This long, fantastic interview with the great Chris Renfrew ends here. And, like with any fireworks display, the loudest bangs come at the end.
***WARNING: this interview contains expressions – and an image – that may offend someone’s sensibility.***
WtW: Let’s touch on hardcore wrestling. You did a lot of hardcore matches; is there anywhere you’d stop, anything you’d refuse to do?
CR: Lots of stuff.
I’ll never work with glass again. Never again. Glass was stupid. I used in one match it was me and BT Gunn against Jack Jester and Jimmy Havoc, there were light tubes… the amount of stupid scars I had on my face, on my head, on my back after that match was too much. That was not smart.
Also, anything that just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes people bring weapons for the sake of bringing them. Sometimes it’s too much. Some of the CZW deathmatches, with the whole mat covered in thumbtack and them not wearing shoes…
I think that the hardcore matches we do have a bit of a reason behind them. The only one I did that I’m not proud of was the Geordie Rules match, in Newcastle against Jimmy Havoc. That was just… that wasn’t even wrestling, that was just messy. The first match, the World of Sports Rules match we had – that I’m proud of, we built a story around it, we started with proper wrestling and we slowly built up the violence until the finale with a lemon on the wounds… that was so sore, man.
I’m not really into the whole hardcore stuff as people would think I am, it’s just that I’m willing to do it, and sometimes you get landed with a spot on a card because you don’t mind doing it.
You have seen what I’m willing to do.
See the CZW stuff, when they pull out weedwhackers, or they get powerbombed 25 feet through four tables… no. That’s not worth my body.
I always ask myself: “Would Mick Foley do it?”
Jack Jester has my same mentality. If Jester wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it. He also asks himself if Mick Foley or Terry Funk would do it. It seems a good way of deciding.
WtW: When we interviewed Jester he also mentioned weedwhackers.
CR: Exactly. Why would you even bring one to a wrestling match? I don’t get some of the ridiculous levels they took it to.
I mean… what will they do next? Will they bring in a chainsaw and cut some fucker’s arm off? You just used a weedwhacker on a guy, what the fuck will you do next?
I hate those messy deathmatches with light tubes everywhere and guys who aren’t fully trained to wrestle. I mean, if you are going to be a hardcore wrestler, you first need to know how to work a match around the weapons, they should be a part of the match, not just something that’s used for the sake of it. There should be a meaning behind them.
Jimmy Havoc is a great example. That guy does a lot of deathmatches, but there always is a reason to his violence, there’s a reason to his madness. The same goes for Mikey Whiplash. You need a setup.
WtW: Let’s stay more or less on the same topic and talk about blood in wrestling. We have recently interviewed Nigel McGuinness, and he is still strongly against it; you, instead, bleed on the ring. Why do you do it?
CR: I believe that every time I’ve bled it has added to the match. I don’t bleed every time, I only do it when it matters. Everyone remembers that contract signing between me and BT Gunn, it was morbid, but it added a lot to the drama. It wasn’t blood for the sake of it.
More recently, Mikey Whiplash got cut badly and it added a lot to the drama. Can you believe that his last match with BT Gunn, when he bled that much, lasted only 8 minutes? Anyway, could it have gone any longer? That’s drama.
Blood in wrestling can be used as a dramatic element.
The most iconic image for me personally, in wrestling history, is Stone Cold Steve Austin trying to break out of Bret Hart’s sharpshooter [at Wrestlemania 13, in 1997]. The blood running down his face and that droplet on his front teeth, ready to fall. Are you trying to tell me that image doesn’t get you sort of fuckin’ hungry inside? That’s drama, that’s passion, that’s fuckin’ real.
But be safe. Get yourself fuckin’ tested. I’m tested, I know what’s in my blood, so be fuckin’ responsible. That’s all we can ask. And you should be responsible anyway in this day and age. There’s all sort of shit flying around, why are you not taking better care of yourself? You never know when you will smack into a ring post a bit too hard, bite your own cheek… take precautions, mind your own safety.
And double juice jobs should be avoided as much as possible. I don’t like the idea of mixing blood. But it can happen.
Anyway, yes, blood does have a place in wrestling, it adds drama; if you look through the annals of wrestling, the number of times that blood has added to some matches… think of Eddie Guerrero versus JBL, it was a horrible bladejob, he overdid it, but fuckin’ hell, when he fired back up… remember the adrenaline? That lights you up. It made the match so much more gripping, you felt the danger, you felt the realism.
When blood is placed well and not just thrown around, it adds to the drama.
Some people do it too much, they should slow the fuck down, don’t bleed all the time. But when it’s placed in the right environment, in the right feud… perfect.
WtW: Is there anyone or anything that you really hate in the wrestling business?
CR: Poorly trained, bad products. They make the whole movement around them look bad, it feels like a personal insult.
Kid Fite said it right some time ago: for every bad product, you’ll have five thousand shitebags trying to come in. You don’t own wrestling, so you’re powerless to stop them from doing so.
