June 21, 2024


Konami . . . looks like she could walk into the Lidet UWF Women’s Division and be their equivalent of a Dump/Bull/Aja monster heel.

Santino Marella . . . (yeah, that one) has a better, and much more engaging, match than Masakaztu Funaki!

Jon Moxley . . . bleeds profusely while taking the mother of all ass stompings from The Warmaster.



This was mostly some fun shootstyle wrestling, although the lack of rules made it come off as more of a free-for-all. The only thing that looks outright bad is Iizuka’s no-sell of Abe’s German suplex. It would have taken a point off in a more structured setting, and Iizuka could have given it some respect. Their matwork is perfectly solid, although neither of them looked to have a real advantage in that area. Abe wins by submitting Iizuka to a heel hook, but it was presented as a fluke more than anything else. Iizuka had connected with some kicks including a head kick that clearly had Abe dazed, and Iizuka takes him down and tries to ground and pound but leaves himself open for the heel hook.


Bloodsport Bushido Tournament semifinal: HIDEKI SUZUKI vs. HIKARU SATO

If you’re not a fan of methodical matwork, then this probably won’t be something you’ll enjoy, even though it’s not very long. Being regular tag partners, they’re understandably familiar with each other and thus somewhat hesitant to rush in and make the first move. They work two mat segments and Suzuki comes out the winner both times by catching Sato in something he’s not prepared for. It seems like Sato has it locked up when he surprises Suzuki with a leg kick and then gets him in a front headlock, only for Suzuki to free himself and wrap up Sato in an STF (or Royal Stretch as he apparently calls it) for the submission. This certainly wasn’t as exciting as the opener, and it’s an apt example of the criticism that shootstyle often gets saddled with; that it’s little more than a bunch of laying on the mat.


Bloodsport Bushido Tournament semifinal: ERIK HAMMER vs. TAKUYA NOMURA

Somehow, despite being the shortest match of the show, this feels more like a UWF-style match than both of the previous ones. He may not exactly be Gary Albright (at least from what little is shown from him here), but Hammer looks just like the sort of guy that Maeda and Takada would have brought into any of their respective companies. He looks like he’d fit in much better on the UWF side of GLEAT than Hartley Jackson. Nomura smartly targets Hammer’s leg with kicks and tries to wrap him up in a legbar when he gets a chance, and Hammer obliges by selling and hobbling around. Nomura darts behind Hammer and drops him with a German suplex, and Hammer gives that a much better sell job than Iizuka did with Abe. One of the more surprising aspects of this promotion is the idea that matches can end via count out, which seems to be a repercussion of them not having ring ropes. Hammer rolls both himself and Nomura to the floor to break his legbar, but Nomura just gets up and continues to pelt Hammer with kicks.


Hammer winning by KO with a powerbomb is something that seems way out of left field. Vader may have set the precedent thirty years ago, but he was a pro wrestler through and through who was just working in a shootstyle company. There’s no shortage of more legitimate and credible throws and suplexes that Hammer could have used to get them to the same place. Oddball finish aside, despite the absurdly short length, this was a textbook example of a match succeeding in getting both guys over. Nomura looks great for being able to take it to someone like Hammer, and Hammer looks even better by taking everything that Nomura throws at him, and still being able to come out the winner.



This was fun, if a bit unsettling. Maya has looked good in her Lidet UWF matches, but she was badly outmatched here. Konami’s initial kneebar pushes Maya to the brink, and she never comes close to getting any of it back. The only really notable thing from Maya was when Konami snagged her kick and Maya nearly countered into a flying armbar, but couldn’t get it locked in. It was a chance for them to show that Maya has what it takes to beat Konami, if she’s not careful. Konami dumps Maya with two of the nastiest German suplexes that you’ll ever see (although Maya only bothers to sell the second one) and follows the first one with a vicious kick. Maya gets something of a comeback as the match winds down when she hits a head kick and then a running knee, but it’s really just a stall tactic, it only slows Konami down for a minute. The first kneebar puts a target on Maya’s leg, which leads to some insanely stiff leg kicks from Konami, and after that (not to mention everything else Konami puts her through), a second kneebar is too much for her to bear.



Between the length of the match, and the backdrop that Davey scores before they get to the finish, it wouldn’t be entirely fair to label this as a squash match, but it might as well have been. For all the time spent on the mat, they get absolutely nowhere. It might be seen as something of a positive that Davey can hold Funaki stationary for so long, but that’s all he’s able to accomplish. He doesn’t do a single thing to actually control Funaki or try to take the match somewhere. All he does is throw a few strikes, which Funaki easily defends. Davey’s idea to follow the backdrop suplex with the sharpshooter is about as goofy as it gets, and Funaki instantaneously scouts it and submits Davey with a legbar. The time span between the backdrop and the finish is maybe thirty seconds. Granted, nobody would give Davey a prayer of actually beating someone like Funaki, but the point of working the match is to create doubt and drama.



