Exclusive: PROGRESS Wrestling Co-Owner Opens Up About Their First SuperShow, Dubai Controversy, and More

Lee McAteer (left) and Martyn Best (right)

PROGRESS Wrestling presents their first ‘Supershow’ this Sunday, aptly titled ‘They Think It’s All Over’. With 11 matches that include a world title defense against a wrestler in the top 10 of the PWI 500, a pro footballer’s debut, and the finals of the Natural Progression Series, the show is clearly one that has it all and symbolizes the hard work that owners Lee McAteer and Martyn Best have put into making the promotion a success. PWMania.com sat down with Martyn Best this week to talk a little about Sunday’s show and their first year in charge as a whole…

Sunday’s show is classed as a supershow, with 11 top matches. What caused you to create a supershow and how excited are you about presenting it?

“Whilst 8 matches per show would probably be ideal, what we have had this year is a wide range of narratives and storylines being developed and it’s always a challenge keeping momentum and interest at the right pace. As the year is coming to an end, we had a lovely confluence of many of them. What a decision to make – which ones do we defer and mindful that we have Unboxing coming up in December, many of these matches might have been delayed until our January shows.

“As I’m sure you’ll know, the Unboxing show (30th December) is a surprise package which has had some amazing wrestlers and matches in the past, and very much in line with the festivities generally; and so we have ended with a wonderfully stacked 11 match show for “They think it’s all over …”

“We had also intended to weave some things in with the World Cup, and clearly hence the title – that iconic bit of commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme in 1966, just before Geoff Hurst made it 4-2 for England, which he then concluded with “it is now!”
In terms of the excitement and anticipation for the show – I have that for every show, so that’s a bit like asking, which is your favorite child and each show has so much planning and distinctiveness, though as we get closer and we look at each match there is a special buzz for this show.”

A lot has been said in the last couple of years about show lengths, WWE and AEW both said to have made shows too long. Are you worried about show length and fan fatigue?

“In terms of the length of show that this now gives, you’re right that we need to keep energy levels high, and we hope our fans will play a good part in that. We do have the Men’s title on the line with Spike versus the returning, and former Champion, Jonathan Gresham, and the increasing emotion of Kanji defending against Lana Austin, and there’s the final of Natural Progression with Tate Mayfairs versus Ricky Knight Jr, so these should have fans on the edge of their seats.

“Then we have a tag team separating, with Chuck Mambo taking a break from Sunshine Machine to defend his hair against Kid Lykos’ mask; and tag teams forming with Big Damo, our Atlas Champion and Axel Tischer (they were obviously once a Tag team in WWE as part of Sanity) facing up against former Men’s champion Chris Ridgeway and former Atlas Champion Luke Jacobs – North West Strong, of course.

“Another former champion in Cara Noir, is back in his guise of Tom Dawkins and he has a fascinating match-up against the Dark Guardian of Spike Trivet’s, Bullit.

“Then please choose the best of Cheeseburger, who will be amazing to see on a very rare visit to the UK, the ever joyful Man Like Dereiss, Rhio and Skye Smitson, Anthony Ogogo, Akinfenwa, Malik, Kosta, (which will be a slightly mad match) Charles Crowley and Elijah’s curious interpretation of a mathematical formula ( don’t ask – you need to listen to Mr Crowley’s almost mad professor theory) and Alexxis Falcon with Laura Di Matteo.”

Tough question when the card is so good, but what match are you most looking forward to seeing?

“A bit breathless there, and now you ask me to choose a favorite? I could say everyone, as they each have an interesting element in them all, so I’ll keep it at that, and actually, as you know, sometimes a match delivers something unexpected and wows us all.”

Do you expect a different atmosphere or have any concerns for this Sunday following the Dubai show announcement?

“Ah, that Dubai show!

“I’m hoping that now we have had the opportunity to explain our reasons for going to Dubai, and we have had numerous personal conversations with fans and some wrestlers to help provide everyone with a better understanding of our aims, that the initial reaction is now calmer.

“The key concerns were that we were being funded by the Dubai government – which we’ve confirmed that we are not, this is an entirely commercial venture for us, and in fact is part of a longer term investment for us in building up a strong following in Dubai and supporting the wrestling community there.

“There were some absolutely understandable concerns about the LGBTQ+ community both in Dubai and the current state of the law over there, and we had not highlighted and reminded everyone of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, which we hope has been demonstrated this year.

“We are working closely with Wrestlefest DXB, run by a local Emirati, Shaheen who is a huge supporter of Women’s wrestling out there. He had the first female headline match last month with Charlie Morgan and Alex Windsor, and it was always our collective plan to build on that with the first Woman’s World Championship match in that region – and we’ll know how that will be after Sunday. We also have Lizzy Evo and Session Moth Martina, and in fact Martina will be our ring host.

“In Dubai wrestling terms that is a huge local statement in supporting Women’s wrestling and in fact the wider element of diversity.

“We did have many comments about us apparently supporting a state that does not support LGBTQ+ rights, and that is certainly a concern for us, and is certainly not the case that we support that situation.

“In PROGRESS terms we have always been widely inclusive, and our fans will know the range of wrestlers we have had this year – we very much support Women’s wrestling, our diverse range of backgrounds and wrestlers of color have been prominent, and we’ve had many wrestlers from the LGBTQ+ community on our card and building up some great matches and relationships with us – but we can truly understand why there were concerns in that area, and we’re sorry that we caused concern amongst our fans.

“All of our wrestlers we have spoken to, and all those coming with us to Dubai are totally behind what we are doing. We will have a number of interviews and reports with each of them, and much of the aims and subtlety of this situation will be looked at in deeper reflection. We have plans for other matches out there next year, with an even wider array of talent across all diversity.

“This is part of a longer term plan, and I’d only ask for patience with us, as our next shows will build upon this. We could have decided to not go, just hammer our keyboard, and try to effect change from afar, but we have developed a good friendship with Shaheen, and we have had a number of wrestlers on our roster who had been over to Dubai this year and who had come back with really positive feedback.

“The local Dubai wrestling community is so excited at our visit, and they recognise that our support for their aims and efforts will really help them. This is not Formula One, golf, or football going to that area, and Dubai is by far the most progressive of the Arab states and we are massively focussed on the support of grass roots wrestling, and trying to play some small part in helping to effect change.

“We hope that if any of our fans still have concerns that they know that Lee and I are there as we always are, visible and receptive to have any conversation with them.”

You have tournament finals, world title matches and a pro footballer debut set for the supershow. It delivers so much. As you come to the end of your first year in charge, how do you feel this show highlights your reign as Progress owners?

“As we nearly complete 12 months of ownership of PROGRESS, I hope we have shown our fans that we care about them, about the history and legacy of PROGRESS, and that we have sincerely put the effort in to restore the glow of PROGRESS.

“Don’t forget that until January this year, there had not been any live shows in front of fans for nearly two years. It takes a lot to regain the comfort and confidence to return, and we hope that we have helped support that, as we now approach our 25th show of the year.
I hope this show really reflects what we have achieved, with a wide range of wrestlers, great diversity amongst them, and some exciting matches which engage all of our fans. What we plan for 2023 is to build upon this, and continue to show the fans that we really do care.”