PROGRESS Wrestling sold, returning on Jan. 23 with Chapter 127

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2021/12/31/progress-wrestling-sold-returning-on-jan-23-with-chapter-127/

PROGRESS Wrestling has been sold with plans to resume live events in the new year.

On Friday, a press release was issued noting that the company has been purchased by Lee McAteer and Martyn Best, who are directors for Tranmere Rovers FC.

The company will resume operations with ‘Chapter 127’ scheduled for Sunday, January 23rd at the Electric Ballroom in London with PROGRESS champion Cara Noir defending the championship against Chris Ridgeway in a two-of-three falls bout.

They have also announced a card for February 6th in Manchester featuring ROH champion Jonathan Gresham scheduled to compete.

From Lee McAteer in the press release:

We are really excited to have acquired PROGRESS Wrestling and wish to place on record our thanks to the previous ownership for having developed such a distinctive wrestling promotion. A feat that must never go unacknowledged. Besty (Martyn) and I are very excited with the opportunity that we now have as the world hopefully returns to normality to re-establish PROGRESS at the position it deserves, as the leading name in British professional wrestling and beyond.

Our intention is to reaffirm the word professional into professional wrestling for what is literally a new chapter for not only PROGRESS, but the entire British Wrestling scene.

In 2020, several performers attached to the promotion were named during the Speaking Out movement leading to the company issuing several safeguarding policies before it resumed live events. This came as an inquiry was launched by the APPG on Wrestling to investigate the entire U.K. wrestling scene after it was rocked by countless allegations from those involved in the industry from that part of the world.

PROGRESS Wrestling was founded in 2011 by Jim Smallman and Jon Briley with Glen Robinson coming on board later in the promotion’s tenure. The company staged its first event in March 2012 and became an influential hub showcasing the emerging talent in the U.K. scene that would find success abroad over the next decade.

The promotion began working with WWE in 2016 and led to the promotion being featured on the WWE Network while WWE launched its own NXT UK brand that saw many of the top talents in the U.K. migrate over including key personnel with PROGRESS.

Co-founder Jon Briley issued the following statement on the news of the sale:

Jim and I started PROGRESS over a decade ago. Those early days, from the moment that we decided to try promoting a pro wrestling show (something unheard of in Central London at the time!) were spent planning how we could best approach something neither of us had any experience in doing. The first 11 shows sold out, meaning that we needed to find a bigger venue – the Electric Ballroom in Camden, which has become the spiritual home of PROGRESS.

Glen came on board within a few months of our first show, and the combined energy of the three of us was the driving force behind everything that we achieved – all those sold out shows, Alexandra Palace, Wembley Arena, the mad American, Australian and European tours, and so on.

Jim moved on at the end of 2019 after Chapter 100; Glen also moved on in the summer of 2020, during the first wave of the COVID pandemic. Since then, I have steered the ship solo (admittedly with some help that I needed, in the wake of Glen and others departing).

As you may know, in March 2020 I was diagnosed with a serious health issue, and underwent surgery in July 2020. This resulted in me stepping back from PROGRESS from June until around November, when the team and I started to plan for what PROGRESS would do during what was becoming apparent would be a much longer lockdown than anyone had initially anticipated.

Throughout 2021, I have been undergoing regular post-operative treatment… whilst also exec-producing numerous behind-closed-doors tapings. During that time, we have filmed 23 full shows (180 matches!), put a fantastic and exciting young roster of wrestlers on a global platform, whilst also providing an opportunity for talent to continue earning during an enforced, extended break from wrestling AND continuing to raise both administrative and wellbeing standards in British independent pro wrestling.

I am extremely excited for the future of PROGRESS, which is why I’m delighted to confirm what you may already have read earlier today – that PROGRESS has been acquired by new ownership in Lee McAteer and Martyn Best.

Since Chapter 1, back in March 2012, giving the best British talent the best possible chance to succeed has been PROGRESS’s top priority; I’m confident that this acquisition will advance that mission and continue to promote the best British talent to ensure that the global wrestling scene has many British stars in the future.

I feel that Lee, Martyn and myself share many of the same ideals and their plans for the future are extremely impressive.

Both Martyn and Lee are current directors of Tranmere Rovers FC, and collectively have much experience across business, sports and entertainment.

Lee McAteer, is former CEO of Wrestling Travel, a brand lots of you will be familiar with. As well as founding Wrestling Travel, Lee also founded AmeriCamp, Camp Thailand and Invasion Camp Group. Once dubbed “Britain’s best boss”, he will bring a very open and inclusive approach to PROGRESS.

Martyn Best, is an extremely successful businessman in his own right across a varied and diverse portfolio of companies. He currently has two leading on-line providers of business services to the legal sector, including news content, and publishes a specialised accounting magazine, and had previously founded one of the most well-recognised PR and marketing agencies in the north-west.

Martyn was Deputy, and then Chairman of Everton Tigers, who became the UK’s most successful basketball franchise during his tenure.

I believe that this is the right next step for PROGRESS, for our team of in-ring and behind-the-scenes talent, and importantly, for you – our loyal fans who have been so patient and supportive during the extended break.

Lee and Martyn will get the regular circuit of shows up and running as soon as is reasonably practicable, and they will be in touch with more information on that in due course. Club PROGRESS membership will restart at the first show back.

While PROGRESS’s ownership has changed, you can expect the same fantastic live pro wrestling experience that we have always offered. The shows will continue to be available worldwide on both WWE Network and demandPROGRESS, as well as via Peacock in the US… PROGRESS fans expect consistency and continuity as much as they expect an innovative and boundary-pushing approach to pro wrestling, and I am confident you will continue to have that.

I will continue to be around for the first few shows back as I oversee the transition to the new team.

From me personally: I will look back on the last decade with enormous fondness and pride for the things that we achieved with PROGRESS… but it’s time to move on.

I wish Martyn, Lee and their team nothing but the best, and I hope that you will continue to show them your support as PROGRESS moves into a new and exciting Chapter (pun very much intended). I look forward to continuing to watch from afar.

However, I can’t sign off without giving some special thanks to:

Big Jack – without him, there would be no stage for the wrestlers to perform on.

Jack H, Al and Debbie – video professionals of the highest quality.

Rob Brazier – moment-capturer extraordinaire.

Thanks also to the extra video, photo and production professionals that worked with us on our biggest events.

James – officially came on board in summer 2020 to help me out and never left!

Lucy – a voice of calm and strength during a very difficult time, her tireless work revolutionising best safeguarding practice in this business should not be underestimated or forgotten.

Rob Dobrowolsky – has spent many years putting up with my last-minute graphics requests… as well as delivering a large proportion of our shirt designs.

Adam and Jake – for integrating innovative digital and social media into independent pro wrestling coverage.

Thanks to all those who helped out with merch at shows – Darren, Kirsty, Georgy, Bozzers and more… not least Helena, who slogged around the world with us to look after the merch tables, not to mention the hours she spent bagging up shirts with me when we had a huge raft of orders to fulfil!

PROGRESS Ultras around the world – thank you for welcoming PROGRESS into your cities, and for putting your trust in PROGRESS, whether you found it via the WWE Network or you’ve been there since the start.

And finally – my heartfelt thanks go to the hundreds of talented wrestlers who passed through our curtain over the last 10 years and who helped put PROGRESS on the map.

Thanks for the last decade!

Jon Briley
Co-founder, former owner, forever fan

Martin Bushby and Andy Ogden have a special breaking news edition of The British Wrestling Experience to discuss the sale with PW Torch’s Will Cooling.