For my Scottish Sun column this week I caught up with Scottish comedian Billy Kirkwood who doubles as the commentator for hotter than hot Scottish wrestling promotion Insane Championship Wrestling. This Sunday the group will host their final event of the year at the Garage in Glasgow and look back on what has been an incredible year for the promotion.
2013 started brightly for them winning Fighting Spirit Magazine’s ‘UK Promotion of the Year’ award with 55% of the vote – twice what the second placed company received and they’ve gone from strength to strength since. A sold out show at the Edinburgh Picturehoue featured Colt Cabana and Sabu with Rhyno appearing for the group at one of their Glasgow dates. Here, Craig catches up with Billy and discuses ICW and the Scottish wrestling scene generally.
He may be better known to many for his comedy but Ayrshire’s Billy Kirkwood has another string on his bow as one of the voices of Scottish wrestling. Those that follow the local scene will have heard him call matches for an array of Scottish promotions and, as he puts it “My job is a stand up comedian and my other job is a commentator. Man, I’m living the dream.”
It becomes clear very early into our conversation that Billy really is living the dream. It’s also very obvious that he loves talking about wrestling. Here he talks about how he got involved with ICW as well as the promotion’s ‘100% Shenanigans’ at the Garage this Sunday evening.
“First of all I’ve been a big fan of them long before I got involved in commentating,” said Kirkwood. “I tend to gig most night of the week so getting to the shows is actually really hard. A few years ago they (ICW) were looking for guest ring announcers and they’d had a few guys in doing it that weren’t really into wrestling. They then asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yeah. Know that way you are trying to play calm? Inside I’m screaming ‘YES’ but on the outside I’m trying to play it down ‘Yeah, man that’d be cool.’”
It wasn’t only at playing it cool that Billy found success as with the crowd loving his compere work before the show and commentary during the matches he has become one of the most recognisable faces on the Scottish wrestling scene, something he’s truly humbled by.
“What they didn’t know I was a life long wrestling fan. I think they just thought I was some comedian just coming in. Literally, they just sent me out to the ring with a mic to show them what I could do. Once I got out there I started doing wrestling jokes and that got a connection with the audience. I’ve the utmost respect for wrestling and its fans. Being allowed to play my part in the show that night and since has been amazing. Thankfully they’ve kept bringing me back since.”
As well as describing the action for ICW, Kirkwood also lends commentary skills to a number of other local wrestling shows. This gives him more of an opportunity than most to see the various stars in the country at the moment and the way that Scottish wrestling has hit a boom period in the past few years.
“I think that a lot of the success Scottish wrestling is having is due to forward thinking people and an element of supply and demand. The people in ICW saw that there was a demand for an adult orientated wrestling and the company was born. Although I say adult orientated, I think ICW could play to any audience. If Mark Dallas came in tomorrow and said ‘there’s no more swearing, there’s no more this and there’s no more that’ then I think we’d be fine and just as exciting. That’s because of the talent on the roster.”
“Let me put it this way, we all love watching other countries compete in the World Cup but it’s always that bit more special when Scotland get there. I think we’re putting something out there that stands up against anything else in the world and the fans just want to embrace it. Now the Scottish promotions are giving fans what they want and being innovative with it. It’s gotten to the point that we’re not trying to keep up with the world of wrestling, we are now part of that world.”
The fans have undoubtedly played a huge part in ICW’s success turning them from one of the best kept secrets in wrestling to being one of the best promotions in wrestling. As crowds go, ICW’s is very vocal and extremely passionate about the promotion. Billy himself mentions that it’s rare for him to go anywhere without someone stopping him to discuss the promotion. It’s also fair to say that the fans have been rewarded for their loyalty through a whole host of different promotions starting up offering different style of wrestling action.
“The audiences are now coming out but about ten years ago they weren’t. We all love live excitement. For me wrestling is like rock ‘n’ roll. It makes your heart beat faster. Listening to an album is great but its better seeing the band live.”
“In Scotland, wrestling caters to many different audiences. There’s Scottish Wrestling Alliance who are twinned with companies in Japan and focus on more athletic based wrestling. PBW offer more of fan friendly show and ICW have more of an adult audience but have a good mix of all the other stuff to. I think with ICW there’s something for everyone.”
So for anyone venturing along to the Garage for their first ICW show this weekend Billy has a few words of advice, “If I was going to give you a word of warning I’d say leave inhibitions at the door and come and have a good time. That’s it. These guys are there, and I say this at the start of every show, to entertain you. You’ve paid your money and you’re going to get value for money and then some. You get sheer live excitement that you won’t get in any other form of live performance… Except maybe a Billy Kirkwood comedy gig!”
ICW Heavyweight Championship match: Jack Jester (c) v Kid Fite
Zero-G Championship: Mark Coffey (c) v Liam Thomson
ICW Tag Team Championship: The New Age Kliq (c) v The Bucky Boys
Mikey Whiplash w/Jam O’Malley v Grado
Wolfgang v BT Gunn
The Owen Twins v Carmel & Nikki Storm with Special Guest Referee – Kay Lee Ray
Joe Coffey v James Scott