Established by two long-term wrestling fans, comedian Jim Smallman and comedy promoter Jon Briley, they decided to set up their own promotion when they realised that instead of discussing their actual work in meetings they were talking about wrestling.
“I got into British wrestling as a kid in the mid-1980s, then American wrestling as a student,” says Smallman. “This was when WWE was taking off and was cool, with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin.”
Progress intends to recapture the excitement and atmosphere of those halcyon days of British wrestling, giving UK-based talent a chance to showcase their abilities. “For example, we want to let someone like Zack Sabre Junior come out and do the kind of stuff he does in Japan, rather than sending people out to clown around,” he says. “I’m really excited about his match against Marty Scurll – basically, here’s one of your best friends, now go out there and beat the living daylights out of each other!”
The British element is a key factor. “We’re not going to be import heavy,” he promises. “We wanted to get Colt Cabana on board because he is the uncrowned king of indy wrestling, but the promotion is about the progression of british wrestling: that’s what we want to do.”
Smallman is excited just as much as any fan looking forward to the event. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys live,” he says. “We’re just fans who want to put on a good show, and create a fanbase for the future.”
Progress is most definitely a long-term venture. There’s a date reserved for their second show already, with plans in place for the booking. “We’re looking to ECW and Chikara: you don’t have to work every week to get ppl coming back for more – you just need awesome matches, and there is no danger of these matches not being awesome.”
Though the main event will be a four-way, there will be four singles matches preceding it, giving the talent a chance to show what they can do, and establish their characters and the psychology of the match.
And with the talent on display, they are hoping to demonstrate that British wrestling can be better than a lot of the televised promotions. “Everyone here is booked based on talent, and that brings people in. We know that people are travelling to see the show – we have people coming from Cheshire, Wales, France – and we want to get people who once watched, who have maybe forgotten about why they liked wrestling, and get that excitement back by watching a great show in a cool place with guys who are talented.”