Preview by Josh Nason
For the third time this year, Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport returns for its sixth installment, this one as part of the GCW Collective during WrestleMania week in Tampa, Florida.
The show is headlined by Barnett vs. former AEW and WWE World Champion Jon Moxley as fans will finally get the match GCW has been trying to put together since September 2019. A Moxley elbow infection canceled the first clash while the pandemic canceled all of last year’s WrestleMania activities when they wanted to do it again. Moxley is 2-0 while Barnett is 1-0-1 in Bloodsport competition.
The 12-match show will also feature several debuts including Chavo Guerrero Jr. who takes on the returning Rocky Romero and MLW Middleweight Champion Lio Rush against the also debuting Yoya; Davey Boy Smith Jr. looking to avenge his first Bloodsport loss when he faces KTB, Allysin Kay vs. Masha Slamovich and KZT vs. Janai Kai in the two female bouts, the debut of SHLAK, and more.
Our live coverage kicks off at 8 PM Eastern.
Tonight’s open-air show kicked off with an opening ceremony with each competitor walking to the ring, a formal introduction for everyone on Bloodsport 6, all to the tune of a Bolt Thrower-esque riff they had looping over the PA. Jon Moxley and Josh Barnett got the biggest reactions from the crowd next to Shlak.
Ring announcer Rich Palladino explained the Bloodsport rules to the crowd and announced who tonight’s officials were before the first match got underway.
“KZT” Karen Tran defeated Janai Kai via submission (armbar)
Kai is a black belt in tae kwan do. KZT studied jiu-jitsu with the legendary Cobrinha Charles and is a black belt under him, as well. Kai threw a high kick early but missed as KZT slid out of the way and tried bringing Kai to the mat. Kai caught her with the kick a moment later, though. KZT took Kai’s back quickly, but Kai was able to transition out quickly. Rapid transitions back and forth between these two, all very fluid. Commentary team killed it on this, great stuff. KZT worked a wristlock for a while until Janai Kai broke away and laid in a few hard low kicks to put KZT on her back and take top position.
KZT switched up her strategy and went after Kai’s leg, looking for a leg lock until she was able to transition into side mount, then full mount, and finally from full mount to an armlock attempt. Kai swept KZT and started laying in some open-handed strikes. KZT locked in a nice triangle choke, but the lanky Kai postured up and out of the move and went back to low kicks. KZT muscled Kai into a guiltione choke but Kai could escape. Kai’s height and overall reach advantage looked to give KZT somewhat of a hard time. KZT continued working for the armbar submission, but eventually Kai was able to roll out of it. As soon as both were back to their feet, Kai laid in a solid high kick into KZT’s mush, clearly dazing her. The crowd knew it.
KZT jumped guard and pulled Kai back to the mat. Tran used a beautiful double ankle-pick sweep from bottom position and was able to cinch in a high-angle straight armbar from almost an S-mount position, getting Kai to tap and picking up the win. This was awesome. It had somewhat of an early ’00s MMA/pro wrestling feel, a clear striker vs. grappler story. Kudos to both here.
Matt Makowski defeated Heddi Karaoui via submission (armbar)
Karaoui was on the national Greco-Roman team for France. Philly’s Makowski is nicknamed “Weapon X.” Makowksi brought a modern MMA game to the Bloodsport ring tonight, a clear contrasted to Karaoui’s pure Greco-Roman approach. Karaoui landed a big hiptoss early on. He later used an Imanari roll to inside heelhook on Makowski, atypical of the Greco-Roman style. Makowski was quickly out of Karaoui’s grip and laid in hard kicks, but even still, Karaoui had an answer for pretty much everything Makowski threw at him. He locked Makowski in a crossface at one point. Makowski later exploded into an armbar attempt from a standing position, something Shinsuke Nakamura made famous in pro wrestling.
The two traded high level submissions and were so fluid from move to move that it got hard to keep up with live. Awesome back-and-forth between these two. One of the best parts of Bloodsport is the high-level demonstration of wrestling and martial arts techniques we will almost never see in an ADCC or NCAA tournament. Makowski somehow transitioned into a “shoot” scorpion deathlock, which the crowd enjoyed. Kaoroui powered out, then later caught Makowski and locked in a Rings of Saturn-type submission before “Weapon X” landed a roundhouse kick and followed by rolling Karaoui into what I’m calling an ‘armbar slam,’ almost a full-nelson lift into an armbar on the way down. This got the French wrestler to tap immediately. Really, really good stuff here.
