Progress Wrestling champ Cara Noir on depression, key match and new licking rule

British wrestler Cara Noir is very much an enigma and a trailblazer in the UK.

From his ballet-like attire – complete with dramatic wings – to his Swan Lake entrance music, Noir is a far cry from Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks.

The person behind the white make-up and dramatic movements is 35-year-old Tom Dawkins.

And during the Daily Star's exclusive chat with Tom, ahead of his headline bout against Ring of Honor champion Jonathan Gresham, it was clear that Cara and Tom are very much two different people.

Cara will be putting his Progress Wrestling title on the line against Gresham – who will be putting his championship at stake, too – at Progress Wrestling's Chapter 130: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive Dodge event at The Electric Ballroom in London on Sunday.

And it has been labelled as the biggest match in modern British independent wrestling history.

Tom said of his upcoming title vs title bout: ”It's so exciting because I've never had the opportunity to wrestle Gresham at all.

“But I've been watching him for years and I feel that he's now at a point where he's doubling down the things that he loves, and the style that he loves to work.

“He's just killing it – every match that he has is different and exciting, and to be able to step in with people that are better than yourself is a real test.

“As a performer it's the only way you can grow.”

For Tom, the match is win or bust – if he comes out of it with a win, then he will hold the biggest wrestling title outside of anything created by WWE, AEW or Impact Wrestling, with bouts in the US surely to follow when Ring of Honor returns to action in April.

If he loses, however, then he leaves London with nothing.

“I guess you just have to go big or go home right?,” he joked.

“I've been champion for such a long time – Cara has been champion for such a long time. “Sometimes it's worth the risk, for the reward.”

Tom, as Cara, won the Progress Wrestling championship in January 2020.

It was one of the company's final major shows before the pandemic hit – which eventually saw new ownership take hold of the company earlier this year.

The pandemic for Tom, as with everyone, meant that life stopped.

But this hit harder for Tom as his wrestling career was at the highest of high points – it was, after all, his first title win, as well as winning the prestigious 16 Carat tournament in Germany a few weeks later.

He recalled: “It was definitely hard to deal with. When the world stopped, it was so frustrating because it's not only me that was massively affected, it was my partner and our young daughter.

“I had sacrificed a lot of time when I could have been at home, so when it stopped, I felt like I let them down.

The character of Cara had many differences before the pandemic to the one sitting at the top of the British wrestling mountain today.

“I could no longer earn, perform and justify the sacrifice.

“So for the first couple of months, maybe even three months, it was a real blow to me – I definitely struggled with depression during that period of time.”

But taking the positives from the situation, Tom focused on spending as much time as possible with his daughter, and he also re-positioned his real-world personal training and adult gymnastic business Reset Lab, which he pivoted to the online world we all became accustomed to.

And this year-long break from in-ring action also gave Tom time to fine tune the Cara Noir character.

Prior to the pandemic, there was one thing that the Cara character used to do to opponents in the name of psychological warfare – he would lick people.

“I am not licking anyone post-Covid,” he laughed. “It doesn't seem appropriate

“I'm focusing more now on the the in-ring psychology.

“If I'm genuinely wrestling someone, that's a high flier, I'm not going to let them run around – I'm just going to take their legs out.

“I definitely feel like the the storytelling has matured, as I can understand opponents weaknesses and then use it throughout the match in a kind of clever and creative way more so than I was doing for per-pandemic.”

Regardless of the outcome of Tom's – as Cara – match on Sunday, he'll then take on his most notorious rival in NXT UK champion Ilja Dragunov just five days later at the company's 10th anniversary show, also in London.

A case of “out of the frying pan and into the volcano” for Tom.

He said: “I'm honoured that the Progress management put the trust in me to do it.

“That's something that's gained, you know, I've not demanded it.

“With Dragunov, the matches have always spoken for themselves.

“If people haven't seen them, it's definitely something that I would recommend them to go back and relive because the style and the way that we perform together and the stories that we told within in those three matches, have been some of my favorites I've ever done, and I don't know whether there's anyone else that I could have worked with and produced a better narrative – he is just as mad as I am.”

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