoughts

As with every major ICW show, my perspective on it will be determined by the way it’s booked. If there’s the usual plethora of non-finishes and nonsense booking, then this could easily fall flat, which would be a nightmare at a time when ICW needs all the good favour it can get. They are not where they were a couple of years ago and with a number of their stars disappearing for NXT UK, they need to use this show to create more stars and promote those that they’ve got. If booked right, this card could well be one of the strongest in company history. As always though, the proof will very much be in the pudding.