The eighth edition of Josh Barnett's Bloodsport kicks off GCW's Collective events as part of WrestleMania weekend featuring its namesake in action in addition to former AEW World Champion Jon Moxley and several debuts.
Barnett (3-0-1) will take on Impact and New Japan Pro Wrestling's JONAH for the first time in the latter's Bloodsport debut.
Moxley (2-1) will return for his fourth Bloodsport outing and will be looking to rebound from his loss to Barnett in April 2021 while Busick (Oney Lorcan in WWE) will be making his debut.
Former WWE star John Morrison will debut against former rostermate and Bloodsport regular Simon Gotch (2-4).
Minoru Suzuki will also look to remain unbeaten (2-0-1) as he rematches the returning Chris Dickinson (3-5) in a fight that happened last October.
"Speedball" Mike Bailey, Impact roster member and one of the busiest wrestlers now on the indies, will make his Bloodsport debut against Yuya Uemura.
Former WWE NXT wrestler Timothy Thatcher (1-2) will also make his return to Bloodsport for the first time since 2019 against JR Kratos (3-2).
The rest of the show includes Masha Slamovich against Janai Kai, Marina Shafir against Zeda Zhang, Alex Coughlin vs. Slade, Ninja Mack vs. Yoya, and Bad Dude Tito vs. Royce Isaacs.
All of the Bloodsport 8 competitors hit the ring one by one, each introduced by the ring announcer, all to the sound of a looped melody that sounded like Bolt Thrower tune.
Here’s the lineup:
1) Masha Slamovich vs. Janai Kai
2) Ninja Mack vs. Yoya
3) Bad Dude Tito vs. Royce Isaacs
4) Alex Coughlin vs. Slade
5) John Hennigan vs. Simon Gotch
6) Marina Shafir vs. Zeda Zhang
7) Timothy Thatcher vs. JR Kratos
8) “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs. Yuya Uemura
9) Josh Barnett vs. JONAH
10) Jon Moxley vs. Biff Busick
11) Minoru Suzuki vs. Chris Dickinson
Shafir, Thatcher, Moxley, & Suzuki got the loudest reactions during the main introduction. The crowd chanted “G-C-W” and "BLOODSPORT." Josh Barnett got on the mic and told the crowd he appreciated them for coming despite their being so many shows in Dallas this week. He said he’d pay the fans back today with blood, sweat, tears, and absolute savage violence.
Suzuki and Dickinson jaw-jacked afterwards, and while both are clearly true tough guys, the smiles on both wrestlers' faces were so apparent. This is going to be a good time.
Lenny Leonard and NJPW’s Rocky Romero were on the call for today’s event.
Masha Slamovich defeated Janai Kai via submission (armbar)
Slamovich sunk in a rear naked choke early but Kai escaped quickly. Kai has a tae kwon do background and used low kicks on Slamovich while she was on the ground. Slamovich went right back to the RNC and again Kai slipped away. Kai used a short flurry of palm strikes while Slamovich tried attacking on the ground. Slamovich was clearly the superior grappler, but Kai’s strike-heavy offense earned her a lot of counter and escape chances.
Kai, who was in a crouching position, surprised Slamovich with a low sidekick to the stomach. Slamovich responded with a beautiful modified Northern Lights suplex and floated over into an armbar from there. Kai tapped. The crowd loved that. Really cool opener, albeit short.
Ninja Mack defeated Yoya via TKO (540 kick)
Ninja Mack unmasked before the match, which got a loud response from the crowd. Mack is heading to Pro Wrestling NOAH shortly, according to Lenny Leonard. Yoya won his fight against Starboy Charlie at the last Bloodsport in LA.
Mack offered a handshake before things kicked off. Yoya grabbed Mack by the throat instead. Mack took Yoya over with a fireman’s carry. And we’re off.
Mack is said to have a 50 lbs. Weight advantage over Yoya. Mack’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu looked on point once the match tempo began speeding up. Yoya landed a wild spinning savate kick that knocked Mack off his feet. Mack recovered moments later, but Yoya caught Mack with another kick to the head. They ended up rolling out onto the floor.
