In an independent world that is becoming more depleted and desperate and wrestlers leaving just as quickly as they arrive, Bloodsport is its own standout and a rare breed. Stripped down, raw, and simplistic. They removed the ropes, they took away the razzle-dazzle, looked for people who looked legit, felt legit, and could give off an air of legitimacy and danger, and put them in the ring to compete. Of course, it’s pro wrestling, we know that, and the elements of the styles of pro wrestling we know and love sneak their way in (usually in the best ways).

Make no mistake Bloodsport stands out in the presentation, feel, and style. It proudly has its own vision and own philosophy of what wrestling can be and should be and double downs on it with zero apologies. Where so much in wrestling tries to do more and more, Bloodspot excels by stripping down, laying bare, doing less, and making it all work wonderfully.

With Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 4, the event felt its most raw, its most intimate, the closest to its vision it has tried to develop. This is not going to win everyone over, there are fans that will not be able to gravitate to such a style where matches are rarely over ten minutes, hot closing stretches are nary to find. Multi-layered stories, colorful angles, and loudmouth characters are pushed aside for smokey basement room settings, tales of the tape, and competitors that feel like they came on an invite-only clause. “Only those who can fight are allowed.” There are those who legit skills and abilities, and there are those who can fake it well enough you buy into it. There is a subtle intensity that permeates throughout the contests. This will not be to everyone’s tastes and that’s okay. While wrestling is for everybody, not every style of wrestling is for everyone and Bloodsport is not a three-ring circus where if you dislike one element there are more to sample and hopefully enjoy. Bloodsport presents one thing and one thing only and you can take it as is, or leave it for something more your liking. There is no wrong answer, but I find Bloodsport to be the dive bar of pro-wrestling. Unkempt, Unpolished, and does not appear inviting but those who dare to enter and give it a chance might fight themselves surprisingly won over by something others continue to pass on due to appearance.

Everyone looks like they belong in such a setting. They give off legitimacy through their appearance, through their abilities, or just through the attitudes, they express. The grappling, the strikes, the exchanges are competitive and gritty. The wrestling isn’t smooth, and it rarely if ever feels choreography. Those who step on the mats of bloodsport do their best to give us an impression they aren’t there to perform, they are there to compete, to battle to win. While there are no stories or angles, wins and losses feel important. Respect feels earned, disappointment feels real. Matches can end instantly, all it takes is one slip up and you’re in a submission, or one hard strike and you are out. This sudden cut off of action can throw you off, especially at moments when you feel things are heating up. 

That can turn you off, and turn you away, but it can also assure you don’t lose focus or attention at any time. In a contest where any moment can end the fight, every moment matters. No matter how small, how quick, when with a snap of a finger a hand tapping on the mat can be achieved it makes you focus on the action at every moment so that you don’t miss when that finality comes. Too often in pro-wrestling, you’ll see a good move, a slick counter, an amazing pin attempt but the moment is dampened because in your mind you know there’s no way that’ll end the match. In Bloodsport a knee at the right time, the right moment, the right place and it’s over.

Admittedly you are not going to find four-star plus affairs. Bloodsport 4 isn’t about that. It’s about presenting as real and raw of a presentation that’s possible. Nothing achieves “blows your mind away amazing”, but everything sank its hooks into me and fit the theme of the show. That’s not to say there aren’t standouts. SUPER BEAST and Bad Dude Tito excelled, especially with SUPER BEAST showcasing impressive throws and abilities. Kal Jak fought Nolan Edwards who refusal to die leads to Kal Jak forcing him to do exactly that by throwing him out of the ring and into a fucking wall in perhaps the moment of the night that’ll live rent-free in my head. Alex Coughlin tried to ground Krato’s but eventually, Krato hits a brutal knee and puts him out. The liver shots Tom Lawlor threw at Simon Grimm to eventually win the match made me grimace, and Simon Grimm being in pain afterward added to that feeling. Tankman threw bombs at Davey Boy Smith but it wasn’t enough to take out the man who by now is a veteran of Bloodsport. Then in the main event, Dickinson’s main event woes in the Bloodsport Ring continued as Jeff Cobb’s impressive throws and suplexes put him down. 

Nine matches that were barely over 90 minutes long in total can be jarring and a turn-off. In the setting that was given it works and makes sense. These aren’t supposed to drawn-out competitions with hot exchanges, heated back and forths, choreographed sequences, and hot closing stretches that leads to a breathtaking finish. I’m not shitting on any of those things, I love those things in quite a bit of my wrestling, but that’s not what you’ll find here. These things need not apply. Matches are short, compact, concise. With no audience present at this show this was the way to go. No point in wasting crowd-pleasing spots when you don’t have a crowd to please. That is why instead we got competitors who came in focused on each other, focused on the match, focused on winning. 

The presentation from the tale of the tapes, to the short video packages, to the professional and serious commentary all added to the presentation, the feel, the atmosphere of Bloodsport. There was no flash, no pizazz, only a smoked filled basement setting that felt like a fight club, and you better be ready to fight. You better be able to bring an air of legitimacy, you better be able to compete. Those who don’t, won’t be invited back. 

Josh Barnett and all who take part have something special going on here. Something I appreciate and going by the responses I saw during the show many more appreciates as well. That’s not a knock or an insult to any and all pro-wrestling forms, I love them all, but Bloodsport 4 stands out in a down and dirty way that I gravitate toward. It’s not perfect, but I don’t depend or expect perfection. I want what they advertise, warts and all. I just want it to be raw, real, and rough and Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 4 achieved all of that in a tight ninety-minute package that may not be easily digestible to all, but if you can give it a chance, you might just ask for seconds. And next week with JON MOXLEY making his return to Bloodsport, there is no better time to do so. Thumbs up for Bloodsport 4, and I can’t wait to see what else this idea, concept, the promotion has in store.