by Craig Hermit
A former ICW World Heavyweight Champion, as well as a three-time ICW Tag-Team Champion alongside BT Gunn. He is one of the most outspoken men in wrestling itself and has etched himself into some of the chaotic and most talked about moments in ICW.
He is the lynchpin of the New Age Kliq, “The Sultan of Silent Hill” his name is Chris Renfrew, and Craig Hermit managed to interview him to discuss Insane Championship Wrestling’s Barramania 3 and more.
CH: ICW is hosting Barramania 3 on the 16th April, how important is it for Insane Championship Wrestling and yourself to have Barramania once again held within the halls of the Glasgow Barrowlands for the third time?
CR: It’s the iconic venue of Glasgow so we are local lads, and even if you are from Scotland, thats hallowed ground for anyone. Its important to the company, as its one of the big four of the ICW events in the calendar so to speak, Square Go, Barramania, Shuggs, Fear & Loathing so obviously we take it very seriously. Everyone is still buzzing off the back of Wrestlemania, usually we run it on the same evening but because it was Florida this year we knew a lot of people would be jetting over to Florida to see Wrestlemania so we swapped the day around. There is a lot of buzz around this time, a lot of excitement in the air, and people are back into wrestling so we are taking it very seriously.
CH: There has been a lot of history with ICW and the Barrowlands, I mean I personally remembered most vividly when you beat Grado at the Square Go in 2016 for the ICW World Championship, what moments stick out most to you?
CR: The venue itself has huge moments, me versus Grado is the pinnacle, certainly for the emotional investment. I would put any match against that in ICW history but other moments stick out is Wolfgang joining the NAK from the first Barramania, the noise level of the Wolfgang and BT Gunn storyline coming full circle was deafening. Being a part of the first show at the Barrowlands for Fear and Loathing against Mikey Whiplash, the noise for that was unbelievable. Even last time we were there it was me and BT versus Wolfgang and Kay Lee Ray, with Stevie having to pull out due to injury. There is countless other memories as well, remember when Liam Thomson turned on Carmel, that story turned on its head within that building.
CH: This year at Barramania, you will be facing a man you have clashed with for months now, Stevie Boy, this time in a Last Man Standing Match, what can fans expect to seen between both of you and Stevie?
CR: You think about the matches I tend to be involved in, they aren’t always blood and carnage, but on the bigger stage I can get violent and those are matches where there isn’t any stipulations. Now we have added Last Man Standing, there is a standard that I need to live up to, that I’ve set, same for Stevie. There is a certain expectation you have to live up to when certain people are tied up against each other and me and Stevie are two of those people. It will not be a catch-cann classic, it will be someone is gonna get hurt, someone is gonna get thrown off something and faces will be busted. You should look at last years Barramania at the expectation and where we will go this year, Stevie missed the match last year due to that injury so I’ll have to make sure he makes up for lost time.
CH: To fans, you have been known as the best on the microphone, and in ICW you have won multiple awards on giving the best promos, what you say makes the best promo?
CR: I think insight, really focus on the story that you are telling, I’ll use my most recent one as an example, its about Stevie at The Barras, so I was able to reflect on what has happened in the past, don’t be afraid to delve into where you have been to, or willing to go. There is so much that happens in the world today that you have to remind people of some things. You know when I go for my more brutal and intense promos, like the one I did against Grado, you have to be fearless, and be willing to say certain things, if you want to be a top promo guy, think about it a lot of those guys have said a lot of controversial things. Mick Foley in ECW, cut that anti-hardcore promo that was controversial in ECW, Austin, he cut his promos by going to a real place, its basically saying have a bit baws and believe in yourself and your character. Don’t just yell, if you just yell you have no where see to go, don’t get me wrong I loved the Legion of Doom and Ultimate Warrior promos but look at those guys it suited them. And practise makes perfect you know, you have to work at it like any craft it, it is like wrestling, you just keep doing it until you find out who you are and how you are meant to portray yourself.
CH: I remember your brutal wars with Legion as part of the NAK and the match we spoke about against Grado, but what would you say has been your best match to date?