Mack tossed Yoya with a urange-type throw. He tried a wild-looking capoeira kick and landed on his knees, but he missed, so Yoya locked Mack in a triangle choke. Mack went to powerbomb Yoya off, but Yoya landed on his feet. Mack then literally kicked Yoya’s leg out from under him and knocked him to the mat. To paraphrase the great Owen Hart, Ninja Mack “kicked his leg out of his … leg.”
Yoya rolled to the floor afterwards. Some fans booed. The crowd was very into Ninja Mack. Yoya connected with a high kick. He used a standing backdrop suplex before locking Mack in a standing achilles’ hold. Mack went for a gutwrench, but Yoya moved back into the ankle lock.
We then got the first “holy sh*t” chant of the night: When Mack went in for a double-leg takedown, Yoya lifted him up from behind the legs, hoisted him in the air, then ran and jumped out of the ring onto the concrete floor. A completely unexpected but logical spot that had fans jumping out of their seats.
The finish to this was crazy, too: Back in the ring, Yoya locked on a half-crab with extra tork on that same ankle he’d be working on earlier. It looked like Mack was about to tapped, but he rolled through into a mounted position and caught Yoya with a punch, then connected with a spinning 540 capoeira kick that looked fantastic. This was Jet Li-level stuff. The referee slid in to protect the KO’d Yoya, and suddenly, that was it: Ninja Mack is your winner via TKO. The crowd lost it. On commentary, Rocky Romero appropriately exclaimed “Holy sh*t!”
Royce Isaacs defeated Bad Dude Tito via submission (rolling guillotine choke)
With Romero on commentary and both Isaacs and Tito in the next match, you’d think you were watching an episode of NJPW Strong. Tito locked Isaacs in a front facelock early but Isaacs was out quickly. They went back and forth on the mat exchanging holds. Isaacs threw a few short punches. Tito worked for an armbar. Tito attempted powering Isaacs down to the mat but Isaacs blocked and held Isaacs in his closed guard. Tito went for a straight ankle lock and the crowd started clapping in support of Isaacs, who’d escaped and knock Tito to the floor.
Tito took a short breather outside the ring before he got back inside. Isaacs forced Tito down to the mat, but Tito stood right up and tossed him with a German suplex. Isaacs then responded with one of his own. Tito responded with another of his own and held onto the waistlock. Isaacs switched and threw another German himself. We’ve arrived in Suplex City, folks. Tito went for another straight ankle lock before Isaacs launched Tito with a catch suplex. Isaacs locked in a dragon sleeper but couldn’t cinch it in fully. In the end, caught Tito in another takedown attempt and rolled him into a front facelock/guillotine choke to submit Tito. Great fight with some of the bigger boys on the card.
Alex Coughlin defeated Slade via TKO (rear naked choke)
These two had an intense trash-talk session before things got started. Coughlin hit a nice single-leg takedown early. Slade reversed it and threw a couple wild forearms. Slade is less like a martial artist and more like a prison enforcer. He’s a pure brawler. He wrapped his hand around Coughlin’s throat until Coughlin stood up. The two traded very hard forearm shots on their feet. Coughlin spiked Slade with a backdrop suplex, but Slade was up on his feet seconds later and did a uranage of his own. Moments later, Coughlin was able to slap on a rear naked choke. Slade was smiling until he passed out; the referee stopped the match and awarded the bout to Coughlin via TKO. This was another great albeit short match. And I’m just throwing it out there, but Slade would be perfect on NJPW Strong in Bateman’s Stray Dog Army.
John Hennigan defeated Simon Gotch via TKO (guillotine choke)
This was Hennigan’s first appearance for Bloodsport. He came to the ring in red fight shorts, black kneepads and red kickpads. No leopard print today. He was also announced tonight as “Johnny Bloodsport,” which some fans chanted periodically throughout the match.
