PROGRESS Wrestling is an independent wrestling promotion from the United Kingdom. Based out of Camden, London, the company set up in 2012 has become arguably, the Number 1 promotion in Europe and made strides to becoming an internationally known brand. In its short life, it has seen unbelievable growth and success the likes of which haven’t been seen in the UK wrestling scene since World Of Sport. Thanks to a connection to the WWE through it’s UK Championship tournament PROGRESS saw it’s biggest stars wow audiences on the WWE Network and the brand became a hot property even in the US.
Since the first PROGRESS Chapter show in March 2012, we have seen the creation of some of the world’s best wrestlers. Names like Zack Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll, and Will Ospreay have gone on to success in New Japan Pro Wrestling and Noam Dar, Trent Seven Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Jack Gallagher & Tommy End have become a part of the WWE roster. While these wrestlers used PROGRESS as a launching pad for their careers they have never been associated closely with PROGRESS and as they progress through their careers will be associated with PROGRESS less and less. There is one man though, who can be seen as Mr. PROGRESS, the one name who will forever be associated with PROGRESS and vice versa, and his name is Jimmy Havoc.
Making his first appearance at Chapter 2 Havoc was immediately one of the main focuses of PROGRESS. He followed the lead of Grado and used social media to run a #bookhavoc movement that got the crowd behind him. The story of his run was that Havoc, known for deathmatch wrestling, was here in PROGRESS to prove he could wrestle the “proper” way and he could hang with the best of them on the mat. Despite this, Havoc couldn’t turn down any chance to make things more hardcore. Havoc no matter how hard he tried could not get a win, losing to Jon Ryan, Danny Garnell, ZSJ, Dar and James Davis. The crowd remained firmly behind Havoc and were invested in his story as the ultimate underdog. Havoc’s storyline was one of the more prominent storylines in early PROGRESS. Havoc was about to embark on the biggest run of his life by turning his back on the PROGRESS fans.
At Chapter 9, an injured Havoc came out to present a prize to a raffle winner. Smallman put him over as a great company representative. When the London Riots attacked Smallman later on, Havoc made the save and again Smallman put Havoc over as a PROGRESS talent and one they were proud to have. Then, it happened, Havoc cracked a chair over Smallman’s back. Jimmy Havoc turned his back in PROGRESS and was sick of playing by their rules. He no longer wanted to prove he was a technical wrestler. He wanted to win no matter the means, no matter how much carnage caused. Havoc aligned himself with the London Riots and by attacking Smallman made himself public enemy number one in PROGRESS.
At Chapter 10 we didn’t have a scheduled Havoc match. This chapter was all about the Natural Progression Series and awarding a young talent like Mark Andrews. When Andrews shocked everyone by challenging for and winning the PROGRESS world title in his second match of the night the crowd was elated. They thought the show was over with the underdog babyface winning the big one. Instead, Havoc and the Riots caused chaos by attacking Andrews and tying his teammate Eddie Dennis to the ring post. Havoc then used management’s own plan against them. For accepting a match with James Davis, Havoc was rewarded with a contract for any match he chooses whenever he wants it. At first, Smallman didn’t want to give Havoc his match but when Havoc threatened to SET MARK ANDREWS ON FIRE, Smallman had no choice but to let Havoc have his way. What followed was sadism personified. Havoc knocked out the referee and forced Smallman to count the pin as he won the PROGRESS world title and embarked on what would become a 609 day run as champion.
From this point on Jimmy Havoc became synonymous with the brand. His reign as champion coincided with their progression into the UK’s major league and a time when they started to earn a reputation amongst fans as one of the better independent companies in the world. A sea of Die Havoc Die shirts were present at every PROGRESS show but every single person in the building would wish for his death and call him a c*nt. Havoc was hated in a way Professional wrestling had not seen since the 80’s. When watching any show it was clear that this was Jimmy Havoc’s show. Much like with The Undertaker in WWE when Jimmy Havoc made an appearance or as the first notes of his entrance theme hit the aura of the room changed. There was this dark aura that would emanate from his figure, you knew this man was going to hurt someone and you just never knew what he was capable of. Havoc was well and truly a monster the likes of which the UK had never seen before and may never see again.
Havoc’s 609-day reign as champion saw him become the centrepiece of PROGRESS as they garnered critical success for telling one of the greatest stories in modern wrestling. As PROGRESS went from strength to strength they had fans enthralled as their fans sold out the Electric Ballroom show after show with people eager to be there when they finally got to see the reign of terror end. What made Havoc stand out was his penchant for violence. Whenever faced with a tough opponent, Havoc would take a beating but never failed to hurt his opponents, as said before, to get his way he threatened to set fire to Mark Andrews, when Flash Morgan Webster won the Natural Progression series, Havoc was there to crash his party. Then, when plucky young underdog Will Ospreay became a threat to Havoc’s title he tortured the poor young man, even going as far as to almost cut his ear off. Unlike most people in wrestling, Havoc, from his attire to the way he conducted himself had the feel of a killer, anything was possible when Havoc was in a ring and he was a twisted individual with no ounce of good in him.
When PROGRESS brought in some of the world’s best for the inaugural Super Strong Style 16 Havoc still main-evented and cast a shadow over the tournament. The winner would eventually have to face Havoc and try to take his title off him. When Ospreay, who had failed to beat Havoc, won the tournament Jimmy wasted no time in reminding Ospreay that he was going to hurt him. Even going so far as to take an AXE TO HIS NECK in a wrestling ring. The match was made and at PROGRESS Chapter 20 Will Ospreay faced Jimmy Havoc in PROGRESS’ biggest and most heated match to date. As soon as Havoc walked out the animosity was at an all-time high. Covered in red paint and faced with 600 fingers raised at him. What followed was pro wrestling at it’s best. Every single member of the crowd wanted Havoc to lose, they urged Ospreay on every step of the way. And when Ospreay finally put Havoc down the fans went nuts. Finally, after 2 years their terrorizer, the man who held the company hostage for 609 days was vanquished. While this was the moment Ospreay arrived it served as a reminder of just how important Havoc was to the rise of PROGRESS. With Havoc on top they moved from The Garage to the much bigger Electric Ballroom, they gained a reputation as something different as “Punk-Rock Pro Wrestling” and what better face to have associated with that slogan than Jimmy Havoc. Havoc was someone you would never see in the PG environment of the WWE and this was what helped PROGRESS stand out as a true alternative to the WWE.
At Chapter 21 Havoc would lose in a vicious match to former henchman Paul Robinson. At the end Havoc was helped to his feet by his biggest rival, Jim Smallman. A moment of respect was shown for the former champion, bloodied and beaten the Ballroom gave him a standing ovation as finally, the crowd realized just how important Havoc was for the company. After this, we would not see Havoc in PROGRESS for over a year due to injury. After Havoc left, PROGRESS struggled for awhile, they had lost their identity and their central figure. Many fans had never seen a PROGRESS without Jimmy Havoc and his absence left an obvious void in the product. At PROGRESS’ biggest show at Chapter 36, Jimmy Havoc made his long-awaited return to PROGRESS to one of the biggest pops in British wrestling history. The face of PROGRESS was finally back and was determined to win back HIS title. This moment saw Havoc come full circle when he first arrived in PROGRESS all he wanted was the acceptance of the fans. For them to see him as a real wrestler, and now after ruling the company for 2 years, he was their hero.