Mark Haskins is one of Britain’s best-ever wrestlers. Over 15+ years, Haskins has performed everywhere around the world for such established companies as ROH, IMPACT, Dragon Gate, OTT Wrestling, Rev Pro, SMASH and PROGRESS Wrestling.
Now it’s time to add DEFY Wrestling to the list as over ALL IN weekend, Haskins takes on the legendary KENTA for the DEFY World Championship as part of a PROGRESS x DEFY double header at the Electric Ballroom, Camden on Saturday, August 26th.
PWMania.com‘s Lee Tarrier (@leeseedub) caught up with Haskins to talk about this dream match, his career to date and how he thinks British Wrestling stands in 2023. Haskins also opened up about his upcoming match with KENTA, wanting another match with WWE Superstar Butch, having unfinished business at ROH, and more.
You can check out the complete interview below:
You’re in a dream match against KENTA for the DEFY World Championship. How do you feel about it?
Yeah, I’m so excited. It’s funny because it’s very much a coming full circle match for myself, right? So, years ago when I was training to be a professional wrestler, back in 2006 2007, I used to watch the matches of KENTA versus Bryan Danielson from ROH, in my little bummed out flat that I lived in, in Portsmouth, it was it was such a mess. You know, and one of my good friends who is now a photographer, Tom Langford, he used to come around my house when we used to watch KENTA matches on a weekly basis. I remember saying like, one day I want to wrestle him. And sure enough, 17 years on, here we are, it’s finally happening. So it’s going to be a very exciting and cool moment for me personally again to go out there against somebody like KENTA because I think he’s one of the best of this generation. And it’s a match I’ve been thinking about and looking forward to for a very, very long time.
Are you excited about performing for DEFY?
Well, absolutely, you know, DEFY has been a company that came up the same time as PROGRESS was coming up in the UK. I was coming up on the other side of the pond and it never really worked out up until now. But when they came along and they said, you know, hey, we want to use you in the UK, I was very excited. I jumped at it. And then they told me that I was gonna be wrestling KENTA and I was like, holy cow, like this stars have aligned on this one. This is gonna be great. So yeah, I am. I am super excited. I’m super looking forward to and I just, I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming positivity that I feel going forward over the next few months in the wrestling industry and in life in general.
It’s at the Ballroom, which you recently returned to for PROGRESS. You’ve got great memories there, defeating Johnny Gargano for the SMASH title. How has it felt returning?
I mean, it was only being back that I then started to think how long have I been gone? And suddenly it dawned on me, I was like, I’ve been gone four years, and that four years has gone by in the blink of an eye. Early PROGRESS, I was such a huge part of the team, you know, from 2013 Up until, you know, early 2020 When Jim Smallman left.
I think the last show that I did for them was was Jim Smallman farewell show, and it was very bizarre in a lot of ways because a lot of the people are still the same people, you know from the security guard that works at the door to everyone in the crew. I’ve always been friendly with the people who work backstage but then suddenly guys like Jim Smallman, guys like Jon Briley you know, the, the core of who PROGRESS, they were gone. So it’s, it’s been very interesting, that’s for sure. And now it’s a new era and I’m very excited.
To be a part of it, you know, as PROGRESS is a company that’s held a very special place in my heart. And it’s a company that I want to see do well, you know, and I think that they’ve got a crew of guys who all wanted to succeed and that they all want to do the very best that they can do and that’s what the original PROGRESS was.
The original PROGRESS was never about conquering the world or anything like that. It was just these group of guys with love, with passion in their hearts. Who want to go out and put on the very best possible show that they could. It didn’t matter where you were on the card. It didn’t matter what role you had on the card. You went out there. With love, and just, you know, enthusiasm and energy and excitement and put on the best show that you could do. And that’s what I am seeing a lot in these younger guys who are now stepping into that void.
I just feel like now is the time for people to step up and go for it. And now’s the time to make a name for yourself. You know, a lot of the guys who are around in the previous era of PROGRESS aren’t around anymore. They’ve moved on to different things. So it’s now time that somebody steps up, makes a name for themselves and really goes for it.
It’s funny that you bring up the Johnny Gargano match. I was only just thinking about that a few moments ago before I started talking to you. And it’s interesting to do so at the Electric Ballroom, you know, I won the Smash Wrestling championship having never wrestled for Smash Wrestling. So in some way, I mean, I’ve got a track record of walking in winning the the main championship of the company I’ve never wrestled for. So, saying that KENTA has got to look out for me.
