Editor’s Note: ‘THIS IS PROGRESS’ UPDATED WITH FINAL ANNOUNCEMENT
By Anna Ashley (Tw: @annabauert)
When I first found out about the possibility of Progress Wrestling collaborating with EPW, I jumped around my apartment squealing. Yes, I am that annoying a neighbour, but it’s okay. I admit it. I’m a grown adult and pro wrestling still gets me this excited.
Well, not all pro wrestling. GREAT pro wrestling. And ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who don’t know—that is exactly what Progress is.
I, like many non-Europeans, first found out about Progress thanks to the WWE UK Championship, where several of their wrestlers competed. It was Tyler Bate, one half of the then Progress tag team champions Moustache Mountain, who won the inaugural tournament.
Since working at Fightful covering WWE events, I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch much else. And between that and my other jobs, I don’t have a lot of spare time to do life. However, I’d been wanting to check out Progress for months and after making a pact with a friend to finally start watching, I fell hard. I fell fast. I experienced some of the best, most entertaining & heartfelt wresting I had ever seen.
Progress Wrestling was established in 2012 by Jim Smallman & Jon Briley, and Glen Joseph. These three dudes put together a wrestling company out of pure love of the sport(s entertainment), and almost six years on from their first show, you can still tell the joy they have to be doing this.
Smallman is a comedian and podcaster, as well as Progress MC. Every Chapter show, he welcomes the crowd like they were mates from down the street. It’s through these opening segments that I learnt what a general Progress crowd is like—regulars bring lollies and cakes for others as they queue to enter the building. People who would consider themselves as general outsiders have managed to find their place at Progress.
I would have no hesitation jumping on a plane to go to one of their shows by myself, because I know I’d be welcomed with open arms. Hell, I once bought three shirts from them (I was supposed to be booking a doctor’s appointment. Needless to say, the appointment didn’t happen) and soon after, I opened an email from Jon Briley, thanking me for all my support.
Wrestlers flock to the company—they all know exactly what they’re going to get when they work a Progress show. The company’s one rule is “Don’t be a dick”. They recently made available for purchase “Everyone Welcome” t-shirts. Their shows include wrestlers across the gamut, from the deadly, see-him-in-a-dark-alley-and-run Joseph Connors, to the Pansexual phenomenon Jack Sexsmith. Each wrestler brings their own distinct flavour to the show, and Progress allows them the space, the support, and the platform to deliver it.
And today, it was announced the first two competitors to be gracing our shores: current WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne, and currently Progress Champion Travis Banks.
Pete Dunne quickly became one of my favourite wrestlers after witnessing his vicious and dirty tactics at the WWE UK Tournament. Dunne seemingly also became a fast favourite of Triple H, who even accompanied him last year to an ICW event in the UK. Since winning the WWE UK Championship at NXT TakeOver: Chicago last year in what I consider my MOTY, Dunne made his RAW debut at the tapings in Manchester, and I would put a lot of money on that just being the first of many shows. His in-ring technique is solid, and his ability to tell a story with that technique is exceptional. In short, if you want to see this guy up close, see him NOW.
Progress Champion Travis Banks, aka. The Kiwi Buzzsaw (…he is from New Zealand) started out in Progress as part of the South Pacific Power Trip. The third wheel to the very unabashed couple of Dahlia Black and TK Cooper, Banks was forced to go out on his own last year after an unfortunate incident left TK out of action. Banks’ passion and intensity, combined with his in-ring aggression, relentless offence and (Stupid Sexy) Strong Style quickly saw him rise to the top in the UK independent scene. In a matter of months, Progress fans saw Banks win the title from Dunne in the most emotional and, to be perfectly honest, downright BEAUTIFUL victory I have seen in years.
Our third announced competitor is none other than the King of the Goths, Jimmy Havoc. I first heard of Havoc a few years ago in relation to the death matches he’s famous for. I will admit, my first venture into death matches was during my days of Dean Ambrose and a Google search of Jon Moxley, which led me to things I had never seen before… that day, I became a woman. But seriously, though I didn’t quite get it, that’s also what fascinated me about Jimmy Havoc. The more I saw his of work at Progress, the more I learnt about him through interviews and podcasts, the more I was won over by the innate beauty of the 2017 Tournament of Death winner. He seems like a genuinely cool dude, funny as hell, and just a little bit sadistic. The best combination.
Next up, the first (and currently only) Progress Women’s Champion, Toni Storm. Our Gold Coast-raised champion made her pro wrestling debut at the tender age of THIRTEEN, before moving to the UK to continue her training. Since then, Storm has pretty much taken the world by its junk and made it her own. Hailed as the best female pro wrestler in the United Kingdom, Storm competed in the Mae Young Classic late last year where she narrowly missed out on the finals after being beaten by tournament winner Kairi Sane. At 22 years old, Storm is able to list an insane record of championships, currently holding four to her name. She’s the coolest of cool, the baddest of badasses. She’s rockstar meets Sonya Blade; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her taking on Charlotte Flair sometime in the near future. And winning.
The most majestic facial hair in modern-day pro wrestling, Moustache Mountain. Tyler Bate and Trent Seven, along with previously mentioned Pete Dunne, make up the trio known as British Strong Style, aka my most favourite faction in the entire damn freaking world. These three have been all over WWE programming this past year with the overt support of Triple H, who has been a big fan since the WWE UK tournament (at which Tyler Bate took home the championship, FYI). Tyler Bate’s technique & strength is second to none, and Trent Seven is hands down currently the funniest man to step inside a squared circle. Again, it won’t be long until the only place you can catch them is on the WWE network. So, you know. Tick-tock, people.
And that makes a full line-up! Keep your eyes peeled on EPW’s social media over the coming weeks for further announcements. And just a word of advice—if you’re still on the fence about this show, jump off and run to checkout. These tickets are going to go fast.
Stay cerebral, and see you April 18.
The Progress Dream Match Battle Royal winner picks his opponent!