As Insane Championship Wrestling close in on their biggest ever show and their UK tour draws to an end, I had a chat with leader of The 55 James R Kennedy. You can find him on Twitter at @topclasskennedy
What first got you into wrestling?
As soon as I saw pro wrestling, I fell in love. Whilst other 6 year olds of my generation were consumed by Nickelodeon and Pokemon, I couldn’t get enough WWF. I distinctly remember being over at a family friend’s house. Her son, who was maybe 6/7 years older than me, was watching wrestling. The tape he had on was WrestleMania III, and he was watching the main event between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. Something about the entire thing just grabbed me, much the same as many others.
Who was your favourite wrestler as a kid?
Without a doubt, it was Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. I really started watching current wrestling around 1993, and would borrow tapes from that aforementioned family friend’s son. We became friends, and he introduced me to Hart’s work. One of my favourite videos was the Royal Rumble ’93, mainly due to Bret’s WWF Title bout against Razor Ramon. I loved everything about him, and started to notice that his matches were a lot more hard-hitting and intricate than some others I had previously enjoyed on video, like Hulk Hogan. I’ve always been a sucker for technical wrestling.
Who was your favourite manager?
Whilst watching the ‘Mania III VHS over and over, I started to become interested in what Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan was doing around ringside. As my tape library started to grow, I’d see more of the man as a manager, and became fascinated with his promos and general verbal abilities. For me, Heenan was the perfect manager, because he could bump, talk and get his men over without breaking a sweat.
If you could have managed any wrestler from the past who would it have been?
A lot of my favourite wrestlers could talk, and I’ve always believed that managers are best suited to those who struggle to put their point across vocally. One of the best examples I could give would be Chris Benoit. That may seem like a controversial choice, but I really feel he could have done with a manager to hype his in-ring skills up during promos, before letting him do what he did best, wrestle.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be involved if it wasn’t for Mark Dallas. Back in 2010, he gave me an opportunity, and he’s been very supportive ever since. Perhaps the best thing about his advice is that you know it’s genuine, because he’s also unafraid to offer criticism. It’s always constructive, because he realises that many of the people involved in ICW are living out their childhood dreams. That’s absolutely the case with me.
What has been the proudest moment in your ICW career so far?
The branching storyline involving both Kenny Williams and Joe Hendry is a favourite of mine. When I started managing Kenny, he was a smaller wrestler who perhaps worried about where he would fit into the ICW roster. The story that was built, concluding with him winning the ICW Zero-G Title and clocking me with it, was beautifully done. Better yet, it allowed both Kenny and Joe to get themselves over with the fans. I’d never take credit for their success, but I’d like to think I played a part in helping them become established. Look at where they are now, they’re flying. That’s what I want to achieve with every wrestler I’m associated with, that they’re bigger and better once they move on from working with me.
The 55 is a continuation of James R. Kennedy’s story. When the Kennedy Administration ended, there was a gap just begging to be filled. My character had to go on and do something completely different, which is why the decision was made to change up my look. At first, I wore a money suit, but it was a little too cartoon-like for the message we were trying to put across. This new Kennedy is one that’s meaner, more menacing. He always had that inside of him, but he tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Now, due to his association with the likes of Sha Samuels and Kid Fite, he doesn’t need to do that.
Where do you see the 55 in 12 months time?
12 months is a long time in pro wrestling nowadays, so it’s hard to accurately predict what will happen between now and then. One thing I definitely see happening is that Sha Samuels will be a future ICW World Heavyweight Champion. The guy is just supremely talented, passionate and connects well with the audience. There’s something about him that people like, and his in-ring style suits ICW perfectly.
As for the group itself, who knows. We perhaps need to get a settled line-up, but everything that’s happened has all been part of the story. James R. Kennedy has money to burn, and he’s willing to burn through it in order to prove himself. The 55 is part of that tale.
Could we ever see James R Kennedy donning a pair of tights and stepping in the ring?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve surprisingly never wanted to be a pro wrestler. Instead, from the first moment I viewed wrestling, I’ve wanted to be involved in some other capacity. Being a manager is a lifelong dream fulfilled, but I’d also have been happy refereeing, announcing or doing anything I could to remain in the picture. Speaking of commentary, that’s something I’d love to try in the future.
I really feel being an in-ring performer takes a special kind of person. It’s not for me, and I’ve come to peace with that fact. I don’t mind getting physically involved, but I feel like I’m still at the start of that journey. Promos and interference are my bread and butter.
What do you think of the current state of British wrestling?
It’s incredibly healthy, and ready to explode. ICW is at the forefront of that, don’t let anybody tell you any different. Talk to any number of independent workers in the UK, and they’ll all tell you that they someday hope to work for ICW. That has to count for something, because it shows that ICW is the pinnacle of what British wrestling is all about right now. There are other valid companies, of course, but none are as close to hitting the big time as ICW. Mark Dallas deserves a lot of credit for that, the dream is close to being fulfilled.
SOMEONE STOP THE DAMN MATCH!!
Catch ICW in Manchester Friday, Birmingham Saturday and Nottingham Sunday or online at http://www.insanewrestling.co.uk/ondemand
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