Why ICW are the Kings of the Wrestling World

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Like many other wrestling fans across the globe, I like to think I could be the next Vince McMahon, I think that I could run my own wrestling company and I always have a million and one storyline ideas running around my head. Someone who got off the couch and actually turned these thoughts in to reality was Mark Dallas. In 2010 Mark ran his first show in front of 30 people, last weekend his company Insane Championship Wrestling ran their biggest show to date at Scotland’s biggest arena ‘The Hydro’ to over 6000 paying fans.

In 2010 if you said the name Mark Dallas to any wrestling fan the response would have been – who is he? Now he is synonymous with the growth of wrestling popularity not only in ICW but across the UK. Mark hasn’t done this with stacks of cash, he has done it with unrivalled creativity and vision, which has seen ICW become one of the most talked about and most influential promotions around the world today.

Going mainstream

ICW were cemented as part of the mainstream when across 2014 and 2015 the BBC produced two incredible documentaries on them called ‘Insane Fight Club.’ These shows broadcast ICW from their native Scotland to across the UK. The documentaries were the biggest TV event for British Wrestling since the World of Sport days during the last golden era for British Wrestling, but now we can say thanks to ICW that a new golden era may just be beginning.

ICW’s annual show ‘Fear & Loathing’ is their flagship show, their version of WrestleMania if you will. In 2014 they sold out the Barrowlands with it, in 2015 they sold out the SECC the second biggest arena in Scotland and although they didn’t sell out at ‘The Hydro’ they grew the crowd by thousands and at their current rate of growth, you wouldn’t put it past them to sell it out within the next two years.

Something different

ICW are so different to any other promotion, not only on the creative end of their product but the business end as well, two things which have been sorely lacking in the UK for some time. Being the visionary that Mark Dallas is in 2015 he announced that ‘Fear & Loathing’ would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 and the day after this year’s incredible show tickets were available for next years show, again at ‘The Hydro.’ Not many other (if any) British wrestling companies plan and promote shows a year in advance but that is how professional ICW is and how forward thinking they are. When ICW announced that they would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 many people thought that it would be a bridge too far, even for ICW but not Mark Dallas, he believed in his product and put in the hard work to make it a success.

What is more incredible about this years success is that they sold over 6000 tickets to ‘The Hyrdo’ without the BBC coverage that they had in the run up to the SECC show in 2015. What ICW managed to do in 2015 was capture peoples imagination and through their product they not only continue to keep fans but their fans continue to be their army, championing their cause, spreading the word and bringing new fans to the promotion.

Competition

ICW had lots going against them this year, first was WWE announcing and holding Raw & Smackdown tapings at ‘The Hydro’ a few weeks before their show. The second thing was the incredible competition in the UK marketplace with Ring of Honor doing a small tour of the UK on the same weekend as ‘Fear & Loathing’ the first UK Ring of Honor tour for 10 years, this was coupled with shows by other great UK Promotions like PCW and RPW holding the very successful Global Wars the weekend before.

Whilst the likes of RPW and RoH were putting on critically acclaimed shows in front of anything from a reported 600 to just over 1000 crowd, ICW blew them out of the water. Don’t get me wrong 600 – 1000 are big numbers in comparison to where this industry has been in the last 10 years but nowhere near ICW’s league. There is one reason why ICW can draw these numbers and transcend the business, that reason is their identity.

Packaging and presentation

The brainchild of Mark Dallas is so strong that ICW is unlike any other. You can see many of the ICW roster on shows across the UK but you can’t see a show like ICW anywhere else. ICW isn’t relying on wrestler star power or so-called ‘dream matches’; ICW’s selling point is its packaging and presentation. An ICW show is an experience unlike anywhere else, the storylines and characters that Mark Dallas creates is what makes ICW one of the most talked about wrestling promotions today.

