Recently I had a chat with comedian and one of the owners of Progress Wrestling, Jim Smallman!! Find him on Twitter @jimsmallman
What first got you into wrestling?
I remember watching World of Sport when I was a kid at my Gran’s house, but hating guys like Big Daddy. Then when I was 11 or so, we got Sky and I was introduced to WWF. Then I hated it for a bit (1993ish till 1998) then accidentally flicked through channels and saw Mick Foley being thrown off the cage. I fell in love with it again, got into tape trading and discovered ECW and AJPW which remain my favourite promotions.
Who was your favourite wrestler?
As a kid it was Jake the Snake, because he could talk and had the DDT. Oh yeah, and he had a wicked moustache. Then in my later renaissance it was Kenta Kobashi because he is quite literally the best EVER.
Are you blown away by the popularity of Progress Wrestling?
Oh yeah, every day. We’re just three mates who wanted to have a go at putting wrestling on. The fact that we sell 700 tickets in less than twenty minutes is mind bending for any independent promotion in the world; for it to be us doing it genuinely makes me need to have a bit of a lie down. It’s utterly bonkers. We’re very lucky to have the amazing fan base that we do.
With the ENDVR and PTNTL shows you put on who are a few wrestlers worth us keeping an eye out for?
I’m biased of course, but I genuinely think that everyone who has come through our ProJo training school has a bright future. There are names that are starting to get recognised away from PROGRESS – Pastor William Eaver, The GZRS (Sebastian and Tom Irvin), Chuck Mambo, Jinny, Damon Moser – and then there are the second batch of up and comers – Jack Sexsmith, Roy Johnson, Elizabeth and loads more. They’ll all go as far in wrestling as they want to.
What’s been the best match you’ve seen at a Progress show?
We’ve had a LOT of crackers. I think my top three are probably Zack Sabre Jr vs Prince Devitt, Jimmy Havoc and Paul Robinson vs the London Riots and Will Ospreay vs Mark Haskins from our most recent show. But I could genuinely watch our shows all the time, I’m very proud of the matches that our talent put on for us.
What was it like being able to put on 5 shows at the home of metal Donnington?
I’ve worked at Download for the last seven years in a row doing comedy, so I know how awesome the audiences can be. Doing Sonisphere last year was a great experience, and then to entertain even more people this year at a different festival was really cool. It was amazing when we had over 3000 fans one night, all chanting “This is PROGRESS”.
I had the pleasure of seeing your comedy show at this years Edinburgh Fringe, which comedian at the fringe do you think could handle themselves in a match and why?
Martin Mor. He’s a comedian from Northern Ireland who I have tattooed on my arm (I lost a bet to him). He’s entertaining as hell but also pretty tough. I know he hits the gym most days and swings a kettlebell around. I reckon he’d be able to handle it.
On the flip side, which progress wrestler do you think could survive a month doing comedy at the fringe?
I think being a wrestler is a lot harder than being a comedian, so I’m sure most of them would take the holiday for the month! I know that Tom Irvin is one of the most hilarious and bizarre human beings that I’ve ever met, and Sebastian is pretty showbiz so between the two of them they’d probably win the Perrier for a GZRS double act show.
I know your not a wrestler but if you were what would your gimmick be?
I would be an awful, awful wrestler. I have taken two bumps in training and hit my head on both. I think I’d probably want to have a serious gimmick though, rather than play up my ability to be funny. Maybe let all my anger out and just be a remotely convincing psychopath. I’m a bit obsessed with serial killer and cult leaders, so I’d no doubt smash something together from both of those in a ham-fisted way.
What’s the story behind the tag titles being shields and not belts?
We think they’re pretty cool. Maybe we’ll get belts one day, but not planned at the minute. People notice the shields and talk about them, so that’s part of what wrestling is all about.
What do you think of the current state of British wrestling?
I think it’s very healthy. From a wrestler’s point of view, there are more places than ever before for them to earn money and make a living. From a promoters point of view, crowds are on the up and that means we can look to the future and make plans to reward our fans for their support by putting on even better shows. It’s amazing that the UK is now getting the attention that it deserves from overseas fans as well. This is a very healthy industry at the moment on this side of the pond.
Where do you see Progress wrestling in 12 months time?
Hopefully still selling out shows and making fans happy. That’s all we really want to do – put on shows that we’re proud of and the crowd enjoys. That’s always our priority, and with 19 main chapter shows in 2016 it’s going to be a busy year. We can’t ever get complacent – we still stress about every match on every show wanting to make things as great as we can.
SOMEONE STOP THE DAMN MATCH!!
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