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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Justin Barrasso

Meet the Latest Winner of Indie Wrestling’s Most Prestigious Tournament

“Speedball” Mike Bailey added a new accolade to his wrestling portfolio last weekend, winning Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s famed “Battle of Los Angeles” on Sunday night.

PWG is a super indie that eclipses the profile of other independent promotions. It is a launching pad toward prominence, and its annual “BOLA” tournament is the crown jewel of its calendar year. Many rising stars have won the tourney, including Kenny Omega, Sami Zayn, Ricochet and Adam Cole.

“PWG is the place where you go to become a star,” says Bailey. “If you look at their history, the best wrestlers in the world have all been there. It’s completely out-of-this-world talent. My favorite part of this year’s ‘BOLA’ was the diversity among all the people competing. Backstage, there were so many languages being spoken that it became extremely confusing. I started speaking Japanese to Bandido because we were all so mixed up.”

Bailey etched his name into the history book by wrestling four different matches Sunday, defeating Jordynne Grace, Shun Skywalker, Bryan Keith and Konosuke Takeshita. Each match was built and structured differently, and they were all performed in spectacular fashion.

“I went over 15 minutes with Jordynne Grace—after that, I was thinking, ‘I have three more of these?’” says Bailey. “At that moment, it felt insurmountable. But it was a lot like when I competed in taekwondo tournaments. You’d start at nine in the morning, you’d be there all day, and you didn’t know how much time there would be between fights.

“The hardest part for me is always cooling down. Luckily, there wasn’t much time between my semifinal match and the finals. Before the semis, I got to cool down, rest and relax, but then I warmed up and I could feel all the damage from the first two fights. So I knew I couldn’t cool down or lose focus for a second because I needed to keep my adrenaline.”

Behind the scenes, Bailey stayed hydrated on watered-down lime Gatorade and managed his calorie count by chewing on trail mix (he could not risk eating too much and filling up). Then he stepped through the curtain and performed an incredibly significant task, which was representing Impact Wrestling to the highest degree possible.

Impact’s Bailey, Grace and Masha Slamovich all advanced in the tournament, with each displaying a distinct style in the ring. And Bailey had the honor of winning the prestigious tournament, a feat he completed just over 27 minutes into the finale when he hit a shooting star press on Takeshita, then finished him off with a breathtaking Flamingo Driver.

“Right before the end of the finals, when we went to the outside and I did that one last springboard moonsault onto Takeshita, I remember feeling a great sense of relief,” says Bailey. “We still had the most difficult part left, but I just felt unreal. It was a truly amazing feeling.”

Bailey is wrestling on the preshow at Impact’s Hard to Kill on Friday in a must-see six-man match. It also includes New Japan staple Kushida, former Dark Order member Alan Angels, Impact’s rising star Bhupinder Gujjar, 72-year-old Mike Jackson and Yuya Uemura, who industry icon Hiroshi Tanahashi told Sports Illustrated that “there’s every chance of him being a classic champion figure.” It is a remarkable collection of talent and it will be a match worthy of people’s time.

“This match will be a celebration of wrestling,” says Bailey. “Between Bhupinder and Mike Jackson, you literally cover the entirety of a wrestling career in one match.

“It is going to be great wrestling and a celebration of diversity. There are so many different styles. We’re going to have to come together and make something happen, and that’s what excites me most.”

After Friday’s pay-per-view at Center Stage in Atlanta comes a Saturday television taping. That is where Bailey will meet Kenny King in a no-ropes Fight Pit, a match that will be broadcast next Thursday when Impact airs on AXS TV.

Bailey is one of the rare few performers in the industry whose next move is entirely unexpected. His matches tell fascinating stories, and he is constantly challenging himself to wrestle in a unique manner. Bailey is a key to making Impact’s engine run, and he is an absolute joy to watch in the ring.

“My goal last year was to become known as a must-see performer in the U.S.,” says Bailey. “This year, my goal is to surpass the previous years.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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