Like many other promotions from time to time ICW bring in big name imports from America to star on their shows. The difference when ICW brings them in compared to other promotions is that they find a way creatively to sew them in to their storylines and get the most out of them. At ‘Fear & Loathing’ this year they had Kurt Angle, Team 3D, Ricochet and an appearance by Finn Balor but what they did is they found ways to use them to get the local talent over, so they didn’t all win and they all played a part in creating and cementing long term stars in ICW. That takes bravery from Mark Dallas and shows how big ICW are, that big name American wrestlers are happy to do the honours and play their part to help the brand.

The new ECW

Many similarities have been talked about between ICW and infamous American company called ECW, who in the late 90s were seen as the most cutting edge, game changing wrestling promotion. I think a few years ago the similarities may have been seen to many as flattering to ICW but now I think with what ICW have achieved these last two years that it should now be ECW alumni who are flattered by being compared to ICW. If ICW were based out of America and doing what they have been doing for the last 6 years then you would have to start calling them the number two promotion behind the behemoth that is WWE.

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Adding value to the city you live in

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For some reason I feel that it is my duty and obligation to add something to the city I live in, this city is Plymouth. I was born in Plymouth and have many fond memories of growing up in the area. I remember the first Plymouth Argyle game I went to, I remember shopping in the city centre before Drakes Circus when C&A and the like used to rule the world, I remember my first cinema experience at the Odeon and so on and so on.

Giving back

The city of Plymouth has given me so much that I now want to give back and be part of creating amazing experiences for others in this city. This is part of the reason why I am so passionate about making Plymouth a city for Professional Wrestling. I have been a fan of Professional Wrestling since I was about 8 and have travelled the country and the world to support it, to go to shows and to experience it. I know there are lots more wrestling fans in the city like me (the WWE NXT show at the Plymouth Pavilions earlier in the year proves that). I now want to help build a community with them, to network with them and give them a regular wrestling fix, instead of having to wait for the once in the blue moon event that we get down here from WWE, as there may not be any more shows like that down here in our life time.

It’s not the cities that make the other Professional Wrestling companies in other areas of the UK so big, it is the people behind them and I think we have the right team of people here at Plymouth Wrestling Association, to make Professional Wrestling big in Plymouth like it is in London, Glasgow, Preston etc. I would love for Professional Wrestling fans in Plymouth to not have to travel in order to see an entertaining show, I would also love them to have local wrestlers that they support and a growing local company they can get behind. For the local economy I would also love for the money wrestling fans spend supporting their passion to benefit this city and to stay in the city, to help grow this city.

A great form of entertainment

Professional Wrestling may be looked down upon by some or misunderstood by others but I believe Professional Wrestling is a great form of family friendly entertainment, that mixes athleticism, drama, music, culture, personality, competition and art. It is a place where fan participation and interaction is encouraged, where kids can be kids and don’t need to sit still and be quiet.

Plymouth is known for many great things whether that is the sports, the stunning views around the Hoe and Barbican area, the culture, the history etc. But I want Plymouth to be known for and famous for much more and I am going to do everything in my power to add Professional Wrestling to the list.

With that in mind I would love to invite you to the next big Plymouth Wrestling Association show title ‘September Slam’ on Sunday September the 25th at Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Doors open at 6pm, tickets can be purchased from as little as £8 and can be purchased by going to:

http://plymouthwrestling.co.uk/events/event/pwa-september-slam/

 

Getting excited for the Olympics

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It’s less than two weeks away and I for one am getting really excited about the Olympics, in Rio this year. 4 years ago the Olympics was in my home country and the only disappointment that I have, is that I didn’t get or apply for any tickets to go, as looking back on it, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I don’t think there is any sports competition on this planet that comes anywhere close to the Olympics in stature, magnitude and meaningfulness. Yes there is the World Cup, The SuperBowl etc. etc. but the Olympics are something very special. I believe that there is no greater accomplishment in sport than winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Being an Olympic Gold Medalist sets you apart and makes you very special indeed.

