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JOSH BARNETT’S BLOODSPORT 8 REPORT
MARCH 31, 2022
DALLAS, TX AT FAIR PARK
AIRED LIVE ON FITE TV
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Lenny Leonard & Rocky Romero
-All the wrestlers for the card were introduced and all entered the ring, which had no ropes on it, as is the custom for this series. Josh Barnett took the mic and said he was going to reward all the ticketholders with blood, sweat, tears and violence, and would show everyone why this event was called Bloodsport. The audience chanted “Bloodsport” as Barnett held trigger-happy opponents apart before the show could start. The ring announcer laid out that matches can only end via ref stoppage, and pinfalls cannot occur.
(1) MASHA SLAMOVICH vs. JANAI KAI
The two felt each other out with kicks to start, then quick mat reversals. Rear naked choke by Slamovich. Kai fought to a seated position and threw a few rights, and Slamovich escaped to reset. Kai threw a kick but got caught by a Slamovich dragon screw. The two tangled on the mat and Kai threw some shots to Slamovich’s midsection, then punched her back a few times but Slamovich trapped her in another rear naked choke, then transitioned to a front chancery. Kai escaped and threw some kicks, then went in for some ground and pound but Slamovich caught her in the LeBell Lock. Slamovich added some punches and tried an umuplata, but Kai escaped and threw hands. Slamovich tried a kneebar and Kai kicked her way out of it. Slamovich hit some back elbows but Kai hit a kick to the neck. Slamovich stunned Kai with a cross-armbreaker and transitioned straight into a cross-armbreaker for the tap.
WINNER: Masha Slamovich at 4:36.
(Wells’s Analysis: The match set the tone for the uninitiated that these bouts will look like MMA fights all night. Good action with the rangy striker Kai trying to get in shots without getting caught by Slamovich’s many submissions)
(2) NINJA MACK vs. YOYA
Ninja Mack, a masked wrestler, unmasked immediately after hitting the ring and the announcers told the story that it was special for this event. Mack was very over with the crowd. Yoya tossed away a handshake attempt and went for the neck. Quick reset and Mack tried to chase down the smaller Yoya and use his greater weight to his advantage. Mack took Yoya to the mat, escape, and reset again. Kicks to the leg by Mack. Both guys squared up like real fighters and tried to land punches, and Yoya laid out Mack with a kick. He went in for more punishment but Mack tossed Yoya off. Yoya hit a rewind kick and the two of them rolled off the ring to the floor, where they have a ten count to return, which both used for a breather. Mack tossed and took down Yoya, then went for a Capoeira kick but Yoya snapped on a triangle choke. Mack lifted Yoya up and kicked him down, then sweeped the leg and Yoya went down on his head and neck in a spot that would’ve looked bad if he didn’t recover from it right away. Yoya took a breather on the outside, then came back and the two exchanged kick attempts. Yoya landed several, which Mack kept absorbing. Back kick and a suplex by Yoya, who grabbed an ankle but got tossed off. Yoya was able to snap on the ankle lock fully and Mack kicked his way out. Yoya lifted Mack and then ran with him, and both guys spilled to the floor hard for a “holy sh*t” chant. Back to the mat and Yoya worked a half-crab. Mack stunned Yoya with an incredible-looking 540 kick out of relative nowhere, and the ref moved in and shut it down. The two showed respect to each other after the match.
WINNER: Ninja Mack at 6:06.
(Wells’s Analysis: Good character work as well as being a good style clash. This had a very agreeable mix of real-looking fighting peppered with some impact pro wrestling spots)
(3) BAD DUDE TITO vs. ROYCE ISAACS
Both are working fairly regularly on New Japan Strong at the LA Dojo of late. Handshake to start. Isaacs shot in and Tito reversed, followed by a reset. Front chancery by Tito and the two jockeyed for position for a bit. The two continued what looked like an amateur wrestling match until a few rights were thrown. Isaacs worked a leg and the two jockeyed again for a good while until Isaacs threw a boot, then kicked Tito to the floor, where he took a breather. Back in and Isaacs took Tito down, but Tito caught him for a German suplex. Isaacs reversed for one of his own, then Tito hit another. Then Isaacs hit another and fired up. Isaacs wanted another but Tito rolled him into a kneebar. Tito released and threw some palm strikes, but Isaacs caught him with a T-bone suplex. More grappling Isaacs threw some knees. Isaacs rolled into a guillotine and Tito tapped. Isaacs did some poses after the match.
