Editorial Columns

Lionheart: Modern British Wrestling’s Pioneer

Daniel McIver looks at the life and career of one of modern British wrestling’s best, the late Adrian McCullum otherwise known as Lionheart.

As I sit down to write this, a mere five days after the news broke of Adrian McCallum’s death, it still hasn’t properly settled in.

A man so synonymous with not only British wrestling but Scottish wrestling as a whole is no longer with us and that sadness cannot be understated. The nature of his death, without speculating, is even more heart-breaking but this piece won’t be focusing on that. This article will be focusing on the incredible career and life of the man known as Lionheart as the entire British wrestling scene today, that is thriving and is more successful than it has ever been, owes their success to this man.

Lionheart made his Insane Championship Wrestling debut in Feburary 2007, facing off and eventually losing to James Wallace. It is, of course, unknown whether or not Mark Dallas and his team would know the impact that man would have on his promotion but it is impossible to understate. At the time, the only ‘game in town’ was WWE. British wrestling was, almost dead, as there was nowhere near the amount of media attention the current Brit Wres scene has now. As a result, the wrestlers of that era; Nigel McGuiness, Johnny Moss, Doug Williams, Jack Jester, Wolfgang, Red Lightning and, of course, Lionheart all had to make a living where they could do what they loved. Without all of those guys, and countless more, we wouldn’t have the current scene we have now.

One of the first times Lionheart’s name was launched into the wrestling mainstream was at the hands of Joe Hendry, a wrestler in ICW. Hendry is famous for making ‘custom entrances’ for his opponents and made one for Lionheart to the tune of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. The chant was ‘Lionheart is a fanny’. The chant and song then followed Adrian around for the rest of his career and he turned it into a cult phenomenon. If you want to watch the video, you can find it here:

Easily the highlight of Adrian’s time in ICW was his famous feud with Jackie Polo that spanned several years and different iterations of both men’s characters. The matches were brutal, vindictive and told clear cut stories that helped put ICW onto the map as a legitimate wrestling company hoping to offer Scottish fans a viable, neighbourhood style wrestling show to go and watch and enjoy. He then would begin working with Preston City Wrestling where, for the first time, the name of ‘Lionheart’ would go worldwide for another heart-breaking reason.

Facing off against esteemed, international wrestling royalty in the form of AJ Styles, McCallum took the ‘Styles Clash’ from AJ and broke his neck in two pieces. As a result of the injuries sustained in the match, doctors feared he may never walk again – never mind wrestle. In just over 12 months, Lionheart was back in a wrestling ring as if he had never missed a beat.

McCallum also hit the heights of working for promotions such as the WWE and others. He fought Nigel McGuiness for the ROH World Championship in a triple threat in 2008 and wrestled Justin Gabriel (now PJ Black) in a dark match for WWE later that same year. However, the highlight of his career came most recently. At ICW’s headline show of the year, Fear and Loathing XI, he won the ICW Heavyweight Title for the first time in his career against his nemesis Jackie Polo. At the time of his death, he was still the ICW Champion.

You will never hear a bad word said about Adrian. I’m not going to pretend I knew him closely or would have called him a friend but I had met him five or six times. The man had all the rights in the world to enter a room and act like he was the most important guy in the building, because he was. But instead, he took time to speak to everyone, find out their own stories, have a laugh with them and get down to their level. The outpouring of support from not only the British wrestling community but the worldwide community showcases how huge he was and how many wrestlers, fans, promoters, managers and staff he inspired and helped.

When I first saw the news, I didn’t believe it. It floored all of us. Lionheart WAS Scottish wrestling. Alongside Grado, he was someone non-wrestling Scottish people knew about. Because he could be competing in front of 6,000 fans in the Hydro and then, a couple of days later, be wrestling in front of 20 fans at your local sports hall. Adrian was a wrestler because he wanted to be a wrestler. Not for fame, money or attention from others. He did it because he was a fan first and wanted to entertain people. And there are few people who did that better than Lionheart. Whilst he was known for being a fanny – he was our Scottish Hero. We will all, deeply, miss him.

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