Disclaimer: This is the second of our Weekly Questions series (Week 1 can be viewed here), where I ask a group of UK wrestling fans a question, every week surprisingly enough, and we compare answers. It's free to all if you want to join in - just send me an email to AWBAblog@gmail.com or a DM if we're following each other on Twitter @AWBAblog - wrestler, fan, blogger, podcast maker, whoever you are, your opinions are wanted.
(Oh and if anyone wants to make me a sweet Weekly Questions banner, feel free)
This week, I asked:
Which Is The Hottest UK Promotion Right Now?
I am going to answer first this week, because my answer has changed and I'll burst if I don't give it:
"If you had asked me this question last Wednesday (when I did actually ask myself) I would have chosen Fierce Females after much deliberation. A solid build up from the small Coming Of Age show earlier this year, the promotion put together a few age-old storylines of good versus evil and respect, delivering us the greatest turn I've witnessed this side of Chris Renfrew destroying Mark Dallas and re-inventing The NAK. There is so much momentum steadily building right now for what is seen as a gimmicky idea by even many wrestling fans (an all female promotion), yet with the strong matches featuring the best of Scotland along side some great visitors from Bellatrix, it was amazing and there are two further shows on the horizon bringing the total to five for 2014, a great feat for a company who had only put on 3 shows between 2012-13.
But then Sunday happened. Huge mainstream attention due to the appearance of stars of TV's Still Game, the presence of the BBC cameras responsible for the great Insane Fight Club documentary back in March. The upcoming Season 3 of ICW Worldwide. Four shows at the Fringe. The booking of the Barrowlands. Selling out left, right and center. Wrestlers from NJPW, NXT, England and our own backyard willing to do whatever it takes to try and gain the ICW Heavyweight belt. And finally.
Drew Galloway has returned.
It is hard to believe that less than a year ago there were worries that Mark Dallas' group couldn't sell out the o2 ABC and risked a lot in venturing there. It is hard to believe that less than two years ago an ICW show in Edinburgh was seen as foreign and strange. Now it is seen as groundbreaking, paving the way for Newcastle, London and beyond.
ICW is on the curb of something huge. The numbers their shows are pulling in are no mean feat. The promotion is still boasting something for everyone. Talk about it amongst social media is as strong as any other wrestling promotion, at least anywhere I'm looking. Upon reflection, Insane Championship Wrestling is the only real choice, and with a double-header coming up August 31st, with Fierce Females being hosted once again in Walkabout at 2pm and ICW then taking residence back at The Garage at 7pm, Glasgow is truly blessed with two of the hottest UK promotions right now."
Next up is wrestling fan Alan Reynolds with his take:
"Hottest UK promotion right now? Definitely a tie between ICW and PROGRESS. No other companies have nearly the same amount of buzz surrounding them (which isn't meant as an insult, ICW & PROGRESS just have the world in their hands just now). Things like the BBC documentary for ICW & PROGRESS having a run of shows at Sonisphere has definitely helped elevate the two promotions alongside strong shows (PROGRESS get a big shout out here for putting Chapter 13 up for free on Youtube. A cracking show, get it watched if you haven't watched it already. Fuck, even if you've watched it watch it again)."
Well Alan, this one's for you:
Back to the question, we have Billy Strachan, the man behind OSWtv.Wordpress.com :
"Hottest promotions right now have to be ICW, Fierce Females and Progress. The build up to Discovery Wrestling's debut show in October though may just blow them all out of the water, we'll just have to wait and see. There are companies that are still rising like Scottish Wrestling Entertainment. Reckless Intent are starting to make a name for themselves but to keep the answer simple ICW, Fierce Females and Progress."
All the way from our USA office (by that, I mean my email inbox) we have Des Delgadillo (http://www.thingsdessays.net/) weighing in with his outside perspective:
"I live in the U.S., and when we talk of U.S. promotions, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s name gets thrown around quite a bit. Why? Because they provide a level of dream matches that you probably won’t see anywhere else. They also have a ridiculously passionate and supportive fan base that adds something to every show.
Let’s have that same discussion about the U.K. scene, and I think Progress Wrestling comes close to, dare I say, the PWG in the U.K. They run countless dream matches but don’t go nuts with the imports, and the Progress fans are some of the greatest in the world. Not to mention the guys who run it are some of the greatest, most outstanding gents I’ve ever known, even slightly.