CR: Its me versus Grado definitely, that night on paper months before the show, if you had said the two of us for the ICW World Title is gonna steal the show and help sell out the building, I don’t think people would have believed you. The match and the build up pulled people in, to me that is what wrestling is. I mean you have guys out there who do amazing feats of athleticism but for me the real basic definition of wrestling is storytelling, storytelling with your body and making people care. If they aren’t emotionally invested, they might cheer, but they won’t give a fuck about the outcome of the match. What we did that night was this, one group of people wanted Grado to win, one group wanted me to win, there was no middle ground, none if this fans saying “I hope it was a good match”. That to me is the greatest moment, when you walk out and you hear those reactions, those are the moments that stick with you. All the miles to travel, all the knocks and bumps you take, and everything in this crazy wrestling world, it’s those moments that make it worth it.
CH: Looking back at the history of Insane Championship Wrestling, the promotion began over ten years ago, the company began in the Community Halls in Maryhill, smaller venue and now, last year in the Hydro, bigger tours across the UK, witnessed across the world, how can you describe that growth in achievement, that meteoritic change for yourself and the team in the back?
CR: Thats a tough one, its hard to describe, its a bit surreal sometimes. Well start with the tour, the first time you get the tour bus, you think this is amazing, then running Barramania for the third time, I still remember the first time that was only two years ago going “oh my god we are running The Barras” and back then was our equivalent of running the Hydro. I remember going back even further as you said running Maryhill, then imagine running The Garage, in the middle of town, the most famous Glasgow nightclub around, we started running there and that was our next achievement so it was pretty cool going from grass roots and then up, up, up. Just appreciating what you’ve got, but you can’t stop, you know British wresting is booming at the moment there is so much wrestling going on than ever before, more good wrestling than ever before you’d have to go back to the World of Sport days to guarantee a good wrestling card anywhere in the country. You know just being part of that, its as I said surreal. From having 30 people in our first night, to 6,000 at The Hydro thats no bad an increase.
CH: Absolutely when you look at the progression through the years, thats probably the best term, speaking of the SECC and the Hydro, ICW had Mick Foley as part of Fear and Loathing and then last year Finn Bálor as The Enforcer, how important was it to have these names to help establish ICW as a major force in the UK?
CR: I think it was because we established ourselves as such a strong brand to begin with that made it cool for these guys to appear in ICW, you have many promotions all over the UK, and they got their imports booked so you may have had Fergal Devitt booked elsewhere, but with us we booked it as “Fergal Devitt is wrestling” it wasn’t a “Holy Shit he’s in ICW!”. Its the same feeling you’d get remember back to the Attitude Era in ECW, when the lights would go off and Jake Roberts would appear, you’d be like Holy Shit its Jake Roberts, but its Jake Roberts in ECW, whats he gonna do here. When we created the aura of ICW, it was us just adding this in, because we created our own characters he could intact with the characters and the fans, that was created within ICW, thats the evolution part. Fergal Devitt was a perfect one, I feel we got really lucky, he’s an extremely rare entity we caught right before he became a superstar, catching him on the way up, to get that footage, matches and moments with him. Him dressed as Freddy Kreuger, fighting with Jack Jester, I mean thats just amazing. Then he wants to come back home, that really puts the company over, he’s a superstar. Lets be honest that term is used with every wrestler in WWE, but he is a superstar, he does have that IT factor, he has that feel about him. These guys want to come to ICW, they aren’t just coming here for the payday, plus it got the whole world talking about ICW, “hey that guy is in WWE, but thats not a WWE event whats he doing over there?”. So for them to come across here to help us out, I don’t know if WWE would have done this for us years ago, I mean they took Mick Foley back for the Survivor Series, which is understandable it is one of their big PPV’s, but they gave us Finn Bálor in return, they could squash anybody with their machine and they chose not to, so kudos to WWE, it was cool thing for them not to do.
CH: You touched on it briefly that there are so many promotions in the UK at the moment, what would say sets ICW apart those other promotions and why fans flock to ICW events?
CR: It’s the cult, it’s the fan base, because people come to be part of the show and become part of a family, a lot of peoples lives are now embroidered in being part of the company. It’s the nightlife, the travelling that comes with it and you meet different people. It’s the whole buzz that comes with it as well, it’s not a family promotion as it’s an over 18’s event, but it’s a family promotion as it creates families within the crowd. So it’s a different sense of a family promotion and that makes it different, the company itself has become a larger than life entity, people can’t help its name and that isn’t because we have forced them to, they do it naturally. With us it’s the fearlessness, being over 18’s show we can get away with a bit more, use myself as an example, the blood and guts stuff, I don’t think I could get away with that anywhere else, plus we were the first ones to do it when everyone else was doing Butlins style of family entertainment with your foam fingers, “American Style Wrestling”, Nah I want a night out with my pals. With us, its get drunk as much as you want, chant want you want, and drink from the ICW menu at The Box.
