GCW Presents: Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport

April 5, 2018

Pontchartrain Center

Kenner, LA


As the cheesy 80s goodness of Stan Bush’s “Fight to Survive” rang out over the PA system, Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport commenced. The event kicked off the festivities at WrestleMania 34 Weekend with a promise of a unique show, one in which the rules of combat were simple: A match can only end by knockout or submission. Oh, and there were no ropes either.

This being pro wrestling, there were bound to be a few hiccups along the way. The show was delayed for thirty minutes to sort out streaming issues, while the promoted main event of Matt Riddle vs. Low Ki was cancelled due to the latter pulling out of the fight less than a day before the show. But when God closes a Low Ki-shaped door, he opens a Minoru Suzuki-shaped window. The leader of Suzuki-gun–already in town for RevPro–stepped in as Riddle’s new opponent.

So at 3:30 PM CDT with the card all set to go and the streaming issues sorted, it was time to enter Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport!

*In lieu of star ratings, which I don’t do anyway, this review will feature the simplified rating system of FUCK YEAH, OKAY THEN, and AH SHIT. This is Bloodsport, we don’t have time for niceties or naunce.

Dominic Garrini def. KTB

KTB’s fighting style is “mauling.” I’m not making that up, that’s coming straight from the mouth of ring announcer Larry Legend. It makes sense given Kyle is a beast from the woods, but WHY OH WHY wasn’t his fighting style “mixed mauling arts?!” Talk about a wasted opportunity. Garrini is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, so he made quick work of KTB with a triangle choke armbar submission. This was a short, simple, and inoffensive aperitif to kick things off. After the match, if you listened really hard, you could hear Joe Lanza somewhere in the back of the venue saying “Get back to the woods, ya jerk!” OKAY THEN

Eddie Kingston def. Tracy Williams

It’s the first big shock of the day! No, it wasn’t Kingston getting the victory, it was the fact that he wore wrestling gear! A bright yellow singlet, to be exact. He was seconded by Matt Riddle who wore a tracksuit of the same color, the two paying homage to Bruce Lee from Game of Death. Very nice. Williams took an early advantage, hurting Kingston with a few choice strikes and submissions. But Eddie Kingston is one tough bastard. He’ll take the punishment and dish it out harder.

Eddie brought the pain to Williams with strikes and power, dumping Tracy on the back of his head with a half and half suplex and knocking him out with a sick Backfist to the Future. A really good fight, one of my favorites of the show. FUCK YEAH

MASADA def. Martin Stone

Martin Stone is a rugged British brawler. MASADA is a deathmatch guy with piercings and a Layne Staley goatee. So it wouldn’t be crazy for me to go into this match expecting a wild, punchy slobberknocker, now would it? What we got instead was bad grappling and a disappointing finish. I don’t even remember anything about the match except for how it ended: MASADA had Stone trapped in a shitty-looking triangle choke and started giving him a few weak elbows to the noggin, then the ref immediately called for the bell. Ugh. I suppose you could argue that it makes the show seem more of an authentic experience since questionable referee decisions are more commonplace in MMA. Fuck that noise; if I wanted authenticity, I would go to an art museum. The stoppage looked awful and left a bad taste in everybody’s mouths.

What sucked the most was that I’ve met Martin Stone and besides him being a great wrestler, he’s also a really nice guy. So to see him lose in such awful fashion was a real kick in the tush. I’ve never met MASADA. Hell, before today I had never even seen him wrestle. And let me tell ya folks, after today I still don’t want to! *rimshot* AH SHIT

WALTER def. Tom Lawlor

Tom Lawlor is sponsored by a website called Condom Depot. Tremendous. Of the four pre-intermission matches, this one was the best of the bunch. Lawlor has been an MMA fighter for over a decade, but he had broken his arm a few weeks prior to the show. WALTER is an absolute monster of a man with a clear size and strength advantage over his opponent. So the interest level to see how this one turned out was quite high. WALTER kept it clean for the first few minutes, but soon went after the injured arm, going so far as to rip the cast off to maximize damage. Ouch. And of course there were the chops to the chest. OOOOOUCH.

But Lawlor was resilient, constantly trying to fight back and take out WALTER with a strike here, a submission there. Towards the end Lawlor had WALTER reeling with a Superman punch, then decided to be a cheeky boy and pump his fist like Roman Reigns. The Bloodsport gods were not amused by that, so when Lawlor jumped up to hit a second one, WALTER swatted him out of the sky with another chop. That looked cool. WALTER locked in a modified Gojira Clutch, trapping Lawlor’s broken arm, which sealed the deal. WALTER came off like an absolute brute here (what else is new) and Lawlor put in a solid underdog performance. FUCK YEAH

Dan Severn def. Chris Dickinson

Dickinson sent out the challenge to Severn a few weeks ago that he wanted him at Bloodsport. And lo and behold, Severn accepted. He could have just stayed home and watched a River Monsters marathon on TV like a normal 59-year-old. But no, he came to New Orleans to prove that profane t-shirts and Kiss entrance themes don’t make you a man; thick mustaches do. God bless him.

