By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
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Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 9
Replay available via FITE.TV
March 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, California at Ukrainian Cultural Center
“The Collective” is a series of 10 wrestling shows, led by Game Changer Wrestling, held over WrestleMania weekend, with all the events at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Most of the shows have a specific theme (there is a lucha show, a show highlighting Black wrestlers, and another featuring the LGBTQ community.) This venue can probably hold 600, and I think nearly every one of the 10 shows are sellouts.
This is a review of “Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport,” which is the most believable worked ‘shoot-style’ matches I’ve ever seen. Basically, they take the ropes down and it is catch-style mat-based wrestling; the ring posts remain. The matches are often brutal and short, and always one-on-one. I wouldn’t watch this type of wrestling week-in, week-out, but as a once- or twice-a-year event, it’s a refreshing change. I don’t think there has been a Bloodsport event since last year’s WrestleMania weekend.
The building is packed, far more so than the Santino Bros Wrestling show in this venue that started five hours ago. Emil Jay is in the ring and he ran down the rules. All the wrestlers on the show were introduced, one by one. A huge pop for Kota Ibushi, who no one has seen wrestle since he injured his shoulder in the G1 Climax finale in fall 2021. I think I have seen three prior Bloodsport events, and at least half of these competitors have appeared in the past.
1. Jeff Cobb defeated Calder McColl at 6:02. I don’t know Calder, he’s 34, bald and a decent physique. The commentary team noted that Cobb wrestled Kenny Omega (less than!) 24 hours ago. Cobb hit a head-capture suplex at 3:00. They rolled to the floor and the ref immediately separated them, and they climbed back in. Nice. Calder tried paintbrushing him the face, but Cobb covered up. Calder applied a Triangle Choke, but Cobb turned it into a standing powerbomb. Cobb hit a hard forearm to the jaw, knocking Calder out, and the ref called for the bell. They shook hands and hugged.
2. Erik Hammer defeated Calvin Tankman at 2:52. Tankman is a Bloodsport vet. I don’t know Hammer; he’s 42, bald with a thick mustache that curls down to the bottom of his face, and he has a tattoo covering his whole back. Tankman immediately hit blows to the back of the head and a belly-to-belly suplex. They traded punches and Hammer hit some knee lifts to the stomach.. Tankman hit a uranage at 2:00. Hammer applied a key lock, tying the arm behind the back, and Tankman tapped out! A huge upset in my eyes.
3. Marina Shafir defeated Killer Kelly at 5:39. Shafir is 2-0; Kelly is 0-1. Shafir tied up the left arm, and she switched to the right ankle. They rolled to the floor at 2:00 and Shafir hit a few kicks before they re-entered the ring. Kelly hit a German Suplex, and she went for a sleeperhold, but Marina fought free. Kelly hit another German Suplex. Kelly applied a cravat and hit some kneelifts to the chin. Marina hit a straight kick to the chest that sent Kelly flying at 5:00. Shafir hit a nice suplex that looked somewhat like a Jackhammer. She stretched Kelly on the mat, and Kelly tapped out. That was fun and intense.
4. Kota Ibushi defeated Mike Bailey at 6:52. Ibushi came out second and he looks in as great of shape as when we last saw him 18 months ago. Bailey approached Kota and bowed; classy move. They started on their feet and tried quick kicks and strikes; this looks more like a karate bout. Bailey applied a Triangle Choke; Ibushi started to turn it into a Boston Crab and he escaped. Bailey put his feet in Ibushi’s chest and pushed him out of the ring at 4:00.
Back in the ring, Ibushi hit some quick kicks to Bailey’s shoulder; he’s taller than Mike. Bailey fired back with his Speedball kicks, and he went to a cross-armbreaker. Bailey hit a moonsault kneedrop to the chest and went right back to the cross-armbreaker. Ibushi fired back with a German Suplex at 6:00. Bailey hit a headbutt. Ibushi hit a pumphandle suplex, grabbed Bailey’s wrists, then the Kamigoye kneestrike to the collarbone to knock out Bailey. That was fantastic. I am such a big fan of Ibushi and it’s great to see him back.
* Chavo Guerrero Jr. hit the ring. He spoke on the mic but it kept cutting out. He gave an award to Erik Paulsen.
5. Bad Dude Tito defeated Yoya Uemera at 5:07. They fought on their feet and Tito pushed him to the ground. Back in the ring, Yoya tackled him and they fought on the mat. Tito went for a cross-armbreaker at 3:00. Uemera hit a belly-to-belly suplex, then he dove to the floor on Tito at 4:30. They got back in the ring, where Uemera hit a German Suplex. Tito rolled through and applied an anklelock, and Uemera tapped out.
6. Davey Boy Smith defeated JR Kratos at 10:42. These are two very big men. Smith is more blond here than I’ve ever seen. They opened with standing switches and changed to mat reversals. This is intense, yet more methodical than the prior matches, as there isn’t much action to describe. Smith applied a front headlock and hit some knee strikes to the shoulders at 5:30. They got to their feet and traded forearm shots, and Smith hit some knee lifts to the chest.
