INSANE CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING: YOU WILL KNOW THEIR NAME

ALL PHOTOS USED WITH PERMISSION BY PHOTOGRAPHER DAVID J WILSON. FOLLOW DAVID ON TWITTER @mrdavidjwilson

ALL PHOTOS USED WITH PERMISSION BY PHOTOGRAPHER DAVID J WILSON. FOLLOW DAVID ON TWITTER @mrdavidjwilson

"Here we, here we, here we fucking go!"

With these words, Glasgow-based independent pro-wrestling promotion ICW declares itself to the world.

This is more than a chant. 

This is a battle-cry.

This is a mantra.

This is a call to action for professional wrestling fans. Everything about this call, including the use of an expletive, perfectly embodies the spirit of Insane Championship Wrestling and the need it services in today's entertainment landscape.

I first discovered ICW when Mick Foley shared via social media a promo Drew Galloway cut after Drew left the WWE in 2014. Drew returned to ICW and proclaimed that he would "take a stand for professional wrestling". Line by line, he revealed himself to be more than the fun, midcard 3MB-member mainstream wrestling fans had come to know.

Instantly, I was captivated by Drew's look, his grit, his phraseology and particularly by the atmosphere his audience helped create. It was all so different from what I'd come to expect from pro-wrestling. The ring was smaller. The visuals were dark and smokey. Although I knew the promo was being cut in present day, it also felt weirdly outside of time; like a 1970s-style dystopian vision of the future. At the time, I was a disgruntled pro-wrestling fan desperate as ever to see a more traditional, emotional, and realistic style of presentation.

In ICW, I found exactly that. Galloway's Stand is as important to independent wrestling as CM Punk's Pipebomb was to mainstream wrestling. "World look into my eyes...when you see me on a show, when you see these fans, you know you've got the best in the damn world. We are ICW and you're gonna know our name - here we, here we, here we fucking go!"

When I heard the entire audience instantly chant "Here we..." along with Drew, it became clear that there was an established history and a culture in ICW that I knew nothing about. It felt as though something important was taking place, founded on ancient customs and powerful incantations. It became clear that I was missing out on something, and that I needed to start paying attention.

To hear Drew spell out, in no uncertain terms, that his goal was to raise ICW up, get ICW more exposure, and give people the pro-wrestling they couldn't get anywhere else was a revelation. I'd never heard anyone say "fuck" in a promo before. Something as simple as that was a shock to the system. It made me want to throw my fist in the air and roar like a lion. It was the perfect entry-point for a disgruntled pro-wrestling fan into a larger world that is uniquely ICW and uniquely UK.

ICW (to put it succinctly for those unfamiliar with the brand) is the rebirth of The Attitude Era filtered through the perspective of UK wrestling fans; gritty, funny (and by funny I mean actually funny), unfiltered, self-congratulatory in its debauchery, character-focused, rivalry-focused, and reality-based. The roster isn't made up of baby-oil-covered, catchphrase-slinging cartoon characters designed to appeal to a specific demographic while simultaneously appealing to every demographic. Many mainstream wrestling fans might initially be put off by this. While there are "WWE-like" wrestlers in ICW (Drew Galloway, in particular), there is a wider variety of body-types and a wider variety of gimmicks than what you'll see elsewhere (some grounded, some broad).

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For those genuinely seeking a new experience, any reservations about ICW born out of Sports-Entertainment-conditioning quickly fade; ICW is built upon great storytelling and it's designed to appeal to a wide variety of 18+ pro-wrestling fans.

The promotion is a lot more than a Scottish interpretation of the Attitude Era, though. That's just an easy way to describe it for a hesitant American audience. When new viewers dig deeper, they'll discover an assortment of characters who blur the lines between cultures, countries, reality and fantasy to great dramatic & comedic effect.

It is the raucous house party being thrown by a group of people who absolutely love professional wrestling and want to have as much fun as they possibly can watching it.

Even in the short time I've been watching, it's become clear that ICW has quietly (not so quietly) been fundamentally redefining what it means to be an independent wrestling promotion. The inevitable limitations that result from budgetary constraints have propelled the company to be more creative in the way it recruits new viewers.

The promotion uses social media as a means of fleshing out stories, maintaining its particular form of kayfabe, and simultaneously spreading its message. Stories that would have never been accessible to a large portion of wrestling fans are now readily available at the click of a button. Potential fans don't have to sit on the outskirts of the promotion and stitch together a vague idea of what it's all about through gifs and second-hand accounts of why "it's so much better than corporate wrestling". ICW makes it easy for you to become a fan.

The most recent example of this is in two promos that helped build the ICW Title match at The Square Go. Chris Renfrew cut a promo at an ICW show, to an ICW audience, about why then-Champion Grado was essentially a sellout who cared more about promoting himself than defending his title in front of ICW crowds.

