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Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 7 Review: Minoru Suzuki vs. Chris Dickinson

The seventh installment of Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport took place on October 22 from the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Minoru Suzuki and Chris Dickinson headlined, plus featured other star names like “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Calvin Tankman, Davey Richards, Marina Schaffir and more.

Coming into the show, it was said across the board that this card, on paper at least, was going to be the best card that the popular GCW event has ever produced. And before we get into the match by match breakdown, I can at least say that the event lived up to that reputation, but I still think the first Josh Barnett Bloodsport event from 2019 tops it.

If you’re not familiar with the Bloodsport concept, let’s change that.

GCW Bloodsport is a professional wrestling event held by the American promotion Game Changer Wrestling (GCW). This event consists of a unique ruleset compared to a traditional pro wrestling event, in that every match must end in either a knockout or submission. The traditional wrestling ring is replaced by a ring canvas with no ropes or turnbuckles. This event features worked matches presented in a “shoot” mixed martial arts style that mimics the early days of MMA and catch wrestling. It is common for Bloodsport competitors to have some knowledge in other combat sports and/or MMA, as well as professional wrestling, as these one on one matches often appear stiff and have a feel of semi-shoot style fights.”

Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 7: Match-by-match breakdown

Lenny Leonard and Rocky Romero provided excellent commentary throughout the night. I’m not very fond of GCW’s regular commentary team, so this was a nice breath of fresh air. Lenny Leonard definitely deserves a permanent role in some promotion.

The opening bout of the night was a contest between Starboy Charlie and Yoya. Charlie, who’s only 18, adapted to the Bloodsport style very quickly and look fantastic in his first outing. The bout stayed on the ground  for the majority of the three minutes and 0:48 seconds that it lasted, but Yoya was able to score the KO after planting a Zack Sabre Jr-like penalty kick on Charlie’s head. Yoya’s ability to counter nearly everything that Charlie threw at him, which was a huge difference maker. I gave this fight a solid 6/10 rating.

Next up was the first women’s bout of the night, pitting Zeda Zhang vs. KZT. Zhang has came a long way from her NXT days, and I think that’s a bit of an understatement. She’s easily one of the best women’s strikers out there, and that showed here because dominated KZT for the majority of the match. As the later stages of the match approached, Zhang became weary and started throwing too many strikes. This allowed KZT to take the fight to the mat and attempt a few submissions, but to no avail. Eventually, Zhang recovered some lost stamina and trapped both of the arms of KZT while also delivering a flurry of strikes, causing KZT to submit. This was a very rough and hard fought encounter, warranting it a 7.5/10 rating from me.

NJPW’s Clark Connors matched up against Royce Isaacs next. This fight was good for what it was, which was a five minute encounter. You can’t do too much in five minutes usually, but Connors and Isaacs definitely made the best of it. Lots of mat grappling, which built up frustration on Connors side. This frustration would lead to Connors hurting his shoulder after putting too much force behind his strikes. Isaccs obviously targeted it after the fact, but Connors was resilient enough to survive. The match had a turning point when Isaacs tried a running jumping knee, but Connors speared his knee in mid-air. Shortly after, Connors tapped Isaacs out with a rear naked choke. Really solid stuff, but I would have preferred another 3–4 minutes. 7/10.

Erik Hammer vs. Bad Dude Tito was next. There wasn’t much to this, as it only lasted 4:26 before Hammer tapped Tito out with a double wrist lock. Both guys threw very raw and messy strikes, which is what is needed to make it feel like the MMA/pro wrestling hybrid that they’re going for. MMA is messy and rough around the edges, and that’s what an ideal Bloodsport match needs to look like, I think. There was cool point in the fight where Hammer sent Tito out of the ring with his constant delivery of elbow strikes. Despite being short, this gets another 7/10 rating from me.

