GCW Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 9
March 30, 2023
Ukrainian Cultural Center
Los Angeles, California

Watch: FITE

Meet our reviewer

Jeff Andrews: Jeff is normally more or less exclusively an NJPW fan but Bloodsport often has a few matches that connect with me. Will that trend continue this year? No! But read about it anyway.

Jeff Cobb Def. Calder McColl

I was surprised to see Jeff Cobb go on so early in the show, but then I remembered he’s got a packed weekend ahead of him and is going to be giving his proper best at the show across town. Calder McColl is a guy I haven’t seen before, and did little to inspire me to seek him out again. If there’s one thing I dislike in pseudo-shoot grappling, it’s bad ground and pound that misses the target by a mile. There are easy ways to work ground and pound without hurting the opponent, sloppily throwing the weakest strikes I’ve ever seen is probably my least favorite of the bunch. The grappling in this match was uninspired till the finish, an excellent lift up powerbomb on the mat accompanied by a hammer-fist. This finish was an excellent ending to an otherwise mediocre match. **3/4

Erik Hammer Def. Calvin Tankman

Continuing the trend of wrestlers I’m unfamiliar with disappointing me, both wrestlers in this match did their best to ensure I’d never want to see them again. This match felt light and unplanned, the grappling was slow and sloppy and did very little to bring any form of genuine excitement. Seeing these two massive and impressive men end this match with an unconvincing double wrist-lock was a perfect punctuation on an otherwise abysmal match. DUD

Marina Shafir Def. Killer Kelly

Marina looks very comfortable in this match type and Kelly decidedly does not. To the credit of both ladies, this has thus far been the stiffest and well-worked match on the card thus far, and they really filled the match with meaningful moments in a way the previous two matches failed to do. The submission to win the match was a little sloppy, but on the whole, I thought Marina looked great here and carried herself like a star. ***1/4

Kota Ibushi Def. Mike Bailey

I’m the low man on this match, but it was still fun. Kota Ibushi came out looking odd. I get it, he’s 40 now and people age differently but he was decidedly not in Kota Ibushi shape and his face looked swollen.

Mike Bailey is very good, and did a lot to make moments of the beginning of the match feel meaningful while Ibushi seemingly found his footing after a couple years out of the ring. As the match moved towards the finish, there were a lot of fun spots such as Mike Bailey double a moonsault double knee on Ibushi’s head before transitioning into an armbar, and then Ibushi responded by deadlift german suplexing Mike Bailey from outside the ring right on top of his head, and the follow up knee to end the match was an excellent touch. I can’t go 4 on this, as I thought the beginning was a touch too slow for me, but go out of your way to check out the finishing stretch. ***3/4

Bad Dude Tito Def. Yuya Uemura

I think given the time and spot this was allocated, this was a lot of fun. Tito dominated the early going, taking advantage of his smaller opponent with a variety of holds while ensuring that they didn’t drift towards tedium at any point. Uemura eventually takes momentum with a belly-to-belly suplex into a dropkick, then followed it up with a dive to the outside. As the two worked their way back inside the ring, Uemura mustered a suplex but was eventually grappled into an ankle-lock, where he eventually tapped out. This match was a good showing for both guys. ***1/2

Davey Boy Smith Jr. Def. JR Kratos

Not to turn this article into a JR Kratos fan moment, but the fact this guy was collecting dust in the indies before NJPW Strong came along is one of greatest indictments of the US indie scene I can think of. For a big guy, he moves well and seems pretty unselfish in his role as the imposing midcard monster heel and I feel like that should have resulted in more notoriety.

The match itself is very good, if a little overindulgent on the grappling side as Davey Boy matches can tend to be. On the bright side, the work in this match felt tight and the exchanges on the whole were exciting to see. The stretch towards the end of this match was a lot of fun, Smith lands a powerbomb on Kratos and is answered by the latter mustering a very fun jumping knee strike. The strike exchanges that ensued were exciting, and both men held up their end to make this match feel intense all the way up to the finish, where Smith locked in the crossface and forced Kratos to submit. ***1/2

Johnny Bloodsport Def. Royce Isaacs

Isaacs to his credit looked good, taking the fight to Johnny Bloodsport in a way that was never going to be earnestly reciprocated in any meaningful way. Every inch of offense mustered by Johnny left me begging for Isaacs to go back on the offense, all the way until the match ended when Johnny reversed a choke. If you liked this, I’m happy for you. I did not. *

Jon Moxley Def. Alex Coughlin

Alex Coughlin is a fucking stud. There aren’t many prospects that are a more obvious sure-thing than Alex is in wrestling. Moxley to his credit gave Coughlin a lot of offense in this match, and the spot of the night was almost certainly the armbar off the apron being leveraged into a powerbomb courtesy of Coughlin. Moxley’s spine smacking off the ring apron looked brutal, and this was probably the first (and last) time I was truly wrapped up in a match all night. Coughlin entered the ring and threw some very pretty gut-wrench suplexes that looked far too easy on a man of Moxley’s size. The finish came after a series of exchanges that ended in Moxley finding a choke on Coughlin. Coughlin fired up, brute forcing Moxley off the mat with a very impressive lift from the mat before inevitably collapsing and succumbing to the choke.

This match served its purpose perfectly, and Moxley continues to be the best thing on these pseudo-shoot shows almost certainly because he doesn’t bother trying to follow the format everyone else does. ****1/4

Timothy Thatcher Def. Josh Barnett

To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand the complexities of the grappling you’ll find in a Timothy Thatcher match. I personally am a dumbass, so I simply didn’t understand what was going on beyond seeing two grown men have an aggressively average grappling match in front of a crowd that was more apathetic than I would have expected. Thatcher being the guy to finally beat Barnett was.. A choice. Not a good one, but a choice to be sure. It was inoffensive, nothing to write home about. ***

Final Thoughts

These shows have become worse over time, and I think going forward I will probably not make these priority live viewing. Here’s to hoping they can reiterate this concept soon because it feels like it has worn out its welcome by this point.