Gotch, who’ll also debut for Pro Wrestling NOAH soon, was clad in Kazushi Sakuraba-style orange ICG fight shorts and a Misfits-style jayhawk. Maybe he’ll get a chance to rumble with Saku in Japan soon.
If you were curious about how Hennigan would fare in the Bloodsport setting, he did a great job. He didn’t feel like an outsider at all and was able to blend in his BJJ experience with capoeira and parkour type movements and escapes. He blasted Gotch with a spinning “capoeira lariat” at one point. You could heard scattered “Johnny” chants in the audience.
Gotch is probably in the best physical shape of his life at the moment. He was fiery, blasting Hennigan with kicks and slaps before shouting at Hennigan. “Is that all you’ve got?!” it sounded like.
Hennigan locked in a guillotine choke moments later. Gotch didn't tap but began foaming at the mouth, it looked like. When he started turning purple, the ref called the match. Hennigan wins his Bloodsport debut. Good stuff.
Marina Shafir defeated Zeda Zhang via submission (armbar)
There was a cool, intense but quiet tension between the two beforehand. Zhang challenged Shafir at Bloodsport 7 in LA after Shafir beat Masha Slamovich. Lenny Leonard explained that in a recent interview, Zhang claimed that she and Shafir had bad blood going back to their time in WWE, so the two used the Bloodsport ring to settle their issues.
Zhang tried boxing Shafir at the top of the match. Shafir was more confident throwing low kicks. She ripped one against Zhang’s thigh while Zhang was on the ground. Zhang later took Shafir down with a cool modified judo toss. Zhang tried locking in an inverted figure four but wasn’t successful. Shafir broke the stalemate by escaping into side mount, then scooping Zhang up and slamming her back down to the mat. Shafir got on into mount position, but Zhang slipped out of the mount from the back and locked in an RNC.
Shafir shucked her her off. Zhang landed a shot to Shafir’s stomach while Shafir played open guard. Shafir caught Zhang with a body shot of her own. Zhang used a nice modified double-leg to take Shafir back to the mat and locked in the RNC again. Shafir escaped and moved to a heel hook. Zhang rolled through and eventually escaped, but Shafir still held Zhang with headlock control. Zhang rolled her through twice and escaped. On the mat, Shafir was able to roll into a half-crab, but both were on their feet a few seconds later.
The finish saw Shafir brilliantly lock both Zhang’s neck and arm while hooking her leg, essentially a checkmate kind of move; if she moved one way, she’d be in a triangle choke, the other way, an armbar. Zhang finally succumbed to the armbar; Shafir earns her second victory in Bloodsport. This was really good and showcased lots of cool techniques.
JR Kratos defeated Timothy Thatcher via KO (jumping Superman elbow)
The Dallas crowd was hot for Timothy Thatcher. These two both come out of Sacramento and were both trained by Oliver John. On commentary, Leonard mentioned their first singles match against each other was in 2013. Kratos came wearing a pair of black gi pants. He beat Calvin Tankman at the last Bloodsport.
The crowd continued chanting for Thatcher once the fight started. Thatcher grinded his forearm against Kratos’ face. Thatcher tried lifting Kratos into a bow-and-arrow submission, but Kratos slipped out and wrapped him in a headlock. Thatcher would then lock in a Keiji Muto-esque Indian Deathlock, falling to his own back to increase the pressure against Kratos’ calves.
When Thatcher went for a backdrop suplex, Kratos sandbagged his body and came straight down onto Thatcher. He then laid in a few punches before going for a submission, but Thatcher was soon back on top with a brutal facelock, his forearms straight across Kratos’ nose and mouth. Billy Robinson is smiling down on Thatcher right now.
Thatcher wailed Kratos next, busting him open; the first laceration of the night. There was a great still shot of a bloody, maniacal-looking Kratos before he decked Thatcher with a falling lariat before cinching in a tight head-and-arm choke. Thatcher would slip out and returned the attack, landing the backdrop suplex before going for a Fujiwara armbar, but Kratos made one last comeback and drilled Thatcher with a piledriver before KO’ing him with a jumping Superman elbow to a seated Thatcher.
