8 07 2013

Here’s an unedited reprint of my review of the recent Mick Foley stand-up show that ran on Culture Northern Ireland.




Thirty minutes before the doors of the Empire in Belfast open, there’s already a large, snake-like queue of super excited punters waiting to walk into the venue to get up close and personal with this evening’s headline act. People from across the street keep looking over, obviously wondering which act has generated such glee from a few hundred people on a Sunday night. Is it the latest hipster-friendly indie band, performing an intimate club show before they headline festivals across the world, they wonder? Could it be an appearance from the increasingly Damien Thorn-like man-child known as Bieber, they seem to ponder?

No doubt they would be surprised to learn that the faithful are actually congregating outside to see a former professional wrestler (with a litany of injuries longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet) indulge his increasingly popular alter-ego as a stand-up comic/story-teller, and perhaps they’d even be mildly impressed to find out that recent Hall of Fame inductee, three time WWE champion and best-selling author Mick Foley sold out his Belfast date in 20 hours flat too. You see, much like metal, comic books and tattoos, the often misunderstood world of “rasslin” is an ever-green, deeply rich sub-culture and once you’ve been caught by the grappling bug, well, it never really loosens its grip, as tonight’s attendance ably illustrates.

While to the outsiders, a packed hall of punters all clamouring to hear stories from a man who competed in “Japanese Death Matches,” barbed wire bouts and the now-infamous Hell in a Cell ordeal (where the Long Island native ended up being flung off the top of a 16 feet tall steel construction onto a table below) might seem a little strange, inside the venue it feels like Christmas Eve and we’re all happily waiting for jolly old St Mick to arrive.

To get us in the mood though, there’s a support slot from Coleraine man Martin Mor and his Chinese Burn-like approach to warming up the audience has the place in hysterics. Boasting a brand of comedy that’s bluer than anything this reviewer has ever heard onstage, his frankly filthy material hits the mark more than misses it and while the poor souls in the front rows are put through hell, no-one seems to mind too much and he treats us all to a master-class on x-rated comedy.

Next up, it’s the self-proclaimed Hardcore Legend and he receives one of the biggest ovations in the Empire’s history. “The more you cheer, the less I have to do,” says Foley, flashing that famous gap-toothed grin of his and while he seems a little rattled having to follow Mor’s sledge-hammer like performance, it doesn’t take him too long to settle into the groove.

The last time Mick was here, the material for his show was a little broader in scope and he was clearly keen to attract a less wrestling-centric crowd. However, after a stint at the Edinburgh Festival where he under-went something of an epiphany, this tour sees him embrace his history and the performance, sub-titled Tales From Wrestling Past, is tailoured towards an audience who have grown up watching him shed blood, sweat and tears (then a little more blood for good measure).

Stories about Jake the Snake Roberts’ toilet habits and Diamond Dallas Page’s penchant for nudity are all told (and received) warmly and while some may argue that a show solely centred around the wrestling world may be a little off-putting for those who know little of it, this reviewer thinks Foley made a wise decision relying on his strengths. After all, you don’t see Slayer play country songs in an effort to appeal to a broader audience-so why should a wrestler tip-toe around a subject that 95% of his audience want to hear about?

A massive point of Mick’s appeal is his inherent sweetness. His anecdotes are told to amuse rather than annoy and his recollections aptly sum up the weird and wonderful sub-culture (he’s probably one of the only men on Earth who will wax lyrical about being slammed through a flaming table and make it seem like a warm and fuzzy experience). Telling a tale about a time where he attended an adult performance in Amsterdam alongside some fellow wrestlers, he grins when he remembers one of his peers noticed the nude performer was wearing a knee brace and, clearly feeling a kinship, said, “Look-he’s working hurt, too.”

While at times the opening night of his latest tour seems a little hap hazard (mid-way through he randomly takes an impromptu Q and A session before resuming his set), Foley’s undeniable charisma combined with his fond recollection of his storied career make for an unforgettable evening and, much to the delight of the champ’s doctors no doubt, he didn’t have to take a single steel chair shot to the head to give us value for money.

