An interview with Chris Renfrew

Credit to Warrior Photography for the photo

The canvas doesn’t change shape, it doesn’t change how hard it is depending on your gender, it’s the same ring, and it’s the same audience, its sport and business so gender should not come into play when training…

From the first time I saw Chris Renfrew in a ‘Geordie Rules’ match, the first time ICW ventured south to Newcastle in 2014, he was unforgettable, Renfrew is a total character, with years of experience and we were so pleased to get some time to sit down and talk with him recently.

Neil Rogers – I wanted to start off talking about your current ICW situation, for people who might not know that you have separated from Legion and Mikey Whiplash, the promo that you did once you left I thought was brilliant. That was a long slow build up to that storyline, were you happy with how it turned out in the end?
Chris Renfrew – Yeah really happy, it was such a change in direction from what I normally do. I’m known for being the loud mouth, the guy who wrecks a venue and makes a lot of noise so to go the polar opposite and literally be silent for almost 6 months to the day it was good for me as a performer to try something so different because admittedly I think the character had grown a bit stale in ICW. It was an interesting dynamic that let me step away from what I was used to and Mikey came back with a bit of a different dynamic. I’m chuffed at how it turned out, I had really good feedback.
NR – At the Newcastle show you wrestled with a mask on, how was that for you?
CR – It was no easy feat! That was a crazy match, but that’s what we do when you won’t see NAK or Legion or the Filthy Generation putting on that standard six/eight man tag, you’re not going to see us waiting on the apron, and getting long periods of heat its going to be like that because that’s what people expect of us. If you are in the middle of a heated rivalry you can’t just take it back you need to go balls to the wall. It was the first time the Filthy Generation had been out as a crew as well and we wanted to make sure they got off to a flying start.
NR – So in the near future Whiplash will have to deal with you and on the other hand the Filthy Generation?
CR – And Jimmy Havoc is going to be there, I think he’s doing all four dates of the tour with us so pretty much a big melting pot of fucking psychos kicking about.
NR – I don’t fancy being Whiplash in that situation.
CR – Ah he deserves it man, he’s been kicking shit out of me for six months.

When Chris Renfrew and Mikey Whiplash step in a ring it is never one for the faint of heart