Grado responded with a YouTube video, talking directly into a computer cam. One would think this inexpensive style of presentation would undermine the believability of the exchange. Quite the opposite. This promo-duel, crossing from live event to internet, is one of the best pro-wrestling stories available today.

The directness and the simplicity of the presentation, the immediacy of Grado via this "talking head" video creates a strong sense of reality in the conflict. In today's age of YouTube pundits and video diaries, this kind of pro-wrestling storytelling feels pertinent and natural. Where other promotions might shoot a video with a high-end camera and then try to make it look like a YouTube video or an iPhone video, Grado just speaks from the heart into an actual computer and there is no perceptible pretense. Viewers simply must see this match after watching these promos; more-so if they already know some of the history of the characters.

The reason it works is because it's simple, and Grado and Chris are excellent performers who believe what they're saying. That ability enhances the style of presentation. It's not as though someone is trying to make their laptop computer-camera or their iPhone look like it's not what it actually is (a mistake indy artists often make). The presentation never conflicts with the reality.

While other indy promotions have used and continue to use social media as a means of marketing, few possess the consistency and the clarity of ICW. It's not always obvious where to actually find what it is you're looking for when it comes to Indy Wrestling, especially when all you know is that you're tired of mainstream wrestling.

Indy Wrestling is an incredibly broad term. ICW takes care of that. 

You don't have to illegally download any of their content through five different infected websites. You don't need to scrounge through a DVD bin at the flee market. You don't need access to some obscure station on some obscure cable network. You don't need to subscribe to a streaming service that's not actually produced by ICW to consume ICW's product.

It's all immediately available on their YouTube Channel, their website, and their own ICW On Demand streaming service. This is a highly organized, highly stylized, concerted effort to capitalize on a market that's largely ignored today; wrestling fans who actually want immediate access to Indy Wrestling or overseas Indy Wrestling.

There is consistency in the style of presentation and particularly in the means of distribution. There is an awareness of how first impressions are formed and how that first impression is the difference between someone saying "Meh" and someone becoming a paying customer. ICW is accessible, both literally and emotionally; different enough to be enticing, familiar enough to be comfortable, passionate enough to be immediately engrossing.

If you're a disgruntled pro-wrestling fan looking for something new, Indy Wrestling can also be an incredibly exclusionary world populated by fans who pride themselves on their depth of knowledge - not their willingness to suspend disbelief and have a good time with their brothers & sisters.

At times, Indy Wrestling seems to be saying, "Go back where you came from, Sports-Entertainment-mark. This is too good for you". At times, it seems Indy Wrestling wants to make it has hard as possible to actually see it

Perhaps this points to a difference in UK crowds and American crowds - ICW fans seem genuinely grateful to be in attendance, and it's very obvious that they're paying attention to the action. There's not a lot of phone-checking at an ICW show. I haven't heard "rest holds" chanted ironically at the wrestlers. Sure, fans might get into brawls and they might even attack wrestlers and they might get their noses broken or a bottle smashed over their head, but I've never gotten the sense that I was watching something that didn't actually care about whether or not I was watching it.

ICW is decidedly not up its own ass. They're too busy enjoying themselves.

ICW clearly wants me to watch it, and it wants me to be entertained. It's not some wee precious wrestling ceremony that requires a secret handshake and a password to understand. I perceive that effort and sincerity; it strengthens my fandom.

Also, no UK-ICW fan has yet lorded their knowledge over me or called me a stupid Yank despite the fact that I'm an American and despite the fact that I've mostly grown up watching mainstream "Sports Entertainment". ICW fans have only said to me "Yir a good cunt" (which is a compliment). And ICW's producers and show-runners have made it as easy as possible for me to literally see what it is they're creating, and understand the stories that they're trying to tell.

That's why "Here we..." is such a powerful refrain; it's honest. The promotion genuinely wants "we" to enjoy ourselves and to take a stand for professional wrestling. Lately, when I hear other crowds with more exposure chant for their chosen promotion, I hear "We're better than you, we're better than you, we're better than you!" That's not the case with ICW.

"Here we fucking go!" remains a joyous proclamation, a chant specific to UK sports but universal in its life-affirming message. If ICW and its fans have anything to say to people who would dismiss their brand, it's a firm "Go fuck yersel, we sold out the SECC, and now we're going to the motherfucking Hydro!"

The promotion makes professional wrestling fun, creative, and inclusive again.

With reverence for the past and hope for the future, Insane Championship Wrestling continues to prove the universality and the depth of professional wrestling artistry.

Sooner rather than later, all those who don't yet know ICW's name...will.

And, if the spirit moves them the way it moved me, they will hear the ICW battle-cry, raise their fist, take a stand for professional wrestling, and roar with pride, "Here we, here we, here we fucking go!"

WOW - EP59 - IT'S YERSEL