Of all the matches that I didn’t know that I needed in my life; this is definitely not one of them. It’s unreasonable to expect much of anything from Rampage, and Sekine is definitely not the guy to pick up the pieces. It’s not bad when they’re swinging at each other, and the idea of Sekine trying to submit Rampage instead of trading shots with him is good in theory. But Sekine’s holds are as loose as it gets. They try to do a Triangle to powerbomb spot, and Sekine can’t even hold the choke in place. Rampage does a body slam and pelts Sekine with strikes until the ref finally calls the match before it can get any more absurd.



Somehow the best match of the show up to this point comes from the past-his-prime shootstyle wrestler turned MMA fighter turned pro wrestler, and the guy best known as a WWE comedy jobber. This is like the Hammer/Nomura match in that it succeeds in getting over both wrestlers instead of just the winner, but it’s done in a much different manner. On the surface, it looks like Sakuraba gets dominated by Marella. Marella is able to take him to the mat and lock him up in any number of nasty looking submissions, seemingly at will. And Sakuraba’s facials and reactions make it seem that much more likely that Marella is going to either force him to tap or put him out and cause a ref stoppage. But, just when it looks like it’s all over for him, Sakuraba finds the smallest of openings and uses it to keep things going. He’s able to alleviate the pressure of one of Santino’s holds by doing the same roll to the floor tactic both that Hammer and Maya used, but instead of using the impact of the fall to break the hold, he uses the ring’s height to go from horizontal to vertical and take away Santino’s leverage. Sakuraba gets wrapped up in a kata-gatame and manages to grab one of Marella’s ankles and wrench it to cause him to break the hold.


Comparing everything that Marella puts Sakuraba through with the few things that Sakuraba is able to do makes his win look like something of a fluke. Maybe it was, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. It’s like a track meet; the person who spends 9/10 of the race in first place is inconsequential, all that matters is who crosses the finish line first. It didn’t matter how close Marella came to putting him away (and on a few of those occasions it looked like all but a certainty), and it didn’t matter that before he locked in the finishing kimura lock, the most notable thing from Sakuraba was mocking Santino’s Cobra pose. Sakuraba turns Santino’s ankle to get out of a Triangle and gets a legbar of his own and when Santino manages to escape it, he leaves himself open for the kimura. Santino taps out while Sakuraba crosses the finish line.



More than any other match on this card so far, despite Erik Hammer’s powerbomb, these two walk the line between shoot and pro-style. That sounds like it should be a negative, but they’re both so great that they make it work. Suzuki’s mean streak is already well enough known that it doesn’t at all seem uncommon for him to ram Thatcher’s head into the ringside table or to see him and Thatcher both grab chairs and have a standoff. Suzuki even tries to use the ring post by wrapping Thatcher’s hand around it, which immediately gets the ref involved to stop things. When Suzuki breaks out something like his trademark forearm shots or his piledriver finisher, Thatcher sells like they matter. Several matches have shown how the lack of ropes can be effective, and Thatcher puts his own spin on it by being so disoriented from Suzuki’s forearms that he stumbles out of the ring. As goofy as the piledriver finisher might sound, Suzuki makes sure that it looks good and Thatcher puts it over like he’s going to have to be carried out on a stretcher.


The strikes are as laid in as well as anything else on the card, and they’re unafraid to give the impression that things will get out of control. A good example of this is the vertical suplex teases. With no ropes, Thatcher teases giving Suzuki a suplex from in the ring to the floor and Suzuki turns things around and threatens to do it to Thatcher. The crowd goes crazy at the thought of that happening, and Thatcher counters into a Fujiwara armbar and then segues into a Regal Stretch(!). Thatcher’s submissions and transitions are pretty much seamless, he goes from Fujiwara armbar to Regal Stretch to kimura to short arm scissors. Without the benefit of rope breaks to explain why the various submissions don’t end the match, they find a different way to do so. Despite his cranking on the Regal Stretch, Suzuki makes it clear that he’s not going to give up, so rather than waste his energy on something that he knows isn’t going to work, Thatcher switches to other holds to see if they give him any more success.


The only thing that doesn’t quite work for the match are Thatcher’s overdone facials during the final stretch, as Suzuki was pelting him with forearms. They looked more appropriate for a stereotypical “crazed” 1980’s heel, the type who would make faces at the camera while his manager gives the interview, rather than someone with Thatcher’s credentials. But everything else is virtually perfect. Between Suzuki’s willingness to thumb his nose at the rules (not to mention stick his thumb in Thatcher’s eye) and the intensity displayed by both of them, this looks more like a grudge match from a longstanding feud than it does a quasi-dream match between a shootstyle legend and a pro wrestler who’s always looked like he’d have been more at home in a UWF/RINGS/etc. sort of setting.