Stuart Rodgers, a UK podcaster who talks about both the UK and US independent scenes via his awesome podcast at http://www.theindycorner.com, has this to say:
"Very subjective of course, depending on where you are in the UK, can affect what you choose. I have been fortunate to travel round and soak up the atmosphere of many UK promotions and I see even more on DVD. The only one I've never seen live in person in it's home is ICW. I was at the first show they put on in London and it was a unique experience as there were a number of fans that had travelled down from Scotland.
Now I did say at the beginning, depending on where you are may affect your choice and for me this may be the case, my choice for hottest promotion is Fight Club: PRO out of Wolverhampton. They always run at The Planet nightclub, they have the ring surrounded by a cage permanently. As the venue is a nightclub you can imagine the crowd is very rowdy, the cage takes a pounding by both the wrestlers & the fans.
I always enjoy my time at Fight Club: PRO, great crowd and the guys always give 100%.
YouTube has various matches and clips from the promotion so give it a look."
Will definitely be checking that out, thanks Stuart!
An interesting photo from the last Fierce Females show via @MrDavidJWilson
Mark Moore, the man who has wrote for www.tnanews.com, www.wwenews.net and Ressurrection magazine, as well as being on a weekly podcast at www.surelycrabtree.co.uk, has this response:
"Wow, that's a great question......a real toss up between several promotions at the moment but I think maybe ICW has the edge due to the mainstream attention the BBC documentary and Grado have generated. Obviously it takes more than that though and ICW have put on great shows that fans always seem to be returning to which is a credit to Mark Dallas as much as anyone else. Moving outside of Scotland and still selling out was a huge step and shows just how big ICW are getting.
Also it would be remiss of me if I didn't mention PROGRESS who are phenomenal and selling out 700+ for events and WAW which has provided so many great talents that have gone on to America and achieved stardom like Paige and Magnus."
Tod from http://surelycrabrtree.co.uk/ delivers one of the most thorough answers this week, with:
"I'm so pleased to say that I think this is a really tough one to answer right now, I think so many UK promotions are producing top class events that choosing just one will be hard!
I could go with my 'home team' here in the East of England Ricky Knight's WAW have been producing top class wrestling and top class wrestlers for many years and with the addition of Bellatrix and the academy shows there is something for everyone. So they are, to me, a highly credible candidate.
PCW have grabbed the attention of a lot of people with their use of world class stars on the shows to support the UK talent that they have on board already. I think they are as hot as anyone at the moment in terms of being noticed and being known.
Up in Glasgae ICW have probably had one of the best and longest runs of recent times, they have mixed up fantastic local talent, made a genuinely bankable star out of Grado, strategically used external talent very wisely and have managed to get mainstream attention and a great reputation. This is a vibrant promotion with a great future.
This is Progress... clap clap clap clap... A unique look and feel, top line UK talent and a mix of experience, academy and top world stars being brought in make me think that the guys behind this promotion may have found some magic in a bottle. They even turned the misfortune of having audio and video problems into a positive by putting out their 'Unbelievable Jeff' show free on youtube - winning them a whole new audience of admirers. Turning a negative into a positive, that's what you always have to try and do.
So... I have to pick just one?! Right now I am going to go for ICW as the hottest, coverage on BBC is legitimate mainstream and so that has to sway me when I think about what 'hottest' means to me. WAW probably come in as the 'hottest' training centre / school given the attention Paige and Magnus have gained them and Progress / PCW are neck and neck for me in terms of hottest in ring product.
There you go, everyone is a winner... what a wuss I am!"
Could we see a sequel? A lot of us seem to be dying to see one!
Ringbelles' Lee Burton weighs in:
"I may be going for the most obvious answer here, but Insane Championship Wrestling seems to tick so many boxes for this question.
When you consider their mainstream media coverage over the past year, they have an edge over other promotions around the UK. Expanding from Glasgow into the Edinburgh Festival (a feat they’re replicating this year) as well as into England by venturing to Newcastle and London, they are turning into a real national force. With a legitimate superstar in Grado as well as female stars like Kay Lee Ray and Nikki Storm travelling to Japan and the United States, they have wrestlers spreading the word around the world, and others are taking notice. Having international wrestlers like Colt Cabana, Fergal Devitt and Sabu making multiple appearances doesn’t do any harm either.
Sure, there are other promotions like PROGRESS and Southside producing great shows, but ICW has become a real event."
