I’m so proud of British Wrestling at the moment. There are so many guys making waves all around the world that all played a huge role in my favourite promotion at one point or another, with some still wrestling there now. Progress Wrestling is a great mix of drama and comedy, featuring fantastic storylines and characters that are both diverse and fascinating. I recently had the pleasure of chatting to one of the co-owners, and face of the company Jim Smallman to talk all about PROGRESS, and professional wrestling as a whole, as well as the future of the punk rock promotion. It gave a great insight into just what the promotion is all about – a profound love of wrestling above all else
For those of you that might not be familiar with PROGRESS, I thought it might be a good idea to let you know a bit about the company, especially as it approaches its landmark show at Wembley Arena on September 30th. If you’ve heard people mention the company before and want to learn a bit more, here’s some information about the what it’s all about.
The company was built upon “Strong style” made famous in Japan, as Jim Smallman is a huge fan of it. Formed in 2012 by Jim Smallman and his agent Jon Briley, the show began putting on shows at a venue known as The Garage in Islington, a borough of London. The 350 person capacity ended up selling out, so in 2014 PROGRESS found a new venue called The Electric Ballroom in Camden, where many of the shows still take place.
There is a specific vibe when watching the show, and it was always the plan to feature punk rock at its source. From the intimate setting and the design of the shows, to the entrance music and attitude displayed by many of the wrestlers, the alternative production of every aspect of the shows help to make it stand out from everything else.
The main shows within PROGRESS are known as Chapters. The most recent was ‘Chapter 75: These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends,’ and featured one of the most brutal matches in its history between Jimmy Havoc and Will Ospreay. Throughout its history there have been some fantastic chapters, including ‘Chapter 45: Galvanise,’ where Ringkampf (consisting of Alex Deiter Jr. and WALTER) took on The Hunter Brothers and Jimmy Havoc took on Pete Dunne for the World Championship, or ‘Chapter 31: All Hail The New Puritans’ where Chris Hero took on Marty Scurll.
PROGRESS also holds an annual tournament called ‘Super Strong Style,’ and has featuring indie superstars like Joey Janela, Matt Riddle, and Kassius Ohno. In our interview, Smallman said how much he loved the tournament because it’s their chance to showcase the best of the indie scene; by heading to their On Demand service known as Demand Progress, you can watch all past events, and the ‘Super Strong Style’ tournaments are well worth watching.
There are plenty of big names that started in PROGRESS, or at least featured in a wide range of PROGRESS events, such as Prince Devitt (Finn Bálor), Tomasso Ciampa, Zack Sabre Jr., Ricochet, Adam Cole, Colt Cabana, and Samoa Joe, but it is their current roster that is the most exciting as it’s ever been. Veterans like Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins, and Will Ospreay constantly put in great performances, and even though WWE is using Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and Trent Severn on NXT, they’re all still a part of what makes PROGRESS so special. The current World Champion WALTER is a phenomenal athlete, as are guys like Eddie Dennis, Mark Andrews, and The 198. The company is bursting with talent, and every match new chapter seems to topple the last.
At present, there are four belts in PROGRESS. As mentioned previously, WALTER is the current World Champion, and Jinny is the Women’s Champion. There’s also the Atlas Championship which is akin to WWE’s Intercontinental Championship or IMPACT’s X-Division Championship, where only wrestlers over 205 pounds can fight for it. British professional wrestling veteran Doug Williams is currently the champion, and has been since March of this year. The final belts belong to Tag Team Champions Flamita and Bandido, who recently became champs at the Coast to Coast tour in the USA.
Perhaps the greatest achievement within PROGRESS is the way in which they build their rivalries. For those that watch WWE, you get expertly edited vignettes, backstage interviews, and segments built with plenty of money and teams of writers and creatives. PROGRESS prefers to tell its stories through its matches, and in my opinion beats anything WWE has done in the last 10 years. The Jimmy Havoc/Will Ospreay/Paul Robinson stuff that has happened since PROGRESS’ inception has been nothing short of remarkable. Go and watch Chapter 20 to witness one of their finest matches and tell me PROGRESS doesn’t know how to create magic. The wrestlers can both perform in the ring to such a high standard, but on the mic during pauses in between the chapter’s matches are also well done. Paul Robinson’s promo at the end of ‘Chapter 75’ was so passionate and intense that it made his match with Jimmy Havoc at the upcoming Wembley show my most anticipated.
If you still aren’t sure about watching Progress Wrestling there’s no hope for you. Seriously though, give it a chance because it has everything the more mature professional fans need out of a promotion: passion, talented performers, great storylines, and the best host on the planet. And I haven’t even talked about the amazing music! Look, just go and watch PROGRESS, it’s amazing!
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