ICW is generally totally bonkers. Bonkers in the best possible way.
Pro-wrestling can’t always be bonkers, though. Sometimes it needs to slow down. Sometimes the audience needs a wee bit of time to digest what’s going on, and to allow the consequences of what they’re watching to sink in.
ICW has never slowed down too much, and more recently they haven’t really slowed down at all.
Shug’s Hoose Party II was ICW at its best and worst. There was incredible brutality and death-defying crash-and-burn action. There was shocking returns and turns. There was a wedding!
And there was even some wrestling.
The show kicked off with the entirety of The 55 (minus Martin Kirby) gloating about how great a night they were about to have. James R. Kennedy sent Bram, Sha Samuels and Tim Wylie to the back, as he reckoned that Kid Fite would be able to take care of Joe Hendry on his own. Kennedy was interrupted by Joe’s latest music video – this time it was a spoof of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight, complete with “Stone Cold” Bobby Roberts playing the drums in a gorilla mask – and an announcement that Joe was dropping his “Global Hero” moniker, and returning to being a “Local Hero” again.
The in-ring action was solid, with Kid Fite attacking Hendry’s head and neck, following his recent diving accident. In the end, Kennedy got involved to save his charge, and Kid Fite was able to roll up Hendry with a handful of Joe’s trunks.
Next up was a brutal war between BT Gunn and Mikey Whiplash, in a contest for which ICW had been admonished of any legal liability for its consequences. “The Oddity” came through the crowd and attacked Whiplash from behind, before removing his mask to reveal that his face was painted like his opponents, in a clever twist on his storyline motivation to be the new Mikey Whiplash.
The match itself was hard-hitting and extremely violent, making its way through the crowd and onto the balcony in the ABC. Whiplash’s old sidekick, Jam O’Malley got involved, after having his long dreadlocks cut off by Gunn and the NAK at the contract signing on the previous night. While they brawled at the bar, Whiplash jumped off of the balcony on top of them both, in what should have been the most spectacular spot of the night. When they finally got back in the ring; BT Gunn sliced Whiplash open with a knife, in some horribly graphic violence. He was then able to power-bomb Whiplash onto base of the steel steps, and pinned Mikey’s shoulders to them for the win.
After the match, Whiplash got on the microphone, with blood literally gushing out of a head wound, and laughed at the idea that the beating and defeat he’d just sustained would stop him. He said that since the NAK like to get involved in each other’s battles, that any three of them should face him and his Legion stablemates, Michael Dante and Tommy End in a 6-man Cage Match at Fear and Loathing in November. This match was later confirmed as BT Gunn, Chris Renfrew and Wolfgang against Legion.
Joe Coffey won his grudge match against Sha Samuels, after a stiff back-and-forth battle, despite the best efforts of James R. Kennedy on the outside. Samuels is one of the best heels in the UK, and he did a great job of putting over one of ICW’s top tier babyfaces. Coffey eventually got the pin, after hitting a bridging-German suplex out of the corner.
Chris Renfrew won the Square Go briefcase from his former NAK brother, Dickie Divers in a savage Ladder Match. Both men levelled each other with chairs, ladders, kendo sticks and even barbed wire. Unfortunately for Divers, the NAK made their numbers count in the end, with Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray’s interference proving to be the difference in the end.
After the interval, DCT and Viper were married by “humanist celebrant”, Robert Florence from BBC Scotland’s Burnistoun. The wedding was hilarious from start to finish, with DCT’s popularity seemingly rising to all new heights. Unfortunately for the happy couple, Florence dropped DCT with a low-blow, and The 55 were sent down as a “gift” from General Manager, Red Lightning. Rather than having the best day of their lives, the newlyweds’ big day ended with the bride receiving a piledriver onto her wedding cake by Bram.
Grado made his entrance to save Viper any further humiliation, and to begin his match with Bram. The big Englishman dished out a sadistic beating on Grado, who had to dig deep to survive. Bram lost his focus however, after he emptied his bag of tacks, to find they’d been replaced by Skittles. After brawling through the crowd, Grado was able to set-up the big man on a table and leaped off of a raised level, at the side of the stage, dropping 15 feet onto Bram. Joe Coffey had to save Grado from the interfering The 55 members, before Bram ate a Wee Boot and was pinned for the three count.
After the match, Grado cut an impassioned promo about how no matter how in-demand he is, ICW will always be his top priority and made it clear that after his recent wins, he wanted a World Title match at Fear and Loathing.