NR – Yeah given how he’s been treating Renfrew as a character, what was it like watching him getting tortured by Sabu just before you left?
CR – It was a weird situation, especially being that close, it’s pretty much the best seat in the house for a match like that so a bit of a fan came out in me watching. I was like fucking hell he’s properly stabbing fuck out of him, so I really enjoyed it from that point of view, it was a fascinating experience to be that close to a Sabu match.
NR – Were you a fan of Sabu growing up?
CR – Yeah, I was a WWE kid growing up and it was a gateway company to other wrestling. When WWE told me about something else I would go find it. You know when Mick Foley did the whole death match stuff in Japan, I went and checked that out and it was the same with ECW. Originally RVD caught my attention, I had read about ECW in Powerslam but it always looked small time, like a picture of them in a shed when at the time the WWE and WCW stuff were fucking huge so I never gave it a second glance till RVD showed up on WWE TV and then I kinda went backwards and got all the DVDs and stuff and Sabu was one of those guys that fascinated me. I had seen WWE hardcore stuff was but these dudes took it to a whole new extreme and we have always been compared to them in a gritty, holy shit that’s real way and Sabu was always one of those guys who had the aura of realness and he still carries that holy shit what’s he going to do next vibe. There are only a handful of guys now who aren’t sports entertainment, are not all this new generation, these are the professional wrestlers and that’s the only real way you can define Sabu.
NR – Do you think there are any people of that mould who can be made now?
CR – Bram is still in that mould, in my opinion if he had been around in the 80’s or the 90’s that guy would have been world champion. The world is scared of Bram because he is what a professional wrestler used to be, can you see that guy being in any other field? Nah he was designed for one spot in this world and that was to be a wrestler and he carries this oh shit he’s real vibe with him so I think he’s the best example of an old school type wrestler.
NR – I’ve never met Bram, I’ve seen him in a few shows and always thought he’s better than quite a few people on this card but I have always disliked him because he is a good heel, I respect his work but I’ve seen that he’s got a lot of stick online for the domestic violence allegation, do you have any thoughts on that?
CR – I was disappointed with how the OTT thing went down, it was accusations that were later squashed he could have taken it further but he wanted to move on. I don’t think its fair that carried over, I think there is a difference in Bram and Tom the guy who plays the character of Bram. We are in a time when people are craving edgy characters but when they get them they shit themselves. People say they want the attitude era back but they are up in arms about Mickie James being called old, that’s ageist fuck me I was watching stuff back from ’99 and the stuff X-pac was saying to Kane and the big boss man…. People say they want it but then when they are faced with it they do shit themselves and I think Tom portrays Bram that well that people think that’s who he is 24/7. If he was like that all the time he wouldn’t be able to operate in general society.
NR – If Bram was like that in real life he would be in prison, clearly he’s a character.
NR – Exactly, so would I be, if I was my character all the fucking time, my house would be a mess but the whole Bram thing is a shame the way it’s happened. It was a real shame that his booking was cancelled but it proved that we had his back.
NR – Now moving onto your other work you are booked extensively outside of ICW as well, did I see that you won a cup recently?
CR – Yeah, I won the Celtic Cup in Pro Wrestling Ulster and that’s a Northern Irish promotion based in Belfast.
NR – What’s Pro Wrestling Ulster like as a company? I saw some pictures of the tournament and it looked pretty impressive.
CR – I can’t speak highly enough of the guys running the show, they take care of their talent, they feed and water you and as a travelling performer those things go a long way. The Northern Irish fans are brilliant, they get it, there’s a real community vibe that’s similar to ICW with family involved in running it and they are a really tight nit group. It’s another great area and I always look forward to those trips, it ticks all the boxes. They have Tucker there, he’s their top babyface, he was in the WWE tournament, he’s fucking everywhere and he’s the nicest guy ever, consummate professional and he can fucking go man.
NR – When you wrestle further away from home and you see new talent do you come home and recommend them or do you keep an eye out for them on your travels?
CR – Yeah I go back to creative and tell them what I’ve seen, like with Roxxy, I saw her and said straight away she would be a good fit for the Newcastle show. I’m always scouting and seeing talent that I want on the shows.
NR – Talking about ICW shows, I wanted to talk about Fear and Loathing 9, you were second last match, what was it like being around since the beginning of ICW to being in that spot?
CR – Fear and Loathing 8 stands up better in my memory bank than 9 because I was so fucking stressed about that day, I was so nervous to be honest and character wise I was in limbo after I lost the title. I had been interjected into that match as one of the guys because I was so associated with the company. I preferred 8 when we did the cage match with Legion because that was our story at that point, I felt like a bit of a bit player at 9 which is OK to be but maybe not at the biggest show of the year.
NR – I enjoyed 9 but I don’t think I’ll go to another show that I’ll feel as invested in as 8.
CR – 2015 that was our best year creatively in my opinion, the culmination of the Grado chase the title story, had Drew Galloway was the hottest on the independent circuit, nobody could touch him, you had the NAK feud and the Bucky Boys feud there was so many cool elements. Maybe it wasn’t the most successful year but creatively the emotional investment in the story was massive.

NR – Now, out of the three people you are facing at Fear and Loathing 10 (Whiplash, Stevie Boy and Jimmy Havoc) do you have a preference of who to work with individually?
CR – Ah that’s tough these are the guys I love to work with they are all fucking mental, they don’t mind taking it to that extreme brutal level. I’ve only actually wrestled Whiplash singles twice, once in Dundee and once on the hundredth anniversary show and that was a bit nasty. People tend to like the stuff with Havoc because of the Scottish rules stuff, we’ve done some fucking mental tag matches but only ever done Scottish rules ourselves. Any one of them man, I love it.
NR – When one of them opens their mouth with an idea for in the match, who is it you are the most worried about?
CR – Havoc, definitely Jimmy or my ideas worry them, dunno in fact, maybe me, I suggest something and they are like nah you’ll die.
NR – Has someone suggested something totally mental?
CR – The suplexes to the outside at the Barramania tour and Trent suplexed Whiplash to the floor FUCK THAT MAN!
NR – Will the four of you at Fear and Loathing will you all be on the same page? Will there be anyone who wants to push it to a ridiculous level?
CR – It depends on your definition of ridiculous level, my definition of normal and other peoples is pretty different but let’s be honest man it’s the big show, we need to do stuff you haven’t seen before from us so it will be pretty fucking morbid man.
NR – Having more people to have input on a match than one on one does it tend to make it more violent?
CR – It depends on the guys involved in the match. Could be all the guys on the same page or just a couple driving it, you could have a six man match and only a couple of people in charge of it or there is a load of different ways it could go, I’ve never done one of these four ways before so I don’t know what the fuck I’m letting myself in for.
NR –You work with so many different people, could you give one name or one tag team who has stood out the most for you this year?
CR – I would say Kasey Owens, she went from zero to hero in a very short space of time and it was her time, she has humped the fucking ring up and down this country and has done everything right and she was given her spot and she fucking killed it, I could not be happier for that girl, nobody deserved it more and you would be hard pushed to find a better breakout star, from ring crew at the start of the year to main eventing.
NR – On the topic of the talented women on the roster, do you think of it as women’s wrestling or as just more wrestling?
CR – Well I’ve said this a few times about Kay Lee no one ever fucking points out that it’s a mixed tag when she’s in matches with us. It was meant to be me and BT against Wolfgang and Stevie at the Barras, but Stevie had hurt his knee so he couldn’t wrestle. They just put Kay Lee in and nobody said oh it’s a wee girl fighting these big guys, nobody fucking blinked at the fact she was in with us because she has proven herself time and time again.
Kay Lee Ray is head and shoulders above any other woman wrestler on this planet at the moment for me, she can do pretty much anything you ask of her. I have wrestled Viper before in that Scottish rules match and we did play the male/female dynamic but we were able to use those stereotypes to our advantage and then she did almost knock my teeth out with a forearm so yeah for those girls to be given the spot, it’s always going to be considered different but how can you not say they are some of the best wrestlers around?
NR – Do you think ICW has been ahead of the curve using female wrestlers? In theory any promotion in Europe could have used Viper and Kay Lee much more prominently and earlier but ICW were the ones who gave them the spotlight for them to make the most of.
CR –I think the girls themselves did that rather than us making it happen, Kay Lee was involved in the stories with the guys, the Whiplash angle, the NAK angle, she was good enough to warrant that spot and it was in matches with Carmel where she got everyone’s attention. They went out and had absolute storming matches, they were taking huge bumps and they started their run around 2013. So compared to the mainstream stuff I guess they stepped up long before most of the others. So I wouldn’t say it was me or Dallas or the creative I would say it was the girls that were ahead of the curve to go out and take the spots.