Bye Bye 2012

31 12 2012

Yes kids, it’s that time again where we wave buh bye to the year and welcome in a new one. Instead of words this NYE,  I’ve decided to post up some pictures which sum up the last 12 months before finishing off with my top 20 LPs of 2012.

Thanks to all the bands, promoters, PRs and mates who hooked me up with records, gigs and good times.Here’s to 2013.

2012: The Year In Photos (And The Odd You Tube Link)

May 13, 2012. I’ll remember this day until they put me in a pine box.Kinda crazy to think that long after we’re dead, people will still be able to see us on this footage of City winning their first Premier league title. Can you spot me and my Da? Handy hint: We’re under the giant purple arrow….

Chilling like villains backstage at the Odyssey with the WWE alongside my brother and nephew.Also-big thanks to the Celtic Warrior Sheamus for hooking us up and being an absolute hero.

Here’s a clip of Therapy? playing ‘Exiles’ at the Tall Ships in Dublin this summer.Y’know…I might refer to myself as “the wonderful Edwin McFee” for the duration of 2013 (the quality’s amazing, eh…..?). Mad props to the Therapy? boys.

My fanzine, Generation Why, (which started the ball rolling on this mental job of mine) celebrated its tenth birthday.

There was a lot of party rocking in a variety of different places with a number of different people this year.Here’s to more adventures.

I finally got that Iron Maiden mask I’ve always wanted.

…and that Betty Banner tattoo I’ve always been looking for too.

And lastly (but certainly not, um, leastly…) here’s my Top 20 LPs of 2012.It’s been a great year for records and hopefully 2013 will be just as good. Happy New Year and Up the Irons!

1) Therapy? ‘A Brief Crack Of Light’

2) Gallows ‘Gallows’

3) Hot Water Music ‘Exister’

4) Best Coast ‘The Only Place’

5) The Gaslight Anthem ‘Handwritten’

6) Wolfsbane ‘Wolfsbane Saves The World’

7) Triggerman ‘Hail To The River Gods’

8) JD McPherson ‘Signs And Signifiers’

9) Cloud Nothings ‘Attack On Memory’

10) Hour Of 13 ‘333’

11) Cheap Freaks ‘Bury Them All’

12) The Jim Jones Revue ‘The Savage Heart’

13) Bobby Conn ‘Macaroni’

14) James Levy And The Blood Red Rose ‘Pray To Be Free’

15) Mystery Jets ‘Radlands’

16) DZ Deathrays ‘Bloodstreams’

17) Master And Dog ‘Master And Dog’

18) Band Of Horses ‘Mirage Rock’

19) Baby Woodrose ‘Third Eye Surgery’

20) Alabama Shakes ‘Boys & Girls’

The Fit Finlays

3 12 2010

Tonight at 7.30pm on Setanta Sports, the long-awaited documentary on NI wrestler Fit Finlay makes its debut. It’s a shame I don’t have the channel as I’d love to see it. Here’s the trailer.

I’ve always liked Finlay. Not just because he came from here and made his way to the top of his game on a global scale by doing things his way, but also because he really paid his dues in the world’s second oldest profession and unlike others, it hasn’t changed him too much. I remember the first time I went to see the WWE about 9 years ago at the Odyssey and I even made a large, green “I’m Here For Fit” sign. Yes, I am obviously way cooler than I’m given credit for…

Anyway, here’s another clip from the show and it sums up exactly why I love wrestling so much. Basically you either “get” the athleticism, humour and downright weirdness, or you don’t. Naturally enough, the aforementioned “English pig” Steven/Willian Regal and Finlay are the best of mates in real life.

