***WARNING: this interview contains expressions that may offend someone’s sensibility.***
Today, Chris Renfrew tells us about the NAK, about a certain utopia and about some crucial moments in his career. Read on!
WtW: Let’s talk about the NAK nowadays: you were born as a proper heel faction, now you get mixed reactions – or rather, at least in Glasgow, you are pretty much universally cheered. Did you expect that?
I knew that eventually the faction would become so cool that people would get behind it. I know BT Gunn will always have a certain fanbase, especially women, whatever he does. When we brought in Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray we know they have and will always have a certain appeal. KLR especially, whether she’s a good or a bad character, and so many people will anyway cheer her for what she’s done in the past – and some for the way she looks.
I knew there would be some people thinking we are the greatest thing ever, I only had in mind that even if people loved us we’d never change what we do. Ever. And we didn’t, and we won’t.
I am never complimentary to the fans, if someone heckles me I’m on them, I’ll always act like a guy nobody should cheer, if you want to fuckin’ cheer me it’s down to you.
You know when I say “This is NAK country”? That’s because I know that there are certain territories that like us more than others. In Glasgow we’re pretty much good guys, maybe also because so many fans know us personally and we are nice people in real life. Newcastle is also a strong NAK city. It’s different on tour. Except for Newcastle, we’re not popular at all in England, they hated us in Sheffield. Even in Edinburgh people pretty much hate us.
But I mean, in Glasgow people cheer us even against Grado and people like him.
WtW: To be fair, I think that the fans are starting to cheer Grado a little less.
CR: That’s true, probably because we are regulars here, we’re not only guys you’ve seen on the telly, in the documentaries, people are not going to see “the cool guys off the telly”, Jester, Grado… the Glasgow fans are the ones who have hugely invested in the product, and they want their own guys, you know what I mean? Sometimes something becomes so cool that it starts being uncool, and maybe that’s what happened about Grado with some of the Glasgow fans. But when you go anywhere else – Liverpool, Leeds, fuckin’ London – Grado is the most popular guy in the world.
WtW: Are you happy with getting mixed reactions, or would you be happier to be a straightforward heel?
CR: As long as people do react, I’m very happy.
It’s not about good guys and bad guys anymore, it’s about characters fighting each other. I mean, I traditional wrestling terms, in what way are the NAK face, in what way are Legion face? We’re both heel, really, for what we’re doing. We all bash religion, we assault each other, we staged crucifixions… we’re doing it all, but people are going to pick their side. That’s what we like.
It’s like picking a sports team, and I really like it. You have Polo Promotions fans, NAK people, Legion supporters. I’m sure there are people who will even support The 55. And that’s awesome, because it’s going to be a really cool atmosphere.
Remember when the Hart Foundation did all that Canada against USA thing? Like that. Pick a side, pick your team.
WtW: So, basically, you’re happy that the fans react to you.
CR: Yes, if one is over he or she will get both cheered and booed. I think that the only guy who is out-and-out booed at the moment is Red Lightning.
WtW: To be fair, at the last show I cheered him…
CR: You did? See, there’s always at least fuckin’ one!
WtW: Yes, because he attacked Jackie Polo and his guys.
CR: Perfect! See what I meant? Two characters. You cheered a guy against another guy. People boo whoever their favourite is fighting, or cheer a guy attacking a character they don’t like.
WtW: I think you’re creating a wrestling utopia, there’s no good guys or bad guys, you pick your favourite.
CR: I don’t think it’s a case of “there won’t ever be a straight up good or bad guy”, there will always be a straight up goodie like Joe Coffey and a straight up baddie like Red Lightning, and then there’s a lot in between. But that’s life! You do get some people who are just fuckin’ pricks, with no redeeming characters, and some others who don’t have a single bad bone in their bodies, and everyone else in between. It’s just humans and characters.
