Hi there, let me introduce myself… I’m Martin Huburn. I’m an aspiring stand-up comedian, host of the wrestling-based podcast Smarks and Jobbas, and a former independent professional wrestler. I wrestled under the moniker Poison for fifteen years, predominantly here in Britain and also in the USA.

I started wrestling in 1993 at the age of 15, and hung up the tights in 2009. In fact, I think I actually fell out with the wrestling business altogether – I didn’t really know what wrestling had to offer me anymore, so I walked away from it. Until earlier this year. Many of my comedy comrades have got podcasts and, just like following the herd, I followed suit, wanting something else to get my teeth into. But what was going to be at the core?

I found it really fascinating that a lot of comedians I speak to have an interest in professional wrestling, some to the point of fanatical, and that’s where it hit me – I’ll do a podcast which is a cheeky peek into the world of wrestling. Not to uncover the secrets, or lift the covers off the unknown, but to show the outside world what drives people like me to chase a career in, and a passion for, professional wrestling.

I wasn’t a big fan of the British wrestling scene, at least when I was still humping from venue to venue. Britain seemed to lack some vital ingredients – charisma, confidence in front of a camera, production values, and a connection with the audience. Now I’m not saying we didn’t have talent, and I’m certainly not saying all the workers were missing all of the ingredients but let’s just say a majority of the smaller groups were lagging by the wayside.

Being away from the industry for almost six years, I had no idea what to expect when I started to do some much required research for my podcast. I went straight to the main players of British wrestling such as Preston City Wrestling, PROGRESS, and WAW, and was so impressed with how far we had come in just a short space of time. People really have spent a lot of time, effort, and money on their production, and some very talented, charismatic showmen have started to emerge.

One company I came across is a group making a name for themselves north of Hadrian’s Wall, Insane Championship Wrestling. ICW are a fed that markets themselves to an “Over 18” audience – they push a few boundaries and use some strong language. I found a few clips on YouTube, such as Grado’s ring entrance and Drew Galloway’s return, and Oh My Life! It reminded me of what was going on at Viking Hall, it’s the federation I was trying to create back in 1999 when I re-branded Sovereign Championship Wrestling, so needless to say, I fell in love with them straight away.

I visited their website and saw that they were about to go on tour to several venues in England.  I booked tickets straight away and, when the tickets turned up, I was so excited. I haven’t felt this way about going to a show since the fourteen year-old me bought tickets for the WWF, live at the NEC in Birmingham back in 1992.

11th April 2015, Nottingham Rock City. Insane Championship Wrestling presents The Princess Is In Another Castle – or, as it should be renamed, The Princess Just Got Dropkicked… AGAIN?!?! for reasons I’ll mention later.

I was given a heads up to arrive at least an hour before doors open because the ICW fans are passionate and queue up early to get a good place. Oh, I’d better explain – ICW don’t do seating, it’s standing only, which again I’ll come to later. And how right my informant was, because by the time I got there there was already around a hundred people already waiting in line. About ten minutes before the doors opened, the chants of I-C-Dub started. It was like waiting for the turnstiles to open for a big away match at the football! The atmosphere was electric and we hadn’t got inside yet!

We finally did get inside and I managed to get a ringside spot. I don’t know if you know Nottingham’s Rock City, but for this type of crowd, and this type of production, the venue is perfect. Normally it’s used to stage rock concerts and one of the nation’s premiere hard rock night clubs, but tonight it’s home to Scotland’s pride of wrestling.

ICW do something I haven’t seen before other than on the holiday camps, they do a short warm-up before the show. Billy Kirkwood is a Scottish comedian, well-known and respected on the comedy circuit, and he is also the commentator for ICW’s on-demand and YouTube productions.  I can’t say that nobody else does or doesn’t do this [PROGRESS do, with another comedian at the helm – editor’s note] as I haven’t ventured out much, however this is something every wrestling fed should be doing, assuming it’s done right of course. It actually helped the show connect with the audience, who probably didn’t need much warming up but it helped. It’s like meet and greet when you come to a hotel or restaurant, it helps to settle you in and make you feel welcome.

After Kirkwood had warmed them up, the crowd turned the noise up another notch, which only increased the atmosphere. You just knew you were a part of something very special. The matches themselves were pretty good – nothing over-extravagant, no big storyline reveals, but a good solid wrestling show. No, when I say special, I’m talking about the fans who bought into and invested in everything – the characters, the storylines, the high spots, the low spots.

This is what makes ICW so unique and so special, their fan base. The standing only adds to the atmosphere, just like being on the football terraces back in the 80s and early 90s. People group together and chant in every single match, and they really are ICW’s 12th man.

There were a couple of low points for me, however. The first one being that it seemed as though almost every match had at least one dropkick in it, even Drew Galloway versus Grado! That had three of them, two by Grado while Drew was in the Tree of Woe, and one from Drew (the type Bret Hart used to do, onto his back), so at least these two guys added variation.

The second disappointment was simply that the show ended. I left Rock City wanting more. This was an excellent night of wrestling, and if you haven’t seen them live – and you’re over the age of 18 – then go check them out.

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