***WARNING: this interview contains words that may offend someone’s sensibility.***
We’re back with Chris Renfrew. We were talking about his epic feud against his best friend, BT Gunn.
WtW: When you started that feud, did you already know exactly how it would end?
CR: Oh, yes. We had that angle planned for about one year before it even happened. Well, no, maybe not that long.
When I knew that my feud with BT Gunn would start, I knew exactly where it’d go.
WtW: This obviously includes your turn, right?
There’s certain people who are really hard to turn heel, you know, and it’s difficult to make completely change how the fans perceive them. But I knew I’d get that reaction attacking Mark Dallas, also because of our friendship: everyone knew how close we were, and nobody saw that moment coming.
We knew the game plan, we knew exactly where we were going.
Stuff changes every day, sure, someone may get hurt, someone may just explode…
WtW: What do you mean with this?
CR: Take for example Joe Hendry: in his first match, he was basically a jobber for Big Damo, but then the crowd reacted and we realised that he was not a jobber anymore, he was a worthy opponent. Sometimes the crowd changes our plans for us, you can’t be so ignorant and arrogant to ignore it. The people up in the top leagues decide who goes to Wrestlemania, who faces whom, even though the crowds are screaming another guy’s name. We are not as arrogant as that.
Obviously we don’t let the fans fully dictate us, you have to take back a certain degree of control, but we listen. Sometimes, something comes along that’s better than we thought it’d be, and we run with it.
Or remember when, in 2013, Mark Dallas started behaving like a heel? That year we tried some things that failed completely. Dallas couldn’t be heel, he is… he is Dallas, the renegade master, how can the people fuckin’ hate him? He’s the guy who gave us all this shit, ICW… I mean, could Paul Heyman have been a heel in ECW? No fuckin’ chance. The fans know, they are too smart. Vince McMahon could play the heel authority figure, sure, but it’s not the same thing at all.
WtW: Pretty much, in ICW, “Card subject to change” is not only the NAK catchphrase…
CR: Yeah, sometimes we think we know what the crowd will think, and a lot of the times we are right, but sometimes… DCT is another good example, he just… fuckin’ BOOM! And then we realised that we needed to give him space, we couldn’t ignore the fact that he was so popular.
Even Grado was meant to be pretty much in one match only, we didn’t think he’d become a main event star. We knew he was charismatic, he was funny and the crowd would dig him, but when he got the reaction we got it was… “off to the races we go”, you know.
WtW: I suppose that the main point here is that you know where a storyline or a character is going, while the fans can’t.
And we have a plan for everything, I hate things in wrestling that don’t make sense, I hate loose ends.
We’re not perfect, obviously, there’s a few things we did that are a bit dodgy, but we always try to know where we want to go. We are very detailed: stories, characters, why one dislikes another, what happens next…
In this day and age there’s so much meaningless violence; if you give violence a meaning, it gives people something to think about.
I mean, we live in a time in which people prefer the Joker to Batman, that’s society today: they love those guys who have thought behind their madness. So… why not just go there?
WtW: That’s why people like the NAK so much, then.
CR: Exactly! If you had booked us a decade ago, we’d be the most deplorable, hated heels ever. But today the psychos are kings. Dexter, the Joker, you know…
WtW: Back to those years: you had a feud with Christopher, I think, while the one with BT Gunn brewed, am I right?
CR: Yes Strangely enough, that was our way to cross-promote ICW Music. Do you remember those gigs? I was the one running them.
In that feud I was representing the ICW side of music and he had a Justin Bieber gimmick. That was the main point of it all, I was metal as fuck, you know. It was a music feud.
Music is a big part of my world, if I wasn’t wrestling I’d be involved in music. Probably not as a musician, because my stupid drunken self never actually picked up an instrument in my youth, but it’d be a field I’d want to be involved in.
Anyway, I think that feud also did something for him, you know, to put him over.
Also, Christopher was great fun to work with, he was a great character. It’s a shame he just packed it in and left.
WtW: He left quite suddenly, didn’t he?
CR: Very abruptly.
We had wrestled each other in Maryhill [in September 2013], it was Kenny Williams’s debut match, and then he was gone for personal reasons. He didn’t show up to a show in Edinburgh, then he let us know that he was done with wrestling.
WtW: You mentioned ICW Music, what happened to it?