CH: How invaluable has ICW:OnDemand as well as FiteTV been to the growth of company as thanks to both, ICW is now reaching multiple countries all over the world?
CR: New revenue involved in any businesses that’s a must, with the production cost increases that means the cost increases, I tell you the Hydro wasn’t cheap. That will sting you. (laughs) These are bigger production costs, so having a new mains of revenue, another way to advertise your product and to get it out there is a must. The TV deal its been heeing and hawing there, and I think people are afraid to take a chance on something as unpredictable as ICW, it could be a standard wrestling match and then Martina causing chaos the next, so I think people are scared to take the full plunge with ICW to put it on TV. So with us able to put out our on content without any censorship was a must, because you need to let the world see you as you are, because thats the reason the world fell in love with ya in the first place, you got to go balls to the wall and you can’t change yourself going into the big sea. We can only do so in our own terms, and not tone ourselves down, sure there many be some of our own shows that are less deathy than others nowadays but thats just because we cant keep going at 100mph downhill, you’ll lose your shock factor and people will become desensitised to what you are doing. You know On:Demand is crucial and everyone has followed suit, I think we were the first in the country to do it, people behind the scenes were worried about it, it was a big risk. A lot of time and effort has gone into it to make sure there is a lot of content on it, there has to be hundreds of hours of programming on it. So I think it has been vital to spreading the word and allowing the world the chance to show what we can do.
CH: In the last couple of years, ICW began its partnership with the training facility GPWA, which has become grown substantially, even holding its own Invitational Tournament in May, how beneficial has it to have the GPWA in recent years as the ICW training facility?
CR: It isn’t officially the ICW training facility we are separate entities, GPWA runs its own things, it has its own business module, so it isn’t directly linked to ICW, they are their own responsibility and we have our responsibilities but you would have to be naive to not notice that we take a lot of talent that use them. The Purge, Ravie Davie, Sam Barbour and many more, so it has been really handy to have those guys, and it’s the stuff these guys do backstage that gets unnoticed as well which is a really unsung job as it can be a really tedious job when you are a wrestler travelling 7 hours down the road, build a ring up, admittedly thats what we had to do it didn’t matter who you were before there was the wrestling school. So it has helped their progression and they are paying their dues and having that building as the hub, the two rings, 16ft and the 18ft, and having the office helps, you know perception is reality and that looks good, in progression you need a base to be working from and that has been vital. The training facility is incredible now, we need to focus on the future of wrestling.
CH: ICW last year held its own Hall of Fame with the incredible “Pipebomb Princess” Carmel Jacob being ushered in, looking ahead who would you like to see or think should be inducted this year?
CR: Me. 100%. I’m the best, ever. (Laughs) Nah I dunno, its tough because a lot of the guys you’d consider Legends or Hall of Famers are still active. I mean do you want to put someone in who is active and that would be a long list of contenders you could put up easily, Jack Jester for one, technically The Wee Man, he’s been there since the Maryhill days he could be considered ICW Legend status, Kid Fite, he’s been in there fighting since day one, unsung heroes like Liam Thomson, he’s another guy that could be put in contention, Drew Galloway, the amount of things he’s done for the company to take it to the next level. Finn Bálor even, You know its a long list but its tough because we’re so young. Carmel was easy in a way because she hung up her boots and definitely qualifies because in my opinion she’s the first lady of ICW, she was first woman in ICW to make noise and impact on a bigger scale than being a part of the show, so to speak. You know it was her early matches with Nikki Storm and her early promo’s and even to this day the only woman who would be that venomous on a microphone with her promos. The only person I would look at and go I wonder what would happen if her and I went against each other, we would spit poison out. That is why it made her such a worthy candidate, that is why when her name came up there was no argument, Carmel, 100%, First Lady of ICW. Because she hung up the boots, it wasn’t weird, it was a nice way of saying thank you. I guess we just need to how it goes. Billy Kirkwood, he’s another shout, without him we wouldn’t have that crazy hosting voice that your hear and warms that crowd. He’s like foreplay, he gets that crowd nice and moist for us, ready for us to penetrate ya, thank you Billy, you do all the hard work for us.
