ICW ran their biggest show of the year this past Sunday at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, with Jackie Polo defending their World Heavyweight Championship against Lionheart in the Fear & Loathing XI main event.

The biggest talking point for many after and during the show was the low attendance. Having been there myself last year and this, the crowd did seem considerably smaller, probably in the region of 2,000. That reduced number, and the reconfigured set-up that saw seating introduced on two sides of the ring instead of standing, seemed to create a largely flat crowd for large portions of the show.

Another major issue was the length of the show, with the bell ringing at the end of the main event almost on the stroke of 11pm, the building’s official curfew time. By the end the crowd seemed quite tired, with many leaving before the main event started.

Insane Championship Wrestling
Fear & Loathing XI
December 2, 2018
SSE Hydro
Glasgow, Scotland

As usual Simon Cassidy was your ring announcer, with James R. Kennedy replacing William Grange on commentary alongside Billy Kirkwood.

Before the show started, we got a promo from Mark Dallas. He sought to further his heel persona by firing loyal sidekicks Chris Toal and Scott Reid, and aligning himself closer with ICW young guns Leyton Buzzard and Kez Evans, something that was to be a factor later in the show. Dallas clearly understands what being a heel is though, as he wore a MAGA hat and told the Scottish crowd that he had proudly voted ‘No’ in the 2014 Independence Referendum, because that is the heelish thing to do, obviously.

#1 Contendership TLC Match
The P.O.D. def. The Kings of Catch, The Fite Network, Havoc & Haskins, The Briscoes & The Purge

In my preview for the show, my belief was that P.O.D. (meaning Personification of Destruction) were almost guaranteed bets not to win, given Smith’s status with NXT UK. However, in the ring introductions Simon Cassidy stated that the winners of the match would receive an opportunity at the time of their choosing, making it more of a money-in-the-bank style match than a direct No.1 Contendership opportunity. That seemed to telegraph Smith & Brown winning, and that they did.

The sheer number of people involved was the match’s biggest issue, as it was hard to keep up with the action. Both watching live and on demand it was impossible to keep tabs on everything, which meant that whilst the action was good and there were some good spots, it was just too much to try and focus on. The biggest takeaway for me was just how over the Kings of Catch seemed to be. The end came soon after the frame of one ladder cracked whilst Mark Briscoe was stood on it. From there the Kings of Catch went close but got caught out by the P.O.D.’s manager the Wee Man, allowing Ashton  to climb a new ladder to retrieve the title opportunity. **1/2

Aaron Echo def. Kenny Williams

Coming in at just over ten minutes, this was designed to showcase Aaron Echo and in the end that’s what it achieved, albeit without drawing much crowd reaction. Echo started like a house on fire before Williams slowed it down with a series of rest holds and to be honest it seemed throughout that Williams just felt no need to kick it up a gear. Still, there was no real interference from Red Lightning and Echo got the big win on the big show after landing the pumphandle bomb, which was the right booking call. **1/2

Joe Hendry def. Mikey Whiplash

Having been the most obvious STORIEZ based match coming in, it came as no real surprise that this was overrun with interference, ref bumps and Mark Dallas being put front and centre. The two men began with chain wrestling before a ref bump after about five minutes, which allowed Whiplash to get a visual pin after hitting a Death Valley Driver. Following that there was involvement from Mark Dallas, Leyton Buzzard and Kez Evans, whilst Aivil and Kieran Kelly tried to level the score for Whiplash. Mikey came close to getting another pin, only for Dallas to pull the referee out, allowing Hendry to synch in the ankle lock and get a submission win. This was also around the ten minute mark, but it came across as a limp, overbooked mess that wasn’t my cup of tea. *1/2

Following the match, the Dallas entourage beat Whiplash down. Andy Wild came out to level the score and cleaned house, but when he looked to put Dallas down, he was cold-cocked by Ravie Davie, who aligned himself with Dallas. They all then beat Andy down and left, signalling their new presence as the dominant faction in ICW. Why they would turn one of the most natural faces they have heel, I have no idea, but as per usual very little in this company makes any sense.

ICW Zero-G Championship
Joe Coffey def. Mark Coffey

A break from the high-flying fare typical of your usual Zero-G title match, this was a battle between two stags, jousting it out for dominance. They engaged in tests of strength early on, and it was clear that older brother Joe was that bit more powerful and able to bully his younger brother around.

The whole match was built well, as Mark looked competitive but he always felt on the back foot against his older, stronger, more experienced brother. Both got believable nearfalls and traded big strikes, but it always felt like Mark was fighting an uphill battle. He powered out of the discus clothesline at one, but instead of that marking a renewal of the contest, it was just him using up all he had left, getting taken out almost immediately with another lariat.

A thoroughly entertaining, back-and-forth, contest, but one that’s hard to rate given how mild the crowd were for it. Whether it was a case of both men’s consistent absences diluting fan interest or something else, there wasn’t a great energy for much of this, which is a shame as they both worked hard. ***

ICW Originals (Wolfgang, Gunn & Dar) def. British Strong Style

As is usual with many BSS six-mans, this started with a fair bit of comedy but when the dust settled it was a thoroughly enjoyable contest that allowed everyone to shine and was easily the best match up to this point. The crowd were unsurprisingly very up for this, and it was nice to see BT Gunn get the shine his talents deserve alongside the other five who are already stars because of their WWE involvement. Dar was easily the most popular competitor, again not particularly shocking given his absence from the UK scene, but Gunn got the biggest pop when he kicked out of a piledriver, Tyler Driver and Tombstone from the three members of BSS. Chants of ‘Scotland, Scotland’ echoed around the Hydro as the ICW Originals were able to regroup and triple team Seven to pick up the win. ***1/2

Women’s Championship Queen of Insanity Match
Kay Lee Ray def. Viper

Much like the King of Insanity match last year, it’s very hard to know where to start when reviewing this.