When My Big Green Arm Met The Big Show

15 11 2010

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people at Aiken Promotions hooked me up with ringside seats at the Odyssey for Smackdown. I have to say I had a blast and it was great sitting beside the likes of Drew McIntire’s and John Cena’s family for a really superb house show. My mate Davey sent me on some of the photos from the night and imagine my surprise when one turned up of me (well, my green forearm) about to give the 7ft, 500 pound Big Show a high five. The dude was seriously sweaty.

Here’s a few more pics including a cool one of the Show, the Nexus invasion at the end where we had about 30 wrestlers in the squared circle all at the same time and the emergence of Hornswoggle from under the ring

It was also cool hearing long suffering ring announcer Tony Chimel receive his own chant from the fans and Davey papped the mic-botherer mid-way through one of the events. Needless to say he’s now seriously considering a career in local point and clickage.

No Holds Barred

13 11 2008

It seems like it’s starting to become cool for people to be wrestling fans again. With Valient Thorr and Fight Like Apes writing songs about the sport and countless websites and newspapers all devoting space to the baby oiled behemoths, it ‘s never been a better time to get in on the action.

I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was about 6 or 7. We used to watch the British stuff (Giant Haystacks,Danny Boy Collins, Adrian Street etc) up in my granda’s house in High Street and woe betide anyone who spoke during the broadcast. If they did, my granda would usually shut them up pretty quickly. He loved watching the action in the squared circle and so did I, much to my Da’s disbelief.

As I got older and the British stuff got cancelled, I started to watch the WWF. It didn’t take long to get into the catch as catch can style and my favourites were the Million Dollar Man, Jake the Snake, Ravishing Rick Rood and Shawn Michaels. Basically I liked the pretty boys who were there to piss off the hicks and camp it up while stealing their girlfriends.

As the years went by I still continued to watch the sport even though there were a few lean moments (I’m looking at you British Bulldog) and I started to become interested in the backstage stuff. Wrestlers are an unusal breed. Most are stand off-ish and defensive when they’re taken outside the world of spandex and there are dozens of dark characters whose dabbles with drugs has completely destroyed their bodies,mental state and reputations (Jake the Snake,New Jack,Lex Luger…).They’re almost like carnies, travelling the world working for fuck all money as they put their bodies through massive amounts of pain purely for the love of what they do.

I’ve only ever interviewed one wrestler. His name was Chris Jericho and at the time he was coming to Belfast to play a gig with his band Fozzy. At the time Jericho had “retired” from the WWE and was trying his luck as a full time warbler. His agent told me that under no uncertain terms was I to ask about his wrestling days or anything related to that world, then gave me his mobile number and told me to ring him whenever I liked. To be honest, with all due respect to his agent, there was no way I wasn’t going to ask about him about his former life. He spent three decades on the road wrestling and that’s where the story was. To pretend it didn’t happen was pretty fuckin’ daft if you ask me.

So there I was, ringing up a Canadian wrestler from my glorified squat at the time feeling all excited and deviously planning ways in which to make him talk about Vince McMahon and Co. Chris answered the phone with an abrupt “Yeah,” and for the next 20minutes we had a prickly conversation that was as much fun as getting my pubes pulled out by a 20stone biker. I’d always found Jericho to be quite a charismatic bloke when he was cutting promos, but in person he was an utter tool who was taking himself far too seriously. At one point we had a full blown argument about Iron Maiden. Now usually I’ll let my subject say their piece and slabber on about whatever is in their heads but this was 15minutes in, I had more than enough quotes to go on and his obnoxious behaviour was starting to piss me off so he was fair game. Oh, and did I get him to talk about wrestling? You bet your arse I did.

Tonight I’m going to watch WWE Raw at the Odyssey. I already know what’s going to happen before it does. I’ll get a few beers, shout a some daft things and ultimately be kinda disapointed when HBK doesn’t show up.In honour of tonight’s fun here’s a few clips of wrestlers cutting silly promos. The first one is of Lex Luger (who has now, not surprisingly, snuffed it) and the second is a compilation of some greased up grapplers losing the run of themselves. Enjoy.