Once a year wasn't enough as GCW brought back Josh Barnett's Bloodsport for the second time in 2019 Saturday night, headlined by the former UFC heavyweight champion Barnett facing Chris Dickinson and also featuring former UFC star "Filthy" Tom Lawlor vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
The venue was the Showboat Atlantic City in Atlantic City, NJ, which visually was a lot brighter than White Eagle Hall in New Jersey which took away from the ambience a bit. The hard camera angle was also a bit lower than you see with most wrestling shows as well.
For those new to the format, fights can end by knockout or submission and there are no ropes on the ring, just a mat and ring posts. From what I understand, it's closer to UWFi and Pancrase style than actual pro wrestling even though the matches all feature wrestlers albeit with MMA or martial arts backgrounds. Originally started with Matt Riddle as the namesake, Barnett and his name were added to the event this past April during Mania weekend.
The timing of the event will either be a blessing or curse as there are two big ESPN+ fights happening Saturday night with Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC) and Tyson Fury (boxing) following that.
Both the pre-show and PPV main card streamed on Fite.tv.
Matt Makowski def. Rory Gulak by knockout
Gulak was clad in a classic wrestling singlet while Makowski had shorts and kneepads in both of their JBB debuts. Makowski is a former MMA fighter who racked up a 6-2 record including bouts in Bellator, EliteXC, and ShoXC. Most of the match was worked on the ground with some nice transitions. Makowski hit a nice O'Connor roll into a belly to back suplex into an armbar attempt remiscent of former UFC flyweight champion Demetrous Johnson's famous 2018 submission of Ray Borg. Makowski hit a head kick to a grounded Gulak for the knockout and win in a decent match.
Sumie Sakai submitted Lindsay Snow
Lawlor sat in on commentary for the first women's match in Bloodsport history. Snow was billed as having some BJJ experience while Sakai is a long-time talent who has worked all over the place. Snow used her size to dominate early, but Sakai managed to hang there and eventually work for an armbar which got Snow to tap.
The main show opened up with all the participants being introduced and brought out to the ring, Strikeforce/Bellator Grand Prix style. The crowd, while not huge, was very boisterous which made this feel like a fun event from the start.
Anthony Henry submitted Zachary Wentz
Wentz is part of Impact Wrestling's Rascalz and is a former amateur fighter while Henry, also someone with an MMA past, is part of the talented Workhorsemen tag team with J.D. Drake. Both are making their JBB debuts.
Wentz started out fast with the Masvidal knee while Henry fired right back with a belly to back suplex. Both guys traded suplexes before Wentz started working for submission holds. Wentz hit a right hand that dropped Henry, but got caught in Henry's guard and submitted to a seated triangle choke/armbar combo to end a fun match.
Erik Hammer submitted JR Kratos
The debuting Hammer is a teammate of Barnett's and an accomplished catch wrestler with a history in IGF while Kratos is coming off a victory over Simon Grimm at JBB 1. Lawlor came back out for more commentary. Both guys are heavyweights and the action was a bit slower, so having Lawlor in was a big help, especially with details like Kratos having a kid two days ago. Things eventually broke down into a punch and slap contest which the fans loved. Hammer hit a belly to belly and transitoned into a reverse bulldog choke of sorts for the tap to end a hard-hitting match.
One thing missing on these shows: replays.
Allysin Kay def. Nicole Savoy by knockout
Both made their JBB debuts and Lawlor remained out on commentary. It took a while for the fans to get into this, but a slapfight on the mat helped things along. There was a lot of ground work and ref breaks as the two went to the edge of the apron. Kay nearly got a twister for a submission before Savoy got out of it. Savoy hit a suplex that rolled Kay out of the ring for a near countout. The end came when Kay snagged Savoy in a crucifix, landing a slew of elbows to her head for the knockout.
If you dislike mat wrestling, you probably aren't loving this show. It would be interesting to see them allow for pins to finish matches given how much of these matches are spent on the ground.
Anthony Carelli submitted Simon Grimm
Carelli (the former Santino Marella) made his JBB debut while the heavily booed Grimm (the former Simon Gotch) was looking to avenge his debut loss to JR Kratos. Both have plenty of martial arts experience so this will be a lot different than any Marella-Gotch WWE fare for sure.