Also those who say they are ten-year veterans but they wrestle like seven matches every year, and say they are big veterans… I fuckin’ hate that stuff. I hate people who are stuck in a wrestling bubble: we need to pick that bubble apart. They get so stuck in wrestling that they can’t look at it from an outside point of view, so they forget why they became wrestling fans in the first place.
In ICW, we have weeded out everybody we didn’t want in. There’s nobody in the ICW locker room that’s not welcome. That’s a huge part of the way we run the company: make sure that everyone’s happy backstage. When people aren’t happy in their job, it shows.
I also hate tribute wrestlers, stuff like that. Although… would you go see a tribute band? If they tribute a band I like and they’re good…
I’ve mellowed the fuck out in the last years. If you had asked me this same question even one year ago… fuck, I would have gone off on one. But I’ve mellowed out, I surround myself with positivity rather than negativity, everyone in my world is so talented, so it’s hard to see as much negativity as I used to.
Everyone seems to have their heads screwed on, we are young but we are all mature. A lot of the stuff I hated, overinflated egos, people who take themselves too seriously… take what you do seriously, not yourself. There’s a lot of people who fuckin’ do, they forgot why they do what they do. Fuck them. But those people are gone. Hobby wrestlers also are on the way out, and we have a bunch of young guys who want to take over from us.
I also hate time wasters. “I want to be a pro wrestler, what do I do?” Go to school! People seems to expect some sort of mad, crazy secret answer. “Well, you take this oath, then you go to an island where you are inducted by the wizard of wrestling…” no! What do you do if you want to be a doctor? What do you do if you want to be a fuckin’ teacher? You go to school and you learn how to do it. Usually they are the same who think that shit doesn’t hurt, that it isn’t real. I’m talking about the commitment that goes into it, the sacrifice.
Years ago I could have given you a list of names, but they have all gone.
WtW: Are they gone from ICW or from wrestling in general?
CR: Mostly from wrestling. We are all very tight now, so all the companies here work together, especially in the Central Belt. PWE belongs to Lionheart, PBW to Kid Fite, SWA to Big Damo… the mindset of wrestling in this country has completely changed.
ICW has changed, it’s hard to get on the shows, so the trainees are more athletic, more committed. There’s no more shit.
WtW: There’s one question I always ask: what do you answer to those who say wrestling is fake?
CR: It’s funny that we’re still having this conversation 16 years after “Beyond the Mat” came out. I mean, we had a blockbuster movie telling everybody exactly how everything goes down.
I think that very often you’ll find that the people who fly into that “this is fake” have some kind of insecurity, they’re all in their own world.
Why are you spending your time criticising other things instead than going out to find something positive to do yourself?
There’s lots of things I don’t like, but I don’t troll ballet pages writing “Ballet is shit”. Why would you do that with your time? What’s wrong with you, that you have to go out of your way to criticise something someone else likes?
Not everyone’s the same, not everyone likes the same thing. If we did, the world would be fuckin’ boring. We’d all support the same football team, who’d be playing against? You know what I mean?
After all, what about actors? I mean, take the guy who plays The Penguin in “Gotham”. He may be the nicest guy in the world, but fuck if I hate him in that series.
The term “fake” gets people in wrestling, both fans and wrestlers, so pissed off… if you said it’s worked… yes, it is. The word “fake” seems to give people a primal need to defend themselves. I just think… “Did you think it was real?” I mean, “Do you think he actually picked him up and dropped him on his head and a minute later he got up and continued to fight?” Why do you need to ask the question? I don’t get why people feel the need to have a pop and say “That’s all fake”, we have already told you exactly how our world works. We have no qualms, we are the most open business in the world now. Kayfabe has been dead for 15, 20 years.
Don’t waste your time on those people. When people come to me saying “Oh, I know it’s fake”, it just doesn’t touch me. They’re not worth my time. There’s seven billion people on this planet, you’re just one of them. What difference is it going to make to my world if you are in it?
If someone takes the time to go on with the “wrestling is fake” thing, pity them. Honestly, pity them. They’re going out of their way to hurt you, to criticise you and something you do, usually to make themselves feel better in their own personal insecurities.
As Paul Heyman said, don’t worry about the people who are calling it fake: worry about the people who think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Those are the people you should be focussing on. Focus on the ones who care. Focus on the one who are passionate, those that wrestling helps to get through the day. Focus on the kids who are unwell and look up to us as superheroes, who see us as inspirations. Do it for the people who maybe have a shitty life, we can be those three hours in which they can get away from their world and get lost in ours, they can let us be the drama. Why can’t we focus on them? Ignore those dickheads who feel the need to go “This is all fake”.
If you think wrestling’s fake, there’s a really high chance you’re fake. Because what I do is a lot more real than sitting in a call centre pretending to get on with your co-workers, working for someone you fuckin’ hate for not enough money, eating shit from customers and the general public. How is what you’re doing more real than what I’m doing? If that’s who you really are, with that fake-ass fuckin’ smile going “I’m terribly sorry Sir, if you bear with me just a moment I’ll go speak to my manager”… that’s fuckin’ fake.
