Josh Barnett and GCW Present: “Bloodsport II” Review

It’s time for Volume Two of the ultimate hybrid wrestling/MMA event, Bloodsport II. The idea, originated by Matt Riddle and taken even further by Josh Barnett comes to the Showboat in Atlantic City for another night of MMA infused wrestling and plenty of shoot fight violence. Boasting 10 matches and a diverse roster of men and women from companies around the world, we are certainly in for one hell of a show. Not to mention oozing in retro charm throughout its videography in the pre-show. Nothing is quite as unique as Bloodsport. Let’s get into the violence!

Matt Makowski defeated Rory Gulak via KO

The first match of the pre-show saw the Catch Point king Rory Gulak take on the popular Matt Makowski to warm up the audience. Makowski had an advantage in height so Gulak had to fight upwards. It was a battle of striking prowess vs technical ability as Gulak would try to grapple as often as he could to avoid the striking power of Makowski. It wasn’t to last though as the pair started trading positions more and more with Gulak hitting a nasty German Suplex and Makowski busting out a Standing Moonsault Press and an O’Connor Roll to an Arm Bar. What started like an MMA bout transcended that to through in some shocking athleticism. In the end, Gulak could lock in a submission or out-grapple his opponent and ate a savage head kick that KO’ed him. It was an absolutely awesome opening bout and one hell of a way to do a pre-show.

Sumie Sakai defeated Lindsay Snow via Leg Triangle Choke Submission

The second pre-show match was the first-ever women’s Bloodsport match between the American Kaiju Lindsay Snow taking on former Women of Honor title holder Sumie Sakai. This was a much tamer fight than the opener but still featured some vicious power shots. Snow had a distinct size and strength advantage so Sakai looked to lock up Snow and prevent her using that power. This worked a lot of the time and Snow was trapped on the ground or locked up but would power out and punish when she could, including a devastating Brainbuster and massive Back Suplex. The ladies got to prove they belonged there and Sakai won with an interesting leg variant of a Triangle Choke to submit Snow. It was much more technical than the first bout but that certainly showed off Sakai’s level of technical prowess and was a smart choice considering her opponent.

Anthony Henry defeated Zachary Wentz via Triangle Choke

The show opened with the Rascalz’ Zachary Wentz trying to prove he’s not just a self-professed flip monkey against EVOLVE’s master of submission wrestling, Anthony Henry. Many were questioning why Wentz was there but this match proved why. Wentz instantly went on the attack and kept pace with Henry the whole bout. He was striking hard and using some exceptional amateur wrestling acumen throughout. He was able to get the upper hand over a much more experienced opponent on multiple occasions and only lost when he dived into a Triangle. It was an exceptional change of style from someone who seems so far removed from this style of combat.

Erik Hammer defeated JR Kratos via Rear Choke

Next up was a match between two guys fairly unknown to me. Both Hammer and Kratos were a big deal in the promotion and build-up to the show so you can imagine I had high hopes going into this bout as I would be exposed to two new highly touted fighters. The only time I had seen Kratos was at the last Bloodsport against Simon Grimm. Both men were huge and heavy, ready to fight. What started as an elongated grappling bout with Kratos slowly bringing in strikes. After a while, it descended into a Hockey Fight with some Suplexes thrown in for fun. It became a battle for an Arm Bar to Hammer as he continuously went after the arm of Kratos. This strategy was abandoned after Hammer was able to lock in a Chin Lock and transition it into a choke. This was probably the longest bout so far but was full of brutal strikes and clever grappling. In matches like these, the Suplexes also felt incredibly heavy. I look forward to seeing more from both men in the future.

Allysin Kay defeated Nicole Savoy via Arm Trap Elbow Strikes

Many people do not know about the MMA training that Kay has had. The AK was prepared to show just what she was really capable of when letting loose in a ring. She wasn’t shy about bigging up her skills. Unfortunately for her, Savoy also wanted to show off her skills in combat. In fact, early on Savoy was more aggressive and nearly punched Kay’s face off. The pair kept trading Leg Locks and Heel Hooks whilst spilling to the outside and kicking each other. They continuously traded mounts, strikes and submissions with a Backdrop Suplex knocking Kay outside. Kay didn’t always play fair but she gave as good as she got, beating back at Savoy when struck at. By far the most even match so far, the pair seemed unable to outclass each other until Kay was able to trap the arms of Savoy and pummel her down with Elbows for a knockout. This was such a smooth match to watch and a brilliant showcase for the women’s wrestlers of the main card.

Anthony Carelli defeated Simon Grimm via Arm Bar

The former Santino Marella was a shock addition to this show. Whilst known mostly for his comedy work in the WWE, it turns out that Carelli is actually trained in Martial Arts. He was put against another former WWE guy in Simon Grimm, a very unpopular guy with the crowd. This didn’t seem to phase him though, he just wanted to take someone’s head off. These two had one of the best matches of the night as Carelli proved why he belonged there and how he is one hell of a shoot fighter. He held nothing back the whole match showing technical and striking prowess that WWE clearly never chose to push. He was clinical in his targeting, defence and escape from submissions. Grimm was just as tough though, ignoring the crowd reaction to kill Carelli when he could, unleashing some devastating strikes. A knee strike, in particular, rocked Carelli. In the end, Carelli rolled through into an Arm Bar, achieving an instant tap out. This was amazing to see and I honestly hope we see more types of these matches from Carelli, he can clearly go and the crowd adored him. I was honestly shocked at how good he was.

