One of the hardest things to avoid in wrestling is predictability. No, I’m not talking about booking or storylines. I’m talking about match structure. When you follow a wrestler for long enough, whether on TV or through the indies, you start to notice that most of their matches follow a pattern. Keep in mind, this pattern can be very nuanced. They’re not exactly the same every time, and not everyone’s going to pick up on them, but they’re there. This patterned match structure isn’t exclusive to “bad” wrestlers either. Chris Hero, a wrestler I have a lot of love for, follows basic patterns during his matches. For Hero, these patterns are most noticeable when he’s wrestling a smaller opponent. Brutal, sudden strike to start, leading to a lengthy control period that allows for the crowd to get behind the underdog, followed by the underdog mounting a comeback which usually consists of surviving huge finisher-like moves such as multiple piledrivers. Now, patterned match structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a smart move because it means the wrestler has figured out a formula for getting a good, satisfying match out of just about anyone. While this is an admirable achievement, a little unpredictability is always welcome. I look for wrestlers that are capable of changing their structure, not just occasionally, but frequently. It’s a difficult skill to develop, especially when you’re used to calling matches on the fly, but every now and then a wrestler will appear who has mastered that art. Enter “Speedball” Mike Bailey.
Mike Bailey, currently in his 10th year as a pro, has a unique gift in the ring: his match structure is completely malleable. In addition to having some of the most explosive and dynamic offense in the business, the young Canadian knows how to make every one of his matches feel distinct. I have the mention that this isn’t the same as being adaptable. A wrestler who’s adaptable knows how to work against a variety of different opponents, and is capable of doing so as a face, heel, young upstart, or a veteran later in their career. Speedball is a different story. While certainly adaptable, Bailey is capable of having entirely different matches against similar opponents. For example, compare Bailey’s match against Damo for Revolution Pro in January with his match against Jurn Simmons for wXw in the beginning of October. Both of Bailey’s opponents are giants here. Now most wrestlers would have a certain type of match in mind when working as the David to their opponents Goliath, but not Bailey. The matches against Damo and Jurn were both David-Goliath stories, but ‘they were both completely different from each other. In the match with Damo, Bailey didn’t take kindly to Damo underestimating him, and unleashed a flurry of kicks early in the match. While Bailey was a resilient opponent, it never felt like Bailey was Damo’s equal. He was a scrappy underdog through in through. The match against Simmons, on the other hand, was nowhere near the same. The beginning of the match was far more competitive than the Damo match, with both men training bombs around the venue. Throughout the first half of the match, it still felt like Bailey was at a disadvantage. Jurn took his time to gloat and mock Bailey during this portion. Unlike the Damo match, though, that feeling of disadvantage started to disappear in the second half. Bailey started to enter Desperation Mode, a mode he did not enter against Damo. There were several moments where it looked like Jurn was guaranteed to hit his signature Piledriver, but Bailey just kept countering. After each counter, Bailey caught Jurn with quick kicks to the head and swift roll ups. Everytime Jurn thought he had killed Bailey’s momentum, Speedball just kept regaining it. Bailey was unleashed. He had “become a Super Saiyan” so to speak. At that moment, Bailey was Jurn’s equal. Jurn saw that, and realized he could no longer afford to waste time. After a sudden, desperate kick to face practically mirroring Bailey’s state of mind, Jurn immediately layed out Bailey with his Massive Piledriver for the three-count. Nothing fancy. Speedball accomplished something that Jurn never expected him to. Bailey made him feel vulnerable, almost humbled, which explains the post-match handshake. Bailey caught Damo by surprise a few times, but there was never a point in the match where Damo seemed overwhelmed. In this match, however, Bailey made the monster mortal. He overwhelmed Jurn to the point where he showed the same desperation that Bailey showed earlier. Two David-Goliath stories, two very different executions.
This is just one example of Mike Bailey’s incredible ability to have a different match every single time. If you ever watch a Mike Bailey match, chances are you’ve witnessed a match unlike most of his others. No two hard-hitting brawls are the same. No two spotfests are the same. No two underdog stories are the same. Bailey’s matches never adhere to a set structure. It is for this reason that I refer to Mike Bailey by another nickname: “Wrestling’s Pulp Fiction.”