Bad Dude Tito defeated Victor Benjamin via submission (heel hook)
“The Savage Gentleman” Benjamin took on Bad Dude Tito, who we first saw at Bloodsport 4 and 5 (vs. Super Beast and vs. Rocky Romero). Benjamin came to the ring with Lady Frost, one his trainees according to commentary. One of the announcers mentioned Tito is a blue belt in BJJ.
It was a striking battle from the top. Benjamin landed a knee and a few body shots early on. He’d throw combos and disengage. Benjamin is huge but somehow Tito is bigger. Benjamin landed a nice rolling middle kick, and from here, the fight went to the mat. Tito went for a straight anklelock until they broke and got back to their feet. Tito used a big hiptoss on Benjamin, then locked him into kesagatame scarf position before trying to apply an americana lock. Benjamin escaped and slipped into a cradle to sleeper choke from the back.
Tito opened Benjamin’s legs up and escaped, then moved into North-South position before attemping an armlock. Benjamin missed a penalty kick and Tito took him back to the mat, again going for a toehold or kneebar. Benjamin returned the offense with big knees to Tito’s body. Benjamin went for a flashy RVD-style kick that Tito caught mid-air and turned into a modified ankle lock, then into an inside ashi heelhook for the submission victory. Benjamin tapped quickly. This was a short but action-packed match between two very large dudes.
Simon Grimm defeated Alexander James via submission (modified double wristlock)
Grimm wore a TAKAYAMANIA logo on his tights, showing his respect to the legendary Yoshihiro Takayama, who was paralyzed a few years ago. James went for a heel hook early on in this, but Grimm, more agressive than usual tonight, fought out of James’ grip with some hard palm strikes. James had to roll out to the floor and break before they restarted on their feet. James slammed Grimm hard back inside. Later, he muscled Grimm into a Doctor Bomb. From there, James started laying in strikes, but Grimm must have watched KZT vs. Janai Kai earlier, because Grimm used the same double ankle pick sweep to pull James to the mat and begin dominating once again from the top.
James elbowed his way out and fought to the top. Grimm threw a headbutt and went for a double wristlock attempt but couldn’t lock it in. James transitioned into an omoplata, but Grimm wouldn’t give his arm up. James threw hard forearms in an attempt to sink in a deeper grip on this Rings of Saturn kind of move, but Grimm, with no arms available, looked James in the eye and threw another headbutt, which got James to release the hold. I enjoy this version of Simon Grimm. They traded elbows on their feet next, but Grimm landed an enzuigiri (nice nod to Inoki), a butterfly suplex (great nod to Robinson) and finally a double wristlock + crucifix to submit James in dominant catch-wrestling fashion.
Alex Coughlin defeated Royce Isaacs via submission (single-leg crab)
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This was a rematch from Bloodsport 4. In their previous fight, Coughlin was still recovering from a neck injury, which he implies is the reason he lost to Isaacs. He stormed to the ring to Behemoth’s best song ever, “Slaves Shall Serve,” but it cut out quickly when Coughlin got into Isaacs’ face. He was pointing at his neck, calling Isaacs out for his “fluke” win at Bloodsport 4. They went hard at each other after the bell, with Coughlin throwing some low kicks with Isaacs taking a few double leg shots early. This was twice as intense as their previous bout and it was obvious. Coughlin fought to top position but disengaged, pacing backwards for the two to restart the fight from here.
Isaacs got the takedown and worked for an americana lock. Back on their feet, Isaacs reversed Coughlin’s gutwrench grip and put him down with an Iranian slam. Moments later, Isaacs used a fisherman’s buster, then locked in a dragon sleeper, which is what he beat Coughlin with last time. Coughlin muscled up, standing, then slamming Isaacs. Coughlin lost his grip and Isaacs switched to an armbar submission. Coughlin slid out of that and lock in a standing heel hook that he sat into, turning the move into a low single-leg crab to get Isaacs to tap almost immediately. Coughlin gets his revenge and picks up the win. But can we get a rubber match?
Super Beast defeated Shlak via disqualification
“500 lbs. of violence in the ring,” that’s how the announcers framed this before the bell rang. That’s accurate. Shlak hit a single-leg takedown early. Super Beast connected with some high kicks. We can call this the first real brawl of the night, because, well, that’s what it looked like. Less technique, more punching. And blood.