WINNER: Royce Isaacs at 5:36.
(Wells’s Analysis: Largely a straightforward amateur wrestling match that I thoroughly enjoyed. So far every match has delivered something all its own)
(4) SLADE vs. ALEX COUGHLIN
The name is pronounced “Coglan,” which Leonard flubbed. Romero knows better and will likely set him straight. Coughlin is a recent graduate from the New Japan Young Lion system and is a relentless machine in the ring. Both guys struck hard early, and Slade grounded Coughlin and threw some stiff elbow shots. Coughlin trapped Slade in a leg lock and Slade grabbed Coughlin’s head and neck to escape. Slade choked Coughlin to the mat until he escaped for a reset. Big elbow shot exchange by both impressed the crowd; this is very much a heavyweight New Japan match. Chokeslam by Slade, who tried a guillotine but Coughlin hit a deadlift German into a rear naked choke. Slade smiled as he passed out, refusing to tap. Slade gave Coughlin a fist bump afterward.
WINNER: Alex Coughlin at 3:33.
(Wells’s Analysis: In case I didn’t lay it on thick enough, I am a huge supporter of Coughlin. A really fun, brief, stiff affair)
(5) JOHN HENNIGAN vs. SIMON GOTCH
Hennigan may have missed his cue, as the camera was trained on the entrance for a long time before he showed up. Big pop for Hennigan. Feeling-out process to start, and Hennigan dumped Gotch to the floor, where he seethed and tried to fire himself up. Leg sweep by Hennigan led into some quick reversals. Hennigan worked a kneebar and Gotch batted Hennigan in the ear to a big reaction. The two grappled and reversed until Hennigan mounted Gotch for some elbows. Hennigan evaded a few shots and hit a lariat, which felt novel on a show like this. Double-underhook suplex and a knee strike by Gotch. Hennigan escaped and hit a stiff kick to the midsection, then some kicsk to the leg. Gotch tried to sucker Hennigan to the mat and Hennigan didn’t take the bait. Hennigan shot in and Gotch was able to reverse and threw a few elbows. Both guys reached their feet and exchanged palm strikes and forearms. Hennigan trapped Gotch into a sleeper for the quick tap. The crowd chanted “Johnny Bloodsport,” as they did upon his entrance. Gotch stuck to his scowling persona and didn’t attempt a handshake afterward.
WINNER: John Hennigan at 5:56.
(Wells’s Analysis: That got so chippy at times, I wondered if Gotch was legit angry for a moment. Another good marriage of shootfighting and pro wrestling here)
(6) MARINA SHAFIR vs. ZEDA ZHANG
Good reaction for Shafir, the most accomplished fighter on the show so far. Leonard mentioned the time both spent in WWE as a way to add sizzle to the match, suggesting Shafir had always given Zhang dirty looks. Shafir remained cold and emotionless at all times. Shafir threw a lot of punches and finally connected with a left, and Zhang bailed to the floor, baiting Shafir to get in a lot of shots. Back to the mat, Zhang outgrappled Shafir for a time and Shafir reset, smiling at what was happening. Headlock takeover by Zhang into a kneebar, which Shafir escaped, after which she hit a pair of slams. Shafir got to a mounted position and got some shots in, and Zhang escaped and hopped on Shafir’s back for a sleeper. Shafir maneuvered Zhang to a side and slammed her down. Both women got to their feet and Zhang finally worked a chocke, then rolled into a leg lock, which Shafir escaped. More quick mat reversals and Shafir dragged Zhang to the center of the mat. Zhang escaped and both hit their feet. Shafir tied up Zhang on the mat and added a wristlock, and the ref called it. The ending bell was (very) late and the announcers had to guess whether the tap was verbal or visual (or the ref stopped it on his own).
WINNER: Marina Shafir at 8:03.