After a lengthy back-and-forth match with neither man gaining a prolonged advantage, Dickinson seemingly had the victory as he was giving Severn repeated elbow strikes to the head. For some strange reason the referee didn’t stop the match, but instead pulled Dickinson off of Severn. This allowed Severn to hit a German suplex and lock in a rear naked choke for the win. Dickinson attacked Severn afterwards, leading to a pull-apart scrum. The match itself was decent, but another questionable ending left me shaking my head. OKAY THEN

Nick Gage def. Timothy Thatcher

Nick Gage is admittedly not my cup of tea, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t bring an aura everywhere he goes. When he enters a room, all eyes are drawn towards him like a moth to a criminally convicted flame. What Gage lacks in social skills or grace, he clearly makes up for in natural charisma. There was no question that Gage was one of the most popular wrestlers on the show, garnering a lot of cheers from the crowd. I wouldn’t say that Thatcher was poorly received, but there was a clear difference in popularity between him and Gage. Sorry Tim.

What started as a standard shoot fight turned into a Nick Gage MDK Shoot Fight.™ Thatcher goes for an armbar? Gage bites his leg. Thatcher tries to out-grapple Gage? Gage tries to suplex Thatcher out of the ring. Thatcher rolls Gage out of the ring instead? Gage attacks him with a table and brawls on the outside.

For Nick Gage that might sound tame, but for Bloodsport it was the most wild part of the night. Gage got the better of a strike exchange and sent Thatcher to the mat, where he proceeded to relentlessly ground and pound poor Timothy’s head until the referee stopped the match. I’m not as high on this one as I know others are, but I still thought it was good enough to warrant a FUCK YEAH.

Minoru Suzuki def. Matt Riddle

If you’re wondering if the crowd chanted “Kaze ni nare!” at Minoru Suzuki during his entrance, the answer is yes. But here’s the kicker: Suzuki came out to the 2004 VERSION OF THE SONG!!!!

While I was a bit taken aback at first, I thought it was appropriate for the show. We’re not watching a typical Minoru Suzuki match. He’s not in New Japan, he’s not crowd brawling, he’s not trying to hit the Gotch-Style Piledriver. He’s wrestling a shoot match in a no-roped ring in Louisiana, so let’s change up the theme to suit this different environment. Of course the obvious explanation is that GCW simply downloaded the wrong song off of YouTube, but I think I like my scenario better.

Anyway, this match ruled so much. Suzuki was Suzuki, vicious and unwavering, eagerly putting Riddle in a variety of chokes, armbars, and heel hooks. Riddle was Riddle, cocky and valiant, never backing down from Suzuki’s attacks and oftentimes barraging Suzuki with his own.

If I had to describe the whole thing, it was like they took aspects of previous matches on the show and absorbed them into their own: The intense strikes of WALTER vs. Lawlor, the back-and-forth grappling of Severn vs. Dickinson, the outside action of Gage vs. Thatcher. But the crowd was so hot for the match that it didn’t feel like a direct copy; it amplified these moments, making them seem much more visceral. Having it be Minoru Suzuki probably helped too. Suzuki eventually locked in a choke on Riddle, who fought desperately to get out of it. After a failed attempt to gain strength via the power of the Shaka, Riddle faded and Suzuki emerged victorious. The icing on the cake was the post-match, where a jubilant Suzuki gave Riddle a big hug and raised his hand.

It was an odd sight to behold, but a lovely one nonetheless. FUCK YEAH

Final Thoughts

This was NOT a show for everyone. If you’re not a fan of this style of wrestling, then in the immortal words of the band Chicago, “Look away, baby, look away.” But if you do like it or if you’re itching to try it out, then give Bloodsport a watch. I myself am not a big fan of shoot style, but I decided to check it out anyway because I’m a fan of a lot of the participants involved and I wanted to see what it would look like. In the end, I came away pleasantly surprised. With the exception of MASADA vs. Stone, I thought the matches ranged from decent to great. Sure the two questionable referee finishes annoyed me, but they didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the show. Riddle vs. Suzuki was my favorite match of the night, with WALTER vs. Lawlor and Kingston vs. Williams coming in second and third. If you’re pressed for time, watch those matches first.