Published On: Fri, Jan 25th, 2013

Wrestling Renaissance: Insane Championship Wrestling

How a group of guys, beating the crap out of each other in Maryhill, put on a spectacle attracting massive crowds and became , arguably, more entertaining than the men that inspired them.What the hell does that say about us?




The date was April 2nd 2001. The tension in the room was palpable. My friend and I could not have been closer to the warm glow of the TV if we had tried. The volume had been turned to just above audible meaning that neither of us could make a sound if we didn’t want to miss any of the medieval moral drama, psycho-machismo or Shakesperian-esque narrative that was unfolding before us. The reason for our late night, fraudulently acquired, spectacle: World Wrestling Federation’s Wrestlemania XVII. In my mind, and most of those that I have discussed this world event with in subsequent years, it didn’t really get any bigger than the  of the Rock vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin on that warm April night.



But why? Why would we feel the need to creep from our beds, enter one of our parents card details, acquired through some questionable means some time earlier, and watch what was effectively two oiled up men in swim trunks pretend to slap each other in front of a crowded arena in Texas?




That event was considered to be ‘The End of the Attitude Era’ for WWF. After that the stories became [somewhat] more politically correct, the fake blood dried up and people stopped being run over by limousines on air. Fuck. It was the death of the grotesquery, the melodrama that had coloured our youth and been the topic of discussion on so many long playground days. A sort of reversal [excuse the pun] or the end of our childhood innocence.

The lure of the ludicrous, the human zoo, has been a feature prevalent throughout human history. From the Coliseum of ancient Rome, through the turn-of-the-century travelling circuses, to the Kardashians of MTV, people have always felt drawn to sex, violence and drama. This longing is something, not felt often enough with today’s ‘WWE’, which Glasgow’s Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) has embraced and has people queuing round the block to catch a glimpse of.



ICW’s display of violence is less of a contest between opponents and more of a ritualised encounter between hero and villain that has been played out repeatedly, much to the engagement of the audience. Their characters are sometimes simple in their conception, like The Coffey’s, a tag-team made up of two brothers, whilst others are open to more colourful interpretation, such as the vaudevillian Red Lightening. But the characters and stories told, both within the ring and using their social media outputs, pitch traditional, contradictory ideas of ‘good’ against ‘evil’ into battle against each other. It creates a carnival atmosphere, somewhere between theatre and sport, beautiful in its simplicity and a great antidote to the everyday drudgery. If someone is immoral, or acting in a way that is out with social convention, you will be allowed to reprimand them with violence. This simple message is made incredibly gratifying by the performers of ICW due to their interaction with fans through after-parties and social media.  This means that these ideas are not thousands of miles away through a glass screen, you can taste the flesh, the blood (and I think I got a little sweat in my mouth too) standing ring-side.

It’s hard to counter this theory – you need only look to the numbers which turn out to these events for proof. ICW consistently sells out their shows, pointing to a community that will salivate at the chance to see their favourites compete to bring justice to the outlaw they despise, and a few curious pioneers who wish to be included in the spectacle.




Part One of the ICW Series: Part Two: Wrestling Groupies

Words: Ali Craig

Pictures: Joe Peden