Kay Lee Ray & Viper were both involved in the WWE Mae Young Classic over the summer

NR – Fair enough, well said, is there something in the water up in Scotland? What makes them ahead of the curve as you said?
CR – Most of the Scottish wrestlers are convincing in their strikes and what they do and the girls trained with the guys so Nikki Storm never got to train with other girls, she had to train with me and Damo and people like that, she was getting power bombed and thrown around like nobody’s business. There has never been a different way for guys and girls to train separately, there weren’t enough girls to do that so they would turn up to training and jump in with the dudes and get treated no differently. You shouldn’t be trained differently, the canvas doesn’t change shape, it doesn’t change how hard it is depending on your gender, it’s the same ring, and it’s the same audience, its sport and business so gender should not come into play when training.
NR – Do you think that the careful way ICW book their shows is what makes it much better than other promotions when their card doesn’t flow?
CR – There is a tightknit community in running a show. We book it so the show runs smoothly, it can change, matches get moved, there could be an imports but we recognise that no one hits the others moves, no one hits the stunner, except Grado he has everyone’s moves but he’s the exception to the rule. You don’t want to see a million of the same moves on a card do you?
You want variations so people need to pay attention, it goes a long way man, it really irks me when trainees rather than watch the card are huddled round their phones watching their own shit and fucking jacking each other off that it was cool when you hit that drop kick – fuck off and go watch the card, stop being a mark for yourself and go pay attention. They have to think why are these guys booked? I’m only booked in one place.
I’ve had to go away and think what am I doing wrong? Who should I be paying attention too? Oh look Lionheart is getting booked everywhere, what’s he doing? Pay more attention to him. So I’m in a locker room with Bram and Bull Dempsey, they are talking about their time in NXT, Tommy Dreamer’s advice, Dusty Rhodes advice, why the fuck would you not want to be picking their brains and get all that information from them instead of huddled round your phones.
NR – Do you think that’s an experience thing?
CR – I think it’s a common sense thing, you need to go above and beyond and show a willingness to learn.
NR – Do you think sometimes it comes down to the people training the youngsters?
CR – If you go to the GPWA building the five guys that founded the school Lionheart, Red Lightning, Jester, Wolfgang and BT Gunn, they are all professionals, everyone had the success they worked for. Then you have the office which is me, Dallas and the backstage guys, that’s the people you want to be talking with right now. Pick your school wisely, look at the persons credentials as a trainer, if they are not getting as much work as you as a trainee there is probably something wrong with the training school. A lot of the younger guys, it’s not just shake someone’s hand and say your name, that’s general manners, it’s a willingness to learn in the business and pay attention to the card and realise why people are in their spots and I’m not.
NR – Coming back to putting together a card, how much did you initially know yourself? If you could go back in time what lessons would you teach yourself?
CR – Ah shit man, if I could go back and talk to my younger self it would be a different world, I was a fat, lazy, egotistical bastard who thought I was a much bigger deal because there wasn’t much competition up here at all and I let it go to my head. Sometimes I feel like the body side of the business, the nutrients were never installed into me in the way they are now. You hit a point where you couldn’t evolve any further the way the format was in this country and the advice I would give myself would be get your fucking body in check, train everywhere and don’t let your ego get ahead of you. Although, in many respects the butterfly effect says that would have taken me down a different path though so you take your path for a reason but I would definitely give myself a kick up the arse with how I approached the business. Training wise I was great, five days a week then shows started coming round, people come round and rather than worry about your own success you worry about others which is the worst thing you can do in wrestling. Focus on yourself and ask yourself why they booked me sometimes that might not be a clear answer but you can’t dwell on these things and that’s something I used to do. I used to dwell on the opinion of others and shit like that but the world has changed, social media was never a thing. I started my training in 2004, 13 years I’ve been kicking about now but I didn’t get my head screwed on until 2013/14.
NR – Think 13/14 was around the first time I was aware of your work, I’ve always been a big fan of your mic work.
CR – Thanks, people forget, I’ve not been talking now for so long, sometimes you need to take things away to make people realise as it becomes par for the course but in regards to the way I approach wrestling now in general is much more positive and it only happens when you wrestle guys better than you. I wrestled London and Kendrick in Newcastle that made me better, it inspires me to be better, just be a fucking sponge when you are around people and I’m enjoying my wrestling at the min. As great as it was the Grado story was really draining, I built that story for around two years and when I lost the belt it was all gone.