Ryan Blackwood once again produces a wonderful piece:
"I purposely left this this to write until Monday because as much as I already knew my answer to ‘hottest UK promotion’, I just knew that if I waited until Monday I wouldn’t have to write very much at all.
All the respect in the world for Progress wrestling in London, they’re number 2, but there’s really only one logical answer for this one eh...
Of course its ICW in what used to be Glasgow but is now just the UK.
ICW is, like a lot on this thing, my home promotion. It’s the place I got my in for UK wrestling and it’s the place that just grew and grew as I watched in excitement.
Look at the meteoric rise since last year, look at the BBC taking interest, look at the ridiculously big crowds, look at the sell outs with ZERO matches announced, look at the 1100 sell-out close to two months in advanced with no imports, look at (spoiler alert) booking a venue in the barrowlands holding over 2000 people, look at being the only company in the uk to be able to go to cities in a different country and consecutively sell out, look at the stellar roster which is actually able to omit some of the biggest and best talent in the uk, look at Twitter and Facebook in the past few days.
They’ve made it so their guys have arguably replaced those aforementioned biggest and best in the uk.
What other company gets a tonne of UK wrestling sites, twitter pages, facebook pages referring to the companies show days as #ICWsunday (replace the ICW)? What other company can give us surprise devitt (twice) and surprise drew Galloway (formerly mcintyre)??
I don’t think this even merits any debate, and as much as I know others will disagree I’d like to say ‘I’ll be surprised if anyone disagrees’.
If theres a race in uk wrestling for a TV spot I believe the only thing ICW has against itself is no London crowd.... Oh wait.
Drew Galloway summed it up last night.
“I'm Drew Galloway. Tell them I'm coming. Tell them ICW's coming, and Hell's coming with us!"
HERE WE, HERE WE, HERE WE FUCKING GO".
Now, we have Wrestleropes leading us towards the end:
"I don't really think you can say there is one company that are the hottest. For me there are three promotions in the UK that could claim to be the hottest. Insane Championship Wrestling, Progress Wrestling & Preston City Wrestling.
Insane Championship Wrestling - Does anyone who follows wrestling not know of ICW, really? They are probably the only company right now that can leave their home area and still draw huge crowds for shows. Newcastle & London being key examples of it. They been on mainstream TV and national newspapers and that is getting more frequent with each passing week.
Progress Wrestling - What Progress have created in London is not replicated anywhere no only in the UK but possibly anywhere in the world. Last night, for example, they put their next show tickets on sale. Now these tickets are only available to those who sing up to a mailing list if you are unaware. Nevertheless, Progress sold every single front row seat in 60 seconds. An hour later they had sold over 500 tickets in total and at last word they had 60 tickets remaining. General sale doesn't begin till Thursday... if there is any left by them. Promotions would give their right arm to achieve sales of that speed.
Preston City Wrestling - PCW were probably the first UK company to start the concept of multiple day events in the UK. They've also entered a partnership with one of the biggest promotions in the US in Ring Of Honor which is no mean feat for a company which is only about to turn three years old. They've brought in some of the biggest current names in wrestling along with legends from years gone by. PCW are at a point where they could almost get anyone they wished for a show."
Bruce Mackintosh comes in just before the end with:
"Although I've not had a chance to view or experience every UK promotion, I feel ICW / Fierce Females offer the most buzz and excitement in my eyes. They seem to be growing and developing at a great rate and seem to be uppin' the ante with every event they put on. I also have to mention Bellatrix too as they have a strong roster and more events with Fierce Females would be another top notch set of cards.
Long may it grow and continue to strengthen for the wrestling scene!"
And finally, Sammie Jo, my Better Half, wrestling trainee and fan of various Scottish promotions:
"Insane Championship Wrestling - it's a great blowout at the end of the weekend, you can have a good drink, enjoy yourself and forget about everything apart from wrestling. I've learned to expect the unexpected - surprise Devitt and surprise Drew!! The storylines are kept going and cohesive over the months, the attention to detail from Mark Dallas and his team is great. A lot of other promotions take the "showcase" approach to shows, as individual events, whereas ICW is like one long storyline. Catering to every fan, they always give up and coming wrestlers a chance at shows as well as bringing in the best of the best, the likes of Jack Gallagher and Sumerian Death Squad. Mention also has to go to the fan interactions, making you feel like part of the show, however sometimes it can go a bit too far *cough* teabagging *cough*"