Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport has quickly become an institution in the independent scene, and this with only three previous shows to its name. Presenting encounters between wrestlers who have training and experience in other combat sports, it gives fans the unique opportunity of seeing wrestlers compete outside of their normal styles and circumstances.
I’d never seen one of the Bloodsport shows before, so with show number four here and having seen the hype for previous shows, I thought I’d throw myself into this one.
I like what I see already. Filmed in a “secret location”, this is indeed set up like an underground fight club, just old battered brick walls and a ring with no ropes or buckles. It’s like Raw Underground done right. Sometimes a little can be a lot.
Let’s get to it!
Diego Perez vs. Gil Guardado
The opening fight of Bloodsport 4 was between two professional MMA fighters. I’ve not come across either men before but this fight made me want to change that a little, especially in the case of Guardado who, considering his slight size and weight disadvantage, never looked intimidated and took Perez down four times before Perez was able to take Guardado down once. Once was all it took though, as a mounted front choke was enough to get Guardado to tap.
An enjoyable first contest.
Royce Isaacs vs. ‘The Highlander’ Calder McColl
It’s good to see Royce in action again. I’ve not seen him since he left the NWA last year. He’s looking good too. The guy’s obviously been working out.
Calder McColl meanwhile is an MMA fighter-turned-pro wrestler who looks like a legitimate hard b****** and gets extra points from me for using ‘Diesel Power’ by The Prodigy as his entrance music. Good lad.
This was interesting as Isaacs was more adept in takedowns, whereas McColl was a striker. Isaacs was more hesitant to get involved in a striking war, which led to him taking a beating on a couple of occasions. Isaacs showed his pro wrestling prowess by locking in two wristlocks and attempting a half-crab that McCool wriggle out of. McColl meanwhile was like a dog that you just can’t shake off your leg, literally on occasion. After two attempts at a triangle choke, the third was the charm as Isaacs tapped to end a really entertaining contest.
Bad Dude Tito vs. Super Beast
Tito is of course one half of the Wolf Zaddies tag team in Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and is well known on the Southern California wrestling scene. He is also, as his name suggests, a very bad dude. Super Beast is a bit of a mystery. He wears a black mask with a white skull on the front and he looks like an absolute hoss. This is going to be brutal.
Early on it looked like Super Beast might have had him after an incredible backdrop suplex into a mount position where strikes were the order of the day. Super Beast made the mistake though of transitioning into an arm bar, which Tito was able to escape.
Tito showed a fine mix of technical expertise and plain brutal violence, and a strike fest with Beast in the middle of the fight damn near made my eyes water. It was Beast, however, who would come out on top, landing a massive German Suplex on the Wolf Zaddie and locking in a double wristlock, wrenching the arm up behind Tito’s back to force the tap out.
I don’t know who Super Beast but I wouldn’t mess with him. A really good hoss fight.
Alex Coughlin vs. JR Kratos
Alex Coughlin is a Young Lion in New Japan’s L.A. dojo and has recently returned from a neck injury. I’m not sure Bloodsport was the best place to make a comeback! Kratos, meanwhile, is one half of the NWA tag team champions with Aron Stevens and is a part of Team Filthy in NJPW Strong. He’s a big, beefy man, weighing over sixty pounds more than the smaller Coughlin.
Not that seemed to phase Coughlin, who ran to the ring, high on adrenaline and violence. And while you might expect the larger man to dominate, it was noticeably Coughlin who was in charge for a large part of this fight. He was able to take Kratos down on several occasions, at one point demonstrating a jaw dropping amount of strength by hitting a but wrench duplex on the big man, but he just could not keep Kratos down.
In the end, it was Kratos’ strength advantage that saved him. A running knee to the head saw him claim victory due to referee stoppage. Coughlin had to be helped to the back afterwards by the ref but he can at least be proud that he didn’t make it easy for the big man.
Nolan Edwards vs. Kal Jak
I’ve not seen either man wrestle before but I’m fascinated by the differences here. Edwards is not long out of high school and has been wrestling for two years. Kal Jak, on the other hand, is a big grizzly man who looks like a wrestling bear and is much heavier and taller than his opponent, who looks like a child next to him. I don’t think this is going to end well for Nolan….