When Super Beast went for a kneebar, a very bloody Shlak started biting Super Beast’s foot, so the referee called the match: Shlak was dq’d. It took about 15–20 staff and crew to remove Shlak from the ring area, making him look like a crazed lunatic, like Shiek or Dick the Bruiser or something. This was quick but fun for what it was. It was also unlike anything on the rest of the show.
Allisin Kaye defeated Masha Slamovich via submission (triangle choke)
Kaye coming out to “Gangsta’s Paradise” was sweet. Kaye went for an armbar early, but Slamovich escaped and transitioned to a kneebar attempt. Slamovich threw a hard strike on the ground. Kaye answered with some salt and pepper of her own. Kaye used a nice hip throw to plant Slamovich onto the mat. Slamovich had answers for most everything Kaye had on the mat, but Kaye had answers for those answers. Kaye didn’t stray from the armbar attempts.
This was a great mat match, and it was entirely a different feel from the previous brawl. Fans should realize how exhausting a long series of counters can be for athletes. These two were very active on the ground, especially Kaye, whose jiu-jitsu was tighter than ever, or at least compared with her previous Bloodsport fights. Kaye tapped Slamovich with a trianle choke for the win here. She feigned a handshake afterwards, then flipped Slamovich the pinky before exiting the ring. Really good match.
Lio Rush defeated Yoya via submission (anaconda vice)
Rush got a hero’s welcome from the Ybor City crowd, which included a standing ovation. He wore an amateur wrestling singlet instead of his usual pro wrestling trunks. Yoya has MMA experience. He’s actually shorter than Lio Rush. I guess this was a featherweight match. Rush talked a lot of trash at Yoya early, so Yoya locked in a triangle choke. He blasted Rush with a running knee later on. Yoya and Rush grappled near the corner ring post, teasing the possibility of falling to the floor. Lio Rush nipped up, then landed a low spinning back kick to a prone Yoya. It was like a live Jason Statham movie and looked very impressive.
Rush then took Yoya to suplex city, landing a front and back suplex before locking a vice around Yoya’s neck and using a few anaconda rolls, throwing Yoya off balance. When Rush threw a kick, Yoya caught it, then flipped Rush to the floor; Rush basically did a moonsault to the ground. Back in the ring, Yoya locked in a triangle choke, just like at the begining of the match, but Rush countered with a sit-out power bomb. Why sit out when you don’t have to pin the guy? Does Rush hate his tailbone? They started brawling towards the end of this, throwing hard open-handed chops before using a floatover front suplex into a an anaconda vice for the
These two did a much more athletic version of the Bloodsport style tonight. These two complemented each other so well. Interesting match. Lio Rush came off like a superstar.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. defeated Kyle the Beast/KTB via TKO (power bomb)
The two shook hands before the bell. KTB went for a single-leg takedown early but Smith was explosive in his escape, clearly trying to dictate the pace. Smith used a cradle to roll KTB to his back, and later he locked in a double wrist lock, but KTB immediately rolled to the floor to break the hold. Wrestlers get a ten-count on the floor before being counted out. Back in the ring, Smith attacked KTB’s left arm. Smith threw a few 12-to-6 elbows to KTB’s skull before putting KTB down with a sit-out power bomb, which led to a TKO win for Smith when the referee waved off the match. Smith came off like a monster and took almost no damage in this one.
Chavo Guerrero Jr. defeated Rocky Romero via TKO (northern lights bomb)
Guerrero made his Bloodsport debut tonight and he is in remarkable shape. He came at Romero with a rolling koppo kick after the bell rang. The two boxed a little bit on the top. Romero beat Simon Grimm at the last Bloodsport, and he too is a Bloodsport rookie, in ways. This had a more orthodox pro wrestling feel overall, but Romero would show off some nice jiu-jitsu technique throughout. He used a frankensteiner and transitioned into an armbar before Guererro rolled to the floor. Back in the ring, Guererro actually tried busting out his signature rolling vertical suplexes. He TKO’d Romero after a Northern Lights bomb, earning Guerrero Jr. a win in his Bloodsport debut. Good stuff.
