Speedball Mike Bailey talks BOSJ 30
Speedball Mike Bailey’s debut entry in Best of the Super Jr. may be one of the most anticipated and most overdue in recent years. Before he steps into the cerulean blue for the first time in Japan, we spoke to the Speedball about how he’s feeling going into the grueling tournament.
(Thanks to IMPACT Wrestling)
There’s no better word for Tanahashi than ‘impressive’
–So for fans watching you for the first time in this tournament, where did you first get the name Speedball?
Bailey: I first got the name Speedball in one of my earlier matches in Montreal. There was a prominent Montreal writer, he wrote about wrestling a lot, called Michael Ryan, and he saw me, and he described my wrestling style as ‘bouncing around the ring like a speedball’. He’s unfortunately since passed away and so I have every intention of keeping that nickname for as long as I possibly can.
–You wrestled a dream match with Hiroshi Tanahashi in LA. Can you talk about the experience of wrestling at Multiverse United?
Bailey: Wrestling Hiroshi Tanahashi was absolutely a life changing experience, if I’m being perfectly honest. I’ve been watching him for years, I know just what he represents and the kind of level at which he wrestles, but it’s honestly shocking just how much he is The Ace. Not just in the ring, but out the ring, the way he carries himself. Everything he does is perfect, and the way it translates to his wrestling is just… Impressive. There’s no better word for it, or him, than ‘impressive’.
–The match came as a result of a card change due to an injury to Will Ospreay. How did you feel when you heard the news?
Bailey: I think that Will Ospreay is the best wrestler in the world right now. I know that’s a subjective notion, right, but to me, Will Ospreay has been putting on the best matches, for many many years now. And so wrestling him is always a huge challenge. But I’m familiar with Will, we’ve had four other very long grueling singles matches. So I knew what I was getting into.
Hiroshi Tanahashi however was brand new to me, completely unfamiliar. But again, I’d been watching him for years, and it was a match I had been looking forward to just as long.
–With Multiverse United 2 coming up, do you think that Will Ospreay is still on the table for you?
Bailey: Absolutely, I think he will be, I think even if we did have that match at the second edition of Multiverse United, I think I would still expect more afterward. I have a hunch that Will Ospreay and I have barely begun, and we’ll have many, many, many more matches together in the years to come.
What New Japan brings to its fans is inspiration
–How does it feel to be headed back to Japan for the first time in three years, and the first time for NJPW?
Bailey: I couldn’t be happier to be coming back to Japan finally. It was, the first time I went to Japan it was an absolutely life changing experience not just for professional wrestling and the culture of that there, but in terms of the culture itself in Japan, and it is one of my favourite places in the world. Also I haven’t had good Japanese ramen in for many years, so I’m very much looking forward to that (laughs).
–You’ve been in Japan for DDT, but not for NJPW, so there might be fans seeing you for the first time. What can they expect?
Bailey: Every Japanese promotion in my opinion portrays a different feeling, and what New Japan gives to the audience is inspiration. It’s grand, it’s big, and I think I will fit right into that. I think my style is impressive, there’s technique behind every single thing I do, and I am looking to leave everyone in awe.
–What does it mean to you to be a part of Best of the Super Jr. personally, and especially in the 30th anniversary tournament?
Bailey: Being part of the Best of the Super Jr. means I am officially, there is no discussion, objectively one of the best junior heavyweight wrestlers on Earth. In my relatively short time in IMPACT Wrestling, I have been a part of some historical moments. I became the X Division Champion at the 20th Slammiversary in an Ultimate X Match, one of the grandest moments possibly imaginable. Now this is the 30th Anniversary of Best of the Super Juniors, so this is a fitting time for me to win that tournament.
–It’s a highly demanding schedule with 12 matches over 16 nights. Is that a challenge, or having been used to very tight Wrestlemania week schedules, do you think you have a conditioning edge?
Bailey: I feel like the way my career is going right now is a reflection of the momentum I have, and all that is due to how hard I have been working. I am no stranger to a grueling schedule, like the Best of the Super Jr. tournament. I wrestled ten matches in three days during Wrestlemania weekend in Los Angeles. I wrestle, two, three four times every single week. I don’t take breaks, because I don’t want breaks. I want to take that momentum with me to Japan and use it to win Best of the Super Jr. 30.
–How important is it for you to be representing IMPACT in this tournament?
Bailey: I believe in IMPACT Wrestling. I believe in its mission, I believe in what everyone is doing here. There is- even though there is huge competition to be X Division Champion, World Champion, Tag Team Champions, there is a spirit of brotherhood. There is a team spirit among IMPACT Wrestling, and even though I know some people will be coming after me and looking to challenge me because of the result (when I win), I know that I have their support and I take great pride in knowing I will not disappoint them.
I’m making it my mission to prove I’ve gotten better than Hiromu
–Along with you in A Block are a lot of heavy hitters in the junior heavyweight division, including the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and record setting four time BOSJ winner Hiromu Takahashi. Your thoughts on what Hiromu’s done in the tournament and for the division?
Bailey: What a lot of people don’t know is Hiromu Takahashi and I have actually been in the ring before one time in England on a small show many, many years ago. And since then we’ve gone on to do great things. Of course, he’s made history many times over as a junior heavyweight in new Japan Pro-Wrestling. So I’m looking not only to win the tournament but to show everyone just how much I’ve evolved, and Hiromu specifically- I am looking to show him just how good I’ve gotten, and I’m making it my mission to prove that I have gotten better than him.
— The last to win BOSJ in their first attempt was Will Ospreay in 2016. Even without that match at Multiverse happening as planned, do you feel you’re competing with him?
Bailey: I do. I’ve always felt like I was competing with Will Ospreay, in many different ways, but at the same time I feel like I’m competing with every other junior heavyweight as well. We’re all fighting for the same spot, right at the very very top. When Will Ospreay won Best of the Super Jr. in 2016, his first match back to England was against me. He took the win in that one, and that hurt me a lot. But he had great momentum, and momentum is my middle name, so.. I mean, winning this on my first try would be huge, right? But isn’t what this is all about?
–Should you win BOSJ, you’ll likely have a shot at Hiromu for the title June 4 in Osaka. What are your plans for the ‘summer of Speedball?’
Bailey: It’s been a dramatic rise for Speedball Mike Bailey. It’s funny, that if you read what journalists are saying, it’s funny that ever since, I wanna say 2015? Every year has been my breakout year. Last year was my breakout year, this is my breakout year again! And I think they’re right, honestly. One of my biggest accomplishments in life and in professional wrestling is making every single year better than the last. I am continuously outdoing myself and the Summer of Speedball is where you’ll see me at my very best- for now- because I will continue getting better. And to everyone seeing this, that should be very scary.