Timothy Thatcher defeated Ikuhisa Minowa via Neck Crank/STF

Next up was the debut of Japanese IGF star Ikuhisa Minowa against the beloved master of catch wrestling Timothy Thatcher. This was another brutal one as there were strong strikes from the very start as Minowa rushed a Drop Kick and began trying to chop down the giant in Thatcher. The crowd was eating up every bit of it too. These two were on fire trading like nothing else. Despite the loss, Thatcher gave Minowa a match he could be proud of. The pair kept swapping out submissions and fighting on the ground as Minowa kept picking the leg of Thatcher out from under him. Once again, we also got some excellent Suplexes too as Minowa hit a dangerous looking Snap Suplex putting Thatcher on his head and Thatcher returned that with a Gutwrench Suplex of his own. The finish came from Thatcher trading Arm Bars with Minowa and managing to turn the exchange into a Leg Lock and adding the Neck Crank as a final painful touch. This was an excellent debut for the Japanese MMA legend and an amazing win for Thatcher who can finally say he has a win at a Bloodsport show.

Davey Boy Smith Jr defeated Filthy Tom Lawlor via Sit Out PowerBomb KO

Next up was the match that a lot of people were looking forward to, the bout between Davey Boy Smith Jr and Filthy Tom Lawlor. The pair had a history on MLW and the crowd were clearly in favour of Filthy. It was going to get technical very quickly. It started with a clash of holds and trades and submission attempts, all performed with silky smooth execution before getting a hell of a lot nastier. The pair levelled each other with the hardest forearms, elbows, chops and kicks seen in the show so far and DBS was more than happy to use his wrestling training to slam Lawlor into oblivion. There was a Sharpshooter reference and Lawlor basically took himself and DBS out by throwing himself like a weapon causing a 9.9 count. You could tell these two were MMA professionals as everything was executed flawlessly and hit as hard as you could want. The fact that no one was knocked out sooner was a testament to the resilience of both men in the ring. The Bulldog Bomb was an excellent way to finish the match as DBS had basically killed Lawlor with strikes before attempting the finish. Definitely a must watch from this show. It’s nice to see DBS practising a style he loves and being used. Every match he has feels like a big middle finger to NJPW for their mishandling of him.

Killer Kross defeated Nick Gage via Rear Naked Choke

Killer Kross needed shelter from the Nick Gage chants so the theme he came out to was quite fitting. He came into the match really seeming unintimidated by Gage. Most will know Gage as the GCW and a prominent deathmatch guy. That didn’t mean he couldn’t go when the fight was necessary. The crowd were certainly going to believe in him. It wasn’t a long one here as Gage fought like a madman, instantly running at Kross only to get slammed. Gage was continuously mocked by Kross until he dropped Kross with a sickening headbutt. He would manage to lock in a choke but Kross reversed it and a defiant Gage was considered passed out and the match was stopped. Gage was not happy, demanding a restart or rematch but he never got his wish, so he killed the ref. After the match, Killer Kross called out Dave Batista, demanding a Bloodsport match with him. Now that really would be a spectacle. This wasn’t the strongest match on the show but it proved a nice change of pace and Gage being the wild brawler underdog was a fun storyline for the match. Plus, that headbutt really was something else.

Josh Barnett defeated Chris Dickinson via Gutwrench Bomb/Head Kick Combo

Last but certainly not least was the main event. It was originally scheduled to be Barnett vs Jon Moxley but that was unfortunately cancelled due to a Moxley injury. Stepping up to fill the role was indie hero and face of Beyond Wrestling, “the Dirty Daddy” Chris Dickinson. This wasn’t his first time replacing someone on a Bloodsport show and he certainly felt he needed to prove he was more than a replacement. Granted, that would not be easy as he was taking on the show’s namesake, Josh Barnett.  Boy was it a hard-earned victory for Barnett. Dickson looked like a monster for most of this match, punishing Barnett with every opening he gave him. There were multiple times Dickinson could have legitimately KO’ed Barnett. That being said, momentum swings both ways and Barnett was not going to give up any time soon, beating the sh*t out of Dickinson. It was a masterclass of pacing and deliberate spot picking. Both men looked like stars in this match and it was certainly in the stand out tier of matches. It took a Doctor Bomb, multiple Knees to the head and a brutal Head Kick to keep the Dirty Daddy down. it was not the result everyone wanted but let’s face it, the match could have easily gone either way.

So, there you have it, Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport II reviewed for your reading pleasure. As you can see, it was a very strong show from start to finish. Some matches were definitely better than others and it was certainly not a perfect show but there were some real gems to be found. The card could have possibly been cut down to save time and a couple of matches ran a little longer than necessary but overall, worth it’s asking price. Carelli and Grimm, Kay and Savoy and the last three matches make the purchase worth it alone. All were excellent examples of the worked, shoot-fight scene. A must watch for any catch, amateur or strong style wrestling fan and a nice gateway for MMA fans to get a taste of the extravagances of wrestling. Oh, and if Batista really does accept Killer Kross’ challenge then Bloodsport 3 is going to be very interesting.

Pictures courtesy of GCW, feature image courtesy of @katygoesuwutweets courtesy of The Lariat Pro Wrestling WrestleZone, and special thanks to MrLARIATO for the gifs of the action for this show

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