The ref called the match and the very pro-Thatcher crowd lost their minds and booed the hell out of Kratos, who flipped the double bird and shouted some choice words at a few fans before heading to the back. This was violent. Awesome and violent.
Yuya Uemura defeated “Speedball” Mike Bailey via submission (armbar)
This was Mike Bailey’s Bloodsport debut. Most fans were loud in support of “Speedball,” but there were a number of “YUYA” chants, too. Uemura is rocking a very tiny ponytail these days. The two were hesitant to lock up at first; Bailey is a taekwondo expert and tried striking with Uemura for a few moments until the former NJPW Young Lion mauled Bailey to the mat with a Greco-Roman style takedown that amped the live crowd up.
Bailey was able to land a few hard palm strikes before getting back up. Uemura moved into his open guard and tried using Inoki-style kicks on Bailey, who was standing over him. Rocky Romero made a nice comparison to Antonio Inoki’s bout with Muhammed Ali back in 1976, which looked similar, just the Inoki-Ali match was almost a full hour of just those kicks. This lasted only a few seconds.
The two continued exchanging wild palm strikes on the ground. Uemura exploded while he was in Bailey’s guard. The two spilled out of the ring onto the floor and Bailey held the back of his head.
Back in the ring, Bailey suddenly landed four pinpoint kicks to Uemura’s head, then started unloading knee strikes until Uemura powered up, tangling Bailey up in a clunch and slowing the flurry down. He grabbed Bailey’s wrist and took Bailey down to the mat with an overhead throw, then moved to a straight Fujiwara armbar until Bailey escaped onto his back. The crowd erupted at around this point and began chanting “BLOOD-SPORT!” over and over. Woah.
Uemura then moved to an armbar on the opposite arm and earned the immediate tap. Yuya Uemura picks up a huge upset win at Bloodsport 8 with the out-of-nowhere finish. This rocked. They shook hands afterwards.
Josh Barnett defeated JONAH via submission (heel hook crab)
For his Bloodsport debut, JONAH wore red kickpads and had a black & red singlet that reminded me of Big Van Vader. These two sized each other up before really getting into it on the back. JONAH bullied the taller Barnett to the mat and had him locked in a scarf hold early, which is ironic in this context since Barnett has been known to use the same submission to win some of his biggest fights, like against Dean Lister at Metamoris.
JONAH moved to a rear naked choke from the back before Barnett escaped. He moved into the mount and laid in a couple shots before attempting an armbar from the position, but the heavier, wider JONAH escaped. He laid across Barnett and went for a double wristlock before Barnett could escape back to his feet.
JONAH might be the first person to make Barnett look as light as a baby; there was a point in their fight where JONAH was able to scoop Barnett into a bodyslam and drop him flat onto the mat. The 340+ lbs. JONAH jumped in the air and came crashing down atop Barnett with a senton before moving back to the same rear naked choke. The more experienced Barnett escaped and locked in a straight reverse armbar.
On their feet, JONAH landed a few hard elbow shots. Barnett came back with a couple of his own until JONAH headbutted him, breaking the tempo. “Warmaster” then exploded out of nowhere with a spinning wheel kick, then a single-arm suplex that actually made JONAH look like the baby this time. Barnett then cinched in a brutal-looking heel hook/single-leg crab that JONAH would reluctantly tap to after trying to hold out for half-minute. Another killer fight.
Jon Moxley defeated Biff Busick via TKO (running knee)
The crowd was almost as stoked to see Biff Busick as they were to see Moxley. The ring announcer said Moxley was representing the Blackpool Combat Club, which popped the folks in attendance. They had a quick exchange on the mat at first but were back to their feet seconds later. Mox used a nice entry and scored a takedown on Busick. The two traded positions on the mat.