Do you remember much about winning the PROGRESS World Championship at Brixton Academy?
Yes, yes, I do. And it’s hilarious because it was one of the most stressful days of my life. Literally from the moment I woke up, all I remember is like whatever could have gone wrong went wrong. It was just consistently throughout the day. I remember it was this mad experience. Brixton was the biggest crowd that PROGRESS had drew up until that date. I walk out, I look around, I step through the curtain and I’m really nervous beforehand. I step through the curtain and I look around I think, oh, there’s a lot of people here, time to wrestle and that’s it and then you get into it and you crack on.
I remember after the match, everybody was jumping up and down everybody’s losing their minds. I grabbed the championship, a championship I’ve been chasing for months. I pulled it in really close and I held it there. And all I could think was I wish I hadn’t just had headbutted the belt. It hurt as going through the table during the match or getting kicked in the head by Malikai Black, but it was a great experience. By then, the stress was done and I was proud of everything.
Where do you think British Wrestling stands in 2023?
That’s a good question. I think I look back at where British wrestling was, and where I can see parallels of it being now is that back then a lot of these things we hadn’t done before. We haven’t done Brixton. We hadn’t done Alexandra Palace. We hadn’t done Wembley, we hadn’t done a lot of these things. We hadn’t done tours of America. We hadn’t done WrestleMania weekends, right, but now this generation stands on the shoulders of those who have done that.
Now, when I got into the wrestling business, British wrestling was completely different. Like, from what it was from around 2015 onwards, was so polar opposite to how it was when I first got into wrestling. I never even thought that British wrestling could reach the heights that it did from then to the 2015 era. And I am so glad that I was wrong and I am so glad that there were those who believed that a top level was attainable.
And that was all that the guys kept doing was just kept pushing and pushing and pushing. Look at ICW, you bring up the Hydro, they ran the Hydro multiple times and then sold thousands upon thousands of tickets. You know, the same can be said with OTT and Ireland, you know they they continue to build and build and build until they became what they were and what they are. There is something here capable to present British or British wrestling products in the same way that things may be in Japan in the sense of in Japan, you have multiple wrestling companies on a small island right but they they’re all businesses booming and you can go from company to company whereas we didn’t really. In the UK, it was more independent bookings, so, you would go from one show to the next rather than say, having one big company that tends to tour everywhere.
A realisation came that anything is possible once you have the right crew. When you have the right mindset, when you go into a situation just thinking what is the very best that we can get from this? You know, I think genuine miracles are possible. Where I see British wrestling now, although I feel that it’s taken a few hits over the last few years with the pandemic and everything. I think that right now, what you have is similar to what British wrestling was in, say 2013, 2014. You’ve got a lot of guys who are hungry, that may not necessarily have the same level of main event value as say some of the the imports that are being brought over.
But if this generation can weaponize that hunger, if this generation can take that desire and use it to push themselves forward. Within the next few years, there is going to be another boom. Because now you have the guys who have seen talent get to the top level and have seen that is possible. And I think that with the right people, who have the right mindset, who have the right skills, who have the right capabilities, who are the people that are driven to make something out of it, the British wrestling industry will go forth to a whole new level of success that we haven’t necessarily seen before.
But that comes from being hungry, and that comes from being dedicated and really going for it. I feel like sometimes you can tell who’s gonna go far and who is right for this because talent will only take you so far. But being driven, being dedicated, being hungry, that takes you so much further. I will tell you this firsthand, right, because when I was 15, I was a skinny, fat kid. Like I was fat in all the wrong places and skinny in all the wrong places. I had friends who was so much more athletic than than I am, like, you know, they were capable of doing great things. We went training together because we used to play wrestling and have fun, but when we went, I was the one who was like, ‘No, we’ve got to do this properly, we’ve got to go for this, we’ve got to make it happen. And there were those who didn’t believe in me and those who were more talented than I was that came to training, gave it a couple of sessions and gave up.
Usain Bolt had an amazing quote, which was he trained, retrained religiously for four years to run nine seconds, and people give up after two months. I was the one who didn’t give up after two months. I didn’t care how much I was going to suffer. I was going to be a success at this. Whether I was broken or not, I would carry on through sheer resiliency, just through sheer turning up, over and over and over again, taking no days off.