Feel Good factor

In 2012 the Olympics brought a feel good factor to the whole of the UK. Not just for the two weeks of the competition but for the build up as well, as the Olympic Torch proceeded throughout the country, with everyone being able to touch and feel the brand of the Olympics. The other night my wife and I watched the opening ceremony from 2012 again and it just took us back to the experience of the last Olympics, where we were and what we were doing.

Although we have the time difference to contend with I am looking forward to getting caught up in Olympics fever again, watching as much as I can on the TV and being inspired by the events that I watch. I don’t remember being as in to the Olympics when I was a kid as I am now, but I hope I can pass on my enthusiasm now to my children and that they enjoy the Olympics growing up.

Going down in history

Regardless of what happens each Olympics always goes down in history, with many conversations across the globe starting with “do you remember when.” Not only do you have that but you also have footage from the history of the Olympics that is used in many TV programmes and a lot of news coverage for decades and centuries to come.

I will be watching avidly at home, enjoying watching history being made and being inspired by the amazing competition that unfolds. So much seems to divide our world at the moment, so never has there been a better time for the Olympics, an event that brings the world together.

A big weekend of sport

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If you live in Britain or follow sport from Britain, there is a big weekend of sport ahead of us. On home turf we have the Wimbledon finals and the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, in France there are the finals of Euro 2016 as well as the Tour de France and in America there is UFC 200, if you are in to that kind of thing. I am sure there are some other big things that I am missing as well, but this weekend many eyes will be on sport.

As many of you know I am passionate about sport and enjoy any reason to celebrate it or watch it. To me there is nothing like watching people who are at the top of their sport compete on the biggest stage. Watching it inspires me, it captures my imagination and really gets me further in to the sport I am watching.

Tour de France

Trying to do other things this weekend is going to be tricky but I am going to try my best to, whilst of course having one eye on all the sporting goings on. One thing I am loving at the moment is the Tour de France. I never used to watch it but it is something my wife has got me in to and I am really glad she did. I think what the competitors put their body through to try and win or help someone else win is just incredible and really defies logic at times.

Andy Murray

I’ve always been a fan of tennis and Wimbledon has always been my favourite tournament. At the time of writing Andy Murray still has a chance of making the final and winning the whole thing, which makes me happy. My only claim to fame is once meeting Andy on a flight after his first Wimbledon appearance and have been a fan ever since. The last time he won Wimbledon my wife and I were at a music festival, so really hope I get to see him win another this year.

The Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone has always been something I have wanted to go to and hope to do so one year but I am really excited to watch it on TV this weekend. With my favourite Jenson Button having his best race of the season last time out and the title race between Hamilton and Rosberg intensifying, it should be a fantastic race.

If sport is your thing like me I hope you have a fantastic weekend of it.

What a night

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Last night I was working on the audio description team for my local football team Plymouth Argyle, as they won their Football League 2 playoff semi-final against Portsmouth, to win a place in the final at Wembley on May 30th. After commentating on the team through years of downfall from the Championship to League 2 it was great to finally have a night of success at our ground Home Park.

It has been twenty years since we were last at Wembley and our fans are dreaming of Wembley success again this year. Very rarely is our home ground a sellout for a game and that is a shame, as it is always such a great atmosphere when it is.

I was there

The game last night wasn’t a classic by any stretch, but that didn’t matter in a way. When that final whistle blew nobody cared about how good the game was, everyone was just rejoicing and joining together in a proud moment for the team, the fans and the city. It was a night that will be looked back on in years to come, where everyone there will be able to say I was there that night Argyle won their way to Wembley.

It’s the collective experience that makes football I think. A ton of fans, in one space, living through the emotions of the game, for one common cause. People may not have known the people sat around them last night, but they joined in together cheering the team on and I am sure although they might not have got their names, they will remember their faces in their minds when they look back on this day.

Something that isn’t tangible

When so many people in one space are happy, you can just feel something, something that isn’t tangible but it is there. A feel good feeling just goes right through you and for a moment all of the worries in life don’t exist and you are allowed a moment of pure jubilation.

