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Bully Ray passes on free Impact world title shot, surprise challenger puts on 59-minute match

Whoa! Impact pulled a masterful surprise to deliver a 59-minute instant classic.

The story started with Josh Alexander teasing a big plan on Thursday night’s episode of Impact Wrestling. After what Bully Ray put Alexander’s family through at Over Drive, the champ wasn’t content to wait for their world title bout at Hard To Kill on January 13.

Alexander entered the ring to issue an open challenge for the Impact World Championship, except he only wanted one man to accept. Alexander called out Bully Ray. He viewed it is a no-lose situation for Bully. If the scumbag won here, then he would be world champion. If the piece of trash lost, then he’d still get his future shot at Hard To Kill.

Bully answered on the big screen. Access denied. Bully refused to allow Alexander to dictate when they fight. Besides, Bully was too busy enjoying photos of Alexander’s wife in tears when he threatened to piledrive her on the concrete floor.

Well, it seemed like the scene was over, then “Speedball” Mike Bailey stepped out on stage. Bailey entered the ring to politely request the open challenge. Alexander was game. Holy shit! This was an impromptu dream match for the Impact roster. Little did we know Alexander and Bailey were about to rumble for 59 minutes in an epic fight.

Alexander and Bailey engaged in a war of attrition. Eddie Edwards versus Delirious was the scheduled main event, however, this title bout just kept going. It passed through four commercial breaks, and then there were ten minutes remaining in the program. AXS granted Impact extra time for an overrun to witness the finish.

The match was a slugfest that evolved into tactical chess when Bailey severely damaged Alexander’s shoulder and Alexander targeted Bailey’s ankle. Alexander’s shoulder was in so much pain that he dropped Bailey mid-air when attempting to lift for the C4 spike piledriver.

Alexander slowed down the speed of Bailey with numerous ankle lock submissions throughout the bout. Bailey managed to escape one way or another several times. In one instance, Bailey used a handstand to relieve pressure, so Alexander hit a piledriver. Kick out by Bailey on the cover, then back to the ankle lock for Alexander.

Both men were exhausted with under five minutes to go. All of a sudden, Bailey exploded with kicks. The action spilled into the corner. Alexander sat on the top turnbuckle and kept stomping Bailey down. Bailey wouldn’t stay down and fired up with amazing passion in his eyes. Bailey managed to get the upper hand for a super hurricanrana. Bailey followed for the Ultima Weapon flipping knee drop finisher. He hit it! New champ? 1, 2, Alexander placed his foot on the bottom rope for the break.

Bailey kept on the pressure to lift Alexander for a Flamingo Driver. Alexander escaped for a roll-up then transitioned for a Styles Clash. Boom! Alexander went for the ankle lock with two minutes remaining.

Bailey landed upkicks to create space as he reached for the ropes. Alexander would not relent and pulled Bailey into the air for a piledriver. Alexander went for a C4 spike piledriver with under one minute remaining. Bailey sandbagged to prevent the move. Alexander unloaded knee strikes to soften his opponent. That did the trick, and Alexander hit the finisher. He stalled on a cover and instead decided to hit a second consecutive C4. That finally kept Bailey down for the three-count of victory with under twenty seconds remaining.

That match was absolutely awesome. Outstanding emotion and drama were displayed by Alexander and Bailey. For example, Speedball demonstrated an internal struggle on ankle locks whether to tap out or dig deep to figure a way out. This performance from Bailey turned him into a made man on the Impact main event scene. Definitely keep an eye out if Impact releases an uncut version.

The title bout was set up in a way to feel special, like we were witnessing history. When the contest began, there were no hints that we would be getting an hour-long fight. The pace was furious from the opening bell without the feeling of them obviously pacing themselves. Alexander and Bailey took their rest breaks in the back half to sell the damage done. And by then, it fully fit into the story so as not to question. Impact added little touches like postponing the originally scheduled main event and dipped into extra time on AXS, which hasn’t happened in years. The match truly felt like a spontaneous moment.

How high do you rate Josh Alexander versus “Speedball” Mike Bailey?

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