CH: Last September, fans last year saw you go down to Belfast and capture the PWU Celtic Cup, will fans see you back down there?
CR: I know they changed management and I haven’t heard from them since, I was loving it over there, they have a great fan base, again it was the over 18’s environment where I was allowed to be myself. They have some great talent across there, |’d want to point out Tucker, you know he showed up in that WWE United Kingdom Championship and I got to wrestle him a few times and that boy has got the IT factor. So good fans and great hosts, they always made us feel really welcome and I can’t speak highly enough about that promotion and made us feel really welcome. I’d love to get back over there, one of my highlights from last year was that promotion.
CH: Your fan base in Newcastle has been known to unofficially christen Newcastle as NAK country, what would you want say to your fans there as its almost like a home away from home?
CR: We sort of noticed it because we were scheduled to be the heels all the time there and the crowds just kept going, “Nah We love you guys!”, I think Newcastle is just Glasgow with a different accent. Glasgow is more similar to Newcastle than Edinburgh or any other city, it has this kinda friendly threatening accent, does that make sense (Laughs) “Aww thats lovely, but are you gonna stab me?”. A lot of people don’t know this but I was born in Newcastle and stayed there for three months before moving to Glasgow and been in Glasgow ever since. Thats a main reason I have an infinity to Newcastle, maybe they just sense it. We really appreciate the fans there. Great group of people and good mindset. It’s really starting to evolve into a really great scene there, for a while there it was over saturated but promotions like Main Event Wrestling starting to stand out from the pack, Absolute Wrestling is a good company I enjoy going to, and if you enjoy going to work, your gonna get the best from your employees its like any company. It’s a great buzz going there.
CH: Straying away from ICW and on to Computer Games, as well as bring a fan of Silent Hill, it is known to your fan base that you are a massive fan of the Resident Evil franchise, with the RE7 recently released, which one would you consider your favourite?
CR: Still 2 for me because 2 is like 6 games. You got two discs, you get Claire, you get Leon, and then you get the second scenarios, so there is four games right there. I mean its back to that warm and fussy nostalgic feeling and I think it was really that game that I almost moved into my teen years through adolescence sort of stop. I can still go back and play it. It still packs a punch.
“Don’t Shoot I’m a Human!”
The bad voice acting still pops me, lets use ICW as an analogy. Raccoon City in itself was a huge character, and Resident Evil lost after its third game. And four was a good game, but you don’t really think about the setting in four, I think four was set in France, but you don’t really think of the village, you don’t think of the castles, you think of Racoon City, so I think thats a big part of 2 being my favourite. The timeframe being another part of it and also you complete one scenario and you can complete the other with the other as both set during the same time and to me is still the greatest game ever.
CH: Wrapping the interview up, ICW fans are pretty much as part of the show as the show itself, with fans travelling from all over to see Barramania 3, many of those fans might have never been to an ICW event before, so what can they expect from ICW and from the fans as well?
CR: This is gonna be one of those nights the envelope is getting pushed I can tell you that, we’re gonna have some big announcements coming very soon, and whats happening with Barramania, it’s gonna be a violent evening. It’s gonna one of those ones that there is a reason we are over 18’s and that will be Barramania, cause you got the Barra Street Fight with Sha Samuels and Kid Fite, thats no gonna be a tame affair, as we spoke about earlier I’ve got an expectation level in any match I go into a bigger stage, so to have the moniker of Last Man Standing Match, shits gonna go down. Then you got the 15 minute scramble match, 6 of the best in the country, jumping off things, flying about, guaranteed 15 minutes of mayhem and it’s the greatest venue in the world I’ve ever performed in. I prefer the Barras to the Hydro or the SECC, its still the place for me, theres the buzz about it and theres an energy about it, you can almost what has been there before. There is a reason it is world famous and people want to perform in Glasgow and its because of those fans, because you just let yourself go, you want to be part of it and be apart of the fun. Get over the hangover of Wrestlemania, it’s not gonna get worse, the action isn’t dying down, come along and keep the party going thats what I’m thinking, people back from Orlando feeling depressed, fuck that, come to Glasgow.
Photos by David J Wilson.
Insane Championship Wrestling heads to:
Birmingham on April 15th.
Glasgow for Barramania 3 on April 16th.
I want to thank Chris Renfrew for his time and the interview.