ICW Champion Lionheart Passes Away, Aged 36

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Photo: ICW

The British wrestling community was rocked to its core on Wednesday evening when the news broke that current Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) World Heavyweight Champion Lionheart had passed away at the young age of 36. ICW were the ones who broke the news on their social media pages, not long after Lionheart had posted a harrowing final tweet.

Lionheart Passes Away

Lionheart, real name Adrian McCallum, made his professional wrestling debut all the way back in 2002 when there wasn’t much of a wrestling scene in the UK. However, Lionheart was one of many names involved in creating the boom of wrestling on this side of the pond, wrestling on some of the earlier shows for British Championship Wrestling (BCW), Premier British Wrestling (PBW), and Scottish Wrestling Alliance (SWA) during a time where he was known as Leon Lionheart. It was four years into his career before Lionheart was at a level deemed worthy enough of challenging for championships – that’s how small the wrestling picture was at the time, people weren’t getting championship matches that quickly. The majority of British wrestling training schools, if not all of them, didn’t really have the proper facilities either, and instead just had a few mats inside a room. Luckily, that’s far from the case nowadays.

By the time 2006 rolled around though, that’s when Lionheart started challenging for the titles. After an initial unsuccessful attempt at defeating Wolfgang in a Ladder Match for the vacant BCW Openweight Championship, Lionheart would defeat The Regulator a few months later at the promotion’s fourth annual No Blood, No Sympathy show in Kilmarnock, Scotland which began his 233-day reign as the champ. The following February would see Lionheart make his debut for a promotion he’s called home ever since in the form of Insane Championship Wrestling when he fell at the feet of James Wallace. No-one could’ve foreseen the ICW career that was beginning that night.

While also wrestling for English promotions like One Pro Wrestling (1PW) and Real Deal Wrestling (RDW), Lionheart came out on top in the 2007 King of the Castle tournament for Triple Team Promotions (TTP), and it wasn’t long after where he captured his first of three SWA Scottish Heavyweight Championships after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract against Wolfgang in September 2008. Clearly, this was around the time where Lionheart’s career was really taking off as he also picked up the PBW Heavyweight Championship, the BCW Heavyweight Championship, and the 1PW Tag Team Championships alongside Martin Kirby. Up in the north-east of Scotland, Lionheart was a key player in the early days of WrestleZone (WZ), where he was a former Heavyweight Champion while having excellent bouts with the likes of Scotty Swift and Johnny Lions. January 2011 saw Lionheart receive what was quite possibly his biggest opportunity at that point when he wrestled Jeff Jarrett in Glasgow’s Braehead Arena as part of an IMPACT Wrestling show. At this stage, IMPACT was still considered the second biggest promotion in North America.

Lionheart was continuing to rack up championships wherever he went in the form of both singles and tag gold, beating Noam Dar for the ICW Zero-G Championship, The Final Cut (Liam Thomson and Noam Dar) for the PBW Tag Team Championships alongside Wolfgang, and Zack Sabre Jr. and Greg Burridge in separate matches as part of a tournament for the vacant 1PW World Heavyweight Championship. In the summer of 2011, we saw the birth of Lionheart’s very own Ayrshire-based promotion Pro Wrestling Elite (PWE), which featured the likes of Joey Hayes, Kris Travis, and Mikey Whiplash on the debut show to name just a few. A dark match prior to a WWE Smackdown taping towards the end of 2011 opposite PJ Black (then Justin Gabriel) marked the end of one of Lionheart’s greatest years inside the squared circle.

Heading into 2012, Lionheart was making more and more appearances for Preston City Wrestling (PCW), a promotion that he ended up making quite the name for himself in. He would capture the Heavyweight Championship at their one-year anniversary show, enjoying a few minutes with the gold before losing it to Kris Travis after the bout. Not exactly the greatest reign of all time but Lionheart bounced back the following year when he regained the title against Doug Williams, a match he earned after winning the 2013 Who Dares Wins Rumble. His success continued in all of the aforementioned promotions, but tragedy would strike in March 2014.

During a match with AJ Styles where Lionheart was defending his PCW Heavyweight Championship, a botched Styles Clash resulted in Lionheart suffering a broken neck, an injury that resulted in doctors telling him he may never walk again. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Lionheart as he returned to action one year later and made it to the finals of the PCW Road to Glory tournament, eventually being defeated by winner Bubblegum. Perhaps his biggest match to date following his return was against Jackie Polo at ICW Barramania. For longtime followers of Lionheart and ICW in general, you’ll remember that Polo antagonized Lionheart for some time after the incident with The Phenomenal One, even putting out a tweet that read ‘another retirement looms‘. Although it seemed as if Lionheart was on the cusp of glory in that match, it would indeed be The King of Chat that walked away victorious.

