“Speedball” Mike Bailey made his long-awaited debut at Hard To Kill, bringing his jaw-dropping offence to the Impact Zone for the first time ever. After being unable to compete in the United States for 5 long years, Bailey honed his skills in Canada and all over the world. Now, the Taekwondo master is ready for the big stage and there’s no telling how high he may fly.
Wrestling with joy, hunger, and determination, Bailey has yet to even scratch the surface of the mark he can make with the support of the company’s platform. He failed to become the X-Division Champion at Rebellion, but he will have another chance to grab one of the most important titles in the company in an Ultimate-X Match at Slammiversary 20. And also the most important to him.
SteelChair Mag had the absolute pleasure to talk to Mike Bailey yesterday. He told us about the upcoming Ultimate-X Match set to happen at Slammiversary 20 in a few weeks, wrestling as much as he can, how the X-Division inspired him to become the wrestler he is now, his opponent of choice, and what the future may hold for him.
This year’s “Slammiversary” is not like any other “Slammiversary,” because it’s the 20th edition, but it’s also for you as you’re competing for the X-Division title in an Ultimate-X Match. What is your state of mind knowing that you’re going to take part in an iconic pay-per-view and in an iconic match?
“Everything I’ve been doing since I debuted with Impact Wrestling in January has been completely overwhelming, and I have still not processed that, within 6 months of my debut, I’ll be in Ultimate X for the X-Division Championship at Slammiversary on the 20-year anniversary. It all feels like a lot. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also, of course, a complete honour. Of course, it’s going to be a historic event, and I wouldn’t be in Impact Wrestling if I didn’t have so much love for the X-Division. The X-Division Championship has definitely been my goal for a long time, to get a shot for that at Slammiversary for the 20th anniversary is absolutely crazy.”
For the moment, we just know that you and Kenny King are going to face Ace Austin, so there are 3 spots left. Trey Miguel and Alex Shelley will face off this Thursday to earn one. Who would you add to the match if you could?
“The one person I would absolutely add to this match is Laredo Kid, whom I beat last week in order to qualify. I think he would absolutely deserve to be a part of this. He has been an extremely underrated part of the X-Division for a long time now. I also think it’s very sad that Trey Miguel and Alex Shelley are going one against another for their chance to qualify because I think they would both be great in this match. Alex Shelley has been in a lot of Ultimate-X matches (he took part in 7 and won 4), and I would love to see him in this one.”
You have had a lot of ups and downs with Ace Austin and you were in the Triple Threat match at “Rebellion” when he became a 3-time X-Division Champion. Since the beginning of the year, it’s been a kind of cat-and-mouse between you both. And you have never had the chance to face him one-on-one yet. What do you think about Ace Austin, as a wrestler and a Champion?
“I’m surprised you call it a cat-and-mouse game. I think it’s been pretty straightforward. I’m glad he’s having tremendous success in Japan right now in the Best of The Super Juniors Tournament, and I absolutely wish him the best. I’ve been seeing him on Twitter, having great matches, and having the time of his life, and that makes me so happy. I would love to have a singles match with Ace, ideally for the X-Division Championship, whether it’s mine or his. I like Ace, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about him. I think he wants to be Champion, as we all do, and he’s doing what he thinks he needs to do to remain the Champion, and that’s fine with me. However he goes about that, is up to him, and I will still consider him a friend.”
I was thinking cat-and-mouse because, at a moment, you were kind of being friendly with him, then he tried to be friendly with you, and then in a team match, you’re attacking him. The X-Division right now is so talented and reuniting different generations of talents, from Ace Austin or Chris Bey to Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin. What do you think about the current X-Division landscape?
“I think it’s the best division in professional wrestling right now. The amount of talent that is competing for the X-Division Championship is above and beyond anything else in the world right now with the different styles, the amount of experience, the varying degrees, and the various backgrounds you’ve got. A lot of New Japan wrestlers right now are coming in and competing with X-Division guys. You have people with a Lucha Libre background and people with a real international background, as well as Alex Shelley. You’ve got people that have been in Impact Wrestling for years, like Chris Sabin and Rich Swann, who really bring that Impact X-Division style. The mix of it is perfect, and I think right now everyone in the division is doing a fantastic job representing what the X-Division has always been about, which is action-packed high-level matches unlike anything else you see on TV right now.”
You had 5 bad years as you were banned from working in the USA. When you were signed by Impact Wrestling, many people, including me, thought that the company was waiting for you and maybe in a way, you were waiting for them because you are very made for Impact Wrestling. Do you have that feeling that it was the national-televised company you needed in order to evolve as a wrestler and find the opponents you wanted to have?