CR: I couldn’t give it my full focus. The company was growing, and ICW Music was losing steam, it was stagnating, and it was unfair to everyone involved to try to carry on without giving it full attention.
I had fun, we run some great gigs and made some friends, but there was no point in dragging it along.
Never say never, I may go back into it one day.
WtW: Back to your career: after your turn, the first person to join you and BT Gunn in the NAK was Dickie Divers. Was that the idea all along, or did you bring him in because after William Grange, his tag team partner in the STI, left Divers was left with no direction?
CR: I saved his fuckin’ life, man.
He had no direction, he was done, he had even fallen out of favour with management. He was supposed to have a run against Grange and Grange no-showed. So Divers got a microphone to shoot on him and cut the most pathetic shoot promo I have ever heard, something on the lines of “If you see him on the street call him a prick”. I was… “What?”
Clearly management thought “What the fuck do we do with this guy now? He’s done”, and I went “Listen, give him to me, I can use him, I can do something with him.” I wanted to expand the group anyway and I was not allowed to get the members me and BT Gunn wanted, the ones we have today, they were all way too popular, the top faces, the Bucky Boys, Kay Lee Ray and Wolfgang, so… no chance.
Divers was and is one of my friends, and we brought him in as a spare wheel, really.
At first we had the idea that the group would keep getting bigger and bigger, but then we realised that we risked to make it into an NWO fuckin’ rip-off.
So we stayed with Divers, you know, it was OK, we essentially dropped into the tag division, it was the best thing for us back then, a feud with the Bucky Boys, but Divers was almost like a shoe that never fit. He never took anything away from the group, but he never made us really game changers, right? He made us upper-midcard nuisances.
But I wanted everyone in Scotland… fuck, everyone in Britain think that we were the best faction that ever existed.
Divers was Divers. It was OK.
You know the various versions of the Four Horsemen, the best ones… and then there were other version of the Horsemen… you had Tully Blanchard, the original one, then the one with Barry Wyndham, and many more…
WtW: Even Paul Roma was in the Four Horsemen.
CR: I don’t want to call Divers the Paul Roma of the situation, but… well… at the time we were a midcard nuisance, not a main event attraction.
WtW: Personally I consider Divers a good wrestler, but he never really seemed to fit.
CR: He didn’t.
Me and BT Gunn were the originals who had turned “bad”, while he had always been someone else’s sidekick. We were bigger deals for the fans, he was never seen as our equal.
To be fair, he was always treated like a lackey. Maybe I never truly believed he was on our level. He still did some great matches, mind. He was the go-to guy for ladder matches and those things, but he never was the best fit. We were better opponents than partners.
WtW: I liked him in the “shoot interview” the two of you had some weeks ago, though.
CR: True, he did much better than most people were expecting.
WtW: On with the NAK: even Darkside James Scott, when you brought him in, despite being one of the best technical wrestlers in the company… I never really understood why he was in.
CR: It was a great angle, but we never followed up on it.
His turn was great, as James Scott he had done his retirement angle then he became Darkside again. The poetry there was that he had turned his back on James Scott and we had managed to bring Darkside back to join our group. But, well…
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any ill feelings towards James, but we’re not hanging out with each other over the weekend, we’re not pals outside the wrestling scene, let’s say we are acquaintances through wrestling, sometimes we meet up to play some football, but that’s all there is. He’s not someone I’d phone and go “Dude, are you coming for a pint?”, which is what the New Age Kliq was meant to be, it’s meant to be based on friendship.
It was a sort of random decision.
I’ll admit that BT Gunn was never huge on it, he said the exact same things: “This is meant to be our thing, a personal thing, that’s what makes us different from any fuckin’ faction booked by a promotion or a creative team, made of people just strung together. What makes us what we are is the fact that it’s you and I, best mates.” And now I totally agree with him.
We weren’t the complete New Age Kliq, we were a version of it. It was OK, we were hated – probably more hated than we are now in a sense, I mean, we beat up most of the women in the roster and threatened a pregnant woman with scissor, that definitely got us some cheap heat.
WtW: I think the fans changed as well.
CR: There are so many people in the fanbase now that don’t even remember me being a good guy, they can’t even fathom that I was one of the most popular good guys in the company.
We also became a lot cooler, back then we were just horrible.