(Wells’s Analysis: Longest match of the night so far, which surprises me mildly since Shafir is legit and seems like the type you’d just put over quick. That said, Zhang held up her side of things just fine. Some of the sequences in this one seemed a bit samey, though nothing was actively bad)
(7) TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. JR KRATOS
Very strong reaction for Thatcher, returning to Bloodsport for the first time since his WWE stint. Kratos gets a pretty decent push on New Japan Strong as part of Tom Lawlor’s Team Filthy. Thatcher was fired up. Kratos took down Thatcher early, and Thatcher reversed and threw some knees to Kratos’s back. Back to their feet and Kratos threw a big right. Thatcher took control and threw a knee to the side, but Kratos used his weight to take control on the mat. Thatcher rolled Kratos into a surfboard, likely the most impressive I’ve seen given the size of Kratos. Reversals again and Thatcher worked a half-crab, then continued punishing the legs with a big smile on his face. Thatcher worked a headlock and struck Kratos’s forehead a few times. Kratos got to his feet, and as Thatcher tried a headlock suplex, Kratos redistributed and landed on Thatcher. Suplex by Kratos, who followed up with a headlock, but Thatcher reversed and worked one himself. Both guys went to their feet and exchanged shots and European uppercuts. Big headbutt by Thatcher, who sold it as stunning him as well. Kratos bled hard from his forehead; I couldn’t tell if it was hardway or if there was a blade while he was offscreen. Kratos fired up, hit a big lariat, and trapped Thatcher in a sleeper. Thatcher nearly passed out in a convincing near-finish, then escaped and threw hands and worked an armbar. Kratos stunned Thatcher with a piledriver, then struck with a Superman punch for the knockout. The fans chanted “bullsh*t” and Kratos smiled and flipped them off. Kratos got into it with a fan and hurled vulgarities at him.
WINNER: JR Kratos at 9:23.
(Wells’s Analysis: Lots of fun here and it was an interesting decision, and I agree the right one, to put Kratos over. Kratos can gain a lot from this show from people who don’t know him on New Japan Strong, and Thatcher, as we know, never suffers much as a result of losses)
(8) “SPEEDBALL” MIKE BAILEY vs. YUYA UEMURA
Strong reaction for Bailey. Uemura, a New Japan Young Lion currently on excursion at the LA Dojo, is an extremely promising young talent that I’m projecting to see slot in as a higher-level babyface when he gets back to Japan. The screen incorrectly spelled his name as “Yuyu.” The two shook hands before the match, though Uemura didn’t release immediately.
Bailey threw some high kicks early that Uemura parried. Lightning-quick kicks by Bailey and the two kept their distance from one another until Bailey caught Uemura with a kick and shot in. Mat reversals led to a quick reset on their feet. Uemura absorbed a kick and tossed Bailey to the mat, then backed off as Bailey threatened some more kicks. To their feet again, and Bailey caught Uemura with a kick and worked a body scissors. Uemura threw some quick punches and the two reset yet again. Uemura took Bailey to the mat and Bailey hit an armdrag, then the two devolved into a series of fists. The two rolled near the edge of the mat, then spilled over as Bailey escaped. Back in and Bailey caught Uemura with a ton of kicks, but Uemura caught one and hit an Air Raid Crash. Fujiwara Armbar by Uemura into a cross-armbreaker finished. Another big show of respect after the match.
WINNER: Yuya Uemura at 7:07.
(Wells’s Analysis: Uemura spent two-plus years in New Japan as a Young Lion before this excursion, so I’ve seen him win so rarely that it was surprising to see that happen here. A very exciting match that could’ve just died out there after the thrilling Kratos-Thatcher affair)
(9) JOSH BARNETT vs. JONAH
Jonah is former NXT star Bronson Reed. He’s also wrestling regularly on New Japan Strong as a monster heel. Slow feeling-out process to open as we’re likely at the point where we’ll get the three longest matches. Barnett took Jonah to the mat with a headlock, and the two exchanged reversals there. Barnett worked a headlock until Jonah reversed and chopped Barnett’s back and worked a sleeper. Barnett escaped and threw some rights, but Jonah reversed and threw a big forearm of his own. Double wristlock by Jonah, escape and reset. Jonah hit a powerslam into a side headlock. Escape, to their feet, and Barnett threw a few kicks but got kicked down and Jonah hit a senton. To a standing position once again, the two exchanged forearms and Jonah got the better of it. A Jonah headbutt sent Barnett crumbling, but he came back with a spinning heel kick and worked a heel hook. Jonah fought it off for about 20 seconds before tapping.
WINNER: Josh Barnett at 8:46.