HIDEKI SUZUKI vs. ERIK HAMMER (Tournament Final)

It’s obvious that both of them go out there with the intention of having a better match than both semifinal matches, and in that respect they succeed. It’s a lot more evenly contested than Hammer’s match with Nomura, and it’s much more active and busier than Suzuki/Sato. These two may not be on the same level as Tamura and Kohsaka, but their mat exchanges are perfectly watchable, even if they aren’t anything mind blowing (that is, unless one can’t wrap their head around the notion that a big guy like Hammer can be a good mat worker). Each man gets a chance to have what looks like a clear advantage when they get something particularly nasty on, only for the other to pull off an escape or counter that seems impressive, with Hammer’s escape of a deep waki-gatame being the best of the bunch. They also do a nice job of playing off Hammer’s match with Nomura. Hammer still favors his leg, and whenever Suzuki gets ahold of it or connects with a kick, he yelps and quickly gets away from him, even rolling to the floor after getting out of a legbar and using the count to give himself a chance to rest. Hammer looks for his powerbomb again, and Suzuki comes up with some clever ways to fend it off, including grabbing onto Hammer’s bad leg and both lowering and widening his base to prevent Hammer from being able to even try picking him up. When Hammer’s persistence pays off and he manages to get Suzuki up, Suzuki hooks his legs around Hammer’s torso to prevent him from slamming him down. Hammer loses his balance and Suzuki goes back to the leg and taps out Hammer in short order. The actual work here isn’t going to turn any heads, but Suzuki and Hammer do enough good things to show how the seemingly lack of rules on these Bloodsport events can still lead to good matches.



If this hadn’t happened on the same card as Suzuki/Thatcher then it still wouldn’t be the best match of the night, but its use of pro-style aspects would have made it stand out a lot more. Their mat exchanges aren’t anything flashy, but they don’t just lay there like Funaki and Davey. It’s more or less what one might expect from two heavyweights with legit backgrounds in grappling. There are times that it seems like each of them has the chance for the kill, like Barnett’s amateur wrestling guillotine and Moxley’s crucifix elbows, but the other one is skilled enough to get himself out of danger. But it’s hard to argue that a good bit of what they do isn’t full on pro wrestling. Sometimes it works; like Moxley ramming Barnett’s leg into the post and then trying to get him in a legbar. The idea of Josh Barnett doing a giant swing probably seems ridiculous, but when he swings Moxley’s midsection into the post it looks as dangerous as anything else that he does. Barnett even attempts to win by count out, when he gives Moxley a gut wrench on the floor and then hops back into the ring. There’s also a rather amusing response when Moxley dives out of the ring onto Barnett and tries to get him counted out, and Barnett gives him a vertical suplex from the floor back into the ring.


The only problems that creep up do so because they take the match a little bit too far into the realm of pro wrestling. The obvious one is Moxley’s bladejob, more specifically the timing and locale of it. Barnett had just swung Moxley into the post and Moxley rolls to the floor, crawls somewhat under the ring, and comes out bleeding. Now, had the camera not shown him under the ring, there would be lingering doubt as to whether or not Moxley’s head hit the post. Not to mention that the post has hooks in it for the ropes to go through, so even a graze would be enough to cut someone open, especially someone who seems to bleed as easily as Moxley. Or, Moxley could have gotten up and taken a running kick from Barnett and used that to explain the blood. The other thing that stands out, for the wrong reason, is Moxley’s DDT. Suzuki and Hammer won both of their matches with pro-style moves, but they were sold in such a way that it was pretty much an instant finish. Moxley’s DDT serves no such purpose here, it’s the equivalent of a token near fall as a match is winding down. Moxley’s use of the Tiger driver, which is a much more pro-style move, is a lot smarter. He doesn’t do it to try to KO Barnett, its purpose is to get him flat on his back and give Moxley the chance to ground and pound. Barnett’s powerbomb, even without it being the finish, also comes off much better because of how it’s treated. He hits it in the waning seconds of the initial time limit and Moxley puts it over as much as possible, but he makes sure to stay active and moving so that the ref doesn’t stop the match.


It’s really too bad too, because outside of the DDT, they were pretty much perfect for the entirety of the OT period. Moxley’s jumpstart clearly catches Barnett off guard, and he smothers Barnett and doesn’t give him any sort of chance to recover. Even when it seems like Barnett finally has a chance to wrap him up and get a breath, Moxley outsmarts him and keeps plugging away. The first time is when Barnett double legs Moxley down and tries to get a mount, but Moxley quickly gets on a Triangle and starts throwing elbows. Then a minute later, after the DDT spot, Barnett tries to take Moxley over in a fireman’s carry, but Moxley holds his balance and fires away with more elbows and that’s what sets up the Tiger driver and allows Moxley to finish him off with mounted punches. Moxley comes out of this looking like the luckiest and/or craziest fighter in the world. He was clearly the underdog in the match, but he took everything that Barnett threw at him and not only asked for more, but also managed to outsmart and outwrestle his much more experienced and accomplished opponent several times and end the match in a decisive manner. And he did it all while his head was pouring blood.


Conclusion: The Moxley and Thatcher matches alone make this worth checking out, but it’s got more than its fair share of good stuff, with Santino Marella of all people being one of the big highlights.