That’s the length of time between Mike Bailey’s Impact debut earlier this year, a four-way dance also involving Ace Austin, Chris Bey and Laredo Kid and his previous appearance in the USA, a 5:43 defeat to Matt Riddle on a Beyond show in 2016.
You might be forgiven for having forgotten he was on the outside looking in for that long given the incredible year he’s had to date but it was in March 2016 that the Quebecer was arrested trying to enter America and subsequently banned from traveling to the country for five years.
Throughout that travel ban, he still enjoyed regular bookings in England (RevPro and FCP, among others), Germany (wXw) and Japan (DDT). He also popped up more or less everywhere in his native Canada, holding titles in both IWS and C4.
In wider wrestling discourse, his name was often mentioned in hushed tones, with the conversation inevitability trending towards his travel ban expiring. WWE seemed a logical landing spot for a time given their hoovering up of similarly impressive independent talents, while in the second half of the ban it was AEW that appeared most likely to offer him a home.
However, when his ban expired last March, there seemed little to no movement from any promotion to snap him up. Whether those conversations happened or not is unclear but he didn’t sign terms with anyone until October 31 and when he did it was with Impact.
He got some muted early reactions in Impact, almost certainly a by-product of his particularly low-energy entrance music, to get himself over. In addition to his MOTY contender match with Trey Miguel at Against All Odds, he’s had fun singles encounters with Laredo Kid, Alex Shelley and Jake Something, teamed with Ace Austin and the Motor City Machine Guns and taken on both Honor No More and The Bullet Club.
Tom Hannifan and Matthew Rehwoldt have made passing references to Bailey’s previous Visa issues but it’s not been a storyline thread or something delved into in detailed vignettes. Indeed, Bailey hasn’t even really had much promo time yet in Impact.
Impact’s presentation of him touches on something Joe Lanza said on a recent Flagship in relation to Forbidden Door, in that while video packages are a useful tool, you don’t need them for everything and everyone and they’re not a necessity for an audience to react how you want them to. Bailey has gotten over in Impact by having a unique look and having good matches.
His match against Alan Angels this week was a prime example of him getting over through good work. Taking on a newcomer to the promotion but a noteworthy act and hometown hero, Bailey worked with him to produce a fun opener. It was standard babyface v babyface fare, with Bailey selling the injured knee from Against All Odds and giving Angels a lot before putting him away with Ultimo Weapon.
My assessment is that his first six months in Impact have been a total success but it’s worth noting that he’s not really had any super involved or developed storylines yet. Okay, he had the link-up with Ace Austin that hasn’t really been blown off suitably but by and large, he’s just had matches and worked his way towards winning the X-Division championship. Making the X-Division the title the work rate title means that makes sense but also means there’s so much more on the bone for him to dig his teeth into.
Bailey’s new visa has also enabled him to work indie dates between Impact appearances and he’s maximized that newfound freedom to work almost everywhere. He’s popped up in GCW, PWG, West Coast Pro, Pro Wrestling Revolver and Warrior Wrestling. He’s been in tag matches, singles matches and multi-man matches. He’s been in the ring with all sorts of cool people, from the likes of Jay White, Bandido and Buddy Matthews to Konosuke Takeshita, Lee Moriarty and Nick Wayne.
While almost always great, his indie appearances have also not been driven by any particular stories but rather a desire by promoters to make fun, first-time matches. Again, that makes sense because the scene now looks a lot different than it did when he was there.
However, all that means is that after six months of his return to regularly working in the USA, we’re barely scratching the surface of what Mike Bailey can and will produce. While detailed storylines don’t always produce better matches, they certainly help and almost always make them more memorable. Now Bailey has got his feet under the table, I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2022 and beyond holds.
For his output and consistency alone, Mike Bailey is arguably in the Wrestler of the Year conversation. While he falls short in the other areas for consideration, it’s impossible to ignore that he’s been good against everyone everywhere and there’s no sign of that stopping.
After six years of Mike Bailey being stuck on the outside of the wrestling world looking in, it’s impossible to understate how good it is to have him back doing what he does best, week in, week out.