(Wells’s Analysis: Barnett wins the match, but Jonah “won” not only by being booked against Barnett on his own series, but also by getting the vast majority of the offense. By far the slowest match on the show, which made for the feeling that Barnett himself was in the death spot)
(10) JON MOXLEY vs. BIFF BUSICK
The crowd howled along as the former Oney Lorcan returned with his old music. Moxley got a typically strong reaction. “Both these guys” chant. Quick mat reversals to open, after which Moxley took Busick down and worked a few brief mat submissions. Busick worked a front chancery, and Moxley slammed him but couldn’t break. He reversed and did Bryan Danielson’s hold and kick spot to a good reaction. Saito suplex by Moxley, who followed up with forearms and elbows, then dropkicked Busick to the floor. They headed out and Moxley hit a suplex on the floor. Busick bled all over the place from the forehead and mouth. Moxley threw a very loud chop, then held Busick in a triangle as Busick bled all over himself and Moxley. The announcers spoke genuinely about how long it could go on if Busick kept bleeding like this. Chops and a double wristlock by Busick. Palm strikes by Busick, followed by a Saito suplex and a European uppercut. Sleeper by Busick, but Moxley escaped and hit a hard lariat and and threw down forearms as Busick tried to defend himself. Cross-armbreaker by Moxley, and Busick reversed and did the same Danielson spot. Half-and-half suplex by Moxley and Death Rider followed. Moxley worked a bulldog choke and Busick wouldn’t quit. Knees by Moxley. Busick gave Moxley double birds and Moxley hit a running knee strike for the KO victory. Respect and a fist bump after the match.
WINNER: Jon Moxley at 10:00.
(Wells’s Analysis: The exact brutal affair you’d expect, except with considerably more blood. I’m not sure that should have continued as long as it did given Busick’s blood loss, but given that it did, they had a hell of a fight)
(11) MINORU SUZUKI vs. CHRIS DICKINSON
Suzuki entered to his extremely popular theme, “Kaze Ni Nare,” to cheers. This is a rematch from Bloodsport 7, where Suzuki beat Dickinson, and the story is that Dickinson is trying to even the score. “Welcome back” chant for Dickinson, who’s been fighting injury. “Dirty Daddy”/”Suzuki” dueling chant.
Dickinson dominated on the mat early until Suzuki suckered him into a sleeper. The two grappled to the edge of the mat and Suzuki headed to the outside to escape a submission. Back inside, they jostled on the mat again and reversed repeatedly for a couple of minutes before Suzuki grounded Dickinson and missed two hard palm strikes. Dickinson reversed to the top and he too couldn’t land a strike at first. Suzuki tried to fight to his feet and Dickinson struck with a palm strike. Suzuki sold it with an unimpressed look to the camera, eliciting a laugh from the announcers. The two exchanged forearms on their feet and started working in chops and palm strikes. Kicks got involved and Suzuki snapped on a kneebar. Dickinson broke free with some palm strikes and the two went to their feet for another stiff exchange. Suzuki crumpled Dickinson with a big elbow strike. Combo strikes by Suzuki and Dickinson fell to the mat. Dickinson managed a back kick and an enzuigiri, then a brainbuster. Dickinson threw a series of back elbows and the referee quickly ended it to boos. Dickinson, like Kratos, flipped off the crowd for the boos. Suzuki tossed a chair angrily at ringside before leaving. Dickinson took the mic and leaned heavily on f-bombs as he said he was back and he didn’t care what people thought.
WINNER: Chris Dickinson at 9:45.
(Wells’s Analysis: It took a little more time to get going, but they found their gear and got wildly violent. Suzuki is well into the giving back portion of his career and I’m not surprised this match was designed to put over a guy he’d beaten a couple of times already.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A show called “Bloodsport” could easily have relied on way more blood than this, but it was an extremely well-paced show and the blood was saved for big matches and moments (Busick should have bled less than he did, but these things happen when you can only control so much). I don’t think a show like this would have much of a shot as a weekly happening on American TV, but I liked it a lot as a break from the norm, and I was also pleased at the fact that there were a couple of real upsets here (I’m not overly shocked at Kratos or Dickinson going over given their current standing in New Japan Strong, but many of the fans in attendance didn’t see those finishes coming). I have very little negative to say on the whole, though I would caution people that this kind of show involves a different pacing and isn’t for everyone. On the upside, it was exciting to see lariats and suplexes mean something again given their infrequence over the course of the night.
If you like your wrestling stiff and violent, this is an easy show to recommend. Zack Heydorn, Sean Radican and Tyler Sage will be covering other GCW Collective shows this weekend as well. Cheers.