[As the eyes of the professional wrestling world turned to Dallas, Texas, for Wrestlemania Weekend, various independent promotions came together to put shows in front of larger crowds. This is known as The Collective.]
Leading the charge of The Collective is Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) and the now several-times-a-year even, Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 8. All of these matches are contested under MMA rules, inside a ring with no ropes. The only way to win is by tap out, submission, or referee stoppage, that latter of which can include disqualification, or in a situation where a fight cannot properly defend themselves. In the main event, a rematch from an earlier Bloodsport show, independent wrestlig fan favourite Chris Dickinson returns from injury to once again fight the Japanese “murder grandpa” Minoru Suzuki. Also on the show, Jon Moxley faces the returning Biff Buisick (formerly Oney Lorcan in NXT), and the event’s namesake and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett faces the monstrous JONAH. All of these fights and much more at GCW Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 8.
+ Minoru Suzuki vs Chris Dickinson: this was good, but frankly it was hard to follow the Moxley/Biff match up. Suzuki and Moxley will always be the kings of this event, but Dickinson made a strong case for himself. The ending my be polarising, but frankly I liked it, and I think it made sense
+ “The Death Rider” Jon Moxley vs Biff Buisick: holy crap this was a violent bloodbath, and this was excellent. This is what Bloodsport is all about, baby. My boy Biff is finally free, and he can put on bangers like this wherever he goes. I truly hope he gets into the BOSJ or G1 Climax, because I need to see him in NJPW. Moxley was intense as ever, especially since joining the Blackpool Combat Club, and it made for a fantastic show. This really should have been the main event
+ JONAH vs “The Warmaster” Josh Barnett: the size difference was the real highlight here, but it did make for some of the more unrealistic elements of the show; I know Barnett is a legit fighter, but this is a size difference you can only overcome in the world of pro wrestling. JONAH didn’t do it for me in NXT, but since leaving he has had some great moments and matches in Impact!, and I expect that trend to continue now that he can be more than ‘big guy on a show of rookies’
+ “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Yuya Uemura: a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of Speedball, and I am so glad he is back in the US getting the recognition he not just deserves, but has earned. Yuya is going to be a massive star in NJPW, and it is the fact that he can make something like Bloodsport work for him that proves it
+ JR Kratos vs Timothy Thatcher: I really like both these guys, and this was a fun fight that looked dirty in the good way. None of this appeared rehearsed or choreographed, and both were willing to not just hit their opponent really hard, but also get hit in return
+ Bad Dude Tito vs Royce Isaacs: this was fun. I’m not overly familiar with either guy, outside of their work on NJPW Strong, but I was very easily able to get invested in this “fight”. This Royce Isaacs fellow is going to be a big star, and that Tito is definitely a bad dude
+ Ninja Mack vs Yoya: there were a lot of whiffs in this one which wer treated as hits, but the absolutely awesome finish made up for it. Ninja Mack has had a big year in GCW, and this showed he can do just as well in these different sort of environments
– Zeda Zhang vs “The Problem” Marina Shafir: this was really poor, almost all on behalf of Zhang. Zhang looked lost often, and Shafir – an actual former (?) MMA fighter – had to literally put herself into positions for a lot of Zhang’s offence. This was a bust
– “Johnny Bloodsport” John Hennigan vs Simon Gotch: essentially, this boiled down to capoeira versus old timey boxing (but each also grappled) and it was… okay. I mean no disrespect when I say that I don’t think Hennigan is in his element here – he is far more flashy than the no-ropes, “real” fighting would allow for
– SLADE vs Alex Coughlin: SLADE has a fantastic look for this event, especially against the much more clean-cut stud in Coughlin. This actually went far shorter than I anticipated, and I think I would have liked it more if it went a bit longer
– Masa Slamovich vs Junai Kai: both wrestlers looked sloppy and inexperienced in this fake-real-style. This was a disappointing way to start the show
> I know I say this on every review of these shows, but they’re such a strange thing to see. In professional wrestling, you don’t want to actually hit your opponent, but you want it to look like you do; in mixed martial arts, you want to hit your opponent, but not let them know they’ve hurt you. So here, there is that awkward double-bluff where one doesn’t get hit, pretends like they were hit, but that the fake hit doesn’t hurt.
Should you watch this event: These events are always hit and miss, but this was really a show of two halves. In the first half, the only thing that really got me going was that Mack/Yoya finish, but from Kratos’ entrance the show turned around. Moxley/Biff is an absolute must see.