I won't pretend to be an expert on Insane Championship Wrestling. I've seen the documentaries, watched the odd show via their on demand service and admired the kind of atmosphere and vibe they've put together, but I approached yesterday's “ICW: Alex Kid In London” show with intrigue, more than anything. Too see what the hype was all about for what (probably) is Britain's most well known wrestling promotion.
We're in KOKO, a venue more known for its music than its wrestling shows. The venue provided a spectacular setting that befitted a theatre almost, complete with giant disco ball. Commentator Billy Kirkwood opened up with a predictable introduction that whips up the crowd quite nicely. The message is simple – this isn't your “family friendly” WWE, and a reference to Roman Reigns being “shoved down fans throats”.
What followed then, in a way, was almost bizarre. This isn't to say it was a bad show (it certainly wasn't) but given Billy's opening speech, and given the general vibe I had believed Insane Championship Wrestling portrayed, I wouldn't expect what followed to try and come across as a knock off of the very company they slagged off in the opening overs.
So quite why this show featured a kerb stomp, two rock bottoms, three stunners, an RKO, an F5, a pedigree, a pedigree onto some steel chairs, a frog splash and a Tombstone Piledriver I've got no idea. What's more, not only were these moved used, most of them didn't even finish their matches.
Now yes, maybe I'm missing the spirit of all of this. “You're taking it all too seriously” (I'm sure I am – it's how I've always watched wrestling to a point). And, regardless of whether it'd have been a pedigree onto steel chairs or a DDT, the fact that Grado popped straight back up from the move suggested that maybe I was on another level for what this show was about.
But one after another I'm struggling to make sense of it all. Stevie Boy – who won the six way Zero-G title match took more punishment that the other five in the match put together. This included (what looked like) a kerb stomp. He walked out of the match under his own steam, even if the match did include interference from “The New Age Kliq”.
The pattern continued for most of the evening. The Chris Renfrew/Lionheart match did most of the damage – the use of an “RKO/stunner” hybrid and a rock bottom as a transition spot by each of them was strange. Grado busting out an F5 before taking two pedigrees from the usually excellent Sha Samuels took things a step further. Grado, for what it's worth, won the match.
What's bizarre is that, if this is something that ICW are guilty of more often, is why? You want to put across this anti-WWE type message, then why are your guys busting out almost every major finisher imaginable? We were an Attitude Adjustment (which would've sent things into a whole new realm), a Hogan leg drop and a Savage elbow drop away from the full set. In the main event, Drew Galloway (McIntyre) busted out a tombstone piledriver to Jack Jester onto some steel chairs. It made sense in isolation (Galloway eliminated Sabu with his Futureshock DDT onto some chairs, so could hardly do it again) but it reflected badly on Galloway that it was the last in a long line of imitation.
Why do it? That's my question. ICW clearly isn't going for the “strong style”/”technical” wrestling angle that others go for. And it clearly works for them. But what do they gain other than coming across as knock-off WWE by doing this? Galloway using a tombstone on it's own made a fair amount of sense, it's not to knock the idea – but why the rest of it?
As for the show itself, it was good – but there was certainly nothing spectacular. In fact, at times it felt like they were hampering themselves. Marty Scurll and Joe Coffey teased in moments that they could've had an excellent match, but the bizarre inclusion of Jack Gallagher to make it a three way (in a show headlined by a three-way) that killed any opportunity for the match to get anywhere beyond OK. Grado is still excellently popular, and popping up from the pedigree (in a spot that was presumably a homage to the Warrior/HHH spot from the mid-90s) did pop the crowd even if it did crack any notion that this match was anything else than fun.
Things picked up after the break. BT Gunn and Mikey Whiplash were on their way to a good match before a spectacular moment saw Whiplash perched precariously on the apron aiming to avoid falling onto/through a spare section of guardrail that was laid out like a table on the outside. Whiplash leant back and clung onto the second rope to gain some momentum for a shoulder block – and the rope snapped. He fell back and through the guardrail in a spot that was likely far more dangerous than what they had planned.
We debated whether the spot was planned, ultimately it would become clear that wasn't the case. The match never really went anywhere after that, and the ten minute long break to fix it confirmed it. It might have been the best moment of the show.
We finished with a trio of good matches, albeit the break certainly would've curtailed into the available time available. Noam Dar and Mark Coffey had to whip the crowd up, Dave Mastiff and Damo had a decent big man match – any lingering doubts about the fixed second rope were gone after a superplex from those two.
And in the main event we got Sabu, Drew Galloway and Jack Jester – a nice main event that went into the crowd underneath our viewing position. The trio worked hard to put on a violent enough hardcore brawl – Sabu is still rocking it at 50, he ran through some of his signiture spots before being eliminated. Galloway and Jester went a little longer, Jester getting bloodied after Galloway used a power drill as a weapon – quite why he didn't just lamp him with it, I've got no idea. In the end Jester kicks out of the futureshock so Galloway gets the chairs again and does a Tombstone onto them to retain his title.
All in all a nice show that could've been very good if they'd have done a few things differently. The WWE tribute in the first half was inexcusable, and some of the matchmaking decisions were perplexing. But KOKO was a fantastic choice of venue (as you'll be able to see from the photos, I'd argue we had the best view in the place), the guys worked hard and they did well to recover from the rope breaking. I'll be making another appointment with ICW when they're back in town, but I'm hopeful they won't be making the same mistakes again.