Exclusive Interview with PROGRESS Wrestling’s Jim Smallman – “We’re more than just a wrestling company”
PROGRESS Wrestling has spearheaded the surge of Independent Professional Wrestling in the United Kingdom. The most innovative athletes the industry has to offer have graced the PROGRESS ring and risen to global stardom. A notable list of former champions include Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay and Mark Andrews. Close relations with WWE has shown how PROGRESS have established themselves as the true elite when it comes to Indie Wrestling. The current PROGRESS World Champion Pete Dunne is one of the hottest talents in the business at the moment and also a WWEUK regular. We spoke to Jim Smallman, stand-up comedian and co-owner of the London-based promotion, about the much anticipated THIS.IS.PROGRESS feature-length documentary, relationships with the WWE and the potential of British Wresting.
The documentary was recently announced and has stirred some intrigue in the wrestling community. What are you looking to achieve with the documentary and how revealing will it be?
Well, as a company we’re not behind the production of the documentary; Dale and his team at Elixir Media are but we LOVE those guys. We get a lot of people asking to make films about us but from the first minute we met them we wanted to be on board. The documentary is pretty revealing, both in terms of the inner workings of our company – although we do protect kayfabe a bit, because we’re old school like that – and also in terms of the private lives and “other” careers of the three of us. The thing I’m hoping to get out of it the most is a beautiful visual document of the best five years of my life, and having seen the short that Elixir released a few months back I know that’s going to happen.
The very fact that there is a documentary in the pipeline speaks volumes about the way the promotion has developed in the last 5 years. Why do you think PROGRESS particularly has captured the imagination of fans to the point where you are being considered a “Super Indie”?
I think that we’re more than just a wrestling company. We genuinely want to create a community of like-minded wrestling fans and always put on the very best shows that we can. Some indie promotions book their shows on the day of the show; everything PROGRESS does utterly consumes the lives of me, Jon and Glen. I think how much we care about our product shines through when the fans see it. Whenever I see us spoken about on the same level as companies that I love like PWG it’s really cool.
PROGRESS has recently established a relationship with WWE. What does that mean for the promotion and how will it help?
We’ve had a good relationship for quite some time; the first time it was noticed by people was when we had a couple of CWC qualifying matches at one of our shows. It always amuses me when I read rumours or opinions about our relationship, because I actually know what it is! It’s cordial and helpful; they appreciated what we did with those CWC matches and how we develop talent, and we appreciate when they mention us or loan us talent like Finn Balor and Aleister Black because one of their shows clashes with ours. It’s all super positive, and little things like Pete Dunne walking out at the WWE UK shows holding our title belt just helps establish our company in the minds of people who may not have heard of us already.
You guys are at the epicenter of the explosion in British wrestling. What do you think has brought it all about and where do you see it going? Is it a flash in the pan or is there infrastructure and appetite for it to keep expanding?
I do think that there is a glass ceiling for British wrestling, but we’re not quite there yet. We’ve been doing good things and getting bigger for five years now; ICW are great and have been going even longer, Rev Pro fill York Hall regularly and there are some great promotions like Attack, Fight Club Pro, Chaos, Southside, Futureshock who have got a ton of potential. Of course, having such a hot scene right now means that guys will get signed and that we’ll see the occasional dodgy company popping up for a quick buck. It’s certainly very exciting. I don’t expect to be running PROGRESS in twenty years time, but I think we can easily do another five years and still have a ton of fun doing so.
The documentary is independently produced, with full access to everything PROGRESS – Wrestling fans from around the globe can help fund the documentary on Kickstarter. We will be making a donation as it will make essential viewing and we fully recommend you do the same.