I am hoping beyond any hope that we win at Wembley but whatever happens nobody will be able to take last night and its place in history away. Thanks to the players and everyone who attended last night’s game, you made the experience. Through all of us we all have a reason to be happy and optimistic today, last night something was accomplished that will hopefully lead to greater things for the players, fans and city.

The Leicester City effect

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Being a huge fan of football I could not help but get caught up in the story that has been Leicester City this year. Leicester City came from narrowly avoiding relegation last year, to win the Premier League this year, despite being 5000/1 to do it.

I normally don’t bother watching the Premier League trophy ceremonies as they are normally pretty mundane but I actually wanted to watch this one and felt quite sentimental when I did sit down to watch it. Seeing people achieve, what to some seemed like the impossible dream was life affirming and gave me hope.

Finding hope

It is surprising where in life we find hope, what stories really touch us and what captures our imagination. I think especially in the UK we love a good underdog story and I think we are a society that is a bit jaded, so whenever we see something we don’t expect, we get even more excited for it.

Leicester City this season have shown so many great things, but two things have really shone through for me. The first is their work ethic. Everyone on that team is willing to try harder than the opposition, to run longer, to run faster, to be stronger. Everything they can control as individuals, they make sure they do better than their opposition, which is great advice for life really.

When you get the ball

The other thing, which I think has been a great message, is that their style of football this year hasn’t been about having the ball for long periods of time in a game, but just to capitalize on every time they do have the ball. Sometimes in life you are not given an opportunity for long or more than one opportunity. So in life it is important that when the opportunity does come, you make the most of it.

Stories will be written about this Leicester team for years to come but to me this is the first time in my lifetime where a team has transcended the sport of football. I hope this team inspires many people for years to come and I hope looking back, that this is one of the main ways their success is talked about. Leicetser City are what the world needed: A team that came and shook up the established order and said the name of the team doesn’t matter, the prices players cost doesn’t matter but it is what that team does out on the pitch that does.

Trying to promote something for Plymouth

As I have blogged about in the past, I am currently helping out with a company called Plymouth Wrestling Association. This April on the 17th we have our biggest show of the year, featuring a main event that will see a world title defended for the first time in Plymouth and the first time an active world champion has come to perform in Plymouth. This I believe is big news for the city and a history-making event.

Sadly so far the press has been slow to respond to it. My motivation for wanting everyone in the city to know about this event is not just about numbers through the door, it is about getting big events, big stars and history making nights happening in the city of Plymouth more regularly. Without the support of the press and the people, this will not happen.

Growing the entertainment scene in Plymouth

I am proud of the city and to be part of the city. I want the entertainment scene in this city to be vibrant across all ranges of entertainment. I want to be able to go on the Internet and find interesting things to do in Plymouth every night, not just some nights. I think sometimes people just expect things to happen and to keep on happening, but the problem is they wont without our support. This is why I do my best where I can to support and attend events happening in our community.

Wrestling may not be your cup of tea or you may not know anything about wrestling but I assure you, if you give us a chance and come to our show, you will go home after being thoroughly entertained. For our show at the Plymouth Guildhall on the 17th of April not only are we bringing in world champion Drew Galloway but we are also bringing in the best wrestlers from around the UK. The caliber of talent on the show will not be matched anywhere else in the city or the surrounding areas.

A big investment for Plymouth

Unlike a comedy night or a concert where there is just one or a few entertainers this show will feature 15+ entertainers and you get this all from £10 a ticket, which is extraordinarily good value. The show is a big investment to put on for the city and is coming out of the pockets of Plymouth people to do it, so I would love people to come and show their support for the efforts that local people are putting in.

At Plymouth Wrestling Association we want to be a company the city can be proud of. We want to bring regular, affordable, entertainment to the city, which is produced with excellence in mind. We are proud of the city we are in and we hope to be a company that the city continues to be proud of.

To find out more about Plymouth Wrestling Association and to buy tickets to our super show go to: www.plymouthwrestling.co.uk