SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
“Speedball” Mike Bailey: “The response from people has been overwhelming”
“Speedball” Mike Bailey is coming back to America. He officially signed with Impact Wrestling on Sunday, instantly creating visions of trailblazing X Division matches for 2022 and beyond.
There is no performer in the entire industry quite like Bailey, either with his dynamic style inside the ring or his story of hardship out of it.
While blossoming into a wrestling star, Bailey—whose name is Émile Baillargeon-Laberge—was dealt a devastating blow in 2016. Due to an immigration issue, the Canadian was not allowed to enter the United States for five years. Yet, despite missing out on key years of his career in the U.S., he never seriously contemplated quitting the profession. He accepted the ruling, then set out to blaze a path unlike any of his wrestling peers.
“When I was seven years old, I decided to be a pro wrestler,” says Bailey, who is now 31. “I never thought about quitting, but it took me a few days to get over what happened. Then it was all about changing directions.”
Fortunately for Bailey, there were other options for him to progress and achieve a certain level of success without working for companies in the United States. Bailey worked throughout Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, evolving into a must-see talent.
“The thing is, I love wrestling,” Bailey says. “I’ve always loved it. I’m passionate about wrestling as an art form and what it can do for people who embrace the art and take it seriously and decide to have fun with it. I know how wonderful that is and I have always enjoyed it. Even five years ago when my options were limited, it took me one match to remember I love this and I don’t care where I do it. Then I started traveling to England and Japan and having the time of my life, performing in great venues in front of fantastic audiences with other great wrestlers. I was always very grateful to wrestle on some of the best shows in the world.”
As his five-year ban from entering the U.S. neared its conclusion, Bailey appeared poised to sign with WWE earlier this year.
“We went through a process and we had some pretty in-depth discussions,” Bailey says. “I didn’t sign a contract. It pretty much went up to that point of me accepting an offer and going through the proceedings that would lead up to me signing for several months, and them deciding they were going in a different direction.”
Once a deal with WWE failed to materialize, Bailey did not remain a free agent for long. Impact Wrestling executive vice president Scott D’Amore made Bailey a top priority for his company, offering him a chance to stand out while working with an incredibly talented roster.
“I love his style,” says D’Amore, who shares that Bailey will likely debut for Impact in the first part of 2022. “He knows exactly who he is. He took a moveset that had hundreds of impressive moves and focused it into a certain genre with his kicks and flips. It’s very calculated, and it is such a very different offense. It’s different from what anyone else in wrestling is doing today, and he’s going to connect with the audience in a very authentic way.”
Bailey’s Impact contract was officially signed on Sunday at Destiny Wrestling’s Raising Hell show in Mississauga, Ontario, the exact same spot where Josh Alexander signed his Impact contract in February 2019. Impact does not have live television every week, so while this could have been done via social media, the decision to have the moment take place at an indie show speaks to the company’s engaging grassroots approach. Bailey put pen to paper with the contract on Alexander’s back—fitting since Alexander is steadily becoming the standard bearer for Impact.
“Josh is a good starting point for all this—he is a great example of what you can achieve within Impact and as a Canadian pro wrestler,” Bailey says of his fellow Canadian. “Every independent wrestler should be watching people like Josh Alexander. The more I spoke with Josh and people I know at Impact, the more I wanted to be there. The amount of people at Impact I’m dying to work with was another reason to sign.
“I’ll wrestle Josh Alexander a thousand times and I’ll be happier for it. Trey Miguel is the current X Division champion, and he is brought up to me the most as the one that people want to see me wrestle—and I agree with that. I want to wrestle Chris Sabin, Ace Austin, wrestling and learning from Impact veterans like Sami Callihan and Eddie Edwards and Moose, who is the champion, and more. The list is too many to name.”
Impact will provide tremendous visibility for Bailey, and he has the potential to become a headliner for the brand. Considering he has been removed from the U.S. wrestling scene for half of the past decade, Bailey has turned into one of wrestling’s best kept secrets in the ring.
“We have a unique environment where people can thrive,” D’Amore says. “And Mike is exactly what we need in Impact.”
