For those of us who are fans of the British wrestling scene, a big part of our regular podcast listening over the last few years had been Jim Smallman’s Tuesday Night Jaw podcast, part of the Distraction Pieces Network. So on June 25th of last year, it seemed rather odd for Jim to appear as a guest on his own program, being interviewed by PROGRESS Wrestling’s then-commentator Matt Richards. Little did we know, Smallman was planning on stepping back from both the podcast and his role as ring announcer for the aforementioned wrestling company, with Richards taking over both positions.
The stress the comes with being the face of one of the most successful independent wrestling companies in the world aside, Matt was also taking on the challenge of making a beloved wrestling podcast his own. “Obviously there was a little pressure given how successful Jim’s run was, but I always wanted to take it in another direction,” Matt told me via email. “I knew I was less ‘known’ in comparison, but I wanted to use that to my advantage and put the content first.”
Even though Matt was new to podcasting, with only a few episodes briefly hosting a podcast previously under his belt, he brings with him three key advantages: he’s been in the U.K. wrestling scene for over a decade, he’s an experienced professional presenter and wrestling commentator, and he has the Distraction Pieces Network behind him. “We’ve got a little group chat which is lovely as we’ve all gotten to know each other a little better. It also helps motivate me when I listen to other people’s work.” The network is full of experienced podcasters covering a variety of topics, helmed by Distraction Pieces podcast host Scroobius Pip, himself a wrestling fan. “When Jim decided to round up his time on Tuesday Night Jaw, Matt was the natural replacement,” Pip told me. “His experience within and outlook on the wrestling world makes him a perfect fit.”
Smallman had created a recognizable group of episode categories that fans grew to love and anticipate. List episodes featured top tens, Round Table episodes showcased a panel of guests, Q&A’s answered a mailbag of listener queries, and TNJ Meets were interviews with industry insiders. Matt’s first episode as host after Smallman’s departure was his own take on TNJ Meets, chatting with referee Chris Sharpe about his career and life as an American now living in the U.K. full-time. “I had a game plan of a slow transition from the old style and concepts into the content I wanted to produce,” explained Richards, “things like Bryan vs Goliath and now The Anatomy Of.”
One of Richards’ first steps outside of the tried-and-true episode formats included breaking down two of his favourite matches, followed by a three-part series covering a best-of-five between Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima. “Although the production is pretty rough, the ‘Bryan vs Goliath’ series was the start of what I wanted the podcast to be going forward,” he began. “’You Get Out As Much As You Put In’ then continued it further as I wanted to make episodes for people in the business as well, whether that be wrestlers, production or promoters.”
The “You Get Out…” episode he mentions was full of advice for those just starting out in, or already a part of, the wrestling industry, signifying another change as the host works “towards more stand alone episodes, episodes that aren’t reactive to what’s happening but rather their own thing that can hopefully still be relevant when people find them in the archive later,” he described. “Having people enjoy that type of episode, give feedback on it or find it later on is really cool.”
Now, with the new “Anatomy Of…” episodes, Richards’ is blending both the fan and insider perspective by breaking down more of wrestling itself, the visual and storytelling aspects we can all enjoy. This series even comes with new artwork, which Richards shares is inspired by “Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and how each series has its own identity,” and provided by Shoto Design. The true selling point, though, is that the series and the podcast as a whole provide Matt with an opportunity to tap into what he truly loves about wrestling as an industry and an art form, which is evident to every listener. “The addition of his special mini documentary episodes have been a revelation for me as a listener, and his new “Anatomy of…” shows see Matt taking it up a level again,” shared Pip.
“When Jim started Tuesday Night Jaw, he always wanted it to be a positive representation of wrestling and I feel exactly the same way,” the current host expresses. “I want people to discover wrestlers or matches they might have never seen. I want people to hopefully find some value in any advice I give whether a wrestler or not. Basically I want people to think ‘I know it’s a pretty weird thing to like but it’s also pretty cool that I’m not the only one that likes it!’”
Matt Richards is the ring announcer for PROGRESS Wrestling and hosts the Tuesday Night Jaw podcast, which is part of the Distraction Pieces Network. He can be found preening over Football Manager on Twitter @mrichardshost
Jordan Rizzieri/The Lady J is a podcast host, writer, and wrestling fan currently based in the suburbs of New York City, and the Online Editor for the Pod Bible blog. You can listen to her I Never Told You What I Do For A Living podcast, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.