One of my favourite phrases, I don’t even know if I coined it myself or I picked it up somewhere, is “It’s not the bump itself they give a fuck about, it’s the guy taking the bump”.
An example: an indy guy, maybe a Mexican wrestler, flies over the top rope every day, 300 days every year. Good, well done. The Undertaker does it once a year and you fuckin’ give a fuck because he’s your guy, he’s The Phenom, and he’s making that big leap. You give a fuck about Mick Foley falling off that cell because he wasn’t some random guy in CZW falling into a fuckin’ lawnmower, and everyone goes “Oooh, crazy, oooh” and then moves on to the next clip. Foley was a human being you had invested in, falling and getting hurt. As much as you know it’s a show, you were asking yourself if he was OK. That’s the way I look at it: creating characters every single person gives a fuck about.
Yes, I guess we are creating that utopia in a sort of sense. We’re creating characters people invest in. Because people give a fuck about people, and that will never change. That’s why documentaries will always be filmed, that’s why autobiographies will always be read: people are interested in people.
WtW: Do you think you could have achieved this if ICW was a family show?
CR: No. With kids, wrestling should always be a goodie/baddie world. I don’t think shades of grey should exist much in a kid’s life. When you grow up and you learn about the world, then you’ll see the shades. In a kiddies show there shouldn’t be things that are too sexualised, or too violent. You can nod to them, there’s a difference between gratuitous violence and a hardcore match in a smaller promotion. In a family show you’ll never see me bleeding on purpose, or use a certain language.
WtW: Without obviously giving us any anticipation, do you think that the NAK as a stable within ICW will ever end?
CR: Nothing’s forever, and sometimes it’s best to burn out than to fade away.
You don’t know what’s going to happen, for all we know the cage match [against Legion at Fear & Loathing VIII, next November] could be the finale, because… fuck, it is a cage match. Nobody saw our matches at the Square Go end as they did, nobody imagined us ending so abruptly. November could be our swan song, we may not fuckin’ survive it.
WtW: …and Mick Foley will be there.
CR: True, and nobody knows what he’s going to fucking do.
WtW: So the NAK may actually end.
CR: It may, but we’ll keep it going as long as we can. We are part of the wrestling culture in this country now. We may not be mainstream, but… you know, the people who love us really love us, they’re so passionate.
Sometimes it’s a bit daunting, but…
WtW: Let’s talk a bit about all the following the NAK has. I think that in part it is because of your promos: they simply tell the truth. Sometimes it’s unpleasant, but it’s always the truth.
CR: People like the truth.
So many people, in life in general, sugar-coat it, beat around the bush. People like it when someone goes “By the way, this is what it is”. Well… some people like it, some others don’t. But people always respect it, whether they like the truth or not. They like the fact that we say it.
It’s being a cult leader. It’s the cult leader thing, like Jim Jones. Some people think “That guy is crazy, man”, but some others are “That’s cool”.
WtW: You were talking about the typical, straightforward “good guy” even in an adult show… what do you mean?
CR: There will always be one guy who’s nicer and better, you know, maybe a pure sportsman. Take Joe Coffey, he’s a typical good guy, a superhero. There’s no shades of grey about him. And that’s perfect, because he brings the comic book side in.
WtW: Right, what do you think is the relation between comics and wrestling?
CR: Comic books are a big part of wrestling now, Fergal Devitt is a primary example of that, he started with the whole Venom and Carnage stuff.
Wrestling is a fantasy world, and everyone in the business accepts it as such, so they love all those different elements of it.
WtW: Talking about your own career: in the “shoot interview” that saw you and Divers cutting promos against each other just before Shug’s Hoose Party II, Divers said that you are the person in ICW who had the highest number of title shots in the history of the company. Is it true?
CR: Yes, I think it is. Apart from James Scott and BT Gunn, I have fought every champion. Jester, about three or four times – sure in the four way at Still Smokin’, and I was his first title defence. I fought Drew, Red Lightning… not sure about Mikey Whiplash, I don’t think so.
