Uncategorized, Wrestling

A Large Conversation with a Very Large Man: ICW’s Damian O’Connor (Part 2)

Photography by David J Wilson

Photography by David J Wilson

Here’s Part 2 of my conversation with Damian O’Connor. Not only was this a large conversation, but it also gets heavier. Enjoy the learning experience.

HARI: You wrestled Britain’s Bastard Dave Mastiff recently for ICW. A match where neither man looks like a gymnast or a swimmer, just two men about to batter one another. Did you enjoy standing on his chest?

DAMO: Haha, it was actually harder to stand on his chest than a lot of people just because of the shape, and yet he could probably handle it better than anybody. It was quite amusing. Still managed to get up there and give the crowd the fingers.

He’s a great lad, we had a lot of fun. That was the first time we’d ever wrestled singles so it was good to see where the chemistry was at and I think we’d like to do it again anytime.

HARI: There’s something you and a lot of others have said about him, a trademark phrase shared across the board that he’s one of the Top 3 wrestlers in Europe. Who are the other 2?

DAMO: I think for a lot of people, these things are up for debate. But for me, Mastiff and Rampage Brown, would probably be the top 2, and I’d probably put Mikey Whiplash and Martin Stone up there. I genuinely believe that’s the top 4 for me.

I can imagine there’s a lot of guys I haven’t seen, my apologies for anyone I haven’t, but for me when it comes down to what’s in the ring, those are the four. There’s maybe better characters, slightly better talkers around but when it comes to guys that I want to watch in the ring, it’s those 4.

HARI: You faced Rampage recently as well, how did that go?

DAMO: It was a dream, it elevated my opinion even more. He was already one of the best fellas and I’d look at the things he would do and I’d think we could do something good together, and we did.

We ended up having to wrestle three times or so in a week, which is great.

He’s a pleasure to work against, everything he does looks unbelievable and he’s very crisp. Putting a match together with Rampage Brown, it was like talking to myself, it was great. It’s very rare, you sometimes have to fight for inches when it comes to matches but it was easy. We barely had to plan any of it, a lot of it we were able to just do in the ring. For me personally, that’s the sign of genuinely good wrestling.

You can be a fourteen year-old veteran and lazy in the ring but Rampage is the opposite, he’s unbelievable. I can honestly say I’d wrestle him any day of the week.

HARI: What have you seen as the impact of Drew Galloway’s return to ICW?

DAMO: I see it as another person to put down.

HARI: Good answer.

DAMO: Nah, I’m a big fan of Drew’s work, I think he’s an unbelievable talent. He has a bit of everything, very intense, his strikes are unbelievable, his facials are cracking. He puts together an unbelievable match and for ICW, he’s going to help take us to that next level. ICW is on the periphery of getting somewhere, the timing of this is just unbelievable.

HARI: The timing seems almost fated to happen, with his release from WWE and instant return back home.

DAMO: That’s a good way of looking at it because for me, I feel it’s good for Drew’s part because he was on TV every week, I think they dropped the ball with him. At the same time, for his own career I think it’s great because he can go out and show them they’re missing him. WWE aren’t mugs, if he does well they’ll bring him back and not only will they do that they’ll give him a better contract and have a better story for him. I think it’s going to work out great for Drew.

He’s literally set the independent scene on fire since his return, a 150,000 views on YouTube for an ICW segment. It’s probably higher by now, I haven’t checked it for three or four weeks. For a country like Scotland, with 5 million people, for that kind of thing to happen for what is realistically a part-time company is unbelievable. They’ve been in London and all over the UK this year and then Drew comes along, it’s fucking brilliant.

I could wax lyrical about how good the Scottish wrestling scene is but it;s proof that it’s going somewhere. I’m not going to lie to you, ICW is speaking to mediums to try and get to the next step, and it will happen, it’s going to be great to have established names. At the end of the day, we go to towns and they love us. Liverpool was a good example, the people just went nuts for us. Birmingham was great, it has a lot of wrestling already and to pretty much sell out is pretty badass.

It shows our product is reaching people and we’ve been going viral over the internet the past few years. That’s the difference with Mark Dallas, he’s got one hell of a brain on him, he can notice a lot of the trends. He’ll exploit having Drew back to its full potential and it’ll work massively in our favour.

HARI: You’ve told us the Van Damonator isn’t even the beggining of what you can do. Can you execute one in a 20×20 ring?

DAMO: Well, there’s the question. I have to try it in an 18 foot ring and then we’ll see what happens then. I probably could do it, but it’s something that’s going to need practice. I’ve done it in a 16 foot ring and the ICW ring is a bit smaller, so the first time I did it I booted Joe Hendry out of the ring. So I’ve had to change it a little so I don’t actually kill people.

It’s in the pipelines, we’re going to exploit my agility and all that. There’s only a few places where you can get away with doing all these things and ICW’s one of them, because they’re an over 18 audience and understand it better than children will. We’re able to work our brain and that’s the thing I love about it, we can get creative in the ring. That’s something all the workers appreciate. We aren’t shackled, they give us a lot of confidence and freedom.

