Editorial Columns

What Was Jim Smallman’s Effect on British Wrestling?

After the announcement of his imminent departure from PROGRESS, Peter Barnes opens up about his effect on the British wrestling scene.

…Hiya. Well this is weird: me, writing about a man called Jim leaving PROGRESS.

“Haven’t you done that already?” I hear you cry.

That was a different Jim(my) but by virtue of a tweet and video last week, Jim Smallman has announced he is leaving the promotion he helped to create.

To my mind, he helped lead the British Wrestling revolution. He was obviously part of PROGRESS as one of its founding owners. That, and his work with the Tuesday Night Jaw podcast helped elevate wrestling further than the tribute shows of the early 2000s. It helps that he’s been a thoroughly nice man every time I’ve seen him at a show and he seems to have so much time for all and sundry – even answering the banalest of questions.

It’s fair to say that without his position of ring announcer and visible owner of PROGRESS that the BritWres revolution may still have happened, but at a much slower rate, so that today we wouldn’t have had NXT UK, we wouldn’t have had World of Sport wrestling come back when it did and we wouldn’t have had the depth of talent and amount of shows that have meant wrestlers can make a full-time living from wrestling.

What started out as two mates, wondering if they would be able to sell 300 tickets and thinking that it would be a one and only show, turned in to more shows and fears that it will only manage six months, became shows at Ally Pally and Wembley. It was also the storyline involving the other Jim, Mr Havoc that catapulted PROGRESS into the wider consciousness and gave Jim, Jon and Glen the platform to make a difference.

Through the Natural Progression Series tournament, names such as Will Ospreay, Mark Andrews, Robbie X, Pete Dunne and Flash Morgan Webster were introduced to the Camden crowds. Those are names just from the first two iterations of the tournament.

That wasn’t the only way that PROGRESS made new names: through the Projo (now Knucklelocks Gym) they helped develop characters such as Candy Floss, Spike Trivet, Chuck Mambo and the OJMO to name but four.

As a collective, PROGRESS has given a massive platform for wrestling, Jim also did sterling work on Tuesday Night Jaw, which was my gateway into finding out about PROGRESS and generating my excitement to find out more about professional wrestling. His constant positivity towards the industry is infectious. In times when everyone is preaching doom and gloom, it acted as a tonic and provided perspective to realise things aren’t as bad as they really seem.

In fact, had it not been for TNJ and its occasional hiatuses, I wouldn’t have found TWM, nor would I have been a writer for them. It’s all because of Jim Smallman that I’m as involved with wrestling as I am so if you’re looking for someone to blame, there’s your man.

Aside from those two main contributions, he has also written a book on wrestling, which has become a bestseller. Further to this, he has started work with NXT UK, which will allow him to help continue the revolution that he has helped lead. I hope that NXT UK will become as strong as its forebear in America, but feature UK talent and give some truly amazing wrestlers their chance to shine.

Looking ahead, NXT UK will be Jim’s employment but he’s also due to do a final stand-up show from his life as a comedian, where he will allegedly burn all the carefully constructed bridges from the comedy circuit. Finally, in the video, he says that part of his motivation is to spend more time with his family, so hopefully, Mrs S and the Godfather 2 of [1] babies, Claudio, will get that benefit.

Jim Smallman, I cannot thank you enough for your involvement in wrestling, as it has already given me so much. You have helped lead the BritWres revolution, and although you’re not leaving wrestling, this kind of feels like goodbye. But instead of being rueful that you’re going, I’m happy that you’ve shone as brightly as you have, and I can’t wait to see you continue the revolution that you have led.

It’s crazy to think that there are some wrestlers that I have talked to at merch, who will become part of the entity that is WWE and it is helped by Jim’s efforts. To that, I applaud him.

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You can find me on Twitter @PBWrites92. Thanks for reading.

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