Again, lots of mat grappling and armbar attempts dominated the early action. One thing I've noticed in these first two JBB events is that it's hard to really tell a story in this format. It's possible, but there's only so much you can do.
Carelli locked on a Dragon sleeper that Grimm got out of much to the fans' dismay. Carelli eventually got a reversal into an armbar for the quick tap to end an ok match. He got a "Please come back" chant.
Timothy Thatcher submitted Ikuhisa Minowa
A former Pancrase and MMA fighter, Minowaman as he's known to most wrestling and fight fans, is making his U.S. debut tonight while Thatcher is coming off a loss to Hideki Suzuki at JBB 1.
We got a dropkick, body slam, and uppercut elbows early which was a nice change of pace from the immediate mat work we've seen already. Thatcher showed some great facials when he and Minowa were locked together in leg locks on the mat. This was a match of armbars and leglocks that Thatcher won with a crossface while on Minowa's back. If there's anyone made for this format, it's Thatcher.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. def. Tom Lawlor by knockout
This was a battle of MLW roster mates. Former MMA fighter Lawlor, who came out to NKOTB's "Hangin' Tough" was supposed to be on the first JBB show, but canceled due to fear while Smith submitted Killer Kross in a good match back in April. Lawlor got a huge "Filthy Tom" chant prior to the match.
Smith controlled much of the grappling early and landed some nasty looking side elbows while Lawlor was under him. 'Filthy' got his shots in, but got powerslammed after refusing to give up on a rear naked choke attempt. Both guys laid in some heavy forearm blows and Lawlor got hit with a belly to back suplex that looked to rattle him.
The action really picked up late as Smith tried to clamp on a Sharpshooter but couldn't which led Lawlor to clothesline Smith out of the ring while on his knees. Forearms and Daniel Bryan-esque kicks followed which woke Smith up. Lawlor fired up an both men were laying in forearms, kicks, and knees. Smith won following a hard belly to back suplex and sitout powerbomb that knocked Lawlor out. Fans were really into this by the end thanks to the last few minutes.
Killer Kross submitted Nick Gage
From the minute Kross came out, the fans were chanting for "Nick F*cking Gage" so to say they were looking forward to this was an understatement. Kross was on the first show, submitting to Davey Boy Smith Jr. while this is GCW Champion Gage's Bloodsport debut.
Gage went in for a Masvidal flying knee at the start, but Kross got it to the ground quick, locking on a brief heel hock after Gage slapped him in the face hard. Gage, playing the unrefined street fighter, hit a headbutt and landed a soccer kick, going for a type of rear naked choke before Kross reversed things. He got in his own rear naked choke and put Gage to sleep in a rather short match. The fans booed Kross and Gage wasn't happy with the ref stopping the fight.
After the winner was announced, Gage grabbed the referee and tossed him out of the ring to the fans' delight. Gage eventually shook Kross' hand and took off, leaving Kross to get on the mic and call out Dave Batista to face him at Bloodsport. Fans chanted "Holy sh*t" and "Batista" before Kross said, "Give them what they want."
Josh Barnett def. Chris Dickinson by knockout
On the first show, Barnett went to a draw with Minoru Suzuki while Dickinson submitted Andy Williams. For the tale of the tape, Barnett's age was listed as "War is ageless". Barnett was originally slated to face Jon Moxley, but the AEW star had to pull out due to his elbow injury.
The early portion of the match featured lots of mat grappling and ground and pound. Barnett gave the lesser known Dickinson a lot as the "Dirty Daddy" was in control for most of the early going. Barnett also had the Brock Lesnar reddish-purple skin going early on which was unusual to see. Dickinson would later wear some nasty welts on his side as did Barnett.
While he was continually working for an armbar, Barnett hit a nice double-underhook suplex to Dickinson. Dickinson later countered with a belly to back suplex of his own, but Barnett was not to be denied. The finish was Barnett landing a head kick to Dickinson while he was on his knees for the knockout, ending a great back-and-forth sequence and a fun match that took a while to get going.
Dickinson got on the mic and said he let a lot of people down including myself. He said Barnett was a childhood hero of his and put over the Bloodsport concept. Barnett put over Dickinson and got a lot of chants for himself. He said this isn't the last Bloodsport show and said that Moxley wants to run it back with him. "If the office won't let him, you let them know," Barnett said.