When Mox took Busick’s back, he landed a few hard elbow shots to the back of Busick’s head. Mox later lifted Busick up into a another takedown but Busick was able to recover. Mox took back the advantage and began stretching Busick out with a straight shoulder lock. He’d later drill Busick with a backdrop suplex before using a few 12–6 elbows to Busick’s skull before the match spilled out onto the floor. Moxley suplexed Busick onto the concrete, then stepped back into the ring. Busick was now bleeding.
Busick stormed the ring and fired a gunshot of a chop into Moxley’s chest. The sound was so loud that crowd members started getting out of their seats. Mox ate the chop like it was nothing and asked for some more. The two the traded more vicious strikes until Mox connected with a stiff big boot to Busick’s face. He then locked Busick into a modified camel clutch where instead of clutching Busick’s chin with his hands, he instead just wrapped his right forearm around Busick’s bloody face, catch wrestling style. Mox then moved to a rear naked choke and Busick’s bloody bald head began gushing onto Moxley. Here we go.
Busick slapped Mox hard in the face. He looked like a shiny red apple by the end of this. Mox came back with a half-and-half suplex before sticking the Death Rider before locking in a Bully Choke. Busick looked to almost go out, but Mox let go and started kneeing Busick in the head. Then, finally, Moxley took Busick out with a running knee strike for the TKO. This was probably the bloodiest of any Bloodsport matches in history. Moxley raised Busick's hand after the match, and the crowd was on their feet in appreciation.
Chris Dickinson defeated Minoru Suzuki via TKO (elbows)
Thankfully, Chris Dickinson has recovered from his freak injury in San Jose at NJPW’s Battle in the Valley last November. This was his return match after six months. He and Suzuki actually main evented the last Bloodsport and had a match at NJPW Strong in Philadelphia last year, so this would be their third singles match. Suzuki won both bouts.
Dickinson had the first advantage in the match and held top position as they grappled early on. Suzuki used a sneaky transition into a sleeper from back position, but Dickinson recovered and was back on top. He tried applying a straight ankle lock, but Suzuki again slipped away, sliding out of the ring to the floor to break the hold and grab a breather.
Suzuki went for an omoplata but Dickinson shut that down and was soon back in the mount, where he attempted an armlock. He went for an armbar, but Suzuki wagged his finger at him like Dikembe Mutombo. “No, no, no, DIrty Daddy,” he meant to say.
Dickinson stayed on top for a few more moments but ultimately got back to his feet, relinquishing any holds he was going for. Suzuki then sat up like he was the Undertaker. The crowd started chanting “you f*cked up,” presumably at Dickinson. The crowd was split 50/50 between these two, it sounded like.
These two began trading hard shots while standing next. Suzuki would lock Dickinson in a straight ankle lock, but Dickinson blasted Suzuki with a chop while in it. This looked to have set Suzuki off, who broke the hold, stood up, and insisted Dickinson stand up and strike with him. Suzuki won the first and second “rounds” here, knocking Dickinson to the mat twice. On the third exchange, Dickinson caught Suzuki with a low spin kick to the body. The crowd booed and might have thought it looked like a low blow without the camera’s perspective. “SU-ZU-KI!” chants broke out.
The finish almost came out of nowhere: Suddenly, Dickinson landed a step-up enzuigiri kick to the back of Suzuki’s head. Then, he spiked Suzuki with a swift brainbuster and followed it up with a flurry of elbows to a prone Suzuki. The ref dove on top of Suzuki and stopped the match: Chris Dickinson is victorious in his return from injury, scoring a huge win over the legend Suzuki.
The crowd reaction was interesting. A chorus of boos from parts of the crowd rained down on Dickinson. When Suzuki recovered, he stumbled out of the ring and started throwing folding chairs in protest.
For anyone who hasn’t caught Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport yet, this would be a fine jumping-on point. Was this the best Bloodsport card in the group’s short history? There’s a very good argument for it. All eleven of the fights are worth watching, and since Bloodsport has a much different rhythm than “traditional” pro wrestling does, some of the matches end up much shorter than one would expect. There isn’t a set formula for the Bloodsport, either, which allows for matches to have surprise moments and unique finishes. We saw that up and down this show.