Chris Dickinson defeated Shane Mercer via submission (armbar)
Competitive power lifter and GCW regular Shane Mercer took on “Putrid Papa” Chris Dickinson, resembling a young Bas Rutten tonight. Mercer launched Dickinson with a side suplex before the pace slowed and Dickinson went after Mercer’s arm. Dickinson was trying for a straight armbar, but Mercer kept powering out of everything, at one point even powering out of Dickinson’s submission attempt and reversing it into a deadlift death valley bomb to rear naked choke attempt. That’s a mouthful.
Dickinson went right back to the arm attacks, at one point using a backwards roll with double wristlock control, just like you’d see Billy Robinson use in many of his matches. Mercer used a gut wrench suplex to escape, and that was the story of this match: Mercer’s only answer to Dickinson’s technique was his power. In the end, though, Dickinson threw Mercer to the mat with a beautiful seoinage and transitioned right into an armbar for the submission win, a perfect demonstration of fundamental judo. Good match from both.
Josh Barnett defeated Jon Moxley via TKO (kicks)
This was supposed to happen almost a year and a half ago. Barnett and Mox threw low kicks before the match went to the ground. Barnett stayed atop Mox, but Moxley was able to power through Barnett’s grip and went to lock in an armbar. Mox tried pulling back on Barnett’s fingers, which seemed to piss Barnett off (or that’s how the announcers sold it). Mox locked in a crossface but Barnett was able swing his bodyaround and attack Mox’s legs. Mox talked a lot of trash in this. He went for a double leg takedown but Barnett rolled himself into a toehold, then a kneebar, and then another ankle/foot lock, quick transitions from Barnett until Moxley brawled his way out, slapping Barnett hard, both with shots to the body and to the head. He spiked Barnett with a DDT. When Barnett was up, his face was covered in blood. Mox locked in the bully choke but Barnett managed to roll out of the ring, breaking the hold and starting the ten-count.
Barnett was in a precarious position, completely bloodied on the ground as Mox amped himself up in the ring and the Ybor City crowd got onto their feet to chant his name. Moxley then dove onto Barnett. “He couldn’t resist.” Moxley used a german suplex in the ring and then locked in a crossface submission, which eventually transformed into a modified scarf hold, a similar move Barnett used on Dean Lister when he beat him at Metamoris in 2014, which the announcers made reference to earlier in the match. Mox let go and started throwing hard strikes before, somehow, Barnett powered up and flipped Moxley onto his back and threw very hard strikes of his own. Moxley had a Steve Austin/Britt Baker level crimson mask at this point.
The bloody Mox threw Barnett with a Northern Lights suplex, but Barnett answered back with one of the most brutal-looking death valley bombs you’ll probably see, then grabbed a hold of Moxley’s wrist and put the boots to Mox’s bloody face until the referee called the match off. Moxley wanted to keep going but the referee insisted he couldn’t fight back. The crowd, now on their feet, started chanting “let them fight.” Mox flopped around the ring like a fish, half-knocked out but also half-in the match. Very Terry Funk. Reluctantly, Mox shook hands with Barnett, then Barnett smeared some of his own blood onto Mox’s face. I couldn’t think of a better example of what Bloodsport could be than this match.
“Is this enough blood and sport for you?” Barnett got on the mic as the crowd chanted that they wanted more, which he promised. “This isn’t a fly-by night, and he [pointing at Mox] doesn’t do this for the pay.” The crowd did a “Thank you, Moxley” chant after that line. Barnett thanked Mox for seeing it through. He also said it was a knee from Mox that split him open. He mentioned that Bloodsport competitors weren’t there to spout their catchphrases, but to fight from their hearts. “We’re all in this together, and we’re all here because you keep showing up.”
Mox then got on the mic and put over all of the athletes that helped put on the Bloodsport show, then thanked all of the hardcore wrestling fans and of The Collective for giving their heart and sould and their hard-earned money from their own paychecks to come out and support indie wrestling.
Was this the best Bloodsport show so far? I’d say so. From the top of the card to the bottom, everything was above-average, no-frills, no-bullsh*t pro wrestling. Tonight’s show provided a number of different styles and stories from fighters all over the world, and seeing some of them “out of their element,” like Lio Rush, for example, turned out to be a pleasure, because everyone seemed to use the Bloodsport medium to express themselves differently, and creatively.
And really, you don’t to think about Bloodsport that deeply if you don’t want to, either, because at the end of the day, this was simply violence, beautiful violence, from all involved.
Oh, and someone needs to make a post-match t-shirt with a photo of bloody Mox on it ASAP.