By Jamie Kennedy
Posted On 18-04-2015 21:36 GMT
The rise of pro wrestling in Scotland hasn't been quite as sudden as some people may expect. Sure, ICW has exploded in the past few years, becoming the top promotion across the UK, but there were many years before such growth, times when names such as Grado and Jack Jester weren't quite the household names they are today.
Without doubt, there were two men that perfectly summed up the changing dynamic of wrestling in this country, arguably above all else. On one side, there was Lionheart, the man who encapsulated what many were starting to realise about the industry in Scotland, that the men and women involved were starting to take things a lot more seriously than they had for years previously.
Possessing a great physique and a hell of a lot of talent, Lionheart would capture a plethora of titles across the board in Scottish wrestling, and it seemed only a matter of time before he was destined to go on to bigger and better things than his humble wee country could provide.
On the flipside, there was the hell-raising man of the people, Chris Renfrew. Instantly, the alcohol-drinking, in-your-face attitude of Renfrew appealed to many fans, and it became clear that he was the antidote to any 'Superstar' mentality which may be sweeping over the industry in his homeland. Uncompromising in his belief that wrestling needed to be more dangerous again, ushering back the cavalier rockstar traits of before, Renfrew formed the New Age Kliq alongside BT Gunn.
The NAK were immediately popular, speaking to fans in a way nobody else in the history of Scottish wrestling had. These were real people, guys who worked their tales off to prove that they were the absolute best. In essence, this was a challenge to the success of Lionheart, who had previously been in a class of his own as the top dog in the country.
As soon as ICW started to move away from the initial home base of Maryhill, shifting into the nightclubs of Glasgow's city centre, it seemed only a matter of time before Renfrew and Lionheart would come face-to-face. Indeed, ICW: Dazed & Confused on September 4th, 2010, both wrestlers met in a straight up singles match. This was a rematch from the previous event, ICW: Menace 2 Society, held on June 5th, and whilst the action was still fast and furious, the result would shift between both bouts.
In the first match between the pair, it'd be Lionheart who emerged victorious. For a lot of fans, this was the right result, proving that the star was the kind of wrestler folks could believe in. If nothing else, this stirred the animal lurking inside Renfrew, and he'd return the favour, beating Lionheart the second time round at Dazed & Confused.
As soon as the referee's hand had come down for the 3 count, fans started to look at Chris Renfrew in an altogether different light, realising that he was somebody who wasn't ever going to happy with merely making up the numbers in ICW. For a lot of newer fans to the company, such a statement may seen obvious, but this was a different era, one in which Lionheart was considered head and shoulders above many of his peers.
Tied at one win apiece, something had to give, and thus ICW management decided there had to be a war to settle the score. At Fear & Loathing III, held in the tight confines of the old Apollo 23 venue in Glasgow, Lionheart and Renfrew concocted a suitably brutal affair, held under 'Last Man Standing' rules.
Confirming the belief many wrestling fans had in the man, it'd be Lionheart who would come out on top, but not without the fight of his life. Suddenly, more people than ever started to take notice of the potential bubbling just beneath the surface in Chris Renfrew.
As part of The Gold Label, Lionheart - along with James Scott, Red Lightning and Wolfgang - ran roughshod over ICW. The original gang in the promotion were fearsome, capturing gold along the way and threatening the very fabric of Mark Dallas and his vision for what Insane Championship Wrestling should be.
At ICW: Never Mind The Baws, Here's The ICW, held in the Classic Grand building in Glasgow, an 8-Man Street Fight was staged, pitting The Gold Label against Team ICW. Standing tall in defence of what they believed in, Chris Renfrew was joined by the likes of BT Gunn, Jack Jester and Kid Fite, and the results were spectacular.
Few could believe that The Label ran out winners, effectively handing them the keys to the kingdom in ICW. At the following month's ICW: SummerBam, held on August 14th, 2011, The Gold Label decreed that Renfrew would have to face his running mate, BT Gunn, and the loser would be forced to depart ICW.
Throughout all of this, Lionheart sneered in the direction of Renfrew, looking down on him like he didn't belong, but The NAK had something special in store for The Label. At first, Gunn and Renfrew fought one another, before uniting and deciding that they would rather fight back and suffer the consequences than put up with the crap Lionheart and company had in store for them.
Stopping the match, The Gold Label were shocked to learn that even their authority was being challenged by ICW, as they were left laying by virtually the entire roster. Fear & Loathing IV, on October 23rd, 2011, was a night when things would take another remarkable turn.
After the ring had given way during a main event pitting Jack Jester against Mikey Whiplash, a wild and impromptu 6-Man brawl broke out between members of The Gold Label and Renfrew, BT Gunn and Kid Fite. Conspicuous by his absence was Lionheart, who had earlier defeated Noam Dar to win the ICW Zero-G Title.
The Gold Label started to splinter, having been pegged back by ICW. The roster had shown tremendous resolve, proving they were more than a match for the incredibly strong unit, and things started to change in ICW. Renfrew would go on from strength to strength, rising up to become one of the premier names in the entire country. Unbelievably, Lionheart's career would derail slightly, between 2012-2014 the man would experience retirements, serious injuries and more personal struggle than he had ever had to deal with before.
That brings things up to the present day, and the match between Chris Renfrew and Lionheart at ICW: Alex Kidd In London on Sunday, April 19th. 2014 was a banner year for Renfrew, being voted as the 'Best Talker' in the company, but it's clear that every word emanating from the man's mouth is 100% meant.
Lionheart's epic rivalry with Jackie Polo didn't end as planned, as the latter figuratively spat in Lionheart's face, demolishing him on the grand stage at ICW: Barramania in the infamous Barrowlands Ballroom. This is a chance at redemption for Lionheart, who must surely see that Renfrew is now where he himself used to be, one of the top dogs in the frightening yard that is ICW.
Ultra-focused on redeeming himself, Lionheart initially didn't say much, but the same cannot be said for Renfrew, who posted a vicious message aimed directly at his opponent in London this Sunday, claiming that it's now Lionheart who is chasing his coat tails, not the other way around.
Perhaps feeling like he had no choice, Lionheart retorted, stunningly saying that everything Renfrew claimed was 100% gospel. In the same breath however, Lionheart warned his rival not to take him lightly, or look to the past for what may happen in London.
This Sunday, ICW: Alex Kidd In London, the atmosphere is going to be heavy. There may be excitement in the air, perhaps more than ever before as ICW invades the UK's capital city, but one thing is for certain, Lionheart needs to look at Chris Renfrew as a different animal than he has faced before.
This is not the same Chris Renfrew that Lionheart - once known as the face of Scottish wrestling - came up against in 2010, but is it the same Lionheart? Tickets are still available for ICW: Alex Kidd In London! Visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk or www.triplegmusic.com, and secure your spot to see Lionheart battle the NAK's chaotic Chris Renfrew!