Sunday the 24th of January saw two very different wrestling promotions on opposite sides of the world put on very similar shows. ICW held their Square Go, at Glasgow’s famous Barrowlands, while the WWE hosted the Royal Rumble in Orlando. Both shows are based around a Rumble style match and I was lucky enough to attend one and to watch the other (although I did have to stay up until 4 am so I don’t know how lucky that was). The question is, how did they compare?
Let’s start with the undercard. Although, at least in ICW’s case, calling it an undercard seems harsh, something which explains why they nick this particular point. Their final match before the Square Go was Grado vs Chris Renfrew for the ICW World Title and it was a better match than anything WWE put on. It would mark the end of Grado’s run as champ but at the same time legitimised him as one. Everything from his serious entrance to his ability to bring it to Renfrew proved that Grado is far from being a one-note act. Credit has to go to Renfrew too, who despite my dislike for the NAK makes sense as the champ. The guy is ICW through and through and he deserves a spot at the top of the roster, particularly after two champs who had a habit of being on the other side of the world for ‘smaller shows’.
In comparison, WWE’s best action was Kevin Owens vs Dean Ambrose in a Last Man Standing Match, a format which I normally dislike but which unsurprisingly these two made fun. I could watch them beat each other up all day. Owens is one of the best all round wrestlers in the world right now and Ambrose is the perfect foil for him. The difference between this and Grado vs Renfrew was the stakes involved. The two ICW guys feel special and have been booked as such while too often the WWE guys are left on the side as the company works to make others look strong.
These matches aside, the rest of the undercard actually matched up quite nicely. Both featuring Tag Title matches that as in ring spectacles were entertaining but are based on feuds I’ve seen enough of. I swear every time I go to an ICW event I see Polo Promotions vs The 55 and the same can be said of Raw and The Usos vs New Day. On the flipside, Kenny Williams and Lionheart managed to put on an interesting bout that strengthened both men’s characters and set their feud up to continue. Something which I wish could be said for Del Rio and Kalisto, but sadly those two will have better days and the hot potato act with the US Title isn’t helping anyone.
Rounding it all up we had Liam Thomson vs Carmel and the Diva’s title match. As awkward as it can be watching a man beat up a woman, Thomson and Carmel did what they needed to do. They sold Thomson being dominant but Carmel being smarter and her sneaking the victory suggests there is more to come from them. The Diva’s title match was also well done and hopefully allows WWE to make the shocking discovery that if you build up good heels and babyfaces and let them feud for the title, it will lead to a better quality product. Charlotte and Becky did great and with Sasha moving into the picture maybe we can ditch the Diva’s Revolution and just let the women wrestle.
Finally, onto the Rumble/Square Go. Two thirty men over the top rope matches, in which the two promotions were trying to tell a similar story. In one, Roman Reigns comes in at number one and defends his title against all the odds. In the other, an injured Joe Coffey enters at number one to try and get the title shot he believes he deserves. Both men were beaten at the last, the difference? Roman Reigns was eliminated by a former badass clinging to his glory days, Coffey was just eliminated by a badass.
Look, Triple H and Reigns is telling an obvious story and comparing Hunter and Wolfgang doesn’t really work. But I can’t be the only one who just felt a crushing sense of disappointment when that Rumble ended? A feeling that despite all the hints at elevating new talent, we were still going to a well that ran dry years ago. It wasn’t that I wanted Roman to be champ, it was that I didn’t want Hunter to be it. On the ICW side of things, I was also disappointed, but that was because I, and most in attendance, wanted Joe to achieve his dream. He’s a babyface we can get behind, which Reigns is still failing to be.
Finishes aside both matches had their moments. AJ Styles’ debut was exciting, although he quickly turned into just another guy when he was actually in the match. While I am one hundred percent behind a Zayn Owens feud if are heading that way. In ICW, we had the comedy of The GZRs entering with Sebastian classifying Tom as his weapon, a Coffey Brothers reunion, and the expected Mark Dallas Red Lighting throwdown. Both actually did a semi-decent job of setting up new feuds (I am totally on board for Mikey Whiplash and Jimmy Havoc to go at it) and continuing old. One just got the finish right and the other made me want to cry.
Look, ICW and WWE are in different worlds right now. Everything ICW does at the moment is great but comparing the two is like comparing the Scottish Premier League to the English. Even when it’s brilliant (which to be honest, unlike ICW it rarely is) it’s doing it on a fraction of the budget. And yet despite this, ICW (even with the problems it has) continues to outperform the big boys. It is a company that feels like it is being run with plans set in stone long into the future and unlike WWE, I want to see where they go.