Before starting with Impact, Bailey will continue working in indies around the globe. He will be in London on Saturday at the famed York Hall in the British J-Cup, then the following week in Ottawa defending his C4 championship for Capital City Championship Combat before doing the same in Montreal for International Wrestling Syndicate, putting his IWS title on the line. Bailey continues to prove he is one of the best in the world, and now gets the opportunity to showcase that on television.
“I look forward to starting with Impact Wrestling,” Bailey says. “The response from people has been overwhelming. Not that I didn’t expect the response from the crowd and the internet to be positive, but it was so positive. Some of the comments I’ve read have been so positive that they’ve almost brought me to tears.
“I love wrestling. And when wrestling works, it works for everyone. It brings people together in a way that is really hard to describe. There are so many ways to fail and it is very unforgiving, which is why it is so satisfying when you succeed.”
The Young Bucks on Hangman Page and Kenny Omega
Hangman Page ruined The Elite’s Halloween celebration last week on Dynamite, revealing himself as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and laying out Matt Jackson before hitting a Dead Eye on Kenny Omega.
Page is on a world-title trajectory. Five years ago he was launched into stardom when he defeated Jay Briscoe in an Anything Goes match at Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view (which also saw Adam Cole win the ROH title in the main event). Now Page is ready to take the biggest step in his career in his AEW world title bout against Omega at Full Gear.
“I knew he was special when we specifically told [New Japan Pro-Wrestling referee and executive] Tiger Hattori that he needed to join the Bullet Club,” says Nick Jackson, who is one-half of The Young Bucks and an executive vice president in AEW. “He just needed the push to get to where he is now.”
Initially, Page did not seem to fit in Bullet Club when he joined in May 2016. Overflowing with larger-than-life stars and charismatic personalities, he struggled to find his place, which eventually was turned into a story line in AEW as Page never quite fit in with The Elite.
“It’s been fun to live Hangman’s journey in real time,” says Matt Jackson, Nick’s brother, tag team partner and fellow AEW EVP. “He was just a shy, introverted kid who wore a baseball cap when I met him. Now he’s a megastar. Maybe the most over guy in a company full of world-class wrestlers.”
Page’s ability to draw emotion from the crowd is undeniable. While he appeared to be the choice for the inaugural AEW champ in 2019, that honor and distinction went to Chris Jericho, a move that turned out perfectly for the new company. Now Page is ready for his first world-title run, though he first needs to deliver an industry-shaking main event against Omega to further solidify his place atop AEW.
“There’s no doubt that Hangman is the future of AEW,” Nick says. “He is arguably the most over guy in our company and I feel like his backstory is very relatable to the fans, which makes his character so compelling. Him and Kenny Omega is box office.”
Matt and Nick Jackson have been either ringside for or involved in practically all of Omega’s highlight reel of phenomenal matches. Their tag match against Omega and Page at Revolution in February was, at the time, the best tag match of their careers (though it was later surpassed when the Bucks worked with FTR at Full Gear later that year, and more recently in a cage match against the Lucha Bros), and they helped redefine the genre in their tag bout against Omega and Kota Ibushi in 2018.
“It really has been the best time of our career being with Kenny on a weekly basis,” Nick says. “It’s so good to see him year-round. We’re the best of friends and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without him, and I feel it’s the same way for him. We’re all very competitive and if he sees us have a killer match or segment it drives him to try and top it, and I feel like that’s what makes The Elite so special.”
Omega and Page met at Full Gear last year, the payoff to their chaotic run as tag champs. Omega won that match, earning a world title opportunity in the process. Using outside help from Don Callis, Omega won the belt from Jon Moxley in December, and over time, reunited with the Bucks to wreak havoc across the company. And 336 days into this title reign, it is becoming apparent that the story can only come full-circle by again pitting Page against Omega.
“Kenny is the greatest singles wrestler in wrestling and we’ve said it for years,” Matt says. “Any show that doesn’t have an Elite match in it is going to suffer or just simply not be as good. He’s just like us, always thinking outside the box. No idea is too crazy. That’s how we keep challenging ourselves to get to that next level.