Kratos climbed on Davey and hit some forearm strikes to the chin. Smith hit a standing powerbomb at 8:30. Kratos hit a kneestrike and a Pele Kick, and they were both down. They traded forearm shots while on their knees, then while standing. Smith applied a crossface, and Kratos tapped out. Good match, but I think if the ropes had been up in a regular match, it would have looked exactly the same.
7. Johnny Bloodsport (f/k/a John Morrison) defeated Royce Isaacs at 7:51. Isaacs, of course, has wrestled a lot with teammate Jorel Nelson on the West Coast and New Japan Strong. Royce has a great physique and is larger than Johnny. They jabbed at each other with neither landing a strike. They traded reversals and had a standoff at 1:30. Isaacs hit a suplex, and he tied up the left arm. Isaacs hit a German Suplex at 5:00, then a second one. Johnny escaped and hit a kneestrike to the chin.
Johnny tied up Royce’s head and cranked backward. Royce rolled him over and applied a sleeper. Johnny applied a cross-armbreaker; Royce reversed it into a Boston Crab at 6:30. Royce nailed a piledriver and applied a sleeper, but Johnny escaped. Johnny applied a Dragon Sleeper, and Royce quickly tapped out. I liked that, and for a few seconds there, I thought Royce was going to pull off a big upset.
8. Jon Moxley defeated Alex Coughlin at 6:30. Coughlin is in phenomenal shape and he was fired up. Moxley wore a black “Blackpool Wrestling” hoodie to the ring. Alex immediately dove at the left leg and tried to twist it. Moxley tackled him, and he applied a Triangle Choke, but Alex slid to the floor and he powerbombed Moxley onto the ring post. In the ring, Coughlin hit two gutwrench suplexes at 2:30. Coughlin began twisting the left ankle.
Moxley applied a Dragon Sleeper. Alex hit a standing powerbomb at 4:00. Moxley hit several stiff headbutts, and he applied a rear-naked choke. Moxley hit his double-arm DDT but Coughlin popped up and they traded open-hand slaps to the face. Moxley hit a kneestrike to the face and repeated forearms to the back of the head, but Coughlin fought out of it and stood up with Moxley on his back! Moxley has a trickle of blood on his forehead from those headbutts. Moxley applied a sleeperhold around the head and an arm until Coughlin tapped out. A really good match; those who haven’t seen Coughlin before will come away impressed.
9. Timothy Thatcher defeated Josh Barnett at 12:07. Barnett, age 45, has a saggy midsection. They are the same height; I would have thought Thatcher would be taller. Thatcher immediately went to work on the left leg, and he switched to a cross-armbreaker. He hit several knee strikes to the lower back at 2:30. Barnett hit a suplex and he tied up Thatcher’s left arm and hit some crossface blows to the forehead. Thatcher applied a half-crab at 4:30. Thatcher climbed on top and hit several forearm strikes to the head.
They traded more mat reversals and it appears Barnett is gassed. Thatcher hit more knee strikes to the ribs at 6:30. Barnett applied a front headlock. Thatcher tied the right arm up behind the back; Barnett countered with an ankle lock on the left leg. Barnett hit a back suplex, and they were both down at 9:00, allowing Barnett to catch his breath. They went to the floor, then back in the ring, where Thatcher hit some European Uppercuts.
Thatcher hit a back suplex and went back to a hooking the right arm above Barnett’s head. Barnett hit a back suplex. Barnett hit a standing powerbomb, but Thatcher immediately applied a Fujiwara Armbar; he switched to an anklelock, and Barnett tapped out. That was totally the right decision.
Final Thoughts: I do not watch MMA or boxing. This is not usually my style of pro wrestling; I started watching WWF in the late 1980s when outfits and characters were flamboyant. But this was just a really fun change of pace.
I personally liked Kota-Bailey for best, largely because it was so great to see Kota back in the ring. I figured Kota and Moxley would win, and I was definitely surprised when Tankman lost. When it became apparent that Thatcher-Barnett was going on last, I really hoped Thatcher would win; it was a big victory for him in the main event of a show that will be well-watched. Like Thatcher, this was a head-turning noteworthy night for both Alex Coughlin and Royce Isaacs, too.
I would have loved to see Janai Kai back this year, as this type of match is in her wheelhouse, but Marina vs. Kelly was fresh and different.
I recommend this show. If you don’t have Fite+…. get it for a month and take in all these Mania-weekend shows!
<Most of the shows have a specific theme (there is a lucha show, a show highlighting Black wrestlers, and another featuring the LGBTQ community.)<<
What one of the shows had the theme of white straight wrestlers? OH WAIT, that would be racist and homophobic.
I remember when "equality" didn't actually mean "hypocrisy" and "preferential treatment".
What an easily triggered little snowflake. Fuck your feelings, Angry Mike. You should send GCW one of your classic angry emails like you used to send me and the staff. I’m sure they’d enjoy the laugh too.