Welcome, cats and kittens, to the third interview ever in Cewsh Reviews history. In the two interviews that we’ve conducted prior to this, with Xavier and Chris Masters specifically, we had burning questions that we needed answered, whether it was where the first Ring of Honor champion is now, or whether or not Chris Masters really is as great as he seems, (he is.) But today we’re taking a different approach, as instead of interviewing a wrestler, this time we got the chance to ask some questions to one of the owners of perhaps the fastest rising wrestling promotion in England today. That’s right, Cewsh Reviews is going corporate, and we’re going to find out exactly what PROGRESS Wrestling is all about, how it got so popular so fast, and where it’s headed in the future.
So let’s put 8 questions on the clock and find out everything you need to know about PROGRESS.
PROGRESS Wrestling is an independent wrestling promotion based out of London, England. They opened up in March of last year with a unique brand and a ton of hungry wrestlers ready to make a name for themselves. They’ve run 8 sell out shows thus far, have become a hot topic of conversation among indy fans in England, and they seem to be just getting started. Next week we’ll be reviewing a show of theirs to give you an idea of what you can expect from them. But first, I sat down with one of their owners, Glen Joseph, to find out a little bit of what goes on in the mind of an indy wrestling promoter.
I honestly had no concept of British wrestling even being a “thing” that was anything but a piece of history until I was in my early twenties. It took the internet to really open my eyes to wrestling, and through that, ECW, early British stuff, US indies and my number one wrestling passion (with the exception of Progress) right now, NJPW.
In 2010, you founded PROGRESS Wrestling along with Jim Smallman and Jon Briley. What made a comedian, an actor and a promoter decide to start a wrestling company together?
Glen: It was Jon and Jim’s venture initially. I came in after the first show as a presenter of sorts and we all hit it off. We have a great thing going in terms of not having one person’s idea always being the be all and end all. We vote on ideas we don’t all agree with, and spend a lot of time thinking through the intricacies of storylines and how shows can be the best they can be, within our budget. Also, because we each work in the entertainment industry already, we have an appreciation to what goes into a “show” but we all love strong style wrestling!
You’ve had 8 shows thus far, each one a sell out. What do you think it is about PROGRESS that has made it so popular so fast?
Glen: It has a unique feel. 15,000 people got to the O2 in London at various points over the year and more often than not sell it out for RAW tapings and House shows, so there is a huge wrestling market here in the UK, and in particular, as far as we’re concerned, London. TNA do better business here than in the US and they’re on Freeview TV as well. What we give is a more adult feel. We run our shows, at present, from The Garage in Islington, Central London which is a world famous Rock and Metal venue. Immediately that’s different from the leisure centres and gyms that most of the Sunday afternoon, family friendly shows that the UK run from.
Saying that, we’re not blood and guts wrestling. Sure, Jimmy (Havoc) has bled around The Garage on a couple of occasions, but we don’t promote Hardcore Wrestling. We promote Strong Style wrestling for smart fans. We want to be a blend of adult themes, investing storylines, stiff work, great entertainment, and having Jim (Smallman) as our MC for the events is great as well, as he brings a different dynamic of adult comedy to the show. It has the same vibe as old school ECW back in the day.
Who are some of the wrestlers that we should be keeping a close eye on?
Glen: There are so many. It’s no surprise that the WWE keep such tabs on the British scene at the moment. Just look at NXT with Pac (Adrian Neville) and Joel Redman (Oliver Grey) and of course Sheamus, Stu Sanders (Wade Barrett) and Drew Galloway (McIntyre). But if I had to pick a handful, I’d go with the members of Team “Screw Indy Wrestling”, Nathan Cruz is the most complete heel in the ring and on the mic in the UK at the moment, and of course Rampage (Brown) has already been signed to the WWE, as has Skins (Mark Haskins) with TNA.
El Ligero’s Inverted Lungblower.
Outside of that faction, Noam Dar will be a huge international star considering he’s only 19 now and that talented, Zack Sabre Jr & Prince Devitt are already all over Japan, and other mentions have to go to El Ligero, Jimmy Havoc, Mark Andrews, Darrell Allen, & Eddie Dennis. Out of our training school, Ali Armstrong, Krysis, & Joey Lakeside are going to have very bright futures.
After the 80s, Britain developed a reputation for being unable to sustain a thriving wrestling scene of it’s own. What caused that? And why is it changing now with companies like PROGRESS, NGW and Revolution Pro?
Glen: There has been no “business” of Pro Wrestling in the UK for a while now, in my opinion. Too much has been people trying to keep themselves over in a tiny little bubble of wrestling. It’s silly. British wrestling became a bit of a joke and really insular. This isn’t the NWA. We’re not working together. It’s independent wrestling, but what’s the point in burying another company to keep yourself over? To me that just seems very shallow and shows a lack of self confidence in your own product.
We just want to do things the right way. Everyone gets paid, we make a bit of money and put it back into the company, and then grow the product over time. We’re now shooting the shows with a 5 camera team in full HD with a view to releasing Blu Rays of the shows in the future, we’ve expanded to running ENDVR shows alongside the main roster shows so that our training school graduates can get ring time in front of a crowd working with Pros, we have a film crew shooting our students for a feature length film on how to become a pro wrestler, the list of growing goes on and on. And it has to be that way. Slow growth over time.
Ultimately though, we need TV, but that’s a whole different story…
We have a largely American audience, and British wrestling has unfortunately been neglected here for a number of years. What would you want an American fan to know about British wrestling?
Glen: It’s not Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus anymore. We’ve evolved. The budget may not be there of the bigger companies in the US, but at the top end, where I would consider ourselves, in British wrestling, there is a lot to invest in. It’s like that awesome metal band that plays your cities locally that you know is going to blow up and go multi platinum one day.
We’re stood on the edge of a BIG jump for British wrestling and it’s not the “leisure centre 8 people and their dog watching two guys fumble their way through a match” shows anymore. It’s people, both in front of the camera and behind at the top of their game producing some of the best independent wrestling shows in the world right now.
Do you have any advice for aspiring wrestling promoters out there?
Glen: Don’t do it. 😉
But seriously. Be professional. Pay your talent on time. Have a clear vision of your product, your marketing, and your audience. Book your shows well in advance and always have 8 contingency plans. And watch wrestling. Lots of wrestling. Good and Bad. That’s how you learn.
That’ll do it for this interview, folks. If you want to find out more about Glen Joseph, (and maybe catch him tearing the house down as Buddy Holly on stage,) you can find his Facebook page HERE
. And if you want to check out PROGRESS Wrestling and see all the news about their new shows and ways to get your hands on their old ones, then head on over to their website HERE
. And if all you want is to be super fantabulously awesome, then you just keep being you, baby. Just keep being you.