Insane Fight Club: “It puts you in a full nelson – funny, heartbreaking and compellingly violent”

As Insane Championship Wrestling returns to BBC3, Shem Law explains why the original documentary is essential viewing

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Every once in a while a programme will come along that can’t be placed in one of those neat pigeon holes that TV executives and critics alike are so fond of. Insane Fight Club is just such a programme. Funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, yet compellingly violent – a documentary that bucks the current trend of holding up its working-class subjects for ridicule. 

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Insane Championship Wrestling (or ICW) is the brainchild of Glaswegian owner/promoter Mark Dallas, who in an attempt to make a better life for himself and his new family got his wrestling fan friends together to start his own fight nights. It has become, as he calls it, “theatre for a new generation – where people get the s**t kicked out of them”.

This is nothing like the ‘all-in wrestling’ as performed by Mick McManus and Kendo Nagasaki in the 1970s, or the oiled-up, tanned and overblown fare served up by the likes of the Rock or Hulk Hogan in the 1990s. Like those formats, the ‘wrestling’ in ICW starts conventionally within the confines of the ring, but soon moves via the fire exit to the street. The fighting might be choreographed, but the blood is very real as steel chairs, traffic cones and bottles from the bar are used to subdue opponents. 

Grado, Mark Dallas and Jack Jester

ICW is paunches, punches and pies, especially pies in the case of the undisputed star of ICW: Grado. Try saying it in a Glaswegian accent… Grrrrradoooo. He epitomises the spirit of ICW, from his outlandish ring entrances – swanking and swaggering around the canvas to a soundtrack of Madonna – to his catch phrase “It’s yersel!”. A very likeable 220lbs of Tennant’s lager and chips, Grado steals this show. Between the action, we see him still living at home with mum, and pondering how he ended up a wrestling star whilst modelling his latest outrageous leotard. If Mark Dallas is the ringmaster of this macho circus, Grado is its clown.

I guarantee Insane Fight Club will put you in a full nelson and won’t let you go. Watch it, and spread the word. 

‘I-C-Dub! I, C, Dub!’

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Insane Fight Club is repeated on Thursday 25th June on BBC3 at 9pm, and Insane Fight Club II is shown on Wednesday 1st July.