“Hangman will be the center of the company long after we’ve all had our moment in the sun. But right now, Kenny is king and he’s on the run of his life.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Sending out strength and well wishes to Moxley.
- Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair were outstanding on Monday on Raw. After she runs through the rest of the roster, I hope the plan is for Belair to eventually be the one to dethrone Lynch.
- Bryan Danielson wrestled a sensational match last week on Rampage against Eddie Kingston—and it is a pleasure to see Danielson follow through on his plan to wrestle his style of matches against new opponents in AEW.
- Kingston and CM Punk are now on a collision course toward a match that would add some grit to the Full Gear pay-per-view.
Even though he was eliminated, congrats to The Miz for standing out on Dancing with the Stars.
- Best wishes to wrestling icon “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who announced his diagnosis of prostate cancer and underwent surgery this past week.
Cassidy Haynes bringing passion—and breaking news—to Bodyslam.net
Cassidy Haynes became a prominent name in wrestling this summer when he reported that Bryan Danielson had signed with AEW.
Haynes was proved correct when Danielson debuted in September at All Out, dismissing any doubt about his report.
“This was a make-it or break-it report,” Haynes says. “If I was wrong, I’d always be reminded that I was the guy that was wrong about Bryan Danielson. So this was the biggest story I had, and I didn’t sleep for about 10 days after I wrote it. I posted it in July and he debuted in September, so that felt like an eternity.”
Bodyslam.net is powered by Haynes and was launched in 2018. The 38-year-old Haynes has a long history with pro wrestling, dating back to some of his fondest childhood memories.
“My great-grandmother got me into wrestling,” says Haynes, who grew up in Asheville, N.C. “I watched the first Clash of Champions on TV [in 1988] with her, watching Sting and Ric Flair, and I loved it. I grew up being a big WCW fan. My dad grew up across the street from the Armstrong family, which really interested me. He wasn’t a fan of wrestling, but my mom always took me. I still love it.”
Covering the business is nothing new to Haynes, who used pseudonyms throughout his teen years to write about the industry for a variety of pro wrestling websites.
“I started writing on dirt sheets when I was in high school and I’ve probably written for every site under a pen name,” he says. “Once I got out of college and then film school, I started using my own name with Bodyslam. After I got out of film school, I decided to go all-in on wrestling. A lot of my buddies were on the indies, so I started riding with Chase Owens.
“I decided to be my own boss. I knew owning a website would take a few years to really build, but I’m really enjoying myself.”
Haynes’s passion for pro wrestling is captured brilliantly in the new “Cassidy Takes Chops from Pro Wrestlers” series on YouTube. Part interview and part beatdown, Haynes uses the segment to highlight different rising stars in pro wrestling, as well as get chopped on the chest.
“This is something that has been rattling around in my head for 10 years,” Haynes says. “Like I mentioned, I used to ride around with Chase Owens. We were at a show in North Carolina with Matt Hardy, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, and The Barbarian. Someone there said I was Chase’s greenhorn, so they’d have to chop me in. So The Barbarian chopped me, and it really hurt, and then all the veterans started chopping me. It was entertaining, so I thought we could make it content for my new YouTube channel. It hurts, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
There have been five episodes so far, featuring JD Drake, Anthony Henry, Marko Stunt, Colby Corino and Jordan Oliver. Embedded in each video is Haynes’s dedication and devotion to pro wrestling, and the people that make the industry come alive in the ring.
“It’s really a showcase for wrestlers,” Haynes says. “I follow a lot of indie wrestling, so this is a chance for people to see some really great talent they’re not familiar with yet.”
Tweet of the Week
Another great reason to have social media: Here is William Regal’s advice on the best way to pin someone.
- AEW’s Jon Moxley Entering Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Program
- Jim Ross Intends to Keep Working During Cancer Treatment
- Chronic Mismanagement Spelled the End for Ring of Honor
- WWE Announces Full 2022 Pay-Per-View Schedule
- Shawn Michaels ‘Energized and Inspired’ to Lead NXT (Temporarily)
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.