Yes, I believe I had more title matches than anyone else.
[checking, Renfrew fought four times for the title, losing to Red Lightning, Jack Jester (twice) and Drew Galloway]
But a lot of that was due to the fact that in that timeframe I was the “go-to” guy. Most of the times I wasn’t a viable challenger. For example, with Jester it was his first defence, he needed someone who would make him look the part, basically he needed someone to bleed for him, and I was the guy. When Red Lightning had the belt I was a very hot face, he was a hot heel, it was the perfect match-up.
Yeah, I had a few title matches over the years. And I always choked.
There is another statistic: I have never beaten, in ICW, a man who has held the Heavyweight title. Not in a singles match anyway.
WtW: Didn’t you beat Jack Jester once?
CR: BT Gunn and I beat Jimmy Havoc and Jack Jester in a tag team match. And it was BT Gunn pinning Havoc.
WtW: And why is that?
CR: Maybe I’m just a choker. Maybe that’s just the character’s flaw. Maybe I’m all fuckin’ mouth and no substance. Maybe that’s just my destiny, I’m just the guy who’s going to come second in the League every time, the one who loses the Champions League final, the guy who misses the crucial penalty, who could have done it but…
Maybe that’s my curse. Maybe that’s the motivation behind the psychosis… I just can’t get to the top of the mountain, no matter how many times I keep climbing. I get so close and there’s always someone there to knock me down, then, when I’m still there, someone goes right past me. You can’t send just anyone to the top, you know.
WtW: When you had the briefcase, we all thought it was obvious that you’d take the title off Jester before Drew turned up.
CR: But it wasn’t obvious.
WtW: Well, we thought Shug’s Hoose Party was the moment. You even said it in a promo, Jester had no friends left in the roster – and that night Drew appeared.
CR: The perfect set up.
If Drew hadn’t shown up, I don’t know how it would have ended. But that was the best thing that could have ever happened. Character-wise, if I had won the title that night, where would I be now? Losing my title match with Drew was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, because it put an end to my CR Drunk character and to that version of the NAK. The same night, at the 2015 Square Go, BT Gunn lost a cage match, I lost the title match and Dickie Divers won the Square Go match. It was over. I think it was the perfect way to put an end to that chapter of our book, it allowed us to come back with different motivations.
Some people think that you need to win, but sometimes losing can be more beneficial than winning, if you go in the right direction with it. In my case, I believe that losing to Drew Galloway was more beneficial to my character going forward than if I had won that belt.
At the moment I do not have the same money/power draw that Drew Galloway or Grado have, but that may not be the case in a year’s time, because that defeat allowed me to evolve, to change.
I think that losing that match was one of the best things that ever happened to my character, and it was such an emotional match, there were several people who really wanted me to bring it home, and I didn’t. Sometimes the fairytale ending doesn’t come true, that’s ICW as well: you never know how it ends.
WtW: Objectively, thinking about it, I admit I would like to see you with the belt, you deserve it for what you have done and are doing for ICW, but of course I am against the NAK, so I’m glad you didn’t win it. Anyway, it was a fantastic match, much better than I even imagined it would be…
CR: That was one of the matches that come along every now and then, much like the one against London & Kendrick that I talked about earlier. A match for which I felt I needed to raise my game. And Drew is the man, he makes everyone he is on the ring with look better by the end of the match. Every big challenger he had so far – that is me, Joe Coffey and Big Damo – have come out stronger off Drew’s back. But with that match I also proved that I can stand on my own two feet. I had that big tag match with London & Kendrick, as I said, but that was… well, a tag match. Going in a match of that calibre, with that much hype, I just couldn’t suck. And I didn’t. In my opinion, I gave my best performance in my life. And it was a beautiful way to end that character and start a new one.
Next time we’ll discuss Chris Renfrew’s plans and dreams for ICW. Don’t miss it!