Winning the ICW title from Grado in 2016 was not the experience Renfrew had hoped for.

NR – Does being lost after winning the title make the win any less special in hindsight?
CR – That’s a bit of a sore spot, I knew I was getting a big build but to be booked to loose it before I had even won it is one of the worst things that can happen for your mindset in wrestling. It set me off on a wrong path, hence why I went home for a few months when I disappeared in 2016 then came back at Shugs and did that stuff I still wasn’t in the right mindset. I’m not going to lie it was a big deal to me, to be the ICW champ is a shit tonne of pressure. When you are the last match on the card and they’ve seen everything before you it’s a lot of pressure and stress and when it’s over I felt my time had been and gone and it made me question if I even wanted to do it anymore. I had a lot of personal issues, last year wasn’t a great year for me but I think I came out the end of it a better person. It’s been really rewarding working with the younger talent and bringing them on and booking them.
NR – How is your role in ICW on a day to day basis?
CR – Me and Dallas write the shows together, we come up with the concepts, the stories all different kinds of ideas and we have Scott Reed backstage chiming in with bits and pieces. I’m hustling every fucking day like Del Boy Trotter to get the name of ICW out there. I feel like I put my heart and soul into it and took it from this little tiny seed to this big fucking massive plant that everyone is climbing up right now. I get wrestling, I understand it. We went from writing six shows a year to writing 12 shows then 25 a year and 50! Not many people have got my back in wrestling, I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got Dallas, I’ve got BT Gunn sometimes but I stand alone a lot of the time and the pressure and stress combined with a top drawer story with Grado, as heated as it was, that’s a mind fuck man. It took a lot to get over, 2016 I hated that year, hated it, I think we were fine in terms of stories, you wouldn’t have noticed but I was miserable. I go to the ICW office and work with Dallas, we figure out how to sell out six shows, how to promote the biggest show on the calendar year plus running shows a week later, it never stops and that’s why I questioned if I could wrestle and work on creative, it’s a tough spot and it can get confusing but its just my path and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
NR – Let’s finish on a positive note, what’s the thing you are most proud of career wise?
CR – I would say the NAK because me and BT Gunn took it from this wee tiny group and we were fucking anarchy and now the NAK thing up and down the country is synonymous with us and we made it the best faction, in Scotland there’s no one who can fucking touch us. When you look at all the moments and all the matches and combine it all into the bio or package or whatever you want to call it me and BT Gunn have managed to run this since 2009, its 2017 and people are still chanting those letters so for that I’m proud of.
NR – Do you think NAK will be back in ICW?
CR – You can never say never, got to see where the path goes, when you have achieved what you want to achieve you run the risk of getting stale and denting your legacy but never say never. We have had our ups and downs over the years but we are in the best place also, that faction was not ready to end when it ended, that was not my fucking choice but that’s past now and we have to move on but I am proud of that. Me and him promised we would take this shit and make it the biggest thing ever, whether you know us or hate us you know who we fucking are and you react to us and that’s pretty sweet man.

Thanks to Chris for his time and for being so open and honest about some difficult times, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him and for ICW.

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