Mind, I have worked in a call centre, I’m not having a pop at people working there, what I’m saying is, before you step out of your way to say that what I’m doing is fake, look at what you are doing, look at your world. Are you real every single day? Is what you do what you really you want to do? Because this is really what I want to do. So… who’s real and who’s fake? I’m real to myself, are you being real with yourself?
WtW: Fuck, what an answer. Now: What do you know about Italian wrestling?
CR: Not much, to be honest. I’ve never worked there. Actually, I never worked outside the UK.
The only thing I know about Italian wrestling is that show that was made several years ago, with Orlando Jordan and Warrior. Other than that, I don’t know anything.
If the opportunity arose I’d definitely enjoy being booked in Italy, I’ve been contacted by a lot of Italian fans recently. I think ICW has reached Italy, probably at least in part thanks to you. Italy is on our radar, just today we were talking about international markets with Dallas, about how to pursue them, and Italy is one of those we have mentioned. We have a lot of Italian fans. I’d love to go over there myself, and I’d love to take ICW to Italy.
WtW: I don’t think there’s ever been an over 18 show there, it would definitely be something new – and there is an ICW, Italian Championship Wrestling So you’re saying that ICW will eventually run shows outside of the UK?
CR: Yes, definitely. 100%. First we need to do something more in the UK, not everybody knows we’re here yet. Scotland is ours, we fuckin’ own it, but England is still in the takeover phase. We need to get to the point where we are as popular in Manchester, Liverpool, those places as we are here. Then we’ll go for Europe. It is on the horizon.
WtW: I imagine you’re planning to start from Dublin, at least for language reasons.
CR: Ireland’s definitely happening. The fact that we were in the Fergal Devitt documentary on the Irish television did gave us a bit of a headway there, and Billy Kirkwood was there doing a show and said that lots of people asked him about us.
At the moment, though, there’s so much going on, with the UK tour and Fear & Loathing at the SECC. That’s the focus right now, 100%. Next year I can see us going to Ireland, that will be the first step. I know France has wrestling, we are desperate to do Amsterdam, Tommy End can help us there… anywhere in the world that wants wrestling, we’ll fuckin’ go. That’s the plan: making ICW a worldwide brand, the alternative product. We’re trying to bring back to wrestling people who fell out of love for it, we’re doing the stuff they used to like before.
Sure, there’s a lot of alternative products. Take for instance CZW, though: I don’t think they have the same heart and soul we have. It doesn’t give you the full circus. I know they’ve changed their product, but they are still seen as the place for blood and mindless violence, as a one trick pony. They did that too much, for too long, and now they have the fame of the ones who do only extreme bumps. And Zandig saying “Jesus”.
I want us to be the absolute alternative product in the world. We’re not similar to the WWE, we’re not RoH, we’re not TNA, we’re not CZW: we are ICW. We’ll make you laugh, we’ll make you cringe, we’ll make you… we’ll make you have fun.
WtW: You do. And so many people get so much involved with what ICW does.
CR: I think we changed a lot of lives in the crowdn. I know a lot of people who made good friends at ICW, it’s a culture, not just a wrestling promotion. People get ICW tattoos, they care about everything we do… it has improved the lives of everyone it has touched. Yes, this sounds over the top, but it has improved my life, and Dallas’s, and the life of so many of the other wrestlers, but also the fans’. I would have loved to have my own ICW. This shit seems so cool, the ICW Sunday buzz… it’s something that belongs to you, you’ve been there, you’ve watched it grow… that’s fuckin’ cool, man.
It’s so humbling seeing that people… we improved their lives. They found new friends, some of them felt they were alone in this world and found people like them, they can act the way they want to act, be who they want to be. Here you can be anything you fuckin’ want. Looks at us. We are misfits, from a mad crazy ned like Davey Boy to Mikey Whiplash who is a cross-dressing fuckin’ dominatrix, and everything in between.
Even outsiders want to belong to something, even if it’s another group of outsiders, and we’ve allowed the freaks and geeks to come together and have a fuckin’ party. People wear ICW t-shirts, like the team colours, recognise each other on the street, “You’re one of us”, you know?
We created something for the weirdos and the freaks who thought they were alone in this world.
WtW: Anything you want to add?
CR: To those who are dubious about ICW: how can you know if you like the taste of something until you’ve tried it?
If you think wrestling is all fake bullshit… well, I’d be surprised if you’re reading this, actually. If you are jaded, come along and see what all the fuss is, whether you are a wrestling fan or simply want a different night out. See when you always go to the same pubs with the same music, you’re there with a pint thinking that there used to always be a weird older guy standing around with a pint and then realise it’s you.
Support indy wrestling… or rather, support good indy wrestling. Although we’re no longer indy wrestling: we are ICW. So, support ICW. And watch us take over the world.
I don’t think there’s anything I could possibly add here.
Follow ICW and thanks again to Chris Renfrew!