These two women had the opportunity to take centre stage and deliver match of the night and they absolutely did that, a testament to their respective abilities and chemistry. Viper had her scalp split open after KLR hit her with a broken kendo stick, something made worse by the smashing of a cheese grater over her head moments later. KLR herself was suplexed into an ironing board and both women took a number of brutal looking chair bumps, whilst the volume of thumbtacks littering the mat resembled something closer to an accident in a B&Q warehouse than a wrestling ring. The decisive weapon, though, was the barbed wire table lurking ominously in the corner of the ring for much of the match.

KLR attempted to hit a Gory Bomb off the top rope through the table but she was unable to leverage Viper up, which allowed Viper to transition into a powerslam and put her much smaller opponent forcefully through the table. KLR appeared to be stuck but it became clear when Viper went for a Viper Driver that she wasn’t, and that she had used the opportunity to free a bit of wire, something she pulled across Viper’s mouth as she applied a vicious crossface. Viper soon tapped, making KLR the first three-time women’s champion in ICW history. This was absolutely brilliant and had me hooked from bell to bell. These two women deserve tremendous credit for taking this spot and running with it. Match of the Night. ****

Following that contest came an intermission of sorts, featuring the culmination of a long-running comedy feud involving Liam Thomson, Liam’s sink and Kid Fite. The angle is not really worth explaining here, but the result was Liam winning his sink back, which was the outcome we all wanted.

ICW Tag Team Championships
The Kinky Party def. Alpha/EVIL
P.O.D. def. The Kinky Party

In previewing this show I had been utterly convinced of Sha Samuels and Jack Jester losing the tag titles and splitting up – thankfully we only got the former, but not in the way I expected. They retained against Bram and Iestyn Rees in a contest that was barely five minutes long. For what it was it was good, as both teams worked at a high clip and played through the hits, with Sha fatsaulting to the outside, Bram hitting a swanton bomb through a table and Jester eventually getting the win after reversing a Doomsday device into a roll-up.

I initially thought this match was just cut short because of time, only for the P.O.D.’s music to play and for The Wee Man to declare that his team were cashing in the tag title shot they won earlier in the night. After a brief back-and-forth, Smith and Brown landed the spike tombstone piledriver to end the Kinky Party’s almost eight-month title run and become two-time ICW tag team champions.

It’s easiest to rate this as one overall segment and to be honest, it came off far better than I expected. Giving a new team the titles was the right call, and Sunday League Smith & Brown are a tandem I like and want to see featured more prominently. They didn’t split Samuels & Jester up, which was the right call as they are one of the most over acts in ICW right now, and hey, anything’s better than belting up Bram, so I’m ok with it. ***

James Storm def. Grado

I don’t know what to say about this really. It’s exactly what you’d expect a James Storm versus Grado match with Jeff Jarrett as the Special Guest Referee to be. There was comedy, inadvertent ref bumps and Grado getting his bell rung with Jarrett’s guitar. This wasn’t great, but I don’t really think I was the target audience so, as it’s the festive season and I’m feeling generous, I won’t dump on it. *

ICW World Heavyweight Championship
Lionheart def. Jackie Polo

Heading into this show, my biggest worry about this match was whether they’d be able to recapture the essence of what made this pair’s match at Shugs Hoose Party in July so special. When it came down to it, they couldn’t and this ended up being a fairly damp squib to end the show.

They did a good job of making the entrances feel special, and it felt like a big moment in ICW history, but Lionheart’s ICW career never seemed in doubt and with the crowd beginning to filter out before this started, there wasn’t a great crowd reaction until Lionheart won. The match felt fairly slow, lethargic and plodding for the most part and I think that’s also because it came at the end of a show that had already been very long.

The finish  was clever, as Lionheart retrieved the Polo mallet from under the ring, only to toss to Jackie Polo and superkick it into his face, before hitting him with another and connecting with his fourth Frog Splash to secure the victory and begin his reign as ICW World Champion. **

Post-match, Lionheart celebrated with the fans and some of his mates in the locker room, including Aaron Echo, Andy Wild, Wolfgang and Sha Samuels.

Final Thoughts

This ended up being a perfectly middling show for ICW, with peaks in the Queen of Insanity match and the BSS six-man, troughs with Hendry/Whiplash and Grado/Storm and everything else somewhere in-between.

The biggest takeaway though is just how flat ICW feels as a brand. The crowd was massively down on last year, furthering my belief that this could well be the last time they run the Hydro for a while. The NXT UK contract revelations highlight how hamstrung they’ll be for the first few months of next year and the rapidity with which they are likely to move onto the WWE Network. To my mind this needed to be a blowaway show for Scottish wrestling and in the end it just wasn’t. It was fun to attend, a fairly enjoyable show top to bottom but sadly not enough. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess.