GCW Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 8
March 31, 2022
We’re in Dallas, Texas at Fair Park. Hosts are Lenny Leonard and Rocky Romero. This is show #2 from WrestleMania weekend and the second show from the Collective. All the workers are introduced at the start. Big pop for Tim Thatcher and Biff Busick. Huge pop for Mox and Suzuki.
Masha Slamovich vs. Janai Kai
Janai becomes the first person I’ve seen wrestle twice. As with her earlier match she looks too tentative, but Slamovich is really good at the style and that helps. They struggle with realism as Kai keeps getting caught in holds and is sat in them too long. The finish is an armbar from Slamovich, which looks great but she had her in two chokes for ages with no submission. Masha is great. Can’t wait for Vince McMahon to get a hold of her and turn into some sort of evil Russian. **¼
Ninja Mack vs. Yoya
Ninja Mack symbolically unmasks for Bloodsport, which is an odd choice but then he’s an odd wrestler.
They’re both good at the style doing chain wrestling and counter holds. Yoya catches Mack with a roundhouse and love how that’s sold. Unfortunately, Yoya goes to the head kick well. I love a head kick as a finish but not as a thing you do every 30 seconds. It’s a shame Yoya feels to need to do highspots when he’s so good at close range. That said, the takedown to the floor is pretty sick. Ninja Mack pulls a Hurricane Kick out of nowhere for the win, which is also pretty cool. This was tremendous fun but some of the choices were strange. I do appreciate two lighter wrestlers having a different fight to two bigger dudes though. ***
Bad Dude Tito vs. Royce Isaacs
Isaacs starts badly by throwing punches from a mount, of sorts, and they stink. As with most strikes if they’re supposed to be knock out style shots then use them as a finish, not as filler. Tito isn’t much better but at least his haymakers are suitably wild that it feels like they’re not connecting for a reason. Then Isaacs gets a guillotine choke out of nowhere for the win. I didn’t enjoy this. *¼
Alex Coughlin vs. SLADE
SLADE (ALL CAPS) looks like a bouncer from a rock club. That works because I can totally imagine him in some sort of underground fight pit. His gear looks like he just took off whatever shirt he was wearing. His in-ring movement isn’t fluid enough for this style but that’s part of the match. That SLADE isn’t this kind of wrestler and he’s just going to club his way through it and hope for the best. Like toughmen fighters in early UFC who have no idea what an anklelock is. Coughlin comes off like a generic mat wrestler and his attempts at throwing bombs feel misguided.
SLADE doing a no sell on a suplex and hitting a chokeslam immediately afterwards has me thinking SLADEberg. SLADE getting choked out at the finish has this look of delirium about him. What is this sensation? This isn’t a punch to the face. What do I do? Coughlin may have won but SLADE captured my heart. **¼
John Hennigan vs. Simon Gotch
Johnny Bloodsport. Gotch is good at this style and Hennigan has enough experience and skill to modify himself to it. I like Hennigan using capoeira to distract rather than attack. For the third match running someone gets caught in a sleeper and it’s over. Hennigan for the win. This was fine but Gotch didn’t seem to get going at all. **
Zeda Zhang vs. Marina Shafir
Shafir was a UFC fighter before WWE tried to make something of her, perhaps with eyes on Rousey + pals vs. Four Horsewomen. Whatever it was it never happened.
Zeda also had a brush with WWE as “Julia Ho” and from what I saw I liked. Shafir feels like she’s so dominant on the mat that she could finish this at any time. I like Zeda getting an Andre sleeper and Marina just pulling it apart and throwing her. With the ability discrepancy this goes way too long. In this style Shafir is able to recover from mistakes and eventually Zeda gives up to a modified armbar. This is an ideal environment for Shafir. I’m not convinced with her in pro wrestling but shootstyle works for her in a big way. They dragged this out too much for my liking though. **½
Timothy Thatcher vs. JR Kratos
Now we’re into the business end of things. Thatcher is the first really over person on the card. He’s so goddamn happy to be here too. He’s got a huge grin on his face when laying in some knees. WWE let him go but he barely wrestled last year and this is his first match since August.
Look at how happy he is! Bless. Kratos’ strengths come from his upper body. He is hench as fuck. They tell a power vs. technique story and Tim, because he’s manly, is easily suckered into a brawl. Tim’s facial expressions and selling are a thing of beauty.
Kratos gets busted open from a headbutt. The camera moved away from him on the sell so he probably bladed. This upsets Kratos and he levels Thatcher with a huge superman punch to a downed Tim. This doesn’t go over well with the crowd, but I’d put money on Tim being the one who wanted to job. ***¼
Mike Bailey vs. Yuyu Uemura
Bailey was banned from entering the US for five years so this is his first Mania weekend in ages. He’s a fantastic addition and has been killing it since he was last in the US. Uemura is New Japan but is based on the USA on excursion. Both these guys are highly mobile but with different strengths. Bailey with the striking, Uemura with the grappling. Bailey goes to the head kicks a bit too much for my tastes with Uemura selling his way through them as best as he can. Uemura gets an armbar out of nowhere and gets the submission. This rarely hit the highs I was expecting of it. A decent match but could have been better. I assume Bailey was holding back because he’s got a dozen matches in two days. ***
JONAH vs. Josh Barnett
I always thought Jonah Rock was great but WWE missing on anyone isn’t surprising anymore. He’s a welcome addition to the US Indies, which look very strong suddenly. JONAH is a big meaty thick dude and in bulking up may have lost some speed. Barnett isn’t going to carry a match as he tends to rely on his opponent’s cardio and mat creativity. That’s not JONAH’s game and it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t a strong match up. In fact, it’s tedious and hard to sit through. I end up using the match as a toilet break. It gets good towards the end with some big boy high impact. JONAH gets trapped in a heel hook and taps out. This improved dramatically down the stretch but that’s for the best because before that it sucked. *
Biff Busick vs. Jon Moxley
I love Biff Busick. He killed it in every match he had in NXT. Did everything he was asked. Slayed every time out and got wasted and misused. I fucking love this guy. He should be main eventing every Indie promotion out there.
Mox is one of the smartest men in wrestling. He saw the time was ripe to leave WWE and did so with his reputation intact. The match is a little sluggish to start but it plays into a feeling out process.
In WWE Mox always had striking issues. Presumably he thought no one was paying attention. Biff takes a spill to the floor and blades. This gets him fired up and the match suddenly goes nuts. It’s a sickening bladejob and Biff bleeds all over himself, the mat and Moxley.
Biff defiantly fights on, refusing to tap, until Mox drills him with a running knee to win by KO. Epic bloodshed here and some great character work. Best match of Mania weekend so far. Match of the night. BIFF RULES! ****1/4
Minoru Suzuki vs. Chris Dickinson
Americans; learn to clap along to music please. You’re somehow all out of sync with each other on kaze ni nare.
This is Dickinson’s first match since last year and he’s out for revenge having lost to Suzuki at Bloodsport beforehand. This is completely different to the rest of the card with them opting to do Strongstyle strike duels. It’s a good laugh but it’s not really a bloodsport match. Dickinson finishes with a suplex and a bunch of elbows. You can tell from his celebration that it means a lot to him to have his hand raised against Minoru Suzuki, having gone toe to toe. The match was good, with strike trading being prominent, but it struggled following that great Mox vs. Biff match. ***¼
Overall, this was a solid show. I really enjoyed most of it. The Moxley vs Busick match was a standout. The style can get a little repetitive, which is why AMBITION is such a short show. This was probably too long and could have been trimmed back a little. 11 matches was probably too much. You get rid of Tito/Isaacs, Gotch/Hennigan and Barnett/JONAH and you’ve got a tight 8 match card, that’s sub 2 hours. Always leave them wanting more. The Bloodsport concept and style is right up my alley and I mostly had a good time here. So far, two shows in, it’s my show of the weekend.