Photo courtesy: Ring of Honor
By: Andrew Thompson
The United Kingdom has produced many talents that have gone on to become fixtures in professional wrestling and today’s crop of stars are working on edging their names alongside the greats to come out of the UK. The likes of Mark Haskins, Zack Sabre Jr., Pete Dunne, Zack Gibson, Kay Lee Ray, Jimmy Havoc, Viper and many more are traveling the globe representing their respective portions of the United Kingdom. The aforementioned names and others have been scouted and/or signed by WWE, All Elite Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling or Ring Of Honor which has allowed said talents to further promote themselves on a grander scale. Signed with Ring Of Honor and challenging for the ROH World Tag Team Championships at Death Before Dishonor this weekend is a 13-year veteran, Mark Haskins. Beginning his career training at the FWA Academy and then graduating to IPW: UK where he held multiple championships, Haskins has been a staple on the U.K. independent scene for a great portion of his career.
Dating back to the Fall of 2018, there have been several stories about NXT UK talents being pulled from independent shows in the U.K. that are not affiliated with WWE like PROGRESS, ICW and wXw are. Southside Wrestling recently announced that WWE pulled all NXT UK talent from the promotion’s final show on October 26th. Other circumstances have arisen such as Zack Sabre Jr. winning the 2018 Super Strong Style 16 tournament and being scheduled to challenge for the PROGRESS World Championship at Hello Wembley in 2018. The date of that world title match conflicted with Zack’s contractual obligations with NJPW which led to him being pulled from the event. There have been varying opinions from wrestlers and fans concerning the state of the independent wrestling scene in the U.K. and I had the opportunity to chat with Mark Haskins and grab his thoughts on the subject. Haskins explained that it is impossible to please everyone and now is a time when wrestlers in the U.K. can make a good living with guaranteed money.
“You’re not going to please everyone. That’s life. Bottom line is that for the first time in a very long time, wrestlers in the U.K. can make a decent living out of British wrestling with guaranteed money.” He said. “I don’t recall a time where that was possible before. From the people I’ve spoken to, everyone has the intention of making the best of this opportunity and changing the path for future British wrestlers for the better.”
It was three years ago on September 25th that Mark Haskins captured the PROGRESS World Championship in a three-way match involving Marty Scurll and Aleister Black. Haskins had to relinquish the title due to injury but is one of only 14 men to have held the title. He expressed that it felt great to become PROGRESS World Champion but the title reign did not live up to the expectations he set for himself.
“Not really,” Haskins noted when asked if his world title run holds a special place amongst other accomplishments in his career. “Walking out of Brixton the Progress Champion was great, but I had a lot going on in my life that negatively impacts how I feel about that time period. I wanted to have a run at it and see what I could do as the top guy of the company, but I guess you can build up this fantasy experience in your head and if it doesn’t live up to what you expect, it can be super deflating. I wanted to do so much as Progress Champion, but I had to relinquish it soon after due to a neck injury I sustained but has since been resolved. I didn’t live up to my own expectations, so sadly I just kind of remember it being a wasted opportunity.” He explained.
This coming Friday at Ring Of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view, Haskins will be looking to add another title win to his resume as he and his LifeBlood faction-member Bandido will challenge The Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Championships. The original members of LifeBlood were Juice Robinson, Mark Haskins, Bandido, Tracy Williams, Tenille Dashwood, and David Finlay. Fast forward to present day and now representing LifeBlood is Mark Haskins, PJ Black, Bandido and Tracy Williams. Haskins stated that losing members were a part of the process. It is not the original group but the former two-time RPW British Cruiserweight Champion finds it intriguing to see what a group of individuals with the right intentions can do when paired together.
“LifeBlood is a group of guys who want to bring out the best in each other and our opponents. We’ve lost some members along the way, but it’s a part of the process. We’ve had a lot of fun, we’ve learnt a lot and now we’ve reached a point where we’re really starting to gel as a team”, Haskins said. “It’s not the original line up but that’s the fun of it for me, is seeing what a group of guys with all the right intentions can do when put together and given the opportunity that we’ve been given with ROH.”
Ring Of Honor’s partnership with NJPW has opened the door for wrestlers in either company to work shows and hold championships in both companies and both companies coming together to present joint shows such as Honor Rising and G1 Supercard. Mark Haskins is no stranger to Japan as he competed for Dragon Gate and Osaka Pro Wrestling. When asked if he’s interested in making his way back to Japan and possibly competing in any of NJPW’s tournaments or challenging for any of their championships, here’s how Haskins responded:
“Who knows what the future holds? Right now I just want to enjoy what I do.” He noted. “It’s great getting to travel, getting to be a part of ROH as it enters a new era, getting to spend a little extra time at home. For the first time in my 13-year career, I’m on a guaranteed income, which allows me to relax a little more and allows me to be more choosy with what I do. I’ve always taken pride in what I do and I just want to apply myself in a way where I can give fans and companies I work for the very best I can. It would be awesome to go back to Japan and see some old faces, and if that’s something someone wants to talk to me about, then hell yeah I’m open to offers.”
Haskins opened up about the beauty of professional wrestling and what it means to him. The question of what is his favorite style of wrestling was asked and Haskins responded by explaining that for him, is it more-so about the response he can get from an audience opposed to the style[s] of wrestling he can offer. Mark stated that there is no better feeling than going out in front of a crowd and having them hang on to what’s transpiring in the ring.
“That’s the beauty of wrestling for me, is that it can be different. I’d hate to do the same thing every night. It’s not so much what style, but more so what kind of response you can get from the audience. There’s no better feeling than going in there with someone that can go and having the fans hooked on what’s going down. It’s being in front of that audience doing what you do and if they’re eating it up, that’s an awesome feeling.” Haskins expressed.
If Mark Haskins and Bandido can capture the ROH World Tag Titles, it will be Haskins’ tenth tag title win of his career. Following Death Before Dishonor at the post-PPV television taping, both Haskins and Bandido are going to compete in the ‘Final Battle’ tournament and the winner of that tournament will secure an ROH World Championship match at ROH’s Final Battle pay-per-view on December 13th in Baltimore, Maryland.