Let’s now enter the backstage and talk business. Obviously, talking business with Chris Renfrew means talking about ICW, and talking about ICW means talking about dreams: some have come true, others haven’t – yet.
***WARNING: this interview contains expressions that may offend someone’s sensibility.***
WtW: You also are a booker in ICW, alongside Mark Dallas, aren’t you? How much do you contribute on that side, and do you book your own matches?
CR: We write the shows together. We sit down and come up with all the stories as a team. It happened by accident: I was filming a promo one day, something about wanting to kill the Gold Label, and he invited me over to his place for a few drinks. We started realising that, shit, we had the same fuckin’ brain. Our views of wrestling, of what it should be, of how it should be perceived were the same. So often there’s an incomplete idea from one that the other makes into a complete package. We write this project together.
I don’t deal with any of the business side of things, I don’t book the talent, I don’t approach international stars: Dallas does that.
WtW: So you really are, together, the head booker of ICW.
CR: Yes, he obviously has the last word, I never do, never: he’s my boss, always and forever, He pays my wages, so he’ll always be the one who gives the final “go ahead”. But I will always be able to go forward with any idea, to talk about it with him. And if he doesn’t like it, Dallas never shoots an idea down: he will talk about it and make it better.
I never get the final word, it would be arrogant of me, Dallas will always have the final say. I do not decide who the champion is. I do not decide when the title changes hands. I may favour certain decisions, I may tell him what I think, but at the end of the day the final word is Dallas’s.
WtW: Where would you like ICW to get?
CR: I want it to be running every single weekend. Maybe with small breaks in Summer and on Christmas. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in Glasgow and around the country. And I’d like all the guys to be able to live on it. Travel the country, maybe not wrestle on television but on Netflix, Amazon Prime, something like that. There would be revenue from advertising, so we’d have more money to produce a bigger product. That’s the dream.
I won’t be so stupid to say that I want to be bigger than the WWE: we’d need billions and billions of Pounds to even start competing with them. If Vince McMahon really wanted to kill us tomorrow, he probably could, because he has that much money and swing. Thank God he kinda likes us, or at least Triple H does, apparently.
WtW: How do you know?
CR: Let’s just say we have friends in high places who passed on some nice, complimentary words from them to us. A few of my friends have made it to the dance, so… yes, the guys like us and the top people like us too.
WtW: Sorry for the interruption, please go back to your dreams about the future of ICW.
CR: I want to be the number two in the world.
We are better than TNA, despite the perception people have because they are on television and because they made action figures and videogames. Or maybe because they signed every guy who has been released by the WWE. I want to be number two. I want to be “the other company”.
WtW: How far from achieving this dream do you think you are?
CR: In the UK we are number one. Progress are also great but they are a different world from us, they have a different business module. I compare them more to RoH, they have that style of wrestling. We are a lot more like ECW, over the top.
I’m not saying we don’t focus on the in-ring stuff, watch Jack Gallagher versus Joe Coffey or Mikey Whiplash against Robbie Dynamite, our technical matches are as good as any other you can see in the whole fuckin’ planet, but that’s not the only thing we push forward with. In the whole of Europe, there’s nobody who can hold a candle to us. The only ones who are near our radar are Progress and WXW in Germany.
WtW: Honestly I think that WXW have gone down recently, probably they are rebuilding.
CR: I admit I haven’t been following them much, but they have the reputation, the name. I know of them, and I know we are bigger than them, we are bigger than everyone in Europe.
WtW: And what about America?
CR: Even most of the indy promotions in America, those that are perceived to be at a higher level… I don’t think that our production value, our stories, our characters are in any way behind theirs. I think that right now we are pretty much at the forefront of professional wrestling in the whole world: it’s just a case of making sure that everyone knows we’re here.
It’s the age-old story: you can have something with the potential be more successful than Coca-Cola, but if nobody knows it’s there, what the fuck can you do with it? So we need to get more and more people to spot us.
Once we have taken over Britain – and we are already considered a big UK promotion, we’re not “that Glasgow promotion” any longer, we obviously are still based here and will always be, like ECW was based in Philadelphia, but they weren’t considered “that wee Philly promotion”, they were taking over the world, and we want to take over the world, because… why not?
WtW: Are you thinking about Japan as well?