Wolfgang took on Rhino next, in a big-hitting battle of the heavyweights. The NXT man looked in great shape, and the two put on an exciting scrap, despite being hamstrung by not being able to use the ropes for most of the match, while the middle rope was being repaired. The NAK’s numbers advantage paid dividends once again; and despite Rhino goring Kay Lee Ray through a table, Stevie Boy threw knucke-dusters to Wolfgang, who levelled Rhino with them to pick up the win.
The semi-main event was cancelled before it began, thanks to Red Lightning’s continuing vendetta against Noam Dar and Kenny Williams. With the new Champagne Super-Bollocks tandem all set to challenge Polo Promotions for the Tag Team Championship, the GM announced that as Mark Dallas had signed the match against his wishes, he was calling it off. He then sent The 55 on the attack, but Dar, Williams, Jackie Polo and Mark Coffey were able to clear the ring of the heels.
The main event saw Drew Galloway defend the ICW World Heavyweight Championship against Big Damo. Galloway did a masterful job of playing up his new heelish persona, and sold the crowd’s barracking of him quite brilliantly. After a bruising war that included multiple chair shots and some epic near-falls, referee Thomas Kearins was inadvertently knocked out. Damo levelled Galloway with his Van Damonator. Alternate referee, Sean McLaughlin ran down and made the three count, seemingly crowning a new champion. However, the fans reacted furiously when Red Lightning delivered them a Dusty finish; announcing that he hadn’t authorised the second referee to come out and officiate the match.
The battle raged on, until the lights went out and when they came back up, Galloway was stood facing his arch-nemesis, and the man he defeated for the title, Jack Jester. With the odds seemingly back in Damo’s favour, there was another twist. Jester delivered a low-blow to the The Beast of Belfast, and Galloway picked up the win by using Jester’s Tombstone finisher.
The show ended with Galloway, Jester and Red Lightning drinking champagne in the ring and toasting their success. It was the completion of Galloway’s heel turn, coupled with a partnership with the newly turned Jester.
If you were keeping score at home, there was outside interference in every single match on the show. The 55 or the NAK were involved in every match, apart from the very last one; where it was Jack Jester and The 55’s ally, Red Lightning who interfered. In five out of the seven matches, the heels were able to outsmart and get the better of their face opponents. And yet again in ICW, long-time enemies all of a sudden became the best of friends for no logical reason.
Pro-wrestling needs inventive storytelling, and shocking twists woven throughout the narrative. But when a show is nothing but plunder, run-ins and when the bayfaces are perpetually hamstrung—there’s very little momentum that can be carried forward. Shug’s Hoose Party II established nothing other than that all ICW’s heroes (with the exception of Grado, Joe) are not worth getting behind, because they always get outmanoeuvred.
A crazy-stunt spot like Mikey Whiplash jumping off of a balcony onto his opponent should be an utterly unique and memorable moment, but it was lost amongst the shuffle on an overly-booked card. It wasn’t even the only balcony dive of the night!
The heels have little heat with the crowd, because the fans just become numb to every match ending more or less the same way. The NAK are almost faces now, because most ICW fans have decided to get behind them, because they always win and they have a cooler presentation than pretty much anyone else.
It’s also hard to get invested in the matches and sucked into the false-finishes, because you know a match isn’t going to end until there’s been some kind of outside interference or a run-in.
The amount of time that’s being dedicated to getting heat on Red Lightning – who’s not an active wrestler just now, and having his character literally ruin shows, when there’s no storyline reason Mark Dallas would allow it – is utterly baffling. The vehement “bullshit” chants and the genuine anger from people in the crowd, following the cancellation of an advertised match, involving four very popular talents says it all. The heat was squarely on the promotion and not the heels.
You certainly get your money’s worth at an ICW show, thanks to the in-ring talent on display, but the booking team seriously need to consider the effectiveness of how they utilise their talent and progress their angles moving forward.
History has proved that fans lose patience with wrestling companies who forego logic and common-sense, over-book their cards, and who don’t have universally popular babyfaces that are protected as top attractions.
ICW is possibly different. ICW is more of an experience, than a straightforward nuts-and-bolts wrestling show. Maybe logic doesn’t matter as much as other places and your brain should just be left at home.
However, ICW has definitely provided the perfect mix of classic pro-wrestling storylines and all-out madness in the past.
Hopefully it will again.