WtW: There’s also the fact that you personally got better on the ring, if I can say this.
WtW: How were the early days of the NAK?
CR: We were off to a slow start. I was finding myself as well, I was so used to be a loved goody that I had to find my feet again, I had to learn to be something else, to change. It takes time to go from one extreme to the other.
Even after that great moment and that great promo, I needed to change everything I was.
WtW: So the NAK we have now was supposed to be the NAK from the start.
CR: Well, Wolfgang was not in the equation, it was the other two [Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray], we were the ones who grew up as the New Age Kliq.
But yes, this is the NAK we always wanted.
In my opinion, we have made more headway between March and today [it’s the 6th of August] than we did in the two years before.
We were more hated, sure, but we felt we were all over the place, me and BT Gunn have changed as individuals and as characters since. We always knew that we’d need to do something different, to be something different. Now we found the New Age Kliq I had been dreaming of from the start. I always wanted that dualism, we’re not a heel or a face faction. You can love us, you can fuckin’ hate us, but we’ll do what we want to do, our way. I’ve always wanted to have something like a gang warfare thing, that’s what we have achieved, I’m pretty chuffed.
WtW: Recently you improved a lot on the ring, became much fitter and even more aggressive. Why and how did this happen?
CR: You know what woke me up? Drew Galloway.
See when he showed up, last year? Check my matches, the way I wrestled and I behaved before and after he came back: he was the guy.
I had the briefcase, I was the #1 Contender, then he showed and I realised that there was a very fuckin’ high chance that I’d end up fighting him for the belt, that my storylines would change, not run the way they were supposed to. The whole game had changed, a fuckin’ real pro wrestler had showed up in the building and I wanted his spot.
Drew was a huge fuckin’ inspiration, a wakeup call to me and to a lot of the other guys. We had in the company the last element we needed. We had Grado, a media darling but he is on one side of the wrestling world. We just needed a pro wrestler to put on the posters next to him, to appeal everyone.
When Drew Galloway showed up I realised it was time to wake up.
We also had the Sumerian Death Squad coming in more often, Jack Gallagher, Marty Scurrl, so I could no longer coast on that bitchin’ heel turn, I couldn’t hide behind the fact that my tag team partner is so fuckin’ talented or the fact that I’m pretty good on the stick. In this day and age, people want it all. You need to be able to do a little bit of everything to be fully accepted in wrestling society. Make them laugh, make them cry, be a great wrestler… people want everything. And, you know… I had it, I had just forgotten I did. I knew I could do all that shit on the ring, I had just gotten lazy, hiding behind gimmick matches, behind promos, behind my character. “Fuck that shit”, I thought, “I’m waking up.”
Wrestling Paul London and Brian Kendrick was another big wakeup call. It felt really big, it was a show in Newcastle and Newcastle shows are always good, that one in particular was one of the best shows we ever did, and we were in the main event. And it was getting better match after match. Rampage Brown opened it against Kid Fite, I think. Or maybe Sha Samuels, I’m not sure. [it was Kid Fite] Dallas came by and said “Dude, I think we’re running one of our best shows”, and I went “Shut the fuck up, I’m next!” I was the most nervous I’d ever been, because I used to proper look up at those guys, you know, London and Kendrick were two of the guys I really admired in wrestling, and I was having the opportunity to have a tag title match with them. I knew, in my mind, that if anyone was going to fuck it up it was going to be me. Because you had Kendrick, you had London and you had BT Gunn. Fuck, I had to hang with those motherfuckers. And I did, I know I did. It was then when I realised that I still had it, so I decided I had to start getting better and better and better. And I have.
I knew that if they had left me behind it would have been only my fuckin’ fault.
Back to the start of this… yes, Drew Galloway. I can look at him and say “Cheers for showing up and being a big pro wrestler.” He made everyone else around him better.
WtW: So now you are once again, in a way, the face of ICW.
CR: Nobody’s bigger than this company. Not one single person. Not even Drew and Grado. Worst case scenario, Drew and Grado both get signed by WWE tomorrow in one swoop… ICW would rock on. We’d create new stars, new characters.
Huge strength in Chris Renfrew’s words, here.
In the next part of this interview we’ll talk a little more about the NAK, then about ICW in general and about a wrestling utopia… you’ll see.