You turn up, you put the effort in, you put the work in and over time, all these little victories, they mount up and they continue to grow. And people say to me all the time, hey, I would love to live the life that you live, but I know that they’re not willing to put in the work that I’m willing to put in and that is the biggest deciding factor as to whether you will be a success or not. Talent is an incredible tool. But it does not take talent to be successful. What it takes to be successful is turning up and putting in the work, putting in the hours and just having a shared belief that one day this is going to pay off.
You were at ROH before the pandemic hit, and had put on some amazing matches for the company? Is it a goal of yours to go back, not just there, but possibly AEW, IMPACT?
I was heartbroken that ROH ended the way that it did or at least of my time with ROH ended the way that it did because during the pandemic I appreciated so much how much they took care of us. I think I was paid to stay at home longer than I was actually paid to be active for them and that entire time that I was at home, I wasn’t just sitting at home I was doing everything I could to be more of an asset when I returned.
The amount of things I put myself through during the pandemic is mind blowing. Now looking back at it, I just remember thinking to myself, there are going to be those who use this time to do nothing and those who step up that game, so when they do come back, they’re going to be a completely different animal. I was one of the ones that said you know, screw this. I want to be even more of an asset when I return, I want to really do something, I want to be able to in any way that I could repay the favour to ROH that they have done for us by taking care of us during that very turbulent and rocky time for everyone globally.
So the fact that it just kind of ended and they said, you know, we’re we’re selling the company, we’re gonna have to let you all go. That was very heartbreaking in a lot of ways because I just I wanted do something for them. Everything I put myself through during the pandemic was because I wanted to be able to give something back in return and I felt like I never was able to pay that favour back, so yeah, I feel like that there is unfinished business with ROH. I think that AEW is a fantastic product. WWE is back in a good position to what it was years ago. I think that all in all, it’s an exciting time in professional wrestling but who knows what the future holds. You know, I’m 35 now. I’ve been wrestling 17 years, you know, probably the majority of my career is behind me, you know, I’ve got to be a realist in certain senses. And the terrifying thing as well as you know, it only takes one bad bump and you know, it could all be over. So, since coming back from the pandemic, I’ve just tried to look at wrestling as I’m going to enjoy this and I’m going to do the best I can with whatever time it is I have left doing it.
In the past, I’ve put too much pressure on myself and not enjoyed the moment and when a friend of mine, Kris Travers died a few years ago, before he passed, within the last couple of weeks of his life, he said something that has always stayed with me, he said, looking back at his career, he wished he had just taken the moment, he wished he’d just taken the time to enjoy the moment more because he was always too busy worrying about what was next. He was always too busy worrying about am I good enough? He just wished he enjoyed the ride.
And that was something I’ve already held on to because I think that is important. You can overcomplicate things when you think too much, you know, thinking is a good thing. But it can also be a bad thing in some regards. Because if you’re too busy worrying about what comes next, you don’t take that time to enjoy the moment and that’s what this is supposed to be. We’re in the entertainment industry. You’re supposed to enjoy yourself. Nobody goes to watch wrestling because they want to be bored shitless. Nobody involved in wrestling does it just because they needed a job. They do it because they love it. So let’s focus on that love. Let’s focus on that passion. Let’s focus on that energy where everybody can enjoy themselves. And that’s put on an incredible show
KENTA is a dream match come true. What would another dream match of yours be?
I have one dream match that will unfortunately never happen. I met Eddie Guerrero when I was 13 years old at Crystal Palace and when people say that he radiated warmth, when they say that he had this genuine charm and cheekiness, it is true. I was really shy, a timid kid and I stepped up to him. I remember I took a couple of wrestling figures up with me and he, he looks at them and he looks at me and he’s like, Hey, this nerd looks familiar. And he grabs them and signs them and was just so lovely, so entertaining and engaging.
I mean there’s there’s a lot of talented guys who are still going that I would love to tie it up with you know. Literally anybody on the the AEW roster as there’s so many good guys. I would love to wrestle Pete Dunne [Butch] because I always loved wrestling Pete and it’s been great to see where his career has taken him and I think he’s only got better and better with time.
KENTA vs. HASKINS is one you won’t want to miss. Get your tickets for the PROGRESS x DEFY double header show on Saturday, August 26 here.