“I definitely felt that impact was the next level and exactly what I needed. For five years, I couldn’t go wrestle in America and, obviously, the United States is probably the biggest country in the world when it comes to professional wrestling. So, my goal during those years was to get as much experience as I can improve, however, I can get as much notoriety as I can. So that when January finally came, I had the chance to come in and enter the IMPACT roster as a ready, polished wrestler. I had been talking to Scott D’Amore for a long time before I officially signed with Impact Wrestling, and I had been paying close attention to everyone that was there. Everything worked out, and I’m super happy to be with IMPACT right now.”
During the ban, you were able to compete in Mexico, Japan, Germany, and United Kingdom. In fact, you had never stopped wrestling. Do you feel like these 5 years allowed you to become the wrestler you are right now and bring something that you couldn’t have before?
“To be perfectly honest, I think it’s hard to say. It’s hard to imagine what my career would have been like. Had I been able to go to the United States for these five years, had I, for example, been spying somewhere else in or even signed with Impact Wrestling in 2016? It forced me to reorient my career, change my path and do something else. Ultimately, it worked out. I know I’m super happy with the way my career progressed, and that I had to go and get experience from everywhere around the world that I could, and then bring it back to the US. But I don’t know, I have no idea, maybe I would have wrestled in the US a couple of years longer, and then won the lottery in the United States and become a millionaire. You never know, a million things could have happened. I don’t spend time on what-ifs, but all I can say is I’m super happy with the way things happened and where I am now.”
Do you feel like you’re a part of the IMPACT family now? Every member of the roster I’ve talked to is saying the same, whether it’s Josh Alexander or Eric Young, “we are a family.”
“I’m happy that you’re bringing up Josh Alexander because, of course, he’s the IMPACT World Champion right now, but he’s someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time and him having his family around was amazing. His son Jett is probably the star of Impact Wrestling now. Moments like that really make IMPACT feel special and feel like family.”
One of the good things about Impact Wrestling too, of course, is that you can keep working on the indies. You and Masha Slamovich faced off this weekend in a GCW show, and you two are probably the most prolific wrestlers when it comes to the number of promotions and matches you have wrestled since the beginning of the year. Is the fact of exploring every possibility, every promotion, and every match important to you while, at the same time, being signed with Impact Wrestling?
“I love professional wrestling. I think it’s an amazing art form, and I want to share it and let it be enjoyed by and with as many people around the world as possible. So I want to do the most and I want to wrestle in front of the biggest variety of audiences, many different kinds of people, and show them what it’s like. One of my favourite things about wrestling for Impact Wrestling is that it also allows me to do that because there is tremendous accessibility, they put out for free a lot of my matches on their YouTube channel, and I get to watch those on Twitch and share them with as many people as possible, as well as through the Impact Plus app and Ultimate Insiders on YouTube. It’s so easy to get to the impact content and show that to people. But, yes, I will do as much pro wrestling as I can. During the pandemic, even when I couldn’t do pro wrestling and go in front of live audiences, I turned to twitch and watched pro wrestling with as many as they can. I mean, the more the merrier, the more pro wrestling I get to do and show the happier I am, whether that’s through the indies, through IMPACT, or just through content online, I would be happy.”
As we said earlier, it’s the 20th anniversary of the company on June 19. What did the company mean in your life when you were growing up, and then training? Who were your inspirations? What do these 20 years of TNA/Impact Wrestling represent to you?
“I always liked the athletic side of professional wrestling way more than the character and the storylines. I enjoyed the in-ring action. I remember when I was probably 12 or 13, and I was starting to seriously consider becoming a pro wrestler in like more of a just, “I’ll play wrestling,” like in a couple of years I’ll be able to actually start training and going to wrestling school. It was guys like AJ Styles, Amazing Red, Low-Ki that I saw on the X-Division who inspired me. I saw the way those matches played out, with just constant action and a mix of martial arts and pro wrestling and high-flying, and that is absolutely what inspired me to become the wrestler that I am today, with the influence of martial arts. My style focuses on the action in the ring and really putting on the best match for anyone who’s watching, it is directly inspired by the early days and continuation of the X-Division.”
One quick last question, if you had to pick one opponent from the IMPACT roster, something you definitely want to compete against, who would it be?
“For obvious reasons, it would be Ace Austin. I have again great respect for Ace. I’m sure he’s going to be even better after he’s coming back from Japan, but he’s the X-Division champion, and I want the X-Division Championship.”
Follow Mike Bailey on Twitter at @SpeedballBailey.
“Slammiversary 20” will air live on Sunday, June 19 at 8 PM EST (1 AM GMT) on PPV and on Fite TV. Impact Wrestling Special Events and PPVs also air on IMPACT Wrestling’s new YouTube membership Impact Insiders and on Impact Plus.
IMPACT Wrestling is airing on Thursday at 8/7c on AXS TV in the USA and around the world on IMPACT Wrestling’s new YouTube membership Impact Insiders, YouTube TV and Impact Plus.
All pics, videos and screencaps courtesy of Impact Wrestling, Fight Network, Fite TV and AXS TV