After his return from one of the most serious injuries a wrestler can get, it felt as if Lionheart became even more admired by fans and peers than he previously was. But Lionheart didn’t care about any of that – all he wanted to do was do whatever was necessary to win. That included faking a neck injury in a match with Kenny Williams, an incident that has become one of the more famous moments from his entire career. The sheer fact that he was willing to stoop that low to come out on top just goes to show how determined Lionheart was. It’s a tactic that seemingly worked, however, as he would capture his second ICW Zero-G Championship a few months down the line from Davey Blaze. Following several successful defenses of his most prized possession against the likes of Lewis Girvan, Chris Ridgeway, and Zack Gibson, Lionheart would drop the title to Kenny Williams at Fear & Loathing IX, ICW’s biggest show at that point as it took place inside the SSE Hydro.

After he dropped the gold, Lionheart entered into a rivalry opposite Joe Hendry, a man he had previously held the Tag Team Championships with in New Generation Wrestling (NGW) in a trio with Kid Fite. The pair had one of the most personal rivalries in ICW history, and possibly even British wrestling as a whole. They despised each other, resulting in two matches between them being declared a no contest, the latter of those coming after Lionheart delivered a stiff kick to the head of Hendry while he was defenseless. Although Joe would win the blowoff match between the pair on night one of Shug’s Hoose Party 4 in July 2017, the match would mark a drastic change in the lives of both. The audience had begun cheering Lionheart and booing Joe Hendry, a moment that started a new chapter in Lionheart’s career.

Going forward, Lionheart was undoubtedly the biggest name in ICW, even more so than the likes of BT Gunn and Joe Coffey who were main eventing the Hydro. On that same show, Hearto overcame both Zack Gibson and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) legend Rob Van Dam in a terrific Elimination Match, with RVD showing his respect to him afterward. Lionheart seemed destined for greatness in ICW at this point but instead of something new coming his way, we revisited one of his older rivalries – vs Jackie Polo. After an intense brawl during the 2018 Square Go! Match, it became crystal clear that we were in store for some heated matches further down the line. The first of those sensational bouts came at Barramania 4, a match that saw Polo debut his new Just Justice persona that led him to the victory in the pair’s second match together in an ICW ring.

With two losses to Jackie now in the history books, Lionheart’s ICW career sort of went on a downward spiral. He wasn’t appearing on shows and when he was, all he was doing was sitting backstage having a drink. The losses to his greatest rival had clearly made an impact on him, and it wasn’t until Sha Samuels talked some sense into him that we saw the old Lionheart come back. As a result, we were treated to a third match between he and Polo to main event the first night of Shug’s Hoose Party 5, a match that featured one of the tensest moments in ICW history when Jackie Polo hit Lionheart with a Styles Clash. You could hear a pin drop with the deafening silence inside Glasgow’s O2 Academy when this happened. The roar from the fans when he kicked out at one, however, is something that ICW fans will never forget – finally, Lionheart had defeated The Law Round These Parts. Another victory over Polo came at the start of December 2018 when Lionheart defeated him to finally lift the ICW World Heavyweight Championship at Fear & Loathing XI. The perfect end to the year for ICW’s new top name.

During the time of this rivalry, Lionheart was also still wrestling down south for PCW, winning the Heavyweight Championship for the third time, and also becoming a Tag Team Champion alongside Sha Samuels. The second episode of the rebooted World of Sport Wrestling (WOS) show would feature him in a Ladder Match alongside Gabriel Kidd, Liam Slater, and Robbie X, one of the finest matches from the short history of the revamped WOS from last summer. In addition, he also won the 2018 SWA Battlezone Match that led to him beginning his third reign as the Scottish Heavyweight Champion this past April, a title he held on to until his unfortunate death alongside the ICW title. Speaking of the ICW title, Lionheart made it his mission to only defend the gold against challengers he deemed as world-class athletes to make for some entertaining and memorable title defenses. The likes of Shigehiro Irie, Jody Fleisch, Rampage Brown, and Angelico all failed to take the gold from around the waist of The One Man Elite. His final match would be against Ireland’s Alexander Dean, who Lionheart defeated this past Sunday to capture the Union of European Wrestling Alliances (UEWA) European Heavyweight Championship.

Lionheart
Credit: ICW

When Lionheart wasn’t wrestling, he would often be found either training the stars of the future at the Glasgow Pro Wrestling Asylum (GPWA) or running around backstage at the aforementioned Pro Wrestling Elite to ensure every show went off without a hitch. The GPWA is arguably the greatest facility for aspiring wrestlers in Scotland, and possibly even the UK as a whole behind only the WWE’s UK Performance Center. With the likes of Stevie Boy, Jack Jester, and Wolfgang joining Lionheart on the coaching team, we’ve seen stars such as Ravie Davie, Leyton Buzzard, The Purge (Krobar and Stevie James), and The Sam Barbour Experience created from the school. A real who’s who of Scotland’s fastest rising performers.

Ever since the news came out yesterday evening, tributes have flooded in on social media from fans, friends, and fellow wrestlers. Those who were students of his at the GPWA, those who had fond memories of sharing a ring with him, those who were his best friends in the world. Some of the world’s biggest wrestling names, such as Matt Hardy, Drew McIntyre, and Paige have shared their personal stories on Twitter. Seeing all of these posts makes you realize just how loved Lionheart/Adrian McCallum truly was.

At this time, the staff at Last Word on Pro Wrestling would like to extend our deepest condolences to those who were close to Adrian.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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