The second women’s encounter of the night was between Marina Shafir and Masha Slamovich. This was another short but brilliant matchup and you’d think the two had wrestled each other hundreds of times before given the chemistry and dynamic they showed. Shafir is gonna be signed real soon if she keeps putting on performances like this. Slamovich was antsy early on and threw some strikes that completely missed, to which Shafir took advantage of because she was the calmer one. The majority of the bout was spent on the mat, with both women exchanging various holds. Shafir showed really good and precise striking ability. Shafir would go on to submit Slamovich with a triangle choke in about 4:22. 8/10.

Calvin Tankman and JR Kratos went at it next. Although I was particularly excited for this, it didn’t end up meeting my expectations. The bout wasn’t bad by any stretch, but definitely had its weak spots here and there. The fight was in favor of Tankman early on, but Kratos turned the tides with an impressive suplex. Kratos got cocky and started treating Tankman like he was inferior competition, which turned out to be right. Kratos would eventually score a KO victory after reversing a Tankman back elbow into a jumping knee strike. 5.5/10.

While Slamovich/Shafir was my match of the night at this point in the card, Alex Coughlin and “Filthy” Tom Lawlor blew all of that away. In a fierce nine minute encounter, both guys showed out and had spectacular performances. Lawlor, per usual, showed his cocky side and brushed off Coughlin in the early stages. Coughlin would make him pay as the match went on, as he began to have an answer for everything Lawlor threw at him. The moment of the night game when Lawlor had a armbar cinched in, which prompted Coughlin to lift him up with one hand and slam him to the mat. Lawlor would go on to submit Coughlin with a double heel hook after he targeted the lower legs in the final minute or so of the match. Fantastic stuff all around, 9/10.

Yuya Uemura and Davey Richards had a tough act to follow, but instead of having a mat-based match, they instead beat the living hell out of each other. The offensive onslaught from both guys were mainly kick-based, with a few hand strikes mixed in as well. Yuya couldn’t handle Richards’ offense early on, but would eventually find a way to fight back with his own fiery offense. Richards was very swift with his attacks and eventually submitted Yuya with a trailer hitch leglock in 7:11. 7.75/10.

Tiger Ruas vs. Josh Barnett just didn’t click for me, at all. I don’t know if it was because of the anticipation for the main event, but the fight fell completely flat to me. The ten minute affair still featured a few bright spots, including a showcase of Barnett’s superb counter skills. This was probably the slowest match of the night and it was on the mat for at least 2/3rds of the duration. Ruas seemed off with his timing for a good portion of the match too. Barnett picked up the submission victory after converting a deadly Michinoku Driver II into an armbar. Ruas wasn’t really impressive in this spot and it caused a usually awesome Josh Barnett’s performance to be lackluster at best. 3/10.

The main event fight between Minoru Suzuki and Chris Dickinson was one of my favorite matches of Suzuki’s current USA tour. It was the longest match of the night by far, clocking in at 15:14. The story here was Suzuki not treating Dickinson like he was a threat, which caused the “Dirty Daddy” to throw some lethal strikes. The more angry that Dickinson got, the less that Suzuki cared. There was some tough mat submissions sprinkled in here and there, with Suzuki mostly dominating those.

About midway through, the two had a phenomenal chop exchange, surprisingly the first and only one of the night. Dickinson absorbed the majority of the chops like a sponge given his frame is bigger. As the fight winded down, submissions became more frequent and Suzuki began to target the Achilles/ankle of Dickinson.

Suzuki submitted Dickinson with a modified ankle lock that specifically targeted the Achilles’ heel. This was everything I had hoped it would be, warranting it a 9/10 rating.

Final thoughts

Overall, Bloodsport 7 was a great time. The two bad spots in the night were definitely outshined by the brilliant spots, along with sprinkling in a few “breakout” performances from people like Zeda Zhang, Marina Shafir and Yuya Uemura.

This is the fourth Bloodsport event this year, which gives me a growing sense that the event could become a quarterly thing for GCW. It’s such a unique concept that is easy to adapt to and I think it’ll be around for years and years to come.

Overall, Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 7 gets a solid 7.75/10 rating from me. I’d recommend going out of your way to see the show on FITE.

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