…I was right! Credit to Nolan, he kept trying to chop down the big man’s legs but he just didn’t have the strength. Jak threw Nolan around like a rag doll, nailing him with various devastating gut wrench and German suplexes. A final gut wrench transitioned into a knee to the face, and it looked like the referee was about to stop the fight. Before he could, though, Jak hoisted Nolan up into his shoulders and threw him outside against the wall! The ref called stoppage there and then.
I think Kal Kal has a new member of his fan club. What a performance.
‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor vs. Simon Grimm
The battle of the MLW stars here, as Grimm is of course Simon Gotch. Lawlor has a 3-1 win record over Grimm. Can Grimm move closer to evening up here?
This was the best fight of the night so far. It was such a smooth, hard-fought encounter and everything looked crisp and well-executed. Grimm dominated for the most part, trying to lock Lawlor into a submission and countering Lawlor’s reversals back into submission attempts. A blow to Grimm’s liver, though, that seemed to rock him have Lawlor an opening and he focussed heavily on Grimm’s liver with some well-placed, vicious strikes.
The end came with a full-on strike war between the two, which only stopped when Lawlor hit Grimm once more in the liver. A swift knee followed, dropping Grimm to the mat, and Lawlor mounted, smashing Grimm with boulder-like fists to the head and forcing the ref to call the TKO. Wow. Brutal but exhilarating.
It’s really not been the best week for CONTRA…
Calvin Tankman vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr
It’s a battle of MLW vs. Ex-MLW, and it’s an interesting one in that Calvin Tankman is a little shorter than Smith Jr but is much heavier than him. Points to Tankman for coming out to ‘Hail Mary’ by 2Pac—I wish he’d do that in MLW and put the fear of God into people.
This was a short but aggressive fight, with Tankman mounting Smith Jr early on, forcing Smith Jr to use his countering skills to lock Tankman up. There were some nasty exchanges of strikes, especially later on, Smith Jr in particular laying them in stiff. In an amazing show of strength, Davey was able to take Tankman to the mat with a big backdrop duplex before a tight cross face from Smith Jr secured the tap out from Tankman.
A nicely hard-hitting encounter. I’d definitely like to see them hook up again and go longer.
Chris Dickinson vs. Jeff Cobb
Main event time, and this one was set to be a banger. ‘The Dirty Daddy’ has been getting a lot of attention lately, deservedly so, with his work on Prime Time Live and New Japan Strong. He’s one intense bruiser and has appeared on all previous Bloodsport shows. He’s a perfect headliner here. Jeff Cobb, meanwhile, is having a great run with New Japan at the moment and was a big part of last year’s G1 Climax tournament.
What made this fascinating is that, although Cobb is the bigger built of the two, Dickinson used his skill to repeatedly take Cobb down so he could either mount him or work the legs. It was a sound strategy and Dickinson was extremely impressive in the way he was so smoothly able to transition from position to another.
Cobb found himself in an unusual position for him: being regularly on his back. Commentary pointed out how Cobb’s submission game was not as strong as other parts of his repertoire. True to this point, Cobb regularly cracked Dickinson with some vicious palm strikes to the head in an attempt to go for the TKO.
The big man is better known for his suplexes though, and true to form he brought them out here, right at the last moment, hitting a sequence of three massive throws for the ref to call a halt to the fight. What an ending to the fight and to Bloodsport! Cobb bowed the his opponent out of respect. Quite right too. Dickinson put on a hell of a showcase here. Cobb was no slouch either.
A great fight, which fully deserved its main event billing.
I really enjoyed this show. I can’t say how it compared to previous editions of this event, but Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 4 was a great show that made a change and really stood out in the current wrestling marketplace. For many years now, wrestling has played with attributes, techniques and characteristic of MMA, and Bloodsport provides a platform, not only for wrestlers who are trained in other combat disciplines to show these skills, but also for fans of the more stiff, hard-hitting end of wrestling and lapsed wrestling fans who moved onto MMA. It feels right for wrestling to take a step in this direction, even if it’s not for everyone.
Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport returns next week on February 20th with their fifth show, set to be headlined by Jon Moxley taking on Davey Boy Smith Jr in what promises to be a tough old battle of bulldogs. Join us next for our coverage of the show.
Until then, fight fans.