I can pretty much say the Newcastle show we did was probably one of the best shows I’ve been a part of, if not the best. Everything came together that night and I think it’s going to be very hard to beat that anywhere else in the world. Everyone went out there with the mentality of making Newcastle want to come see us again and that’s definitely going to happen.

HARI: Let’s move onto your life as a Coach with SOURCE Wrestling school, affiliated with the SWE. How well-developed is your training centre?

DAMO: When I took over the school it was called SWA: Area 52, but I changed the name to SOURCE. I feel that all over the world, they think a training school is a license to print money when they have no right to be in existence. What I wanted is to have a good coaching roster, who are around everyday. There are mats, an area for weights, an area for promos, a place to watch the matches back, we have all of that available.

If you can’t offer the full package, we aren’t going to get anybody to go to WWE or be a success in Japan. For anybody who thinks they’re good enough to go to WWE, they need to have a serious think about what they’re doing promo-wise. John Laurinitis came to our school in 2010 and he said, no word of a lie, “Everybody thinks you can learn to be a wrestler and the promos are the icing on the cake. That’s not the case, promos are 50% and wrestling is 50%. If you’re less so on either side, they’re not taking a look.”

That’s something I paid attention to. I have a 1900 square foot place close to the city centre of Glasgow to maximise its full potential. For example, Joe Hendry who’s only been wrestling since December and he’s already had two WWE try-outs.

HARI: What do you look for in bringing guest seminars to your school?

DAMO: My major worry is I don’t want to turn out clones of me. What we’ve tried to do is bring in British wrestlers, especially veterans like Robbie Brookside, Marty Jones, Drew McDonald, and Jonny Kidd. We brought ‘Kung Fu’ Eddie Hamill who hasn’t done anything like that in twenty years and it was an absolute privilege, one of the best wrestlers Ireland’s ever produced, you can see how he’s influenced so many others.

We try and balance that with modern wrestling because it’s always evolving. Even some of my fellow workers claim that they don’t watch the WWE and I see it as idiocy. We bring in current workers who may have just left WWE or are actively working in Mexico, because if we can provide different experiences, even different opinions and ideas then the guys at the session can adapt to it.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with another way of doing things, everyone’s a different height/weight/size/gender and are going to do things different. I’m not going to run the ropes the same way Nikki Storm is, she’s 5’1 and a woman. It would be idiocy to say we ought to do the same thing.

We try to provide for different heights, weights and gender. I think me and Mikey [Whiplash] are quite open minded to other ideas. We brought in Prince Devitt who was down quite a lot between 2009 and 2012. I saw him in 2009 as one of the best wrestlers in the world, and four years later when he decided it was okay, he decided to go to WWE.

I met William Regal in 2010 and he said they were desperate to get Fergal there and now he’s there, and he’s there for a reason. He’s a fella who absolutely changed my philosophy on wrestling. That’s one of the things I’ll always be forever grateful to him for, to get me to take things more seriously, think about things in a different way.

These were two or three day camps that I kept very quiet from the rest of Britain because I wanted to get my guys to the best level they could be and they’re still coming to seminars today. Over the past few weeks we’ve had Jonathan Gresham, an amazing American talent. We try to keep it varied, recently we brought in Rampage Brown and Chris Sabin and the trainees absolutely loved him. He’s very current along with Christopher Daniels who we also had down, but also Ultimo Dragon, Super Crazy, Kamikaze, trying to bring in different backgrounds and it’s worked to their benefit, to make them different from the next worker in Britain.

HARI: Those are the plans for the school, what is the aim for Damian O’Connor?

DAMO: My focus now is on myself, the school is doing very well for itself at the moment. I’m still working there four days a week, sometimes six, but we’ve got some great staff that help me run it. With SWA I took on a second business partner before and now am taking on a third, who are going to take SWA to levels I haven’t. I saw myself more as an interim manager, I have no plans to stay managing wrestling shows, especially not at this point in my life.

David Wilson our photographer put it best, he said “What yous are doing in the ring is the best, but what yous are doing outside the ring [putting arses in seats] just isn’t good enough.” He’s the most honest person in Scottish Wrestling and he was right. We have people who want to make money, run a business but not to the detriment of the wrestling and we’re bringing in 700-800 people per show.

I’m in a situation now where I know it’s the right path and that took a long time to get onto. I was trying to find the route and now that I have it’s a lot easier. It’s still a long way to go but I’m not even close to be the wrestler I want to be, but I’m a lot closer than I was yesterday. Everyday is another day to try and get better to improve.

I went down to see Robbie Brookside in Leicester, it was the best thing for me as someone I could learn to be a heavyweight under, because I’d worked as a cruiserweight and middleweight before. It was good to try a more heavy style whilst maintaining my own individuality. Now it’s a need to keep plugging away, keep doing what I’m doing, working on my physique, keep putting on matches where people go “Wow” and then we’ll see what comes.

Article originally published at Pyro & Ballyhoo HERE.

End of interview with ‘Big Damo’ Damian O’Connor. Follow him on Twitter @BigBeardDamo

For more from Hari, follow me on Twitter @HotChocHari or visit http://www.hariramakrishnan.com

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