WALTER vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey
July 6, 2018
Riptide Wrestling – Riptide International Waters 2018

Reviewed by Reuel Castillo (VOW Author Page / @CapoCastillo, @capocastillo.bsky.social)

Gifted by Liam Byrne (VOW Author Page)

The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on the one side, and the voice of your conscience on the other.” – General Douglas MacArthur

While I, for one, have never truly been on the ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey train, I have always been on the WALTER (aka GUNTHER) train. And in light of those two realities, I do admit that my Secret Santa match for this year was a true gift, and not a lump of coal. And admittedly, this match earned my enjoyment, as it was not a perfect exhibition, and indeed, the match featured some pet peeves for me as a reviewer and a fan.  And yet…  at the end of the contest, I was left feeling satisfied and content, having watched a compelling match, executed at a high level. And indeed, at the end, the flaws witnessed feel like personal preferences not being met, and the mosaic of what the match was still greater than the sum of its parts, be it good or bad.

Riptide Wrestling manages to capture a certain ambience with this show, which is a significant value-add when it comes to the match. The small venue, combined with a raucous crowd gives all of the feeling of a lively pub, and the tight confines make the audience energy feel condensed and concentrated – a foundation from which WALTER and Bailey are both able to feed from and work off of. However, it does feel very much like an independent presentation – the lighting and camera work giving everything an air of underground aesthetic. But this also comes with its downsides – an obviously small ring, action on the outside being nearly invisible amidst a sea of poorly lit darkness…  the show very much comes off as one for the live audience in attendance, and those watching the video version getting something less than the full experience.

The match itself is mostly highs, but also a precious few but notable lows. But for what issues I find with the match, I also realize that many of these boil down to my particular preferences, and perhaps isn’t fully analogous to the present-day wrestling scene.  In part, it’s a matter of size.  ‘Speedball’ Bailey is simply so much smaller than WALTER, and it makes it difficult for me to believe the smaller of the two stands a chance.  Bailey delivers punishingly stiff kicks throughout the match, but it’s a tough sell to me that he can win when ‘Speedball’ ‘s legs are thinner than WALTER’s arms. However, Bailey has strong support from the crowd, and the energy that they have for him is able to erase some of the believability issues that I had.  Truly an MVP for this match, the audience and their majority support of Mike Bailey over WALTER comes off like friends cheering on a buddy in a bar brawl, and in a situation like that, it’s not about size, it’s about pride. That dynamic proves to be oh-so important in the evolution of this match, giving it an energy that’s undeniable.

However, towards the midway point in the match, ‘Speedball’ begins to lose me, from a psychology standpoint. Working the babyface side of the equation, Bailey spends most of the match selling, and giving everything he has to even phase WALTER. In one of the rare moments that Bailey has advantage – he manages to stun WALTER on the outside with a backflip knee drop and proceeds to return to the ring for the count out victory.  ‘Speedball’ implores the ref to begin the count, and begins showing outward jubilation of his chance to win.  Likewise, after WALTER makes it back to the ring, Bailey manages to catch the bigger man off guard, and earns a near fall, to which Bailey complains to the referee counting only to two. It seems to me that ‘Speedball’ may have forgotten that he was baby in this match, and went to the heel characterization well.  And while it didn’t impact the enjoyment of the live audience at all, to me it was a reminder that ‘Speedball’ may still have a ways to go before he perfects his craft.

WALTER though, was everything I’ve come to grow and love about him as a talent.  Hard hitting, imposing, consistent…  and every move he made in the ring made a logical and instinctive sense.  WALTER is simply believable, and in professional wrestling, that is a quality that you can’t put a price on.  Even in moments where Mike Bailey was getting the better of him, WALTER still comes off with an air of danger and menace that is undeniable.  That if the advantage against him isn’t pressed at all moments and opportunities, WALTER will regain control and destroy you down to the core of your being.  And when WALTER has control, it seems like the end for Bailey is inevitably coming – which makes ‘Speedball’ ‘s regaining of momentum at various points feel so much more meaningful.  Likewise, WALTER’s style, size, and approach to a match contrasts well with Bailey’s swift and impactful offense.  It’s the sort of showcase that allows WALTER to do what WALTER does best.

When the match reached its conclusion, a WALTER victory which I felt was a foregone conclusion at the beginning, instead felt earned in a satisfying way.  The crowd as well elevated the match far beyond its technical bits and pieces and parts into an exhibition with energy and emotional content. However, I do feel that Mike Bailey perhaps lost himself at moments to the energy of that crowd and didn’t listen to the little voice inside reminding him to keep everything sensible and tight.  But with a dance partner like WALTER, who is brave enough to keep every aspect of the match consistent and immersive, the result is something so much greater than its individual pieces. ***¾