The global scene for independent wrestling is at an all-time interest peak, not since the days of ROH, ECW and All Japan tape traders have we seen such demand for international self-produced wrestling, however unlike the tap trading era, independent wrestling has never been easier to access and thus it can be difficult to know where to start and what to watch.
This series of articles will look at the most talked about names in independent wrestling and where to start looking to find out why they are as beloved as they are.
I will look over forums, YouTube channels, listen to podcasts, any platforms available to me realto find why people love an individual performer and then spend the time watching the list and cutting it down to a comprehensive list of “What to Watch” to see what they see.
This first article will look at none other than the former PROGRESS, OTT, SMASH and Rev-Pro champion Mark Haskins.
It is arguable that the moment in which hype was highest for Mark Haskins was the tail end of 2016 during which time he held a large number of promotions world titles including his freshly acquired PROGRESS World Title, a title he was forced to vacate after only three defense due to a severe, near career-ending injury. Although these articles will focus on what matches to watch I would also advise you to watch two promos from Mark’s career , the title vacancy announcement at chapter 38 and his promo at the end of the three-way at chapter 77 both of which tie the journey he has been on alongside Wife and Manager Vicky Haskins since the end of 2016. It is an emotional rollercoaster and shows to you the passion and love for professional wrestling that is apparent every time Haskins enters the ring, both promos are available on PROGRESS YouTube channel.
As stated Haskins initial rise to main stream attention arguably came about at the end of 2016, however I would argue that right now is the moment people are pushing the most for big things to come for Haskins, a run of matches for global independent powerhouse Ring of Honour as well as televised matches for 5* Wrestling introduced a whole new audience to Haskins and when added with the hardcore support from fans of British Independent wrestling the sky is the limit for Haskins right now, with that being said, let’s get into “What to Watch”.
I am going to approach these matches chronologically as to allow your viewing to grow naturally with Haskins evolution and each match is included on this list to highlight a different aspect of the Haskins character.
1. Mark Haskins vs. Will Ospreay © PROGRESS World Title Match, Chapter 21
Available from: https://demandprogress.pivotshare.com
This match took place a full year before Haskins would pick up the PROGRESS title for himself and instead saw himself approaching this match the challenger to Ospreay’s newly acquired World Title, after finally reaching deep enough to conquer bitter rival and PROGRESS Wrestling’s longest reigning champion, Jimmy Havoc, the match is a classic high flier vs ground based technician with Haskins taking the role of the latter.
The match itself showcases much of what makes Haskins a great in-ring competitor, speed and technical ability! The match opens with Haskins locking Ospreay in a Sharpshooter that Bret Hart would be jealous of, Haskins continues to lock Will in several submissions wearing down the high flier to prevent him utilizing all his arsenal showing the smart fighter style that Haskins brings to every match.
Special shout out to two moments in the match; the first being Haskins bridging into the Fujiwara from a pin kick showing that no movement in a Haskins match is wasted. The second is a fantastic Brazilian Jujitsu style transition Haskin uses to take Ospreay from standing into an arm bar and then moving into a cross face in one fluid movement it’s a sight to behold and draws on the real-life training Haskins put himself through.
Throughout this match Haskins implements a fury of stiff strikes, mainly kicks and this truly shows his tenacity and desire to win in every match, Haskins doesn’t wrestle his opponents, he hurts them!
2. Mark Haskins vs Jimmy Havoc – Death Match, Chapter 55
Available at: https://demandprogress.pivotshare.com
The next match takes place a full two years after Haskins bout with Ospreay and demonstrates a darker side to Haskins and also will introduce you to the wonder that is Vicky Haskins, the combination of a trained former FCW wrestler with a world-class level of ring psychology and a captivating alternative style make her the perfect manager to guide Haskins to victory during his matches, very akin to Luna Vachon and Shawn Michaels.
This match has everything you could want in a Death Match; A genuine feeling of hatred between the competitors, innovative offense -particularly involving staplers- and strong fundamental wrestling. Haskins has a style that is heavily benefited by his sheer ring speed and strategic movements, every move Haskins makes is for a reason and you can see this in both his rolling death valley driver: a move he is able to hit out of any angle whilst his opponent is prone leaving it open to endless unique possibilities for use, but also in his bridging Fujiwara arm bar which is legitimately one of the most devastating looking finishers in wrestling right now.
The match itself goes twenty-three minutes and is perfectly paced to grow and amplify with the crowd, the match involves several fantastic spots including a repeated wheel barrow face buster type move from Havoc onto future tag team partner Haskins onto a pile of thumbtacks, a death valley driver of Havocs own through a barbwire board as well as Haskins simply kicking a barb wire board at full strength in to Jimmy’s torso. The match is not for the faint of hearted although I would say I feel like it is still enjoyable for everyone as both men involved are world class performers.
The reason this match is included in this piece is that it shows a major part of Haskins character, his intensity and ring movement, Haskins rolling suicide dives that are incorporate in tag or multi-man matches are the perfect example of this, Haskins will often fake out of a suicide dive to the left often utilizing a 619 type swing to return into the ring before soaring like an arrow at full speed to the other side of the ring before entering again and repeating to the other side. It is truly a site to behold and is one of the many impressive moves incorporated into Haskins arsenal.
The match also features a little surprise at the end including Vicky Haskins that set Haskins on a new path in PROGRESS and is one that must be watched to understand his character now leading into his World Title bout against Walter at Chapter 78.
3. Know Your Enemy Six Man Tag/Triple Threat
OTT Scrappermania IV
Available at: https://overthetopwrestling.pivotshare.com
I feel it’s important to expose you not only to Haskins phenomenal in-ring quality but also to some of his matches that demonstrate his character work and ability as a heel and for me, nothing demonstrates that better than a match that took place this year at OTT’s big event at the National Stadium: ScrapperMania.
For those of you not familiar with OTT, the Know your Enemy match was a unique concept that was used to decide their Money in The Bank style briefcase holder, originally a six-man tag that saw Haskins team with Tyler Bate and Scotty Davis against David Starr, LJ Cleary and Shane Strickland that then became a triple threat between the winners including Haskins himself.
This match stood out to me on a card that included Ospreay vs Riddle and Devlin vs ZSJ (both also worth checking out) and this was largely due to the heel work of Haskins, the highlight of which was stealing the pin off Tyler Bate.
The interactions between Starr and Haskins demonstrated his legitimate fighting style going toe-to-toe with Davey wrestling himself and showed once again another unique aspect of Haskins character.
A shorter match at 13 Minutes for the 6 men and three for the triple threat but it shows a new aspect to Haskins and is a must see if you are not aware with what he is about.
Overall Haskins is without a doubt one of the most unique and captivating performers on the British Independent scene right now, I’d like to give a special shout-out to Haskins vs Gargano for the SMASH title a fantastic match but the three in this list are just too important to be forgotten.
If after watching these you have a desire to go watch more Haskins-and I am sure you will- the next PROGRESS chapter features WALTER vs Haskins for the PROGRESS World title in what promises to be a Match of the year competitor.
Photo Credit: @BeyondGorilla