I am a fan and supporter of the Bloodsport concept. Not everything hits or lands, but I appreciate their presentation, their aim, their goal, and what they want to represent. It’s a style of wrestling this girl sinks her teeth into and clings to fiercely. It harkens back to my love of particular promotions that came and earned respect beforehand. I was always a fan of UWF, UWFI, RINGS. Etc. I got my jollies watching the Maedas, Fujiwawas, Volk Hans, Tamuras, Yamazakis do what they did better than anyone. That style sticks with me and Bloodsport gives me the best attempt at bringing me back to that style in the present day.
Is it a whole and accurate representation of what those companies brought? No, but it’s close enough for me.
It brings the elements of shoot wrestling with moments of standard pro wrestling sprinkled in just enough to count and still work. It is the kind of show I would love to attend live at some point.
When I’m super interested in something, like I am Bloodsport, I try to go back to the starting point. The moment where I went from dipping my toes and testing to diving into the deep. Only resurfacing for a moment of air before going back in. With Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport, that source is easy to relocate, because it is probably the same for me as it is many. It was the first Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport. More to the point, it was the main event. That main event is the Bloodsport classic that was Minoru Suzuki vs. Josh Barnett.
Minoru Suzuki is a legendary badass, someone who has shot and worked their way into the legend and lore of pro wrestling. Barnett is also a badass and is a bonafide threat and someone to be feared. The moment this matchup was announced you could see the spark, feel the intrigue, the tension, the heat of the expectations rises. When you are trying to sell your product to the masses, you need a signature item, a standout product, a marquee match-up.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Josh Barnett fits that to the absolute tee.
That’s only a partial part of the battle. Once you get the interest. Once you hook them with that bait, you have to reel them in by delivering. Nothing can be more damaging than getting the most eyes on your product and instead of explosions end in sparkles. Minoru Suzuki versus Barnett needed to hit hard, it needed to hit fast, and it needed to deliver. To put it blunt, profane, and x-rated Barnett vs. Suzuki needed to smell like sex when it was all said and done because it indisputable, unequivocally fucked.
It fucked so hard.
Suzuki and Barnett delivered the match that got eyes on Bloodsport, and you could argue would keep eyes on Bloodsport. It is the kind of hard-hitting, tight grappling, heated, and tense affair I feel at times they need more of. This is the kind of match you show and go “This is what my product is all about” and then you deliver more of that. You get wrestlers who can already emulate it, or you have the confidence they can work their way of doing so. Barnett vs. Suzuki, along with Jon Moxley vs. Barnett and Moxley vs.Davey Both Smith Jr. is a perfect embodiment of what I want out of my Bloodsport main events, and something the undercard wrestlers working their way to that main event spot can learn from.
Bloodsport matches attempt to feel like legit contests and fights. While there will always be elements of pro wrestling that are inescapable, the more they can draw the audience into thinking they are watching a physical game of chess the more likely that match is to succeed. Alternatively, if you can’t achieve that, you can convince the audience both men are just wanting to beat the living hell out of each other until one can no longer continue. Either one of these can lead to success. This match alternates between the two mixes them, combines them, and it’s through this compounding of styles and philosophies that the match connects and clicks as you watch. It feels like a competition, it feels like both men are trying to outlast each other, it feels real but it also feels pro wrestling.
Both men, men of legit credentials and the ability to excuse the feeling of “I can and will kill you” go out there stare each other in the face with an intensity that says “I can and will kill you” then convince us they want to do exactly that. Everything feels earned and worked for. Nothing feels given or choreographed or a case of “Okay you do this, then I’ll get my shit in and do that” type of wrestling. It feels like both are counter wrestling, calculating, attempting to outmaneuver and outwrestle each other.
Midway through the match both men reset and stare down at each other as the crowd chants “Suzuki” and start to unload their shit on each other. This is still pro wrestling, and any good to great pro wrestling match needs another gear and they switch to it. The strikes are hard, the grappling tight, the intensity high, and my interest build and builds as the match continues on and on. Even Suzuki going for a traditional pro wrestling move like the Gotch piledriver ends up fitting because of the struggle and fight over it. Suzuki fought to hit it, Barnett fighting to prevent it. Lesser wrestlers taking part in this concept would feel out of place, out of sync, not part of what they are going for. Barnett and Suzuki make it fit into the match like a glove. Every slam, every strike, every transition responded to by the crowd who applauds, “ohss” and clapped as it all went down.
Suzuki is Suzuki and eventually, things break down more pro wrestling with Suzuki hitting the referee and using a chair. But as if to say “WE DON’T DO THAT HERE” that just pisses Barnett off who begins to strike the hell out of Suzuki. Make no mistake, this is pro wrestling and I’m not trying to deviate or pretend otherwise, but it’s pro wrestling that takes the best elements of shoot style, sprinkles in tomfoolery where it can, and when it’s all said and done, it is beautiful violence.
That is not a contradiction.
Beautiful violence, especially with pro wrestling, I believe can exist. Violence can be beautiful when presented in a certain way, a special way, with an expert brush by master artists. I have watched movies, listened to music, stared at photos that have presented violence in a horrific way, a hard way, an alarming way, but in the end makes me tilt my head and think “Wow, that’s incredible.” Barnett and Suzuki are craftsmen and they build and construct this masterpiece from the ground up. A masterpiece that is almost a display of perfection. As great a display of the concept as you could present.
There is one glaring negative in this girl’s opinion: no conclusive winner.
If I have any complaint, any strike to throw against this match, it is the lack of a winner, the lack of decisiveness. They even tease there will be a winner when they have overtime and don’t deliver. A lesser match would diminish things, ruin things, instantly destroy what goodwill it might have achieved. Instead, even when rewatching I find myself applauding, respecting what they achieved.
As I rewatch this match for the article and get to the point where they trade strikes at each other, deliberately had hard, both men refusing to go down, I find myself riled up, yelling “hell yes,” and rooting for both to keep on going, for both to bring it on and take each other down. Holy shit, if you haven’t seen this match please go and watch it. It’s free on youtube. It is one of the best matches Barnett’s Bloodsport has ever given, and they gave it to us on their very first edition. As the commentator yells “THIS IS BLOODSPORT” and they continue to throw bombs at each other I nod and agree.
This is Bloodsport.
This is Minoru Suzuki vs. Josh Barnett, and when the world allows, I want a rematch and I want a conclusion.
I have a mighty need, and this girl wants to have her fix.
This is beautiful violence, a symphony of striking, submission, and suplexes. Music to my ears, and they haven’t stopped ringing since.