CR: Japan is Japan, it’s something else: even though I think it has slightly dwindled in recent years, it still is number two in the world. People tend to avoid mentioning Japan because it’s so different from us, but… why can’t their market fall in love with us, if we managed to reach it? ECW was pretty big in Japan, and they have Big Japan Pro Wrestling… mind, we’re not as garbage-y as some of their stuff, a lot of what Big Japan did was fuckin’ piranha deathmatches and stuff, I mean, what the fuck are they doing? We’re trying to achieve a happy medium between violence and fuckin’ ridiculous, gratuitous… if you have to say, like, 19 things in the name of a deathmatch, you’re going too far. You know what I mean? “Electrified piranha on a ladder covered in thumbtacks match”?
Those people see themselves as the biggest fuckin’ deal in the world, that’s what everyone should do. CM Punk kept telling us he was the best in the world. Was he? Maybe, but he kept telling us he was until everyone believed him.
We are the best in the fuckin’ world. We are putting on the most entertaining two and a half hours, three hours of wrestling on the planet, from start to finish. The WWE are the WWE, but are we in love with every single minute of their product at the moment? We’re not, we’re waiting for certain guys to come out. Start to finish, I’m ready to put our shows against any other show on the planet. Back in the Attitude Era, pretty much everyone was “over” – and that’s the mentality we have. We have the attention to create characters people can care about.
WtW: How long have you been living exclusively on wrestling?
CR: It’s just this year. It was in April, I believe. It was about six months after the Asylum opened, we needed to get it off the ground first.
Now I have a fixed salary, maybe I’m the only guy in the whole country who has a salary, to be a salaried wrestler. Everyone else gets paid for each match, I believe I’m the only one who has a payday, I have a bank statement that says “Insane Championship Wrestling”.
The fact that I have done that is an accomplishment for everyone in wrestling, because apparently jobs in wrestling didn’t exist in this country, you needed to go to America, Japan or Mexico, and that’s not true anymore. We set out to change wrestling, and that wasn’t only the entertainment aspect, what the fans are seeing, although we know we did that as well, we are in the middle of something pretty special, but the goal was to make this the job of people here. I’m the first who got to that point.
Sure, other guys make a living from wrestling, but the plan is to make ICW a full time job for people. That’s the target, to make British wrestling as big as American wrestling.
I always kept wondering why do we have to wait for America to do things. We did things before them. We invented wrestling on the telly, we even invented the telly. Someone wants to complain about that? We invented the telephone too. Why the fuck do we need to wait for the Americans to invent stuff, why don’t we invent something here?
When someone tells Scottish people they can’t do something… fuck you!
Anyone who’s becoming someone in wrestling thinks he needs to go get signed by the WWE; fuckin’ bullshit, man. Create a job. Create something that doesn’t exist. Entrepreneur yourself. Get yourself involved in every aspect, become a brand. Become something.
A part of it was my wish to get into entertainment in general. I move well around social media, I did some radio. It’s just about branching yourself out, having an imagination.
This whole thing is still a baby, so… what the fuck is it going to be next year?
The fact that I’m in full time employment in wrestling hailing from Glasgow and working from Glasgow… that was literally something that had not been done since… since when? Since the golden age of British wrestling, since then there hasn’t been any regular, full time wrestler here. Sure, there’s people who work three shows per week and sell their merch, but now salaried wrestling is becoming a thing that can happen in this country. That’s a fuckin’ huge accomplishment.
WtW: Even back then, though… I mean, has it really ever happened? Even Drew MacDonald and Giant Haystacks went to America.
CR: That’s true. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when someone had a regular payslip with professional wrestling, here. It’s new ground we’re breaking.
WtW: What is your training regime?
CR: Well, nowadays I get on the ring pretty much only in matches, or when I have bits and pieces I want to run through. I mostly train in the gym, four or five times every week. But for instance when I’m here in the office sometimes I just take a break and go running up and down the ropes or try some things I wouldn’t try on a live show before having tried it one hundred times in training.
In the next – and unfortunately last – part of this fantastic interview we’ll talk about hardcore wrestling, blood… and you’ll read the best, more touching answer to my usual question: “What do you say to people who claim wrestling is fake?”. And of course we’ll also mention Italy.